More On Bookstores: Numbers Matter

Via Glenda Larke on Twitter I found this sad tale from author Mindy Klasky. Basically it is reporting on the same sad cycle of negative feedback that I wrote about last week. Barnes & Noble would not stock Mindy’s first book in a series in all but the biggest stores, then got into a dispute with her publisher, and when book two came out they refused to stock it at all because sales of book one had been so poor.

Mindy is, of course, asking people to go out any buy her book, ordering it if necessary. That’s pretty much what I said we had to do to get Waterstones to take notice. I see that I’ve come in for some criticism on that score for letting people in publishers and bookstores off the hook, and putting all of the onus on consumers. I can see the point, and certainly with a small press or independent bookstore you can ask people to do better, though of course they have businesses to run. With the big publishers and chain stores it is more difficult. Policy tends to get mired in bureaucracy, and anyone who is seen to be “difficult” (that is challenging the prevailing orthodoxy) risks ruining their career, or even losing their job. So making change on your own can be hard.

Just as importantly, however, it is a matter for consumers. When I say that “you” need to go out and buy books, I don’t mean You, Ms. Social Justice Warrior. I know You are doing your part. What I mean is y’all, the great book-reading public out there. Because a few concerned people doing the right thing isn’t going to make a difference. Big companies are run by accountants, and they normally only pay attention to numbers.

I see numbers too. When I make a post about diversity issues in publishing it doesn’t get a lot of hits. If it is about white women, rather than brown people or queer people, it will get more hits. Posts about books by white men do even better. But none of those come close to the popularity of amusing rants pointing out someone else’s failings.

Which I think probably says something rather sad about us as a species.

So diversity, yes, it is good. How about buying some books? These books:

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