Authors and Indie Retailers, Sharing the Pain
I was in my favorite local gift shop. It carries very high-quality gifts, household items like dishes and silver. They are seasonal, May through Christmas. Because several years ago I went there looking for Advent candles, and she didn’t have any, she ordered them for me. I told her I would tell everyone at my church this is where they can find them. She carries them every year now. I went in the other day, she was happy to see me, and said she’d just asked her husband if I’d been in yet for Advent candles. This isn’t a huge purchase. It’s my loyalty she appreciates.
We talked about that. She said, “People don’t seem to realize that small volume shops don’t get the price breaks the big volume shops get, so we can’t offer the huge discounts. You see this chafing dish? To discount it, I would have to order 500 of them. And I know I can only sell one or two a season.” She said customers come in and tell her directly that they just want to see the items they intend to order on the internet. Sometimes they take pictures of things they like so they can find them on the internet. I told her I’ve been signing books when someone asks the price, then ask how much it is on Amazon! I tell them the truth. I have no idea. She said, “What really frosts me is when they say it’s because they get free shipping! When you buy from me you don’t pay shipping either, and I’ll even carry it to the car for you!”
We commiserated over our shared pain. I have a laminated spread sheet I keep in my sample case. I use this when I visit bookstores and other retailers. My columns show the retail price of the book, what my purchase price is, and what my profit is at 30,35, and 40% discount. On one title at a 40% discount I lose $1.95 per book. So, no, I can’t give a 40% discount on that book. Showing them the facts ends the discussion. They get it. They share my pain. They understand that I promote them, I support their stores, and my loyalty is worth the difference. Big stores don’t care. They are used to dealing in volume and want 50% and think they are doing us a favor at 45%.
So, one more time consumers: if you want to have bookstores, you must shop there, support them, and change your Amazon mind-set. If you want to keep your downtown shopping alive, you must actually go there and shop. You must change your Big Box Mentality. When it comes to bookstores and downtown retailers, you must use it or lose it. Sadly, many are losing them for want of a bargain. That bargain comes at a great cost.