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That New Florida Bookstore is for Local, And Not Just Indie, Authors

Publisher’s Weekly posted a story today on what Judith Rosen says is the first bookstore dedicated to self-published authors, but I think we’re looking at something else entirely.

Frustrated by a lack of opportunity to display and sell their work, self-published children’s author and illustrator Patti Brassard Jefferson and history author Timothy Jacobs decided to create a bookstore of their own, Gulf Coast Bookstore, and to only sell books by indie authors.

I’ve spent a few minutes looking over the Gulf Coast Bookstore website (it’s Flash-based, *claws*eyes*out) and I do believe that Rosen got it wrong.

I’ve read the about, FAQ, and other pages, and I downloaded the information packet PDF. From what I can see, this is a bookstore focused on _local_ authors, not just indie authors.

Statements like "the first local authors-only retail location of its kind in the area" in the info packet make it pretty clear where Gulf Coast is focusing its attention. The fact that the word local is mentioned a half dozen times on the website, while "self-published" is not mentioned at all, is another telling detail, and so is the signage posted over the bookshelves.

And then there’s the comment from Gulf Coast Bookstore:

The criteria is LOCAL but most of our 51 authors are self or indie published.

Sorry for being so obsessive on this point, folks, but I think it’s an important one.

Had this truly been a bookstore which only sold self-published titles, I would be shouting it from the rooftops. I would share the info on how authors elsewhere in the US could take part. And I would also find out how I could order books in order to show my support.

But this is really intended for local authors. All of the currently participating authors which I checked are indie authors of one stripe or another, and they are also all local to the area. I don’t know whether Gulf Coast Bookstore would refuse to accept a traditionally published author who lived in the area, but it is pretty clear that they want authors who are local to the Ft. Myers region.

Those who do get in have the option of renting one of a limited number of shelves. And I do mean limited:

Their books are displayed face out, and not with the spine showing, in order to better catch a reader’s attention. "You can judge a book by its cover or not," Gulf Coast co-founder Patti Brassard Jefferson said. "But people do."

Payment processing is handled by the landlord, The Butterfly Estates (a tourist destination). Authors make 100% of any books sold through Gulf Coast Bookstore, and they also have the option of using the space for book signings, readings, and other events.

That is a clever setup. It almost sounds like Gulf Coast has adapted the idea of a consignment shop and applied it to bookselling.

The label doesn’t quite fit, but I think it is a useful frame of reference, don’t you?

Update: My opinion has shifted somewhat. See my comment for an update.

News Press, PW

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Moriah Jovan April 21, 2015 um 10:56 am

Like a flea market or antique mall. Love the idea. I can see why, if it’s set up that way, it’s local. The authors have to come tend their booths.

But for a fee, the proprietors could handle booth tending.

Will Entrekin April 21, 2015 um 12:52 pm

I don’t think you should knock them for being local only in addition to indie only. Bookstores are often a way to inspire their local communities to read more, write more, tell more stories, engage with literature with other people who enjoy it. It’s a tiny operation.

Non-local indie authors could start their own. Honestly, if I’d wanted Exciting Press to be a bookstore rather than a publishing company, to focus on print rather than digital, this is how I would have gone. Pittsburgh-based indie authors.

Nate Hoffelder April 21, 2015 um 8:47 pm

I don’t think I’m knocking them, although I can see how my nitpicking PW could come across that way.

Mackay Bell April 21, 2015 um 5:02 pm

It’s an interesting point, but I’m not sure it’s an important one.

From a marketing standpoint, it makes more sense for them to publicize that they cater to local writers rather than “self-publishers.” Self-publishing still has some stigma with the broader public, and anyone who is really into it knows it’s easiest to simply buy the books on Amazon. If they’re trying to get foot traffic from little old ladies (and who isn’t) emphasizing local writers is smarter than touting indies. From a practical standpoint, it doesn’t make a heck of a lot of difference, because almost all of those writers are going to be self-published. (Plus, it would be a rather unpleasant policy to refuse to support the handful of traditionally published authors who might live in the area. If they would even be interested.) Moreover, based on all this publicity, I suspect they might consider renting to writers outside of the area, if only in the future. Money is money. As far as the limited self-space, that’s likely to change if the store takes off.

The important point is that conservative Publishers Weekly is highlighting what is likely to be an increasingly viable new business model. Bookstores that rent shelf space to indies. This has been going on since the beginning of time. Local writers often get placement on local bookstore shelves, and often pay for it in one way or another. But with the growing popularity of self-publishing, and the ease at which writers can publish limited print runs, this is going to be a growing trend. I’m sure it’s already going on a lot more than we realize.

Will there be “self-published” only bookstores? Hmm… I’m not really sure why there should be. Maybe there’s a marketing angle for someone who wants to push that side of it. What makes more sense is for local bookstores to have bigger and bigger self-published sections, and rent those out to writers. Regardless, we haven’t heard the last of this.

Diana April 22, 2015 um 12:37 pm

I hope they succeed but don’t see how they will do it because of costs associated with their model.

As an Indie author, it costs me NOTHING to have my books on Amazon and other distributors where it is exposed to MILLIONS of viewers (I can dream…).

It would cost me some money to print my books and pay for shelving space on the off chance that a few hundred or even a thousand people would see my book and like it.

For this author, the cost outweighs any potential benefit.

And why would a customer pay higher price for a book in the store that they can order cheaper online? (I assume book prices would have to be higher to cover the cost of the print, shipping and shelving space.)

And what does an author do (gasp) if their books don’t sell. You’re out a lot of $ which could probably be spent on marketing and getting more customers that way.

Heather April 22, 2015 um 9:43 am

I can see why they would focus on local authors rather than self-published. Would they really turn down Randy Wayne White?

Patti Brassard Jefferson April 22, 2015 um 11:26 am

HA! If Randy Wayne White wanted to spend $20 a month to be in the GCB, we’d let him 🙂

Episode 55 – Indies-Only, U.K. Earnings, and the Audio Revolution | Sell More Books Show April 22, 2015 um 10:22 am

[…] The Indie Store That Wasn’t […]

Patti Brassard Jefferson April 22, 2015 um 12:06 pm

First, thank you for talking about us and spelling our name correctly! It was great to see some other input on our concept – which while not new in general, seems to be rare in the publishing world.

Just for more clarity – we originally had space for 37 authors and will expand by a whooping 16 more by May 1 for a grand total of 53. We get that that is very limited and was actually why we first opted for only "local" authors. In the beginning, we wondered what we would do with all of the obvious empty space if we couldn’t get enough local authors interested. Fast forward to today where we are being approached by indie authors from all over the country. Yay for the power of the internet!

I’m glad that our story is making a small ripple. I’d love to see authorprenuers talking to their local coffee shops to add 20 authors to their wall. Or the art gallery that is struggling, give up a room for local books. Heck, I wouldn’t even be opposed to someone opening a mega- indie store with hundreds of authors as long as they kept the same sorts of concept – celebrating the indie author, giving them affordable space to showcase their work, a network to support each other and space to have events and workshops. Sure, we started local and in our first 22 days , it’s been a whirlwind. Thankfully, i believe that it’s all headed in a very positive direction.

Anyway — thanks again for talking about us. We hope to be a part of the larger conversation. – Patti Brassard Jefferson, Gulf Coast Bookstore

Nate Hoffelder April 23, 2015 um 11:06 am

Several days have passed since I posted this story and I now think I may have focused too much on the local aspect.

Had this been a store focused on local authors, they could have stocked the shelves themselves with titles bought online or through distributors. Similarly, GC Bookstore didn’t recruit indie authors from outside of the area.

Instead the bookstore is open to working with authors who want to participate. That arguably makes this store less about promoting local authors or indie authors than it is about building ties in the local author community.

Or perhaps I am reading too much into the funding model; I could be wrong.

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