Friday, 26 July 2013

Where Are All The Good Books?

During a recent conversation with an author friend, she said her publisher is 'having difficulties with distribution', i.e. they are unable to get her new title into High Street bookstores. This seems to be a prevalent problem with authors who have secured print publishing deals whose book doesn't go anywhere because it's only available online.

I used to love spending time in bookshops and knew exactly where to find the titles that appealed to me,  the historical fiction section was located in its own alcove with a conveniently placed armchair - In the larger ones I could even buy a cup of coffee and happily browse - Bliss

I visited a major bookshop this week, one of the two large chains which have survived the publishing revolution. The historical fiction, contemporary fiction, so-called 'womens' books' teen, paranormal, chic lit and crime novels are all lumped together under 'Fiction A-Z'  Locating titles likely to appeal to me became a chore in itself, not to mention a pain in the neck [literally] from all that bending.  Science Fiction still has it's own section but then perhaps that is as it should be?

No quiet corner with a comfy chair away from the draught nowadays. Only Books Labelled:

Bestselling Author: Their umpteenth title to meet contractual requirements so the formula had become stale four books back.
Fan Fiction - spinoffs of Jane Austen [hundreds of them!] From 'Mr Darcy's Secret Brother,' to 'Recipes From The Parsonage Kitchen of Charlotte Collins'
Paranormal Teen Fiction - Teenagers screwing vampires [oh perleaze!]
TV Chefs and their fifteenth book '1000 Ways With Root Vegetables'
Celebrity Biographies - 'The Trials of My Life by Second Bandboy on the Left aged 19!'
Celebrity Coffee Table Books:  These are given the most prominent displays where photographs of TV and film celebrities grin at you and their eyes follow you round the shop. All ghostwritten of course.
Actors Turned Author Chic Lit novels which get taken up by one of the 'Big Five' having bypassed the slush pile completely and promoted on TV no matter how banal the plot or unbelievable the characters.

What happened to the epic stories with memorable, proud and flawed heroes and beautiful but slightly selfish heroines you still warm to, all set in good yarns to get your teeth into?

They are still there, just. Stacked in piles on the 'Buy Two Get One Free' bargain tables inside the door.


Anne Gallagher said...

With only one bookstore in my town, front space is always afforded to the actor/celebrity turned author. Yuck!

However, even the libraries are now doing it too. No more "good" books, just glitz and glamour.

I guess the only place to find good books these days is online.

Which is fine, but I miss smelling them, holding them, caressing them before I decided to buy them.

Anita Davison said...

I couldn't agree more, Anne - there is nothing nicer than buying or being given a brand new book - the anticipation of a good read as well as the feel of the cover and smell of the paper - love it. I like e-books, but I will always buy hard copies of my favourites. Houses without books aren't proper homes.

Cynthia Green said...

I couldn't agree more, Anita. Thanks for the chuckle. I'm not sure which annoys me more, the teenager screwing the vampire or the actor turned novelist. And what gives with the demon versions of the classics? Give me a break.

I miss the epic novels like The Thornbirds and A Woman of Substance. Real people the reader can connect and sympathize with.

I still don't own an e-reader. I love to hold books in my hands and turn the pages. Finding good novels has become challenging since my favourite second-hand bookstore closed last year.

I love your blog and have been meaning to leave a comment for ages, but like most things, I just don't get around to doing them.
Take care.

Anita Davison said...

Thank you Cynthia, and you're welcome to leave a comment anytime - I love them. Hearing from readers and writers alike makes me feel I am not tapping away in a vacuum - connecting is good.

Petrea Burchard said...

A very funny post, Anita.

I can't speak for the rest of the States, but where I live (Pasadena, California) we have some independent bookstores that stock a variety of interesting titles, and are staffed with knowledgeable people.

I met with a store manager today about stocking my book. They support local authors by use of special shelving, publicity, etc. She and I discussed how the major publishers and chain stores are concentrating solely on the bottom line. The must sell. That means stars turned authors. (I was/am an actor, too, but not famous enough to sell my book without actual merit.)

What I'm leading up to is that you might need to look at the smaller publishers to find good books. Perhaps even as small as one person.

Anita Davison said...

Independents are dying out in the UK. I don't think there is one in this town at all. A shame as it would be a good vehicle for new authors to showcase their work. Good luck with your quest to get your book stocked - Camelot and Vine is a lovely story

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks. I have it stocked in four stores now. That's miniscule, compared to the possibilities. It's up to me.

But your story here is the reader, looking for interesting and non-formula materials to read. There's a campaign here to support independent booksellers. I hope there's one in the UK, too.

Maggi Andersen said...

And Amazon narrows our world more than a bookstore. Who doesn't get an email from them saying, "because you bought this, you might like this?"
I have nominated you for a blog award, Anita.

Anita Davison said...

Thank you Maggi - and I really appreciate I am not being asked to recount my life's most embarrassing moment to all my followers as part of the award!!

Jen Black said...

Your comments made me chuckle and I empathise hugely. I mean, how many ways are there to cook a chicken or a carrot? And who wants to know? Not me!

Maggi Andersen said...

Sad state of affairs isn't it. I've heard that e-book sales are declining. But print book sales have slowed too for some reason. It might just be the weather who knows? Book stores here tend to do better when they offer something else as well, like a cafe to draw people in.