Like just about every author out there, I’m sad and concerned by the Borders bankruptcy. I won’t rehash too much of what’s already been widely said about how Borders corporate and internal structure was in many ways its own worst enemy. Unlike Barnes and Noble, Borders has been incredibly Romance friendly. At RWA last year, B&N managed to insult and anger everyone who attended their workshop. I was shocked by what I heard. How clueless can you be to address a group of Romance writers and be both condescending and ignorant? The reports and reactions I head about that particular workshop concern me because it’s pretty clear that either there’s no internal support at B&N for Romance or they are uniformed about fiction’s best-selling genre. Scary either way.
In a tough economy (still) no bookstore can afford to let false and sexist notions about Romance and Romance readers get in the way of getting books into the hands of readers. I don’t have great hopes for B&N if the attitude expressed to Romance authors at RWA is indicative of how it intends to manage its Romance buying decisions. I hope I’m wrong because, for the most part, at individual B&N stores I’ve had pretty good experiences, but it’s always been Borders that reached out to Romance readers and authors.
Borders Stores Closing
If your local or nearest Borders is closing, take a look at Edward Champion’s awesome list of bookstore alternatives and take your dollars there if you can.
The Market isn’t Going Away
The strangest thing to me about the Borders debacle is this: Romance readers haven’t gone away. It’s not as if the demand for romance is changed. The readers are still there. So, although it’s absolutely true that authors and, I think, in particular, mid-list authors (like me) are screwed pretty badly by this, I think it’s also clear readers are screwed, too.
The readers haven’t gone away. In the short term, they now have 200 fewer places to shop for the books they want to read. Not every reader can just shrug and say she’ll buy digital or from Amazon. Publishers will surely be slashing print runs to account for the lower print orders. (See above in re B&N. I don’t have much hope they’ll increase their orders of Romance because Borders isn’t around.) I can’t help but think that means mid-list authors will have even more trouble selling future projects. In the long term, it’s possible readers will end up with 600 and something fewer places to shop.
One bright spot is that Romance readers tend, by and large, to be digitally savvy. I’m hoping some of the sales move on-line. I expect Amazon to do well, particularly since it doesn’t place future buy orders the way a brick and mortar store does. They don’t look at a publisher’s catalog and decide to order only the already bestselling authors or authors who are lucky enough to have good publisher support. That means Amazon is a ray of hope for mid list authors.
Alas Poor Mid-list Author, I knew you Well
I’m going back to contract on my paranormal series, and I have no idea if they’ll want more books from me. If they do, they’ll surely slash my print run and the next time around, that will be used to show declining sales. One possibility is that I’ll be dropped then (if not now). The other possibility (which I think is fairly likely) is that other bookstores, chain and independent, will, over time, pick up more of the slack and that digital sales will also increase. Enough to save my print writing career? I have no idea.
Edited to add: In re-reading this, I feel like I should say that I really hope Borders comes out of bankruptcy a stronger, more efficient company. They’ve been such a positive force for genre fiction and I really hope they turn it around.
What do you think? If your Borders is closing, where will you shop instead?