Andromeda: More on Title Wave’s author signings policies…

Wait a minute — Title Wave, Anchorage’s biggest indie bookstore, isn’t having author signings? Or just fewer of them? And what kind of books, exactly, will they be stocking? Admittedly, there are changes underfoot and I asked Angela Libal, store manager, to help us sort it out.

I think (hope!) the news really isn’t so bad. And for those who are frustrated with the store (and what local author, wanting to see more copies of his or her book stocked, wouldn’t be?) I hope we can also imagine the economic challenges any independent bookstore faces, just trying to keep the doors open.

Here are some snippets of what Angela Libal told me in recent emails:

We have scaled WAY back on the amount of new books we carry — only Alaskana titles (both new releases and bestsellers) and some paperback fiction titles in modest quantities. Because we are no longer ordering large quantities of new books from publishers (for events or otherwise), we are not offered as many opportunities to host visiting authors. Additionally, our recent remodel of the store has caused us to use our open-seating areas a bit differently. However, we plan to still host local author signings, in addition to many other community events, coordinated by the authors themselves or local distributors like Todd Communications, at the front of the store.

I asked Angela for more details. In a later email, she said:

We scheduled little to no signings during the remodel because of the noise / flux, etc. … I’ve had a couple larger publishers contact us about signings, and then decide to pass upon learning that we’re mostly a used bookstore now and we wouldn’t order 100 books. They don’t see the point of sending someone to us without a guarantee of high sales. …

And as for readings or larger presentation events — it would really just depend on the who / what / when. We just don’t have the staff anymore to handle large-scale events. We no longer have the need for 50+ employees — we have about half that now. Also, our event space is smaller and we cannot accommodate more than about 30 people. Last year, before the remodel, we saw attendance for sit-down events plummet. The Daily News rarely promotes local authors, they don’t review books like they used to, and there’s little media support to bookstores, in general. There’s nothing worse than an author coming to do an event or presentation, expecting a high turnout, and have little to no attendance. That’s why it’s easier for us to offer and promote signings at the center of the store. The pressure is less, they can talk to all kinds of people, sign books, and really be at the hub of activity — rather than be tucked away. Mike Doogan, Stan Jones, and Tom Brennan (aka “The Murderer’s Row”) came for a panel signing during the holidays. It was great! They had a blast heckling each other, chatting up absolutely everyone, and they signed/sold a ton of books. That’s what we like to see !

So here is my final reading-between-the-lines. Title Wave has not turned its back on all events, or even on new Alaska titles. They do seem to be favoring signings, which is a bit of a shame, because a signing is not a reading; but perhaps there is some way to make even small readings less work and more profit for them? (You can see I’m not giving up on those readings.)

Finally, I think we should consider the role of the media in all of this. (And this blog is a part of that media.) To make book sales and signings and readings work, we need more book coverage/reviews/interviews. Newspapers are down; digital media is up. During this transition, we need to do all we can to help authors and books get the coverage they deserve. At least in my mind, we can’t blame booksellers for not wanting to host events without some assistance in promoting turn-out. Frustration aside, we all sink or swim together

P.S. In the comments, Michael E. recommended this NYTBR article about an author doing in-home book readings. Worth considering…

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