A rainy day today spent at Barnes and Noble has got me thinking. As an indie author, bookstores can be rather problematical for me. The big ones only carry my books online (Barnes and Noble and the late, lamented Borders). The small ones require that people who want to buy my books order through them frequently pasting on heavy ordering charges. If I ask the small ones to carry my books (which has to be done on a store by store basis) they ask me to pay all kinds of shelving charges and sometimes stock them right on the upper shelf where only Kareem Abdul Jabbar can see them.
The physical bookstore is great if it a) actually carries my books and b) displays them. The is what a bookstore is about. A rainy day, nothing to do, wander in and discover an author you have never heard of before and whose books you find you want to devour. This is how books become best sellers. (Well there is also the thing about the great publicity machine but I'm not going there.)
Amazon (who publishes my books and carries them in their online store) has no bricks and mortar presence. In order to find my books on Amazon you can't just stumble onto them, you have to be looking for something specific. But they publish me. They give me a chance to have my scribblings read by someone.
This whole package is the conundrum of the indie writer. Go through the slings and arrows of the traditional process and perhaps never be published or rot in the storage house or self-publish and be your own publicity machine.
A year or so back I taught a class on self-publishing. My whole message amounted to "The only way you will become a best-selling author is if you are ready to do the publicity necessary." That means getting out there and getting your book in the stores either by being published by a reputable house or by sheer chutzpa.
I saw this post as a chance to think of all the pros and cons of my writing world. What I discovered is that I'm neither for or against self-publishing, I'm neither for or against traditional publishing, I'm neither for or against online bookstores and I'm neither for or against bricks and mortar stores. They all have their place. Find your place. Be yourself. Set your own goals.