UPDATE! This post was originally about the challenges of getting books onto shelves even in your own region if you’re not, commercially speaking, perceived as a top-tier author, and the role readers can play in lobbying to get the books they’d like to read stocked. My latest book, Musical Youth is published by an independent Caribbean press and I’m working very closely with them on promoting that book to give it a real shot at market penetration. As a finalist for the Burt Award, it has a bit of a head start, a bit of market recognition, but that doesn’t mean we can sit on our hands. And so we hustle. I wanted to update this post to let you know some of the places in the Caribbean which are or will be if they’re not already stocking Musical Youth (and hopefully others of my books*). If your local bookstore is doing so and is not listed, let me know. Let’s bump this list up:
Brimstone Hill Book Store
*Re others of my books – this list is not exhaustive – but these some of the Caribbean outlets which have been known to stock The Boy from Willow Bend (probably others):Coral Reef Book Store (Anguilla), Best of Books (Antigua), The Methodist Bookshop (Antigua), Cloister Bookstore (Barbados), Jay’s (Dominica) Austin’s Book Store (Guyana), LMH Retail Mo-Bay (Jamaica), Greenlands Books and Things (St. Kitts), Ishmael Khan & Sons Ltd (Trinidad), Mohammed’s Bookstore (Trinidad), RIK Services Limited (Trinidad), the University Book Shop – St. Augustine (Trinidad) …
If you carry my books and you’re not listed, let me know. One of the questions I get often is where can I get your books. I can’t list every bookstore but I’m trying to list as many as I can especially the ones in the Caribbean. The books are all pretty much available online, of course, and if you’re a retailer who wishes to carry them, you can find the publisher links here.
It’s a question I get often. I’m a writer from a small place, I’m not on bestseller lists, my promotion and marketing efforts are cash-light/labour-and-time-intensive, getting my books into the various markets can be a challenge. Correction: getting booksellers and buyers interested in stocking my books, even in Caribbean bookstores, can be a challenge. This means that while the worldwide web enables me to create awareness of my books in far flung places, it’s not always that easy for readers to get said books. I remember this one potential reader who wrote me that she lived in Africa but was visiting Trinidad, and hoped to get the book (it was Oh Gad! at the time) at one of the bookstores there. I hit the email trying to figure out if any of them had stocked it as I have done my best, with limited resources, to lobby bookstores across the Caribbean and beyond – email to face-to-face, where possible (though I usually have to work myself up to the latter because it’s just not my personality…but in the interest of the book, I try to make myself get over it and do what I need to do). It didn’t look good (read: no response) and I even tried to figure out how to get a copy to her via one of the Antigua booksellers – I mean we were in the same hemisphere for crying out loud. In the end it didn’t work out, I think. Opportunity missed. I was frustrated. I had a publisher, I had reader interest but not the pull to get the book where it needed to be, even if that was right here in the Caribbean where I live and write.
I’m not knocking the bookstores, there are a million and one authors, and a handful of authors that are going to be in every marketplace, and then there are the rest of us… really just wanting to hunker down and tell our stories…but putting in the time and employing different strategies, trying to build our brand and hopefully sell more books in more places. Which is why though I’m all about the indies and the small businesses, me, and authors like me on the come up, can’t deny that (problematic as they are) the online retailers have made it possible for some of these readers in far flung places who would not otherwise be able to get our books to get our books.I can’t but be grateful for that. As much as possible, though, you’ll see the Indiebound option alongside some of my books, as it’s an online connection to local bookstores.
And whenever a reader reaches out with that question, how do I get your books, I always encourage them to ask at their local bookstore. If it’s there great, if it’s not there then maybe reader interest will prompt the buyers or owners of that particular bookstore to stock it. Readers can make a world of difference; which is why for a writer like me, reader buzz via online reviews is so critical; and part of that buzz is you whispering in your local bookseller’s ear, if you like the books and think others where you are would to. They’ll stock it if it makes business sense – demand, supply.
I’ve recently been engaged in conversation with a lady I met at a writers’ conference a couple years ago. She was very interested in Caribbean literature and was, as I remember, presenting a paper on Jamaica Kincaid. She ended up buying a copy of Oh Gad! and posting a really boss online reader review. When she contacted me recently it was to congratulate me on the release of Musical Youth, and find out how she could get it while supporting the indie bookstores. She was a conscientious buyer, aware of the impact the big online retailers have had on the brick and mortar book stores, especially the small ones. Her options, as presented to her, by me, ordering directly from the publisher, which is an Indie publisher; ordering it through her local bookstore or encouraging her local bookstore to stock it. Meanwhile, I let my publisher know of her interest and encouraged them to reach out to the bookstores in her area; a long shot but still worth a shot, right.
The diligence on the part of this reader – her insistence that she would work around the online option, including pushing it at her area bookstore, ordering directly not just for herself but another reader she thought would be interested – is the kind of thing you can’t buy. And that’s one of the reasons I’m blogging about it. As writers, we try to tell the best stories we can; but that’s not enough, not to sell, in this crowded marketplace. Reader interest, reader loyalty, reader advocacy supported by the efforts of me and my publisher are invaluable assets and inasmuch as I have that by any measure, I am grateful. This writing career is in a lot of ways like a small business that I’ve had to build from the ground up; I’m still building and readers like the one mentioned in this blog – readers like you – make a world of difference. Thank you…and keep asking…and, hey, add your local bookstore in the comments section, and we’ll follow up on this end as well.