Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

How independent booksellers failed to recognize the buying power of the...

Image via Big Stock Photo


Warning: The following contains generalizations. I realize that not all indie bookstores are the same and that some are very welcoming to romance readers.

A week or so ago, an independent bookseller tweeted on a message that (and I am going to paraphrase a bit so it is a little harder to track down the bookseller who said this) she had told a customer that she, the bookseller, hated the book the customer purchased and the customer could return if she didn’t like it. The bookseller then self described this action as being the best bookseller ever.

This took me aback and I responded to the bookseller that I found it a very odd thing to say to a customer. She replied that she knew the customer. But I had mini flashbacks to all the times I bought or tried to buy romances at an independent bookstore and was, well, given the side eye for bringing those dirty books up to the register.

Lazaraspaste is now in graduate school and is surrounded by dozens of independent bookstores. The one thing they all have in common is that there is not a romance section in them.

Here’s the thing disconnect between booksellers and romance readers. Yes, we like low priced mass market books because when you are feeding a reading habit that requires 10 books a month, you can’t spend a lot per book. But romance readers are readers, first and foremost and they buy books. In modern parlance, publishing professionals call us power buyers.

The latest installment of Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading shows a rosy outlook for publishing, with nearly three-quarters of e-book Power Buyers purchasing more titles overall. Further, nearly half of Power Buyers had more total spending on books in all formats.

Why do I use the word “us”? Let’s look at the demographic of the power buyer (PDF)

  • They are buying romance, fiction and mysteries
  • They purchase 4 or more books a month
  • They are largely female (over 60% in both print and digital)
  • Between the ages of 18 and 54
  • They are loyal
  • They represent 53% of all print books purchased and 60% of all ebooks purchased

What are the buying habits of the power buyer:

E-book consumers are increasing their purchase of books — both print and e-book formats — online and especially through in-app purchasing, and decreasing their use of brick-and-mortar stores. … The gains for these digital vendors come at the expense of brick and mortar bookstores, even independents. More than a third of e-book buyers decreased their spending at national chains and 29% said they are buying less from their local indie.

To summarize, the romance reader is a loyal buyer of at least 4 books or more a month and represent a sizeable percentage of the book buying market, in both print and digital.

Yet for years, independent bookstores have looked down their noses at romance readers.  I spoke with one indie bookseller and she said that there is a difficult balance between being an indie and serving the romance reader.  This is because non romance readers are book snobs, looking down on the romance reader.  Thus if an indie bookseller stocks romance books, caters to romance readers, they lose credibility with the lit fic crowd.

The thing is that romance readers buy more than romance books. I would bet that most romance readers buy books for Christmas.  I buy books for my friends and family for Christmas or for a birthday. I’ve given cookbooks and decorating books as housewarming gifts.  Joanne mentioned the other day that she had bought two gifts based off a posting here and she had 30 more to go.

Indie bookstores have been in decline for a long time and I believe it is because the pool of readers that supported the indie booksellers have shrunk dramatically  and indie bookstores, for the most part, never cultivated relationships with those power buyers.  Never made the power buyers feel welcome and comfortable.

The mainstream press and general public has done a good job of trying to shame romance readers, to mock us and make us feel guilty or stupid or tasteless for enjoying reading what we do.  Wouldn’t have been awesome if there were bookstores that embraced us?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. library addict
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 04:35:04

    Waldenbooks and later Borders were the only new bookstores I have ever been in that really catered to me as a romance reader. Waldenbooks in particular used to have great cashiers who would recommend other authors to me back in the day. Whereas every B&N as well as the independent bookstores I have shopped at have had cashiers who gave me attitude when I bought/asked about romance books.

  2. Jayne
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 05:50:14

    @library addict: My local Waldenbooks used to be great. I started shopping there after going to a local B&N (on the release date) for the release of a new book by a major author. Not only was her book not on the shelf, but when I asked about it I got a vague non-answer as to when the store would have it.

    I drove straight to Waldenbooks where they not only had the book in stock and already out on the shelves but also had a great romance section and helpful staff. Not once did I ever feel I was getting the stink eye when I bought romance books there. I shopped there faithfully until the store was closed and have yet, even years later, to go back to the B&N.

  3. Deb
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 05:56:52

    Comic books- excuse me, graphic novels- get more respect.

  4. Dabney
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 06:35:05

    When I moved to North Carolina years ago, the independent video stores–this was pre-Blockbuster–had a back room section where “adult” films were. (This was shut down by the state government at some point.) Perhaps that’s the ticket for indie bookstores–a back room where romance readers can proudly march into–and be out of the eye of those non-romance reading snobs.

    Our local bookstore here–always on the verge of insolvency–doesn’t carry any romances. However, our wildly successful used bookstore does. They’ve had a huge section for as long as I can remember. Same town, same market.

  5. Liz
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 06:57:17

    I lived in Hyde Park, Chicago, for several years and it is independent bookstore heaven. Yet the only store in the neighborhood that carried mass market romance was the Borders. I bought books like no one’s business- romance, mystery, sci-fi and fantasy, history, memoirs, and so forth. Nothing pissed me off more than independent bookstores that catered to all fiction genres except romance. The sci-fi reader that they are worried might disdain the romance section in many cases is a romance reader too! I gave a lot of business to the Borders, well beyond my 5+ romance purchases a month, because they stocked romance.

  6. joanne
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 07:15:17

    I live in a college town. There is one smallish indi book store left and it specializes in poetry and bios and only carries fiction written in the 60’s & 70’s by authors like Allen Ginsberg and Maya Angelou. Not exactly keeping up or welcoming so I’m not sure how they keep the doors open.

    All the large brick and mortar stores except for B&N are gone and I’m one of the many deserters. I could tolerate the smirks of the clerks when I checked out, I could put up with the fact that they kept moving the romance books as close to the second floor back wall as they could get them and I could even tolerate paying full price for books that often looked like they had already been read. What I couldn’t stand was the lack of stock. New releases were put out when and if someone felt like it. It was really easy to switch to online shopping. Really too easy.

    I don’t feel sorry for anyone but me. I liked going to the bookstore and wandering around, asking adults with children about the best books to give as gifts and the cooks about the newest and best cookbooks for my domestic friends. I still feel that loss.

    I’m going to question that demographic just a bit. I always lie about my age (downward, of course).

  7. Charlotte McClain
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 07:20:19

    I worked at Borders a long time ago, for quite a while and if I ever said to a customer that I hated a book it was immediately followed by “because” and my reasons. Sometimes those reasons caused the customer to put the book back, sometimes it made them want it more (different strokes and all.) In fact, when I announced to my coworkers at Borders than I planned to write a romance novel they embraced the endeavor like I had said I was training for a marathon. They also indulged my by taking my picture sitting in the info desk holding my novel.

  8. Holly Bush
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 07:23:16

    I quit shopping at indie bookstores when I realized I didn’t want or need to read the latest ‘literary’ gem, often stuffed with angst and a convoluted or missing plot line. I want a book to mentally take me away from angst and uncertainty. I find that in romances and mysteries with the occasional historical non-fiction thrown in for balance. Call me shallow.

    I am so very tired of having to justify those romances and FSoG almost made it worse. Many non-romance readers I know had FSoG as their foray into the romance genre. I heard lots of, “So this is what you’ve been reading all these years!”

  9. Lynnd
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 07:35:47

    Excellent post Jane. I find it hard to feel sorry for independent bookstores who are struggling when they brought this on themselves. I remember going into a local independent bookstore looking for a popular fantasy novel because I thought I should support my small local business rather than the big chain (I knew that they wouldn’t carry the romance novel I wanted so I wasn’t going to even try). It wasn’t on the shelves so I went to ask if they would be getting it in. The clerk gave me a look of disgust and a curt “no, I don’t think so.” I was angry and I never went back. Not only that, I told my friends about my experience and they never went there either. I thought about complaining to the manager, but after reading an article she wrote, I thought that would be pointless as she had the same attitude. They are now out of business. I don’t expect that all bookstores will carry everything, I just expect that if I go into a store that I will not be treated with complete disrespect because of what I choose to read.

  10. Mom on the Run
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 07:45:19

    I, too, miss Waldenbooks but I must say I’m astonished that buying 4 books a month puts one into power buyer status. Back during the darkest days when I barely had time to read, I’m pretty sure I purchased twice that many books every month! My husband is probably very sorry he ever suggested that I might like a Kindle (because I wasn’t interested AT ALL) because now I am totally addicted, rarely even look at magazines anymore or watch tv. And it is funny that the independents are going away one by one, but new used bookstores are popping up here and there, or long established ones are moving into bigger spaces. We have a local used bookstore that hosts book signings by local romance authors!

  11. Tina
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 08:14:55

    I live in a college town. When I first moved here, there were six indie book-stores within a five block radius. There was a Borders and a B&N.

    Now there are two indie bookstores left and just the B&N.

    Interestingly I was at one of the two remaining indie stores the other day browsing because their black women’s writers section is really quite killer. They don’t sell mass market romance but one or two Nora Roberts titles are on their regular fiction shelves. And to be fair even their science fiction/fantasy section is rather tiny. But while I was there, the owners/board of the directors of the were having a meeting in their little cafe area where they were discussing creating shelf space for mass market romances and other genre fiction. The discussion was rather lively and the proponents of it were citing the same statistics as this article. The were going to put it in their maps area (which is rather over large if you ask me) because apparently nobody buys maps anymore.

  12. Kate McMurray
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 08:16:52

    Another angle: there’s a bookstore here in Brooklyn called WORD which does, actually, have a good romance department and romance-friendly staff, and they sometimes host readings/talks by romance writers. (The store is tiny, so their romance department is not large, but they’re willing to order anything if a customer asks for it.) The last time I was there, I asked one of the managers about indie stores and romance readers generally. What she told me was that it’s hard for indie stores to keep romance in stock because there’s actually not much demand for it. There’s a weird feedback loop at play: readers assume indie stores don’t stock romance so they go to the big stores like B&N for their fix. What this means is that a lot of power buyers go to the chains and not the indies, so indies continue to assume they won’t sell romance and thus don’t stock it, and the cycle continues.

  13. dick
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 08:38:04

    Wasn’t Waldenbooks a subsidiary of K-mart? I ask because I can remember that K-mart used to shelve books with Guaranteed Good Read stickers on them; if you bought the book, didn’t think it was a good read, they book it back, no questions asked. That was long before I started reading romance fiction, and, since there is no longer a K-mart within a reasonable distance, I don’t know whethey K-mart still does that.

  14. Bsjunk
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 09:06:04

    Shrugs. I’ve never been judged for buying romance in a bookshop, because I’d never allow someone to judge me. My money spends the same as anyone else’s.

    I don’t think that indie bookshops not stocking romance is necessarily anything to do with looking down on romance, but more to do with where that demographic picks up there books. It’s not going to be the indie bookshop is it? It’s going to be kindle, the supermarket, wherever is quickest and most convenient. And the indie bookseller can’t compete on price.

    So maybe the indie booksellers know their trade well enough to know that stocking romance isn’t going to sell for them. What they need is a niche market where they aren’t competing with Kmart or Wallmart, and people will make that extra effort to travel to pick something up.

  15. Marie
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 09:33:21

    I work in a smallish independent bookstore with a spinner devoted to mass market and romance. We do not look down on ANY reader but I would challenge anyone to come into the store where I work and tell me *where* the books would go. Borders & BN have/had loads more physical space than most indies; of course they can stock more books and offer more variety. Which section should we eliminate for romance?

  16. may
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 09:59:34

    really great article – and I agree. Until I discovered a used (and they stock some new, and will order you books as well) bookstore in my county I always felt unwelcome in indie bookstores that I visited.

    I feel blessed to have found one ( that not only stocks, but embraces romance. Jane I’ll have to email you a photo. The store’s front room is 40% romance, and divided by genre within romance. It is made of awesome, and I love them for being welcome to ALL kinds of readers.

  17. Annemarie
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 10:02:35

    This post reminds me of my last year of university. I was taking an independent reading course in English. I hit up the local indie, which I knew would have at least 90% of the books that I needed. The course involved reading 15 novels and one hugely popular book from the 70s written by a bestselling author. The bookstore is a huge store so I figured I’d be mostly covered, and once there I picked up most of the books on my list — Classic X, Classic X, Classic X, and so on, and when I got to the counter I asked the gentleman “Do you have genre X bestseller?” He literally glared at me over the rim of his glasses and stated, “We don’t carry *those* types of books.” I didn’t return to this bookstore the following semester or ever again — given that even my small university with its limited course offerings had several courses for the study of specific genres, to act like *those* books are akin to skin magazines was just a little over-the-top. Was not surprised when they were ultimately forced out of their long-time location.

    Compare this to the other indie around the corner — great little spot, great staff, no bigger than an airport bookstore, and they’re basically just a mini version of the big box with genres accounted for — they may only have 1-2 shelves, but they’re there. I assume the management prefers to make money versus imposing their own snobbery on readers. I’ll always pop in when I am in the neighbourhood and walk out with something fun to read.

  18. Deb
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 10:08:54

    A very well-known used bookstore nearish to me in Boston has the most attitude of any bookstore in my area. I wouldn’t ask them for the romance section unless I wanted to be laughed.

    2 books per month, by some measure, would put people into power reader status. According to a study I read in the WSJ, you’re more likely to see that among people who read e-books.

  19. Anne V
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 10:16:39

    @Charlotte McClain – when I worked at borders Romance and Mystery were considered the punishment sections – they had so much turnover and handling during the day that if those were your sections, you could count on spending the bulk of your shift restocking and tidying the shelves. borders made a big deal out of handselling – but there were only 2 of us on a staff of >50 that would admit to reading Romance and Mystery, and our GM constantly (as in at every staff meeting, every time she walked by the section and every time she talked to olne of us who read MM) lamented the location of our store – if only we were 50 miles north in artsy expensive town, we wouldn’t even HAVE romance or mystery sections.

    @dick – at one point both Borders and Waldenbooks were owned by K-Mart, but it went badly, they merged the two and spun them off in 1992 (but not before the senior management of borders walked).

    I live in a college town, and we’ve basically got barnes and noble, the university bookstore, a single indie and used bookstores. there’s a used bookstore (currently called used books streetname) changing it’s name to “books people read” which is all MM – romance, mystery & science fiction. they’re very well staffed and also rent audiobooks. the indie, which is very active in the ABA, is, at this point, basically a gift shop with some books in the background. I have a soft spot for indies, but this one – they are pretentious (won’t carry romance, mystery or science fiction – those are target books), they are nasty (I have heard them ask kids to stay out of the children’s section so they won’t mess it up), the store is cluttered beyond the point of being navigible, it takes them >3 weeks to get in a special order – the list goes on and on and is really discouraging.

  20. becca
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 10:49:35

    I worked at Borders for a couple of years. Most of the women on staff read romance and were knowledgeable about the field. We all had our specialties: Erica read a lot of urban fantasy, Mary liked contemporaries, and so on. Our GM didn’t read much (sports books, mostly), but he hired people who were well-read in all departments. We had a kick-ass romance section, too.

  21. Holly
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 10:51:56

    I worked in an independent bookstore when I was younger. It was the only bookstore in a 40 km radius and the owner did not care for any genre fiction, though she would stock mystery because there was a book club in town and British mysteries were popular with the older generations. She would flat out discourage buyers from purchasing romance though she would special order it. At Christmas, half the special orders were romance novels and a quarter of the rest were sci-fi/fantasy. It was always disheartening when people from urban areas would stop and be baffled by the selection – she would tell romance readers to buy Jane Austen, and fantasy/sci-fi readers were totally out of luck. If you wanted Harlequin, you could find the nearest Wal-Mart.

    If the shop weren’t in such a rural area, it would likely be gone now due to e-readers and internet sales. But people there don’t trust online shopping and that’s likely helped.

    One of my friends looks down on me because I shop at Chapters-Indigo (Canadian chain, nearly a monopoly), but they stock what I’m looking for. The beautiful indie store down the street doesn’t have a single romance novel and when I tried to order one, they couldn’t tell me when it would arrive and tried to steer me towards other books.

    I’m totally baffled by telling readers a book was not good. I can see warning them about graphic violence or something, but unless you had a really strong relationship with the customer, why assume you know what they want to read? I think they only time I had to was with Million Little Pieces, because Oprah’s sheep were buying the book and then trying to return it because it was depressing.

  22. Lisa
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 10:56:05

    Wow… I never realized how lucky I am. I live/work near a used book store and about 50% of their stock (new and used) is romance; and the owner can always give recommendations about this genre.

    As for new book stores, yes, I’ve sometimes worried about what people think of my book purchases when I check out, but I’ve never gotten a dirty look. I guess I’ve only shopped at stores that have great staff, (they may do a mental eyeroll, but you’d never guess it by nice way they treat a fellow book lover).

  23. Maili
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 11:30:04


    Comic books- excuse me, graphic novels- get more respect.

    I get your point, but there is a difference between comic books and graphic novels. Historically, a comic book is a collection of comic strips and a graphic novel is a single narrative story in comic form.

    But even in comic world, there’s snobbery. Indie booksellers are more likely to stock comic books and graphic novels targeted at male audience, especially if they have been reviewed in high-brow broadsheets. They won’t stock – let me quote a certain indie bookseller in Chalk Farm – “romantic crap” targeted at female audience. I noticed a pile of Craig Thompson’s Blankets and pointed out that that book was a tale of a teen boy falling in love. Basically, a romance (note to DA readers: no HEA, though).

    The Chalk Farm indie bookseller countered it’s thought-provoking and blah blah, implying that a love story created by a male author/artist is likely to have more depth than a typical romance by a female author/artist would. To my chagrin, he cited two awful graphic novels to prove his point: Twilight and Outlander (both were adapted by female comic artists/writers).

    So yes, even among comic stockists and indie bookshops that sell graphic novels, there is a strong bias against romance (and perhaps female creators).

  24. Leslie
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 11:45:53

    If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times, “I DON’T read that genre” when a bookseller is asked for a romance author recommendation. If a server in a restaurant was to say “I don’t drink wine” when asked for a wine recommendation they would be fired.
    I have two very good used bookstores nearby with great romance sections, one is dedicated to romance (it’s wonderful) the other has a snobby staff. Their attitude cracks me up, but I could care less, they’re the ones that are missing out.

    Since Borders closed I haven’t bought a new book from a major in-store retailer, I don’t care for B&N so I order from Amazon. Once in awhile I will go to an indie in Pasadena, but not very often, the days of spending an evening perusing and buying in a bookstore are over.

    It’s funny I often feel disdain from librarians too. One in particular replies when asked about romance, “I don’t read fiction”. TSTL.

  25. Maili
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 11:51:08

    Murder One was probably the only indie bookseller in entire London that openly sold American romance novels. It had two floors – ground floor contained mystery novels and romance novels, and basement contains science fiction and another genre (I forgot now). It also issued a quarterly catalogue listing every romance novel they had in stock or will stock. They offered a mail order service for those outside London.

    They had one or two assistants who can assist any customers easily on romance novels. I mean, they made good recommendations. One asked what I was looking for and I wanted more books like those by Maggie Osborne. She recommended Cheryl Reavis, etc. She definitely knew what she was talking about. It was also a lovely surprise when she recognised me from AAR boards.

    It was awesome, but it wasn’t a huge hit with romance customers because Murder One did the straight US>UK currency conversion. Like so: $7.99 = £7.99. Ouch. They rarely offered discounts and book sales. Those in 99p bin were the bad ones. Same for foreign editions elsewhere in the shop. So it came no surprise that Murder One ended up struggling against Books Etc., Borders, Amazon and all that offered competitive (and better) prices. So it closed down.

    Assistants in indie bookshops and high street bookshops (Waterstone, Borders, Books Etc., etc) vary where their reactions are concerned. Some sniggered when I brought romance novels to their counters, some gave each other knowing looks, some were completely professional and, rarely, some asked if authors were good.

    So I don’t think it’s a strictly indie bookshop thing, but I do think it’s odd for indie booksellers to blast at Amazon and online booksellers while failing to realise that their refusal to stock romance novels is usually why many go to online booksellers.

  26. Loreen
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 11:51:49

    Most readers of literary fiction are women too. In fact, people don’t often recognize that the readers of literary fiction and romance are often the same exact people. I am eagerly awaiting the new Alice Munro book and I will make a point to buy it from my wonderful local indie. I love that store because they do a great job of highlighting new literary fiction that I otherwise wouldn’t hear about. I never come out without two or three books.
    I think they have a small romance section in the middle of regular fiction. But I have never been in it because I have too many memories of being publicly shamed by clerks as a teen. I prefer that they mix the romance in with the regular fiction – is there really that big a difference? In England I think they do this….Heher and McNaught are in the fiction section.
    Not sure what other solution there is for indies. Well, maybe training their clerks not to make rude comments… Personally I will continue to buy romance on my kindle and literary fiction at the local indie.

  27. carmen webster buxton
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 12:22:42

    Any business that looks down on its (potential) best customers is going to have a problem. I wonder how much of the scorn relates to the gender of the writers as opposed to the gender of the buyers? As someone said recently (wish I could remember who it was), “When a man writes about relationships, we call it literary fiction, but when a woman writes a similar story we call it chick lit or romance.”

    Which is not to say being perceived as a genre is bad; for one thing, if you define genre as “a category of books,” then literary fiction is a genre, too. The only bad thing I know about genre is that you have to pick one genre. If your book is a science fiction mystery or a historical romance or a fantasy/literary fiction, it will only get bookstore buyers from one genre because bookstore clerks will pick a section and put the book there. Online bookselling doesn’t have that limitation in that a book can be tagged with as many genres as apply to it.

    Technology will help readers, but it’s not going to help a business that doesn’t know its market.

  28. Darlynne
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 12:58:16

    @Maili: I would spend HOURS and a ton of money there, searching the mystery and romance stacks. It was Ali Baba’s cave of books and sorely missed.

  29. Kate Pearce
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 13:03:49

    Having been told rather dismissively by all three of the local independent bookstores in my area that “No One in our area buys Those Kinds of Books or would be interested in your promotional items” and subsequently watched two of those stores go under, I’m not surprised by anything you have said.
    We are lucky enough to have one great new and used bookstore, Bay Books in our town who carry a ton of romance and everything else a reader could desire. I love them very much. :)

  30. Christina Auret
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 13:08:35

    My favorite book store is 60 km from where I live and I happily make the drive at least once a month. Happily, because the store is made of awesome. About a quarter of the stock is romance and they have clearly demarcated sections for urban fantasy, historical, etc. Not only are the staff delightful, they are knowledgeable. In the one case where I asked a staff member a romance related question she could not answer, she immediately fetched the manager so he could help me (and the guy knew exactly what I was looking for.)

    The place is always busy. Somehow I doubt that they will be going out of business anytime soon.

  31. Sylvie
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 13:30:28

    You make me miss the 1980s. When I was in my teens, there were several independent bookstores in Bloomfield, CT where my mom worked. I used to love going there to get my teenage fix of Vicki Lewis Thompson, Barabara Delinsky and the like. Because of all of these romance novels, I have a lifelong love of the genre. I read all over the bookstore, but stopped going to them because I could never find what I’m looking for.

    I live in Los Angeles now. With the closure of the big chains and indies – there is only ONE bookstore within a five mile radius of my house. To say that it’s skimpy on romance would be an understatement. I was getting my hair done a few weeks ago and left the house without my book. I stopped at the bookstore and picked up the latest literary gem because I was desperate and had several hours to fill. It didn’t fit the bill. Not that I don’t read outside the genre, because probably half my reading is, but sometimes you want conveniently packaged escapism. It shouldn’t be this hard to get, locally.

    I’ve never figured out why it’s so hard to buy what you desire locally. Instead, the selection is someone’s taste that’s never mine. Amazon (for all it’s problems) is the best thing that ever happened for me.

  32. Jennifer Leeland
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 15:34:53

    The only new bookstore we had here in this county was Borders and they left two years ago. The only bookstore in my town is a used bookstore (Rainy Day Books–AWESOME used books store). My options? Supermarket or Walmart. How sad is that?
    My choice?
    I get most of my print books through Amazon and my ebooks I try and buy directly from the publisher (or Amazon if it’s a self pubbed title).
    Honestly? I miss the bookstore experience, but I missed it long before there were no bookstores here to go to.

  33. Deb
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 16:12:55

    Just visited an indie near me today. No Romance section- but they did have mysteries. There was Women’s Fiction, possibly Chick- Lit, but it wasn’t labeled as such.

  34. Sunny
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 16:46:06

    I worked at a big chain bookstore for a year and the first thing I was taught was “Be nice to the Romance readers, they keep us in business”. I wasn’t a Romance reader then — not many of the staff were, but one who was recommended some authors to me and I was hooked. I’m sad I missed out on such a great genre because of awful misconceptions for so long! We’d have customers bring 3-4 books (at $10-11 each) and put them face-down at the cashier’s counter — instant sign someone was a romance reader and probably worried about people being awful to them about what they read.

    That store went out of its way to pander to genre readers, with huge sections as well as display tables of new releases for Romance, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, you name it. I wish that attitude was shared in some others stores in the chain. Still, even knowing that romance readers were their constant customers, it really was a shame more people weren’t interested in giving them a try.

  35. KZoeT
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 18:32:06

    It’s my dream to open a romance-only brick ‘n’ mortar book store. If I could find a way to make it profitable enough to sustain my family, I’d be doing it in a heartbeat.

  36. carmen webster buxton
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 18:48:33

    Ooh, ooh, can’t believe I forgot to mention it before . . . if you’re ever passing through Boonsboro, MD, near Hagerstown, Nora Roberts’ husband owns Turn the Page, an indie bookstore with (naturally) romance as well as a lot of other genre books. :)

  37. Lizabeth S. Tucker
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 19:50:18

    I’ve worked for used bookstores, Waldenbooks, Borders, and an independent bookstore. I used to argue w/my bosses at both the used and independent because they had this attitude about romances. No matter how many times you would try to explain how much the romance readers spent, it didn’t matter. Those books were trash and the people who read them barely past that themselves. Not other genre got this level of disrespect.

    I currently go to a relatively local (30-45 minutes drive away) independent bookstore that has almost the same attitude. They only recently began carrying Nora Roberts. Heck, they have the world’s smallest SF section, also only recently added. Their used book outlet doesn’t even have a romance section. They don’t accept them in trade except for those who have crossed over. Yet, surprisingly enough, they have hosted some romance authors at their live events, having to special order the books for the meet and greet. Those are their biggest draws. Their employees have mellowed on the subject, thank heavens, but the owner(s) still won’t stock romances.

    I don’t read every genre, but if my customers did, I’d sure as heck stock the books. It is hard to be loyal when you are so badly disrespected. I miss Borders & Waldenbooks, but with my Sony eReader, I no longer have to deal with snotty sales people and lack of decent stock.

  38. Jenn
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 20:09:39

    @Kate McMurray:
    That’s the dilemma at my store; I’m caught in the middle as both a romance reader and a bookstore manager. Meanwhile there’s not a lot of room in my indie bookstore, and the romance readers do not come to us. The majority of the romance readers do not come to our store for romance, but do so for other books. We cannot match the prices at Walmart and other retailers for popular new releases, but what we can do is encourage those readers who have started with FSoG into trying new authors. I’ve hand sold and ordered in books by Lauren Dane, Julia Quinn, Lori Foster, Sarah McLean, Victoria Dahl, Jill Shalvis and others . There are few customers (and their numbers are growing) who know that I will happily and willingly order anything they want – preorders are part of that – and I do so frequently. While I may not have the space to create the romance section I would love to have, I can still foster relationships with my readers to let them know that I respect all their reading choices, and that I’m there to help them to find the books they love.

  39. Heather Greye
    Sep 23, 2012 @ 23:27:26

    I live in a city with a bunch of small, independent bookstores and a large university bookstore bunch of stores. In college, I was so excited when I figured out how to take the bus to mall, because then I could finally buy romances. The college book store – which has an admittedly brilliant sci-fi/fantasy section — couldn’t be bothered to sell romances. I lived within walking distance and was buying several books a month, but I had to travel to give away my money.

    Ten years later, I was working at that college bookstore. They deigned to give romance 2 whole shelves at the main store, scowling the whole time. I was able to build a section in my branch store, but with no support for events, it didn’t do that well. Romance readers had learned the hard way that the store was unfriendly to romance readers. My manager wanted to court romance readers — she’d seen the sales numbers — but she was never able to get over the store’s reputation. That said, that branch store has been awesome in supporting the book fair for the local romance writers’ conference.

    Borders and Walden were great. And fortunately my local B&N is very friendly, although their romance section keeps getting smaller and smaller. But as long as I can find new releases there, I’ll keep buying from them.

  40. SAo
    Sep 24, 2012 @ 00:20:22

    I learned to get over my residual shame about reading romance in grad school. The program was in the top ten of the country with a reputation for a heavy workload. On my way home from each exam, I stopped at Waldenbooks for the latest Harlequin. I figured if I, who had no particular aptitude or fondness for math, could ace my Econometrics final knowing all that calculus and matrix math and how to apply it, I could read whatever I want knowing I was a hell of a lot smarter than anyone who had bigoted ideas about Romance and Romance readers.

  41. Kaetrin
    Sep 24, 2012 @ 03:04:15

    There are a few romance only stores in Australia – unfortunately they are all interstate or I would possibly live there. I’m not sure how well they’re doing now. Since I bought my ereader and/or discovered the Book Depository, I found I could buy the same book for half the price. But I bet if there was a local one, I would go in and browse and buy at least a few every month just to support them. Postage is hideous in Australia and it’s ridiculous that it’s way cheaper for me to buy a book from the UK and ship it here but there you are.

  42. farmwifetwo
    Sep 24, 2012 @ 08:01:11

    My indie bookstore didn’t have a romance section in it either. BUT, it did order in anything I asked – if they could get it since they could only order from certain publishing houses – and never, ever commented upon my reading habits.

    I do find that those who don’t read romance are very vocal about how “horrible” it is. I left a board I had been on for years since it decided to start attacking other’s reading habits. They are now down to only a few regular posters and most are new within the last 6mths.

    Once I got my reader, I stopped buying from the indie – why wait a long time for a book when I could get it instantly (kobo) or within a few days buying from amazon or chapters online. It has since closed. Whether that was due to indie prices – higher than the others – or lack of choice…. I don’t know.

    Someone mentioned a used book store. I have noticed they are learning. Most have a decent romance/hqn section in them now. The one I favour near my parents has a large one. See, they may be retired and this is how they are keeping busy…. but she loves romance and paranormal books. Also, ironically, their #1 hqn buyers are the senior ladies (70 to 90yr old crowd) from the seniors appts across the road from their store.

  43. Sarah
    Sep 24, 2012 @ 08:01:46

    Thanks for pointing out the economic impact romance readers have – that’s the kind of info I like to have when I have to prove myself to a book snob. The only indie I know that supports the romance industry is Anderson’s in Naperville, IL. They have a sizable romance section, placed relatively close to the front of the store. Best of all, they have romance authors in all the time for signings and discussions. The sad thing, though, is that I really can’t see too much changing…

  44. Carrie G
    Sep 24, 2012 @ 09:11:52

    I miss my Borders.It was so conveniently located for me and I spent hours each week in the store waiting on my kids while they took classes or went to choir practice. Now I spend hours waiting in the car each week. :::sigh::: Not only did I grade papers while I drank coffee and ate pastries (my waist doesn’t miss Border’s Cafe!), but I bought at least one book a week, often more.

    There are no indie bookstores that I know of in my area that carry romance novels. I don’t even bother to visit them because any literary fiction I want the library will have. In point of fact, our library system has a fantastic romance selection which helps my budget considerably.

    I occasionally visit the Barnes and Nobles near me, but mainly I shop online, or go to used book stores. We have one store dedicated mostly to romance novels, although my husband managed to find 12 science fiction books he just had to have the last time we were there. Then in nearby Raleigh, NC there is a fantastic used book store (10,000 sq ft!) called Edward McKay. They have records, CDs, DVDs, and miles of books at great prices. We don’t go often, because it’s a bit of a drive, but it’s lots of fun and I always come away with a bag full.

  45. Bree
    Sep 24, 2012 @ 10:14:13

    The local indie is so snobbish, they wouldn’t even sign on to the Google – ABA project. I emailed the owner about it and got a snotty reply from a staffer.

    I managed a Waldenbooks in the late 90s – of the national chains we had locally, it was definitely the most genre-friendly. I trained at 6 stores before being given my own. The four female managers had varying attitudes towards romance, but hired staff to make sure they had a strong person in all departments. The two male managers, were neutral towards romance readers – they weren’t readers of any type themselves, they were salesmen who rocked the Preferred Reader loyalty and competed for best district sales.

    When I finally got my store in Niagara Falls, it didn’t take me long to figure out that I had a cadre of loyal romance readers, who preferred Waldenbooks for the loyalty discounts and selection. The only other local option was a Media Play, which had begun downsizing their book department in favor of gaming. I beefed up the romance, mystery and bargain book sections to appeal to this clientele, and was able to grow store sales – not an easy feat in a 2/3 empty mall in a dying city.

    It was hard watching Borders steal all the revenue from Waldenbooks to overbuild their new superstores – our stores got shabbier and shabbier, and then they handed their web sales to Amazon.

    Barnes & Noble is better than nothing, but I really only buy children’s books and gifts there. My husband shops there more than I do, he hasn’t given up paper for his occasional non-fiction book.

    There are a couple of local used stores, and the usual pop-up bargain book stores around the holidays, but since my foray into eReading in 2003, I don’t read fiction unless its an eBook. My two Overdrive libraries have a decent enough stock to keep me busy, that I’m down to only a handful of auto-buy genre authors.

  46. Ridley
    Sep 24, 2012 @ 11:20:12


    Comic books- excuse me, graphic novels- get more respect.

    Maili took on one half of your comment, but I want to add that comics aren’t a genre, they’re a medium. Novels tell a story with prose and comics tell a story with pictures. Comics like Maus are as moving and thought-provoking as books like The Things They Carried. There’s not really a comparison between romance novels and an entire medium, especially when there are romance comics as well, and they suffer from the same prejudice as romance novels.

  47. Allison
    Sep 24, 2012 @ 12:07:47

    I completely agree! That is one of the big reasons I first switched to buying my books from Amazon and then to e-books after I bought a Kindle. I was so tired of booksellers looking down their noses at me for what I was buying. Their loss – I’ve read approx 300 books per year for many years and I don’t read only romance. I also frequently buy books as gifts. I guess they didn’t need the thousands of dollars I spend on books. Whenever I hear about independent booksellers boo-hooing the evils of Amazon I just remember the shabby treatment I’ve received from them over the years and roll my eyes. They’ve brought it on themselves.

  48. Jenna
    Sep 25, 2012 @ 09:47:04

    I’m not really a romance reader, but a fantasy/scifi reader. I love your site because you have such fabulous things to say! I’ve encountered the same problem over and over again. Try bringing a lasers and aliens book to the register as a pretty blond twenty-something. The looks are great but my favorite is: “Is this for your dad?” Reading is my favorite pastime and I don’t enjoy being shamed for what I like!

  49. Stumbling Over Chaos :: That week when linkity was almost manageable*
    Sep 28, 2012 @ 07:37:16

    […] One of the reasons indie booksellers haven’t done as well as they might have. […]

  50. Talia
    Sep 28, 2012 @ 08:17:24

    @Carrie G:
    I’m so glad that Edward Mckay’s is still there! My brother-in law was stationed at Fort Bragg for awhile and we would always visit Edward Mckay’s when we were there. They had an awesome collection of used books from all genres. We always left room in the car for a couple boxes of books on the way home.

  51. Carrie G
    Sep 28, 2012 @ 08:43:36


    Small world! Yes, Edward McKays is a treasure trove for used books, CDs…even iPods and game systems. It has a neat counter-culture feel to it, too. I have to retrain myself so I don’t bring a box of stuff home every time.

  52. Industry News – September 30 » RWA-WF
    Sep 30, 2012 @ 12:53:40

    […] Jane Litte wonders whether some shuttered or struggling indie bookstores might have done better had they not been dismissive of romance and romance […]

  53. Diss at your own risk | P.D. Singer
    Oct 01, 2012 @ 23:13:23

    […] been reading my way through the comments at Dear Author, where the current topic is how indie bookstores have contributed to their poor health or demise by […]

  54. Zoe Tassava
    Dec 15, 2012 @ 10:57:58

    First thing first, I will admit that I’m not much of a romance reader. I’ll pick one up on occasion, but not often. I guess this would be the reason I was so blind to the discrimination that was going on in the book world! Because I shop at B&N, it’s the only bookstore near me that has the newest sci-fi or mystery releases. But I’ve been all the way through my store, and you guys are right, they don’t have a romance section. I used to have a Borders, and I’m positive they had a romance section because I would peak at it as a teenager, lol. I really am aghast at all of this news. Nowhere should somebody be frowned upon for liking a sort of book, period. Every genre brings their own fans because each genre has a certain…what’s the word I’m looking for here…style, background, fascinating stories? Everybody has their tastes. I’m a hard core mystery and sci-fi girl, but I’m not about to diss my friends because their still looking for the latest young-adult ‘romance’ novels, nor do I cower or scold another friend who has shelves of romance novels. I still just can’t believe it…

  55. Allan Collins
    Apr 13, 2013 @ 00:47:46

    Whether they be fiction or non-fiction, e-books that meet the needs of their readers will always be in demand.

%d bloggers like this: