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Category Killer Claims Another Victim

We really should have a funeral service every time a Christian bookstore dies. Whether it’s due to the monster named A-zon or simply a factor of changing technology, a loss to a community of a Christian bookstore is a significant loss of marketplace ministry presence, even when it takes place an ocean away from us.

…At the end of the story, there’s a link to this story, which contains this in the final paragraph:

[Amazon] has sparked outrage because despite having warehouses in the UK and employing 15,000 people, it drives all of its sales through Luxembourg. According to conservative MP Charlie Elphicke, last year Amazon’s UK sales amounted to £3.9 billion but the company paid just £1.9 million in tax – the equivalent of just 2.5% of its estimated profits, based on its global operating margin.

  1. January 9, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    I have just published my first book, ‘Transformed by Love (the Story of the Song of Solomon). I am also the webmaster for my church. Our local bookstore, which was taken over by Oasis Trust after Wesley Owen folded, has also now closed. Our church leadership were keen, even before the bookshop closed, to have an on-line shop on our website. The software is already in place: but this was postponed, partly to give the bookshop a better chance and partly through lack of a volunteer to run it. The project is still currently in abeyance.

    In producing my book my primary concern has been to make it available to bless those who stand to benefit by it. I wanted it to be available free of copyright restrictions, which meant that I was forced to take the self-publishing route. My resources are limited and I am unlikely to recoup my investment in the foreseeable future. To make matters even more difficult, I understand that many Christian bookshops won’t take titles from self-publishers: and even if they do, the bulk of their main display space is given over to the large publishers, who naturally have more financial clout and better publicity resources.

    I believe that Christian bookshops are a precious asset that we really do not want to lose. Besides selling books, they serve both as a meeting place for Christians and as a contact point for the unchurched. Part of the solution may be in developing that ‘social centre’ aspect, such as the coffee shops that are integrated into some of them. I think that is a great idea: provided it doesn’t become too up-market and thereby discourage the less well-off.

    But my main point is, how can I as an independent author help the bookshops? As far as I can see I have no workable alternative to marketing via Amazon and ebooks. And that means my hands are tied. My contract with Amazon prevents me from offering product for sale at less than their prices. The only way bookshops can get a discount is by ordering from one of the major distributors: but although these do list and can supply my book; they will not actively promote it and may well not even stock it unless there is a demand. And how else can I generate that demand as a small independent author on a limited budget?

    I would be happy to accept a reduced royalty if that would help to make my book available to Christian bookshops and in turn help them to survive. After all, what better place is there to publicise a Christian author’s books? And there is potentially a great resource for the church in the independent authors (though I realise that there is also a lot of rubbish and worse out there as well). What we need, I think, is a distributor who is prepared to act as a middleman between the ‘Indie’ authors and the Christian bookshops, without charging the authors a small fortune for the privilege. This could perhaps be done by the distributor charging a small commission direct to the author on their sales. Does anyone know of a distributor who is doing this or something similar, or who might be prepared to consider such a scheme?

    Or how else can we co-operate in this? One promotional idea I am working on is to offer one book to a bookshop on a ‘sale or giveaway’ basis. They would be requested to place it an appropriate position to be seen by those looking for books of a similar genre and; if the book is sold within three months, to purchase one replacement copy. If not sold within that period, they would be free to give it away to anyone they chose. (I plan to pilot this scheme in the near future: so if any bookshop owner out there is interested in having a free book, please get in touch. I can also supply a PDF version for appraisal by anyone who wants it.) But the obvious drawback to this idea is that I have to pay for a copy up front: and I can’t afford to do that too much. Can anyone suggest a compromise arrangement that would be acceptable from a bookshop owner’s point of view?

    Or can anyone suggest any other approach that might help? I really don’t want my attempts to promote what I believe to be a resource for the kingdom to become a means of undermining the kingdom work of others.

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