Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Indie Next lists are bunk.

I tend to order new books for Pegasus Books that I know will sell. That is, there is a track record. Then I try to seed in new books at a measured pace.

Yesterday, I still had a couple of hundred bucks left in my ordering budget for new books, so I checked the USA Today best-seller list and found a couple of books, and I checked the New York Times bestseller list found a couple of books, and the L.A. Times list and found a couple of books.

Still had a little room, so I checked the "Indie Next" list.


One of the things I noticed when I've visited independent bookstores on my trips is that they all have the same stock. The exact same stock.

And it's all these "literary" books, which would be great if I thought they were really "literary." But just because you package a book in a tasteful way, and write about serious subjects, doesn't make it literary.

I can stand back and wait. Out of the 20 recommendations, 1 or 2 are going to make the grade, both in critical reception and in sales. I can wait to see which ones those are.

But, I'm sorry. These seem like boring books to me. They're all about the same tired subjects. Most of them sound and look the same. They seem pretentious and arty and boring.

So I sell the hell out of George R.R. Martin, and Jim Butcher, and Dr. Who, and hundreds of other genre books.

I also sell the hell out of "literary" books that have endured the test of time. "Fahrenheit 451; Catcher in the Rye, Lord of Flies, To Kill A Mockingbird," and on and on.

But these Indie Next Lists hardly ever have genre books. Which to my mind is pretty pretentious all by itself. Not to mention, short-sighted. know...they sell!

I mean, seriously, has no one told them that out of the 20 books they recommend each month that maybe a third of them could be "popular" books.

Not only that, but in the long run, I'm convinced that many more of the genre books will have more of a life in the future than these so called "literary" books.

Not just a life in sales, either, but in critical terms. Because there are some great books being written that aren't about child abuse, or family dysfunction, or career dead-ends, or the holocaust, or mid-life crisis, or discrimination, or...all the retreaded "serious" subjects.

No wonder people don't want to read. Bookstores shouldn't be just PBS or NPR, but should have a few of the entertainment channels too. And I don't mean shunting them into a corner with a limited selection and feeling like you've deigned to do something for the poor saps who like their stories with hooks and fun.

To be clear, I'm not saying you shouldn't carry literary books, but that you shouldn't take on an Ivory Tower persona, a self-important and pretentious attitude. You should strive to be accessible.

But I'm afraid this attitude is so pervasive it isn't going to change, and it is going to limit how many indie bookstores actually succeed.

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