Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The local bookstore versus the world

I just spent a couple days at a tradefair for the Christian Booksellers Association of Australia. It was a good time, but a lot of work as always. I am challenged whenever at these events by the plight of the small bookstores and the plight of the big stores.
Most Christian bookstores exist for multiple reasons, not just for the sale of books and gifts. Many exist to provide volunteers an opportunity to talk to strangers about God, pray with people, donate or give to people time or resources for their development and so on. As such the Christian bookstores are on the frontline for ministry in Australia, yet they are struggling. Why are they struggling? We all know - don't we?
First people are buying their books from overseas. Now I don't think there is anything wrong with this, lets face it we all want to save a dollar. But what does saving a dollar really mean? Could it be worth sending that little bit extra to help support your local store? Most of the local little stores are working for the people and set up primiarly to be a place where they can help the community. Many churches have little bookstores that are open at least a couple days a week, but there are also some churches that don't even open through the week. Where do people go if they want some support? Perhaps they don't anymore ... I am not sure, but I do believe the bookstores can fill this gap if we help support them to. So spend $20 on a novel by Paula Vince at your local bookstore instead of buying it for $14-$15 from overseas. Yes some of those overseas places are cheaper, but then you can even give it a flick and feel the book. Also see it as a ministry. By supporting your local store it keeps them there ...
Secondly we are buying our books in digital formats. Ok so this might be where it is necessary for bookstores to go e too. The major bookstores are selling ebooks online now and you can download their apps to make it easier, so do give it a go! But then with never going to a bookstore you will never get to see some of the new stuff they have.
Thirdly a spiritual battle... see Jo Wanmer's post from a few days ago....
One of the issue for Aussie Christian authors is that who is going to search for our books online if we don't know we exist? Who is going to be there for us? If the smaller bookstores take on our titles and then have them sitting there when your readers visit the store they will find them! So we need the stores even to get our names out there and then perhaps still sell more digital editions as well.
So what do I suggest? Do a bit of both, support your local small store, support your local big store, buy online and write reviews (yes almost all the major places have review writing options so write them up there so they might be seen and sell more - supporting one another...) and buy your digital editions. Do a bit of all of it! :) Christian writers should be reading each other and working together. I know many of you are and well done! Keep it up :)
PS many of the smaller stores sell more non-fiction than fiction. Challenge - go and get an Aussie fiction book from your local store and rave about it to them. They may not have even read it and don't know it is sitting there. Tell them you loved it and then they might promote it too! A great trick and hopefully it will help encourage them and be inspired too.

20 comments:

  1. I joined Rochelle at the trade fair. it reminded me of and old tired lady whose life is coming to an end.
    Yet reading books is very much alive.
    There is an opportunity to rebuild something new out of the ashes of the 'traditional' Aussie book industry - something new and modern and exciting. I don't know what that looks like, but soon it will rise. Lets be ready to embrace the new thing when it comes.

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    1. I think there is lot to do to keep it modern and still keep some of aspects of traditional! Praying for more and more breakthrough!

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  2. I volunteer at our local christian bookshop and we do have quite a lot of Aussie fiction although we need more. It feels great when Im on to be able to point it out to customers and be able to recommend the books. We are really low on fiction at present and what can be frustrating is I let the manager know of some of the new books and she said she would order some that was around Nov last year but still the books haven't been ordered. I would have bought Amanda's book at our bookshop and I did say that to the manager but ended up getting it at Koorong.

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    1. I used to volunteer at a small Christian bookshop in the early 90s when I was a newly-wed uni student. People only ever used to come in for photocopies and never to buy books, so I second Rochelle's plea to support the local Aussie Christian bookshops.
      The one that Jenny volunteers at in Naracoorte is one of the most supportive ones I've seen for books by Aussie authors.
      Jo, having helped Rochelle out at trade fairs in Adelaide, I have to say your analogy is very apt :) I always love your faith and am waiting with open arms to welcome that 'new thing'.

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    2. By the way Paula - I did look up the prices of your books overseas and they were available on amazon, barnes and noble, the book depository and also koorong and word here in AU so it was an interesting comparion to see and then also look at prices of digital editions. (Hence why I mentioned your books in the post as I know they are everywhere). Challenge to all - check out what different stores are selling YOUR books for and have a think about what that might mean for sales....

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  3. Thanks Rochelle for your thought provoking post. I liked your idea of doing a bit of everything so we help keep one another afloat! It is sad that Christian booksellers struggle because of the modern trend of e-books and of being able to buy cheaper books oveseas. My sis in law volunteered in a Christian bookshop in Whyalla for many years, but sadly they had to close up shop for obvious reasons.


    Thanks for the reminder of what we need to do to help the Aussie Christian market start flying on Eagles wings one day! May that day arrive!

    Blessings,
    Anusha

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  4. Do a bit of it all. Good advice Rochelle. It is do-able. A x

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  5. Great post. I only tend to buy online if I know exactly what I want, if I don't, I prefer to go to a bookshop to browse. It's a pity our local Christian bookshop isn't really local - we have to plan a special trip rather than it being an impulse decision to wander in while doing other things.

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  6. The broader issues behind this scare me a lot (is it okay for a Christian to be scared?). At risk of getting all political, we seem to be heading for an arrangement whereby the only jobs in Australia will be those that can't possibly be done overseas. I wish I knew what the answer was. Rochelle's advice to consider more than just price when we buy something has got to be part of it.

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    1. Hi Peter,
      I don't think we need to be scared, but I do use the word overwhelming quite often! I think that if we work as a community and encourage others to there will still be more breakthrough. Thank you for your encouragement of my suggestions.
      Rochelle

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  7. So true! We need to do our bit, in small and big bookstores as well as in the electronic environment. Thanks Rochelle. :)

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  8. The challenges facing the Christian bookstore are also facing all bookstores and to stay alive it seems that each one will need to make itself an 'experience' rather than just a store. I was encouraged lately to speak to a Christian bookstore owner who runs his store with a thriving coffee shop as a major part of the business. People walk in off the street for good coffee etc and are exposed to great quality books - and they are doing well! It really lifted my spirits to hear him share his enthusiasm and belief in bookstores with Christian books for sale.
    So let's keep our chins up and encourage each other as much as we can. The Christian bookstore isn't dead yet!

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  9. I do prefer to go to Christian book stores to buy my books but maybe that is because of my age and I like paper books. Yet if you can get a book for only a few dollars or maybe even free, the temptation to by pass your local store. For me I have to travel to get to a Christian book store so I don't go as often as I have in the past.
    As an unpublished author lets hope and pray that bookstores don't lose the battle for sales

    MEL

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  10. I agree, but it's really hard. I've had knock backs from book stores, in spite of my enthusiasm and willingness to boost sales. I think there's a lack of unity that we need to overcome as well.

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    1. I agree Rose, I think some are so busy or worried about not making it work they don't know what we are offerring. THis is not to be negative on them, as I mentioned already I am beginning to understand the important role they all have. Patience in all things and then prayers and attempting to convince the store (gently) that Aussie books are worth promoting! But to some extent this isn't just about Aussie books, but it is about helping bookstores in their ministry too. I guess again a bit of everything :) Keep it up though Rose :)

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  11. Rochelle, thanks for your challenging post. Last time I visited my local Christian book store I spent quite a while chatting with one of the sales girls about Aussie Christian authors. She had no idea that there were so many Aussie books on the shelf in her store. Word of mouth is very powerful and if all of us do a little bit of everything, as suggested by Rochelle, then we can help raise the profile of Aussie/Downunder Christian fiction and support the stores.

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  12. On thing I have found encouraging taking some bookmarks around to libraries they get excited to see aussie books. Our library isn't against christian fiction infact has alot of people comment on the ones they do have (mainly thanks to me donating) but when I told them about the books I had the bookmarks for they were excited and I hope it will lead to them ordering them.

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  13. God Bless the little volunteer run book stores. They have faithfully supported me (us) over many years, and I hope to do what I can to support them.

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  14. Thanks for this post. It's very helpful to see the bigger picture sometimes... it clarifies for me the things I can't always see from where I'm standing. It seems that there's always room for legwork in getting books on shelves and into people's homes. Thanks again!!

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