The heartbreak of Malaprop’s

As a new independent author, I’m learning how to get my books into stores as well as to sell them online. I do my own publicity and scheduling, and have set up several book signings by contacting local bookstores and event coordinators.

When my book was first published, I heard from an author friend that Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, North Carolina, was unfriendly to independent authors, and my heart sank. I grew up in Asheville, and I love the shop. Located in downtown Asheville, it’s a prime example of a very cool little indie bookstore, and I knew I could muster some sales there through social media and local press since I’m from Asheville and still have family and friends in the area. I live an hour away.

I went into the store, armed with my book, and was greeted by a very friendly young woman who gave me a brochure on their consignment policy and the email address of the event manager.

I read the brochure and was struck by two things: a $25 fee to set up a consignment account and a policy preventing books printed through CreateSpace from being consigned. (Their online policy omits the no-CreateSpace line, by the way.)

I had never heard of a fee to set up an account, and I even asked another indie bookstore owner in a nearby town if this was the norm, and she’d never heard of it either and couldn’t imagine what the fee was for. Malaprop’s brochure says: “These fees allow us to accept professionally-produced, self-published books from our local authors.” That line explains nothing, of course, and particularly not why other bookstores have no fee and Malaprop’s does have one. What exactly does it pay for? They get a cut of the sales when the books are sold. What would a fee on top of that be for?

I was also puzzled by the policy that prevents books printed through CreateSpace from being consigned. CreateSpace is Amazon’s self-publishing print-on-demand company. When my original publisher had to close their doors, they recommended that I self-publish the second edition of my book through Amazon and CreateSpace, and so I did. I can’t imagine an easier process. Even though I consider myself to be techno-challenged, CreateSpace made it easy for me to publish my book. And it was free. They keep a portion of the sales, and I have to do nothing beyond setting up the book except spend the money once it’s transferred into my bank account every month.

I’d imagine a great deal of self-published books are printed through CreateSpace only because Amazon is so huge in the print-on-demand business, and I wondered why the Malaprop’s policy excluded CreateSpace books.

I sent an email to the Malaprop’s event coordinator, got no response, and so called as well. She was very nice on the phone, but confirmed that Malaprop’s would not take my book on consignment, and therefore I could not have a book signing at their store. When I asked her about their no-CreateSpace policy, she explained that Amazon was not friendly to independent bookstores (ironic, coming from a bookstore not friendly to independent authors), and suggested I publish my next book with Lightening Source. She said Malaprop’s doesn’t do business with Amazon, and I thought that an odd thing to say since by consigning my books, they’d be doing business only with me, and not with Amazon. She also listed a handful of other local indie bookstores that would likely be more receptive to my book, which I found to be very helpful.

Fairly befuddled, I googled Lightening Source and CreateSpace, and studied the differences, both from an author’s perspective and a bookstore’s. From what I read, CreateSpace is a bit better for authors, and Lightening Source is a bit better for bookstores.

Lightening Source charges fees to authors that CreateSpace doesn’t (including a $37.50 setup fee, which might have been the inspiration for Malaprop’s setup fee?). I looked further for evidence that would justify the Malaprop’s policy, and found that CreateSpace’s fee for wholesale and retail distribution channels is $25, and Lightening Source’s is $12, which might have been a factor in the Malaprop’s logic except for the fact that in a consignment situation, there’s no setting up those channels. The author just walks into the store with a handful of books in her hot little hand and plops them down. No fees.

So, why, you might ask, am I whining about Malaprop’s? Why don’t I just move on and set up signings at bookstores who want me? Well, I have. And I will continue to do just that. But I wanted to get this little injustice off my chest, and I wanted to explain to other local authors who might have heard the rumors about Malaprop’s being unfriendly to independent authors that yes, indeed they are. I hope someday that won’t be the case, that they’ll make their policies more author-friendly like other area bookstores. My hopes for a signing there were dashed by a policy I don’t understand. And yours might be as well unless you’ve used Lightening Source to print your books and don’t mind forking over $25 for no good reason.
How I look signing books at stores that welcome local authors: happy.

2 comments on The heartbreak of Malaprop’s

  1. Great post! I encountered this same treatment from all the independent bookstores in the Atlanta area. Not one of them returned my emails or calls. I found it a little rude especially since with independent publishing, there are no fees for the stores to remove the books from their shelves and return them as there are with the big houses. All it requires is a little space. How can this be? They are independent stores and we are independent artists??? I was so disappointed for many reasons. One being that I have always always supported independent bookstores, but they do not support indie authors. In fact, most are not even congenial to them. I understand if they need to be selective but why the shun? Ironically, when I was just about to give up, Barnes and Noble called and offered me a table for their local authors signing. We both made money. So, this is where I buy most of my books now if not on Amazon. Of course, I support my author friends should they be signing at an independent store, but otherwise, I don't bother. Clearly independent to them means something entirely different than it does to me. Thanks for sharing this great post.

  2. I’m sorry to hear you’re having similar troubles. I guess I’ve been lucky in that I’ve encountered some indie stores who have been great, and just this one so far (Malaprop’s) that hasn’t been.

    Penny Padgett, the owner of The Book Shelf in Tryon, NC, could not have been more wonderful to me. I did a lot of promotion for my signing, and was happy to see the store full of people who bought my books as well as others during my very busy two-hour signing. And I’ve restocked her shelves since as she sells out of the books I leave her. It’s a win-win. She and I have both made some money, my promotion brought her some new customers, and I found a new friend.

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