A Bookseller's Open Letter to Publishers

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Many independent booksellers decried not only the decision to publish O.J. Simpson's book, If I Did It, but also that it was sold to them as a "blind" title, with no information available about author or subject matter. In an open letter to publishers, Leslie Ryan, owner of Off the Beaten Path Bookstore in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, calls for a better way.

Subject: We Still Have a Problem

As were many of my fellow booksellers across the country, I was outraged when I discovered I had ordered O.J. Simpson's latest book as a "blind" title. Now that Rupert Murdoch has pulled the plug on O.J., you'd think I'd feel better.

But I don't feel better.

My complaint, and I'm still boiling mad, is the increasing practice on the part of publishers of asking me to buy with little or no information. Whether it is O.J., Princess Di, Oprah, or the morning show book club pick, I need information to make an intelligent buy.

My store is in a thriving tourist resort. I can sell a lot of books, but I have to consider my local customers, the time of year, and the potential longevity of sales. Is the book a flash in the pan, or is it a reorder every week for months on end?

I recognize that there may be contractual obligations, but publishers, please, can't you negotiate reasonableness so that all of us win? First of all, independent booksellers honor laydown dates -- we understand the need and importance of that practice. But, beyond that, please, give me some information. Recently, a publisher gave us the author's name, nothing more. In that case, it was enough information for me to make a large initial buy, and the book continues to sell for us.

Publishers, can you tell me if the book is paperback or hardcover? Is the book political in nature? Is it about the war? Terrorism? Is it biographical? About a musician, actor, an expos? Is it a "Hollywood" book or "East Coast" book? Is it scandalous, shocking, controversial, or cutting-edge? Is it for those making the dating scene? More for twenty-somethings or for baby boomers? America's aging population? It it about immigration? Native Americans? Global Warming?

I'm not afraid to buy. I love books. I want to buy. Please, show me respect and give me at least enough information to make an intelligent buy. Otherwise, I underbuy or overbuy, and make poor decisions. The practice of limiting information so completely is costly to both of us -- in dollars and in trust.

Leslie Ryan
Off The Beaten Path Bookstore
Steamboat Springs, CO