Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Independent and Strong Bookselling Supports Authors

Independent booksellers nationwide have chosen my new memoir I Want to Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth as an “IndieNext” or “Indie Bound” Top Pick book for February.

I am so grateful to these bravely independent and devoted bookstores for keeping both authors and discerning readers alive in these hard times. And this nomination means the world to me, literally. It used to be that readers had only to rely upon the Publisher’s Weekly or New York Times bestseller lists for new books. But we’ve seen in the past years the rather cynical manipulation of those lists by say, conservative think-tanks who buy up thousands of copies of a new book, thus propelling it to the top of the bestseller lists – when actually those books simply sat unread in some storehouse. We cannot trust these lists, except as a numerical rating.

What is different about Indie Next “Great Reads” monthly list each month is that it is based upon actual readings and recommendations by professional booksellers whose business is to “hand-sell” the best of the new books. It’s just like walking into our favorite independent bookstores and asking, “What’s the best novel you’ve read recently? The best memoir? The best political thriller?” and have a real person answer, “Oh, you’ll love this book . . “ and off we go into the welcoming nooks and crannies of our local bookstore trusting an experienced good guide. Then there are the fabulously helpful hand-written recommendations or staff picks that adorn many books.

Independent booksellers have actually READ the books they recommend. They are real human beings who have formed a national presence in their IndieBound monthly lists. I find these IndieNext Great Reads invaluable in helping me to decide what to read. I also trust them to introduce me to new authors, not just bestsellers, to new ideas, not just popular trends.
My own Seattle independent bookstore, the revered Elliot Bay Books in Pioneer Square was one of the “indies” who recommended my book to Indie Next. You can follow Karen from Elliot Bay Books on Twitter (she gives wonderful recommendations for books). Another was Darvill’s Books in the misty San Juan Islands, where I’ll read at in the spring. Almost every book I’ve published has been launched at Elliot Bay. Their reading room is right off the restaurant. It is cozy, old-fashioned brick and shelves lining the walls. The accompanying “whoosh” of espresso machines and steamers punctuate one’s words. Seattle readers ask such intelligent and thought-provoking questions. The Elliot Bay reading series is one that authors nation-wide truly admire and ask to visit -- like a literary mecca.
Sometimes when I’m writing here by the Salish Sea I look out – just saw a seal pup surface her glossy head! – and summon up the soft lighting of Elliot Bay’s reading room, the upturned, kind faces of the readers authors must usually only imagine in our daily work. I wonder if those readers will enjoy this scene or that scene. In my mind I have conversations with these readers and they cheer me on when I’m feeling particularly dim or uncreative.

I guess you could say that independent and strong readers, just like the indie bookstores they support, are also my muses. For this nourishing nomination by Indie Next booksellers and for all of you readers, I am deeply grateful. And, as those of you who have read my books know, gratitude is my religion.

Brenda will be reading at independent bookstores in February.

Elliot Bay Books, Seattle, Washington, Thursday, Feb. 4th at 7:00 p.m.
Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, Saturday, Feb. 6th at 6:30 p.m.
Book Passage, Corte Madera, California, Feb. 11th at 7:00 p.m.
Seattle University “Search for Meaning” conference, Feb. 13 at 9:00 a.m.-10:15 a.m.
Village Books, Bellingham, Washington, Feb. 18th at 7:00 p.m.
Powell’s Books on Burnside, Portland, Oregon, Feb. 25th at 7:30 p.m.
Vroman’s Books, Los Angeles, California, March 10th at 7:00 p.m.

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