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Holly Lisle Hates Chains (and after reading her rant, Chains may...

Okay, so you know I’ve tried to stick with my one rant a week theorem because no one wants to hear rants everyday or even every other day or, generally, more than once a week. But the more that I ponder the December 1, 2006, blog post by Holly Lisle, the more I am moved to respond.

Ms. Lisle is the author thirty published books, some non fiction, some fantasy and some romantic suspense. Tara Marie read and enjoyed one of Lisle’s Last Girl Dancing. I have that book in my TBR pile, but haven’t gotten around to reading it. PaperbackWriter aka Lynn Viehl is giving away Lisle’s latest book because she loves it so much (and probably because she wants to help another writer’s career along). Apparently, Ms. Lisle’s books have an extraordinarily high sell through rate. On Bookseller Chick’s blog, Lisle claims

Through most of my career, my sellthrough on first books out has been around 90%. On several novels, it has been 97%.

Despite these astronomical sell through rates (industry average is less than 50%), Lisle says that her career is being killed by Chain Bookstores. In Ms. Lisle’s fantasy construct, the white hats are the Indie Booksellers and the black hats are the Chain Booksellers. The dark lord Sauron is determined, according to Lisle, to bury the midlist author.

Then came the chains, which began slaughtering midlister's careers left and right, hundreds at a time.

Amongst the dark lord’s sins are the failure or refusal of the bookseller in the chain to read the book; to want to respond to the market (ie promising sales); or even to actually want to sell books. Gandalf, on the other hand, merrily reads all the books sent to him, lovingly stocks the books even after interest has waned and ensures that the midlist writer could make a living writing.

Once upon a time, all bookstores were indie bookstores, and many Midlist Writers had real careers and could feed their families on their writing.

Gandalf’s minions, the Hobbits, cheerfully handsell all books. They never scoff at a romance readers inquiry about midlist authors like Caroline Linden or Carla Kelly. They never deem romance books as trash; instead the Hobbits value all the book readers the same. In Lisle’s Middle Earth, there is no Wal-mart, Costco, Target or grocery stores that comprise over 50% of the book market. There is only Moldor and Gondor.

Lisle goes on to say that Local Chain booksellers do not order books once they run out in the store and that they are prohibited from doing so and that midlist books have no chance of selling more than their original order. Perhaps she does not know of the story of Lora Leigh’s Megan’s Mark, a debut book that went back for a second printing within the first three weeks of its release. Lisle then claims that when the last copy sells out, it will never been seen in the bookstore again even if it is the first book of a series.

Even if they are not, though–"even if Local Chain receives seven copies and sells six, Local Chain WILL NOT REORDER THE BOOK unless it sells above a set number chain-wide.

Not true according to my sources. A book may be re-ordered according to the discretion of the local chain bookseller. Bookseller Jolie makes it a practice to have each one of a series no matter how the first books have sold because readers don’t want to come in and buy book 3 without having book 1 and 2 available. It’s an immediate upsell to have all the books in a series available at the store.

The computer spits out the fact that Midlist Writer's New Novel sold 900 copies, so Corporate Buyer, who almost certainly hasn't read the book, hasn't talked to a single reader about the book, and looks at the book as no different than Cans of Tuna, Brand A, will order 900 copies of Midlist Writer's Next Novel.

Lisle does not appear to have cultivated a relationship with corporate bean counters. If she did, she would have found that at Borders, there is a buyer designated for romance who believes that booksellers get into the business because he or she likes books. Sue Grimshaw often gets feedback from her 200+ romance experts situated throughout the country at Waldens and Border bookstore. She even reportedly browses the internet to learn more about an author and her novels. Now it is true that Lisle recent releases aren’t romances, but maybe she could have tried to take advantage of this list, of making a connection with a buyer, of making connection with chain booksellers.

Maybe a dozen novels a year, marked for failure, will rise naturally out of the midlist, saved by reader word-of-mouth, and force corporate beancounters to take notice.

Bookstores, says a manager of a local chain bookstore, receive arcs and promotional items from authors to help cull their book from the pack. She also says “if she doesn’t have time to read an entire book, she’ll read bits and pieces so she’ll know what customer to recommend the book to and if she hasn’t read it at all, she’ll ask customers about the books.” Perhaps Ms. Lisle should have spent time cultivating relationships like those.

It’s true that midlist authors don’t get the recognition and sales that they perhaps deserve and that promising careers have been terminated but to blame the midlist authors sales demise on one thing such as chain booksellers seems shortsighted and erroneous. I find it hard to believe that an author whose sell through rate is 90%+ could ever lose a contract with a publisher. After taking a beating in the comments at Bookseller Chick, Ms. Lisle appears to backpeddle, defending herself by stating

First, offense here was taken where none was given. I noted that good booksellers are hard to find at chains. This is based on my fifteen years of experience as a professional writer visiting, signing at, and being a customer at uncounted stores from San Fransisco all the way to South Florida, and everywhere in between.

I NEVER suggested that all chain booksellers were mouth-breathing drones, or anything of the sort. I never suggested that all chain booksellers were incompentent, or whatever else has been suggested here that I said or implied.

Dunno, Ms. Lisle. Pretty sure that when you call Indie Booksellers the HEROES and Chain Booksellers the VILLIANS that your words were taken and consumed appropriately.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

46 Comments

  1. Robin
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 12:48:30

    I adore my local independent bookseller, but if genre fiction only had my local indie store to rely on, no one in my area would be reading it. I live in an affluent and liberal (most liberal area in the country, I think) area, where I have access to every book-selling store from Wal Mart on down, and as wonderful as my local booksellers are, the books they’re handselling in their stores are NOT genre fiction or mass market in general. It’s non-fiction and lit fic getting pushed, Claudia Roden’s latest cookbook or a nice primer on the history of chardonnay grapes. Target, Borders, Wal Mart, even Big K — they’re selling the Romance, sci-fi, and fantasy in my area. More importantly, they’re the ones selling MID LIST Romance, sci-fi, and fantasy in my area.

    I buy 90% of my Romance from Amazon, because with my Prime membership, I can buy just one book and pay no shipping. I ordered Michelle Styles new Harlequin after the SB review on Sunday night and just got it this morning before 9am. I buy at Costco, Target, and Borders, too, if I’m browsing or just too impatient to wait 24 or 48 hours.

    I thought I read somewhere that net sales still account for a pretty small slice of overall mm sales, but I may be misremembering. In general, though, I find it problematic to blame booksellers for the myriad problems midlist authors face, especially since they are the ones interacting with customers most directly. I think it’s wonderful that Lisle has such a productive relationship with her local indie bookseller, but if EVERY midlist author had the same relationship with HER local bookseller, does she really think her argument would still hold? It seems to me that if the goal is to sell as many midlist books as possible, cutting down on competition among those authors would be key, and a large vendor with enough resources to carry a wide variety of books and possessing a greatly diverse readership would be the way you’d want to go — like Amazon or bn.com, for example. NOT that I’m weighing in against independent booksellers; like other readers, I’m concerned about their future and try to help my own local store along. But if I want to help midlist genre fiction authors, I know not to seek out their books among all those beautiful cookbooks and local oral histories.

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  2. Angie
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 13:20:44

    I live in an area that’s about…30,000 people, including a college. There were three chain bookstores when I moved here (and one used bookstore that did not carry romance at all). We’re now down to one chain bookstore (Barnes and Noble) and the used bookstore (that still doesn’t carry romance). if not for the chain bookstore, there would be no opportunity for the midlist author to sell in this area (in a bookstore, I’m not counting all the discount stores). The fact is, I thank God for that chain bookstore, which allows me to go in and browse for and buy books that I wan. Of course, while I’m thanking God I usually ask for a Borders to be built because B&N doesn’t carry small press publishers, lolol.

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  3. jmc
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 13:35:42

    I read Ms. Lisle’s post and wondered what was in the water in her area? And could she share some of it with the indies near me? ‘Cause they don’t sell romance and aren’t interested. The chains do.

    Yesterday, at a chain bookstore, I spent $30 (well, I paid $30, while also using my customer rewards for $33 more), including Lisle’s Talyn. I had to think long and hard about whether I ought to buy her book at The Dreaded Chain Bookstore. Except, wait! If I followed her instructions, and waited for it at my local indie, I’d never read her book at all. Or I’d check it out at the library and she’d get no royalties at all from my reading. So I bought a copy. And I’m leaving in the TBR until the bad pedantic lecture about the proper way to support midlist authors has faded in my mind.

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  4. Holly Lisle
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 14:10:04

    It would probably be helpful to you in your future rants to more carefully read what the writer actually wrote, and avoid getting lathered up by what other, equally careless readers say she wrote.

    Yes, I did say, and still do, that indie owners and booksellers are heroes to writers. Please, however, show me where I EVER, in any terms, referred to a chain BOOKSELLER as a villian of any stripe. I noted that those employees working in the chains who love books and handsell them are increasingly rare. This is from working as a professional writer for fifteen years—I stand by the statement based on wide-ranging evidence. I noted that those who don’t give a damn about books are more and more in evidence in chains. I have never, and never will, refer to dedicated booksellers (or any booksellers, even the don’t-give-a-damn sort) in chain stores as villains.

    The only villians in the picture are, and have been since I started writing professionally, the chains’ business computerized business model that orders books to the net, eliminating any chance for writers who have not caught some caring booksellers eye the chance to grow the audience they have earned, and the the chains’ corporate owners slavery to stockholders that demand ever-higher profits no matter the cost.

    It only appears to you that I backpeddled because you didn’t care enough to read well what I wrote the first time.

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  5. Holly Lisle
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 14:43:20

  6. Nonny
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 14:48:11

    If you happen to have an indie bookseller who stocks, loves, and handsells your genre of choice… well, great for you.

    In the areas I’ve lived, we’ve never had a local independent bookstore that didn’t cater to lit fic readers. We used to have one right down the road that only carried children’s/YA novels, literary fiction, and some bestsellers. Heavens forbid you even glance at the few romances they carried.

    I can’t say I’m not glad they’re out of business. Maybe something without the snobby veneer will take their place.

    There probably are a few more in Boston or Providence, but both are fairly far away — and I don’t feel like driving in Boston traffic or putting up with hours of public transit to get anywhere.

    Outside of that, the only indie bookstores here are used bookstores… and somehow, I doubt sales of used books are going to help the author very much. LOL.

    Do chain bookstores have their drawbacks? Sure. But I think that when you consider that most areas have more chains than they do indies, and less people tend to shop at indies, it’s more important for an author to try to make themselves known to the chain booksellers. *shrugs*

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  7. Robin
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 14:48:35

    It would probably be helpful to you in your future rants to more carefully read what the writer actually wrote, and avoid getting lathered up by what other, equally careless readers say she wrote.

    Am I mistaken, or did this quote come directly from your blog? Since that’s where I am under the impression that I found it when I read your entire commentary on this subject:

    What I was talking about was the way that chainstores kill books and writers’ careers. They do this by selling to the net.

    To understand why chain bookstores are the Villians of Bookselling, first you have to understand how books are sold right. So we’ll look at the Heroes of Bookselling, independent (or indie) bookstore owners and booksellers.

    So while I understand your desire to qualify such broad statements like “Here’s how chains kill books and careers,” those phrases are still there, nonetheless, as is the word “villain” as in “why chain bookstores are the Villains of Bookselling.”

    I don’t think I read your piece with a lack of care, and while I’m very sympathetic to the problems facing midlist authors, I do think you personally invited many of the inferences readers have drawn from your comments (I’m not sure they even rise to the level of inferences). You may not have intended to demonize chain stores, but given your own piece, but can you really not see how a reader might reach that conclusion — given a sentence like “Here’s how chains kill books and careers” and phrases like “why chain bookstores are the Villains of Bookselling”? I mean no offense, as I think you opened up an important debate, but I think your slap at readers here is doubly unfair.

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  8. Karen Scott
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 15:42:13

    On both trips to the States, my experience at Borders book shops have been really good. I bought Lisa Valdez’s Passion on the rec of one of the girls at a Borders store in Florida. There was a rude woman at Barnes and Noble, but I think she had a thing against Elloras Cave books. I’ll forgive her cuz she looked more like a Barbara Cartland type reader.

    The stand alone book shops, although weren’t totally dismissive, weren’t nearly as helpful, and they didn’t have nearly as many romance books in store as I would have liked. In fact one store that I went to, didn’t have a romance section at all. There were lots of self help books, but certainly no bodice rippers graced their shelves.

    My local Borders rock, and they are always willing to go that extra mile. You can’t pay enough money for that kind of service.

    In my mind, midlist mediocrity can be blamed on mostly one element. Promotion. Or lack thereof.

    Many authors have whinged about the lack of funding for marketing projects in the past, and as we know, if the publisher doesn’t think an author is worth pushing, they aren’t going to spend one more cent than they have to, to promote them. This means that the author has to dip into her own pocket. Unfortunately, not every author is privvy to the hype that surrounded Diana Peterfreund’s first book.

    Just sayin’.

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  9. Katharina
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 16:26:19

    I don’t like generalizations very much, no matter what the topic is. There’s always a party that will be hurt.

    I personally prefer shopping in independant book stores, because I like to know that I support individual persons and not a big chain. But -as it has been mentioned here before- many indy bookstores don’t have a romance selection, don’t have the space and no interest in changing this.
    My personal experiences with chain book stores aren’t very well, but that may be because romance literature is still treated in a condescending way in German speaking areas, even though the market has its fare share.

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  10. Keishon
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 16:41:57

    I love my Barnes and Noble. They stock just about everything and including small press novels which surprised even me. I do shop at independent bookstores like Murder by the Book that is a speciality mystery bookshop. I love it there. There’s also a Katy Budget Books in Katy, Tx that has a bit of everything and I love it there, too. I dunno. That’s why I don’t like generalizations because half the time it’s not true.

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  11. Alison Kent
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 16:59:02

    [quote comment="11883"] There’s also a Katy Budget Books in Katy, Tx that has a bit of everything and I love it there, too. [/quote]

    I live FOUR MILES from KBB! It’s my favorite store ever because they DO handsell new books, but also offer out of print books. I recently picked up an almost new copy of Penelope Williamson’s HEART OF THE WEST because my hardcover is packed away who knows where.

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  12. Charity
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 17:40:20

    There is no bookstore where I live, not even a used one. If I want to buy books locally, I have to shop Wal-Mart. When I go out of town to the mall, I shop at the Walden’s and I have always had a good experience. The people that work there love books and always have recommendations.

    If there was an indy here, I’d shop it, but not because I hate the chains, but because I wouldn’t have to drive! I order on-line a lot from B&N, and the nice thing about the on-line chain sites is the recs you get once you choose your book. You know, the whole others who bought this book also bought this.

    I’m sure there are chain stores that have non-booklovers working there, just as I’m sure there are indy stores that have them in their employ. Nothing is perfect!

    In my mind, midlist mediocrity can be blamed on mostly one element. Promotion. Or lack thereof.

    Couldn’t agree more. I have never heard of Ms. Lisle before this, and contrary to the old saying, not all press is good. After reading this post and then her reply, I won’t be looking for her books.

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  13. Michelle
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 18:03:56

    Well I can balance out Charity due to her (H.L.) comments I will be looking for Holly Lisle’s books. I have found that employees in a lot of the chain stores in my area are clueless about books. They work there for the paycheck and not for a love of books. No independent bookstores where I am but it would be nice to shop where customer service was high and the employees were knowledgeable.

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  14. Wendy
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 19:09:22

    Honestly, the friendliest, most genre-oriented, hand-selling-crazy bookstores I’ve ever frequented have been used bookstores. What would most authors say about that? I suspect they’d begin frothing at the mouth a la Cujo.

    My favorite bookstore is an indie UBS who sells a bit of new on the side. She’s always talking books with me – what we’ve read recently, what’s been good, what’s been meh etc.

    I think there are “bad” booksellers everywhere. Certainly the chains hire clueless high school students who haven’t read a book since they were required to read Lord Of The Flies in English class – but as others have stated, while I love the idea of indies, so many of them aren’t terribly genre friendly. You go in for Nora Roberts and are met with Philip Roth. Plus the chains are obviously corporate entities and corporations want to make money. How do you make money in the bookselling business? You cater to the masses – that means bestsellers and genre fiction folks.

    And my theory on what’s killing off Midlist Authors? Bad promotion and oversaturation. I still think the romance genre would be in an even better state if they didn’t shove out so many darn books every month. Very good authors get lost in the shuffle (IMHO).

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  15. Collette
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 19:34:30

    I used to love independent booksellers…when I most often read mysteries or “serious” literature.

    In my liberal and academic neighborhood of Chicago, there are no less than 4 independent bookstores (2 used) + the B/N at the university and a Borders. However, my only choice in the neighborhood is the Borders because none of the independents stock romance. At all. And frankly, I get looked down upon for my requests. It’s discouraging to me personally–I wish that it were different.

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  16. Alison Kent
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 19:56:53

    [quote comment="11899"]
    And my theory on what’s killing off Midlist Authors? Bad promotion [/quote]

    Wendy – Not sure if you’ll check back here or not, but what do you consider “bad promotion?”

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  17. Wendy
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 20:26:50

    Alison:
    I probably should have said “lack of promotion” as opposed to “bad.” I think the reason many midlist writers flounder a bit is because publishers don’t market them “correctly.” Bad back cover copy, crappy cover art, little to no ARC distribution, lack of print ads etc.

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  18. Robin
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 20:31:31

    . Plus the chains are obviously corporate entities and corporations want to make money. How do you make money in the bookselling business? You cater to the masses

    Like, say, publishers? Are chain booksellers any more corporatized than publishers? That’s another thing that seemed ironic in Lisle’s argment. As you and several other posters have commented on, who’s putting out all these books to begin with — and who are most of them geared toward?

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  19. Nonny
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 20:43:33

    Like, say, publishers? Are chain booksellers any more corporatized than publishers? That’s another thing that seemed ironic in Lisle’s argment. As you and several other posters have commented on, who’s putting out all these books to begin with — and who are most of them geared toward?

    Unfortunately, publishing as it stands is a business. If a certain author’s books aren’t selling enough to justify the cost spent, then they’re going to stop buying them.

    Maybe I’d feel differently if it were my books that weren’t getting picked up instead of looking at it from the outside. I can’t say. Gimme ten years on that. LOL.

    Everything being said, I think there are many more factors that chains vs. indies. People have mentioned promotion and lack thereof; I don’t know if this is still the case, but I remember Holly mentioning in older blog entries and Forward Motion posts that she did not and would not promote outside of keeping a blog.

    Take that for what it’s worth. *shrugs*

    I think also part of the issue is that she’s writing epic/high fantasy. Several fantasy editors/agents have commented that “traditional” epic/high fantasy isn’t selling well in general right now.

    This isn’t to say there’s anything wrong with that. A writer should be writing what they love, not what “sells” just for the sake of selling. But if you’re writing something that isn’t currently popular (if what the editor/agent blogs I’ve read is accurate), it shouldn’t be a surprise that it isn’t selling well.

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  20. Nonny
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 20:44:38

    Grr. I hate it when I miss a tag. *sigh*

    The blockquote should have ended after the first paragraph.

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  21. Robin
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 22:12:45

    Unfortunately, publishing as it stands is a business. If a certain author’s books aren’t selling enough to justify the cost spent, then they’re going to stop buying them.

    Obviously, publishing as a business relies on bookselling as a business and vice versa. What I find problematic in chain v. indie polarization is the idea that booksellers who are actually reading what they stock are always going to stock midlist genre fiction authors. For the same reasons that asking a chain bookseller to stock a certain book isn’t always a “wasted” effort, expecting Indies to save the collective careers of midlist authors seems incomplete as compelling arguments go. I absolutely think some authors stand a better chance at Indie booksellers, but others don’t. In other words, I agree with you that there are numerous factors at work here. What’s made the difference for me, as a reader becoming aware of midlist authors, are the online communities. Without AAR and reader blogs like this one, I wouldn’t even know what the heck a midlist author was.

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  22. Jane
    Dec 05, 2006 @ 23:11:16

    I agree with Wendy that its lack of promotion that kills the midlist author. I think that was so frustrating with the Frank thing – that they had towers of arcs for one author but almost non existant arcs for another. I understand that all authors can’t be promoted equally because then no promotion is successful, but maybe something can be done to better identify the buying public.

    After all, if there are millions of readers and it only takes sales of 10,000 to make it on the bestseller list some weeks, can’t the publisher do a better job of pinpointing the 10,000 of a million that will pony up the dough for a book?

    I wondered about Lisle’s comments that indie booksellers made it possible for midlist writer’s to make a living on bookselling. Is that true? Were greater percentage of writers able to write for a living than today?

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  23. Jolie
    Dec 06, 2006 @ 00:24:09

    I’m not going to post a response about Lisle as I’ve read her original post. And since I work for one of the chains — enough said.

    I thought I would post about what I did today at the bookstore. I certainly worked hard selling a ton of romance including many midlist authors! ;-) I’m not going to list all the books I sold today, but rather just romance books that would not have been sold without a little help from this villainous bookseller.

    Kresley Cole — A Hunger Like No Other & No Rest for the Wicked.

    Cindy Gerard — To the Edge, To the Limit, To the Brink, Over the Line, Under the Wire

    Catherine Mann — Blaze of Glory (I would have sold Code of Honor too, but I had sold that one on Saturday! Like an evil bookseller — I ordered more.)

    Jacquelyn Frank — Jacob, The Nightwalkers

    Lindsey McKenna — Beyond the Limit

    Sandra Hill — Rough and Ready

    Cassie Edwards — Running Fox, Savage Tempest

    Yes, all books that would not have been purchase without this dastardly bookseller. Beyond recommending the above books, I also spent the day shelving new romances of which I face out EVERY new book in the new release section. Not to mention the fact that I also suggested several December/January releases — Jaci Burton, Surviving Demon Island and Meljean Brook, Demon Angel — both of which are FABULOUS reads!! I can’t wait to start hand-selling these two!

    I passed by Lisle’s book in my shelving — I’m a great bookseller so I’ll sell her books to customers — but believe me when I say I briefly thought about how easy it will be when it comes time to strip her book when it appears on our store’s returns list . . .

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  24. Jaci Burton
    Dec 06, 2006 @ 08:53:35

    Jolie – thank you so much! You just made my entire day. *big hugs*

    I was going to post here and say that I’ve sent my upcoming book out to the chains and to independents both and they’ve both been fantastic in replying and offering to feature it, promote it and handsell it when it releases it at the end of this month. I’ve worked very hard to get the book out there, to get my name out there and the booksellers have been incredibly responsive.

    I just haven’t come across any ‘bad guys’ in this picture. And I’m certainly not a big name author. But I hope to be someday *grin*

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  25. Tara Marie
    Dec 06, 2006 @ 10:33:21

    It seems to me Ms. Lisle has a bit of a romanticized view of Indie Booksellers.

    I’m very lucky, I’ve a local indie bookseller (and good friend) who stocks and hand sells romance, she’s also a UBS (Wendy you’re right…Honestly, the friendliest, most genre-oriented, hand-selling-crazy bookstores I’ve ever frequented have been used bookstores.) She’s passionate about books. And if she doesn’t stock it she’ll special order anything.

    Obviously from the comments indie booksellers who take pride in their Romance section are hard to come by. Chain stores have taken over evil or not. I can understand the disenchantment–I go into my local B&N and have a hard time finding release I know should be on the shelves and next to no backlist for midlist authors. It must be very disappointing for a midlist writer trying to break away from the crowd.

    Don’t give up on Ms. Lisle because of her rose-colored glasses view. She’s a good writer and storyteller. I’ve read 3 of her Romantic Suspense and I’ll be ordering Talyn through my local indie bookseller.

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  26. Keishon
    Dec 06, 2006 @ 11:25:22

    Don’t give up on Ms. Lisle because of her rose-colored glasses view. She’s a good writer and storyteller. I’ve read 3 of her Romantic Suspense and I’ll be ordering Talyn through my local indie bookseller.

    You know, I’ll try my best. Ms. Lisle comes off pretty strong in her opinions which she has every right but I do find her provocative and that’s off-putting to me especially with the name calling (calling people idiots) and such and the profanity. Talyn looks good and it has a nice quote from Jacqueline Carey on it but I’m reluctant to purchase it. Wish I was a bigger person to just ignore authors when they shoot off at the mouth. So, until you or anybody else has read it and profess it a keeper, I’ll wait for my used bookstore to stock it.

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  27. Robin
    Dec 06, 2006 @ 12:40:59

    Yeah, I was taken aback at Lisle’s strong reaction to comments on her own very strongly-worded blog entries, but her name kept nagging at me, so I did a little googling last night and found this, a discussion last year on fan fiction and Lisle’s — again — extremely strong stance. I realized that such is just her style, and while it hasn’t turned me off to trying her fiction, I’ll have to make the decision first of whether to buy used from an independent bookseller or new from a chainseller.

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  28. Tara Marie
    Dec 06, 2006 @ 13:05:18

    I’ll have to make the decision first of whether to buy used from an independent bookseller or new from a chainseller.

    hehehe.

    Honestly, if I gave up on authors who rant or behave badly my autobuy list would shrink pretty quick.

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  29. Robin
    Dec 06, 2006 @ 13:24:17

    Honestly, if I gave up on authors who rant or behave badly my autobuy list would shrink pretty quick.

    Exactly. I think the comments that tend to have the greatest negative impact on me as a reader are those that suggest the author her/himself doesn’t respect his/her writing, the genre in which he/she is writng, or readers. If I have the sense that a writer doesn’t have much passion for the work he/she’s doing, I’m more likely to be turned off, but even then I can usually get over it in time and go back to separating the work from the online voice of the author. Lisle’s comments, while IMO uncompromising and overbroad, at least suggest a passion for her work, if not necessarily for readers and our opinions.

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  30. Keishon
    Dec 06, 2006 @ 13:45:10

    Honestly, if I gave up on authors who rant or behave badly my autobuy list would shrink pretty quick.

    It certainly hasn’t affected my auto-buy list either since it only has about four names on it and almost none are from the romance genre with the exception of Laura Kinsale who can call readers stupid all day long and be eloquent about it and I’d still read her books. Yes, she is that talented.

    Anyway, I don’t read author blogs and it’s only when readers address topics like this that draw the ire of authors that we really see how they respond. We are consumers here so tact is necessary and image is everything, I think. Don’t you? I’m not a fan but a potential reader for Ms. Lisle’s work so her rather strong opinions just doesn’t make me want to spend my money on her books. Simple as that. In fact, thinking back on it, most of the authors behaving badly haven’t been author’s I’ve read. ::shrug:: However, I am fickle. And forgetful. Hee.

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  31. Karen Scott
    Dec 06, 2006 @ 15:04:00

    I’m with you Keishon, my reading is easily affected by online behaviour, although Lisle’s stance on this subject doesn’t affect me either way.

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  32. Nonny
    Dec 06, 2006 @ 15:14:55

    I’m with you Keishon, my reading is easily affected by online behaviour,

    Ditto here. If an author behaves badly enough… well, I may read her books anyway, if they’re something I’m very interested in, but I’ll be getting them used or from a library. Not buying new.

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  33. FerfeLabat
    Dec 06, 2006 @ 16:23:32

    Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

    I, Ferfe LaBat, went to the local B & N at the Shops at Sunset Place and nearly had a full on panic attack. I’m not certain what a panic attack actually is, but sense that I was close to discovering the full definition first hand. I usually spend around $100 to $120 a month on my reading addiction. As I searched for the books I remembered wanting I also scanned all the other books and tried to remember if I’d read any reviews on that one or this one. I was tempted by great covers and then remembered it was panned somewhere. I brushed my hand along the spines searching for books that should have been alpha-located in between authors. An entire wall of Nora Roberts tempted my camera phone for pixelation as a reminder that if I got lost, just return to either the Nora Wall or the JD Robb wall and begin again.

    Shopping for books to read is hell. I might have lasted another twenty minutes but someone near the coffee area passed gas so loudly I expected the fire sprinklers to kick on.

    I could not find 2/3rds of the books on my list. I walked the entire store upstairs and downstairs. When I realized I was so frustrated I wanted to cry, I paid the $42 for what I had managed to find and hauled ass the hell out of there.

    My point is this. During this entire rant and comment thread, I see nothing about how the chain stores see their romance buying customers. Have they just completely lost touch with us? Why did I have to go upstairs far away from the romance section to find karen marie Moning’s latest? I was happy with my small section in the corner with its comforting blanket of Nora protection.

    Sigh.

    Anyway. Go Holly! I won’t even pretend to understand what you are talking about since Walmart sells more books times 20 than the indies and chains combined, but it’s good to get someone talking about how it all works so us little fish can understand what’s what.

    I can’t handle Walmart either in case ya’ll were wondering. The Florida City book section has an electrical short and every time I try to grab a book it shocks the hell out of me.

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  34. Chassit
    Dec 08, 2006 @ 10:23:48

    [quote comment="11942"]I’m not going to post a response about Lisle as I’ve read her original post. And since I work for one of the chains — enough said.

    I thought I would post about what I did today at the bookstore. I certainly worked hard selling a ton of romance including many midlist authors! ;-) I’m not going to list all the books I sold today, but rather just romance books that would not have been sold without a little help from this villainous bookseller…

    …Yes, all books that would not have been purchase without this dastardly bookseller.[/quote]

    Holly did not say that every single person that works for a chain bookstore or has before is evil, for God’s sake. She said that the way the chain bookstores sell their books is hurtful to midlist writers, AND she said that more often than not, the people working in the chain bookstores are teens who don’t care about selling books–just working where their friends are. I know this is true, I’ve been there. They’re not book people, they don’t know a thing about books, they don’t like to read, and could care less about what you want.

    People that DO sell books are rare, but she APPLAUDS THOSE PEOPLE!!! She says thanks. She also mentions how people who really DO care about the books and try to handsell them are often told to get back to work, stock a shelf or something, don’t just stand around. They DISCOURAGE the workers from selling the books.

    Holly’s use of the word villain was not targeted toward the workers, but the corporate people who KNOW that this practice does not work, yet they don’t do anything to improve. She didn’t say that nobody at a chainbookstore has ever sold a freakin’ book.

    What Holly said does not mean that all over the world, there is a cave with all the people who work for chains plotting to destroy up and coming writer’s careers like a comicbook team of supervillains, only that the system is flawed. She also only meant that indies are more likely to handsell because there’s no boss breathing down their neck for them to get back to work.

    Taking her comments literally is foolish. There are always exceptions to the rule, and to those who DO handsell at chains, thank you. Holly, and I appreciate it. To those who DON’T handsell at INDIES, shame on you.

    Thank you for your time.

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  35. Mike Williamson
    Dec 11, 2006 @ 00:14:09

    Bookstores pay little, so they get dedicated readers and people who for various reasons can’t get a better paying job. There is some overlap in these categories.

    Eric Flint commented that the chain store near him has a managerial “Business model” of ordering one copy of “1632.” It sells quickly, and they have no copies for several weeks. His response was “So change the (obscenity) business model!”

    One chain near me does not stock my stuff at all. The other, in the mall where it’s more visible, stocks all my stuff in multiple.

    But it is true that both chains and publishers are driven by pure numbers. I have one well-received trilogy that will not extend, because the publisher has bigger fish to fry. I’d love to do more of it, and I may after the rights revert, if there’s still some kind of market for it (reprint and continue through a smaller house). OTOH, it’s possible my other stuff will continue to increase in popularity and I won’t have time.

    Another example–Misty Lackey would like very much to write SF, and has a technical background. But her fantasy sells very well, so she’s pigeonholed and the publishers won’t offer as much for SF from her, until it proves itself in the market.

    Take a pay cut, or continue with what works? That’s the problem for a lot of authors.

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  36. Melissa
    Dec 14, 2006 @ 09:36:22

    Coming in late to this because I found this through the Redwyne blog. I am an author of mainly ebooks and print books from small publishers, and I have to work to get my name out there. I have seen the good and bad in every store. It is hard coming from the small end and trying to get things going, but I have found the chain stores more willing to work with me in the area in which I live. Like some people noted, most of the indy stores near me are into literary, not romance. Granted, most of the stores in my area are NOT big in romance, and I think sometimes that is a deciding factor. It is their buying public that makes that determination sometimes. It does not have to do with their hatred of it, but their customers are just not huge romance buyers.
    On promotion, I am about to have a string of print books coming out from a small publisher, and have already started getting things set up. It is amazing to me that many authors are not taking it seriously enough to get their name out there for print. I have Sue’s list of romance friendly places, I contacted Pat Rouse for her list and have things going that direction, and have several other things hopping. But there are some authors who are convinced when they sign with NY, which I still haven’t, the companies will pay for your ads, send out promo and set up an across the country, first class booksigning tour. That is NOT going to happen. It is best to face that fact. It is a business, as someone stated, and therefore, they are going to look at profit margins, etc. They have to, or they will go out of business. If you don’t want to deal with that, then write a different genre and make sure it isn’t anything that is considered popular fiction. The market is tight especially now that the economy is not thriving. People don’t buy books in this type of atmosphere, unless something catches their eye. Again, I hate to harp, but it is a business. And if you want to make it, you have to promote and you have to make friends with booksellers, indy and chain. They all have to keep making money to stay in business, and you have to prove to them that there is a reason you should be there.
    JMHO, but in a tight, competitive market, if you are not willing to work, a lot of times you will end up not selling.

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  37. Mike Williamson
    Dec 14, 2006 @ 09:55:51

    Actually, the economy (Which at present is respectable) has very little to do with book sales. Books are cheap, and generally marketed to the literate and college educated, who have disposable income.

    It’s true that marketing is largely up to the author. The irony is that bestsellers who don’t need the promotion get it for free, while new writers who would benefit have to cough up out of pocket. Marketing is seen as a reward for success, which is more proof that there business models in need of refinement.

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  38. Jane
    Dec 14, 2006 @ 11:29:45

    [quote comment="13774"] The irony is that bestsellers who don’t need the promotion get it for free, while new writers who would benefit have to cough up out of pocket. Marketing is seen as a reward for success, which is more proof that there business models in need of refinement.[/quote]

    I find that odd as well. My only guess is that the publisher sees a higher ROI on the promotion of a big name author than on a midlist author. I am not sure if analysis is done on a long term basis or not, i.e., investing in a career of an author over two or three books in hopes that it becomes a superleader or putting out the splashy dollars for a bestseller. One thing that is true, though, as May pointed out on another blog (educating me) is that you can only promote a few authors else the promotion is rendered meaningless. In every scenario, there are going to be authors who lose out. Even if all bookstores were indies, the bookseller would chose to handsell midlist author A over midlist Author B, meaning that midlist Author B loses out.

    Who decides the authors that lose out? The editor? The bookseller? The buying public? I.e., in the Frank case, many marketing dollars went into Frank over another author on the Zebra list. This is a book the editor really believes in and is standing behind. While this is great for Frank, it is not good for someone else. Is there really an answer for that?

    The one thing that has continued to nag at me about Lisle’s post is the seemingly utopian view that more midlist authors had careers that generated enough wealth to support a family when all bookstores were indies. I asked before and received no response as to the veracity of this claim. Because of the number of books published today (which means more authors are getting a chance to have careers), perhaps the concentration of sales for one author has gone down.

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  39. Melissa
    Dec 14, 2006 @ 12:18:57

    [quote comment="13774"]Actually, the economy (Which at present is respectable) has very little to do with book sales. Books are cheap, and generally marketed to the literate and college educated, who have disposable income.[/quote]

    But, the bookstores are seeing losses this year in the first two quarters of this year, and Walmart has posted its worst year in holiday sales in a long time, the economy is not doing as well as the Media would like you to believe.
    I agree though, that money spent on bigger authors just seems, well strange. You would think they would spend the time to build someone up. so we are in agreement there, but I don’t see the reason for authors being amazed they are expected to do a little something. And, I disagree that authors had it better with Indies. But the problem there is that you are in the same boat. If you find all the indy sellers in your area are not into romance, they will not stock it. I like indy stores, don’t get me wrong, and I shop at both indy and chain stores, but I don’t think anyone can blame them for hurting the midlist author.

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  40. Mike Williamson
    Dec 14, 2006 @ 12:29:54

    The one thing that has continued to nag at me about Lisle’s post is the seemingly utopian view that more midlist authors had careers that generated enough wealth to support a family when all bookstores were indies.

    It’s true. “Professional” rate today is considered anywhere from 3-10c a word and up. But that’s the same rate that was being paid in the 1950s. Writers of short stories and articles were able to maintain a middle class existence on nothing else. These days, you have a day job or are constantly juggling contracts.

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  41. Jane
    Dec 14, 2006 @ 12:59:17

    This seems to refer to professional writers versus novelists. I.e., an author of a full length novel. I think (and maybe I am totally wrong here) that seems to be comparing apples to oranges.

    As for the decline of buyers of short stories and articles, I think that has much more to do with the increase of the internent than the decline of indie booksellers and the broader spectrum of entertainment choices today. Because the claim is that the demise of the indie bookstore is directly proportional to the lowering of the midlist author. I.e., how many midlisters actually made a living off the bookstore sales (which could include short stories but not really seeing the “articles” inclusion).

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  42. Mike Williamson
    Dec 14, 2006 @ 19:16:31

    This seems to refer to professional writers versus novelists. I.e., an author of a full length novel. I think (and maybe I am totally wrong here) that seems to be comparing apples to oranges.

    Yes, I’m afraid you are totally wrong. Either way, someone writing at 3-10c a word in shorts or books could live comfortably in the 50s. This declined through the 70s and was established long before the web. The web has IMPROVED things because it allows broader discourse and marketing. Part of the decline was when word processors came out–made it easier for good and bad writers to submit, which is why there are so many submissions now.

    Novels don’t pay substantially better on initial payment. If they earn out one can do better, but there are finite markets for everything.

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  46. Carmen Hudson
    Oct 27, 2007 @ 15:21:20

    You didn’t read the post by Holly well at all, Dear Author. I came over here to read this whole thing and found your nasty, rude, demeaning tone to be absolutely abhorrent besides.

    Holly Lisle does everything in her power to help other authors and simply speaks towards the reality of the book selling world. I’ve gone into plenty of chain stores to find specific books and have been unable to find them, having to order them special or, more often, go home and order them on Amazon.

    It would be nice, Dear Author, if you could avoid being malicious simply for the sake of being malicious.

    And you do owe her an apology.

    ReplyReply

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