As an author who tours heavily to support my titles, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know a lot of other touring authors. Our conversations often turn to our experiences on the road, and independent booksellers are a big part of that conversation. These discussions deal with everything from the physical charm of the stores themselves, to the presence (or absence) of store cats, and, most importantly, to the personalities that make these stores such special destinations. We swap stories the way collectors swap baseball cards. And, there’s a good reason we do this.
"We swap stories the way collectors swap baseball cards."
It’s because we recognize that for independent booksellers, survival depends on being vigilant, clever, astute, and innovative, while somehow balancing the dollars-and-cents operation of the enterprise against the artistic risks inherent in deciding what inventory to acquire and which authors to support. As a reader, I stand in awe of all who tread such a difficult path. As writers, especially those of us who are early-career writers, we recognize and acknowledge the enormous debt of gratitude we owe to those who invest in us by buying and recommending and hand-selling our books, and by having us in their stores for book events.
Deciding to support a new author is the literary equivalent of the buy-and-hold strategy of a stock market investor who takes a chance on a company whose value is not yet recognized by the market. And, because booksellers are blessed with only a finite amount of time, money, shelf-space, and calendar space, their conscious decisions to invest some measure of these limited and very valuable resources in an author is no small thing. It creates precious opportunities for which we are eternally grateful.
Being an author is hard work, often frustrating, and the pathway is sometimes plagued with crushing doubt and disappointment. So, being the beneficiary of the kind of long-term thinking and risk-taking that goes into author support decisions by independent booksellers is a huge emotional high. I’ve been welcomed for return appearances in support of my second book at stores where sales during the in-store event for my first title were less than stellar. So I can tell you, there is no finer feeling than the one that comes from knowing booksellers have seen something in you and your work that they feel is worth taking a leap of faith to help cultivate your career over the long run. It is simply one of the most affirming and important career builders we, as authors, can hope for. So, for these reasons, I am and will always be a tireless evangelist for the independent bookseller.
A book on a shelf can be an inanimate object, but in the hands of a bookseller with an interest in the author and the book, it’s story that can really come alive. So, a million thank yous to all of our independent booksellers. You are, truly, a national treasure.
ROGER JOHNS is the author of the Wallace Hartman Mysteries from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books: Dark River Rising (2017) and River of Secrets (2018). He is the 2018 Georgia Author of the Year (Detective·Mystery Category), a 2018 Killer Nashville Readers’ Choice Award nominee, a finalist for the 2018 Silver Falchion Award for best police procedural, runner-up for the 2019 Frank Yerby Fiction Award, and the 2019 JKS Communications Author-in-Residence. His articles and interviews on writing and the writing life have appeared in Career Authors, Criminal Element, Killer Nashville Articles, and the Southern Literary Review. Roger belongs to the Atlanta Writers Club, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and International Thriller Writers. Along with several other crime fiction writers, he co-authors the MurderBooks blog at www.murder-books.com. You can visit him at www.rogerjohnsbooks.com and on Twitter at @rogerjohns10.