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How to Support a Black-Owned Bookstore


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Recently an article was published on the Oprah Magazine website, “119 Black-Owned Bookstores in America That Amplify the Best in Literature.” While I was not attributed as a source of the list, I know I was because my bookstore list contains at least one bookstore that is not a bookstore 😉.  But the list was widely copied so who knows where they sourced the info (including my rouge “bookstore”).  Unlike many of the other sites which used the list, Oprah Mag at least included AALBC as a store, so I’m good.

 

Oprah Magazine also created another article, "12 Authors Share Their Favorite Black-Owned Bookstores." This is was an really cool thing to do too!  One of the 12 authors, Mitchell Jackson, even cited AALBC.com as his favorite bookstore!

 

But here’s is the thing, and it is a big deal, when mentioning the author’s books, the Oprah Magazine did not send readers to a single Black-owned store. Instead they linked to a white-owned business (bookshop.org), for the book sales — missing a tremendous opportunity to direct those sales to Black-owned bookstores’ websites!

 

It is fine to say how much you support indie booksellers, but the biggest thing supporters of Black-owned bookstores can do is to send book buyer to our stores and websites.  Far too many “supporters” send book buyers link to Amazon, and now increasingly, to Bookshop, while voicing support of Black owned bookstores (read more on why linking to Bookshop.org does not support Black-owned Bookstores).

 

Several authors have told me that they don't want to show favoritism for one Black independent over another.  However these authors easily show favoritism by linking to Amazon or Bookshop.  In 2020 no one needs to be told they can buy a book from Amazon, and Bookshop gets free promotion that really was intended for Black-owned stores 

 

If you want to support Black-owned bookstores, stop promoting Amazon and promote a Black-owned bookstores instead! 

 

I know most supporters of Black-owned bookstores simply don’t know this, and this is why I'm writing the message. I didn’t know either; While I've been selling books, on the web for almost 23 years, most of that time I was selling books as an Amazon affiliate. Despite my advocacy for Black owned bookstores, I was completely unaware of how my affiliation with Amazon was undermining independent booksellers.

 

Once I started selling books directly, boycotting Amazon just made common sense.  However replacing Amazon with Bookshop is only a marginally better solution. Amazon pays affiliates 4% and Bookshop pays 10%, far less that what an indie bookseller would make on a sale.

 

You have to actively support Black-owned stores if you believe they are important.  The idea that Amazon has the best prices is often not true, so that argument no longer holds.  Often books sales on Amazon are actually fulfilled by third parties anyway, so Amazon is not really adding any value. Indeed, they are reducing value by acting as an intermediary who make money on every transaction with zero risk.

 

Survival Math The American Booksellers Association (ABA) used to tout an solution called Indiebound.org which allowed supporters of indie bookstores to provide book links without showing "favoritism" to any particular bookseller or linking to Amazon.  For example, if someone wanted to provide a buy to Mitchell S. Jackson's book, Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family they could use a link like this: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781501131707. Once the book buyer reached the indiebound site they could enter a zip code, say my local zip code 33647, and a list of local booksellers would be shown.  Indiebound would send readers to local indie bookseller sites to complete the sale.

 

It seems like the ABA is pushing the Bookshop solution which is a mistake in my opinion, but again I advocate for independence.  Reliance on Bookshop or Amazon to process our book orders and take most of the profit, is the opposite of Independence. Clearly Amazon wants us to be dependent upon them. I doubt Bookshop is any different.

 

Now I understand that some brick and mortar booksellers are unable to sell books on the web and the pandemic has only made things worse by closing some — not all — physical stores. But imagine if the Black independent booksellers, who can handle the sales, got the business that we are sending to Bookshop.

 

Support Black-Owned Booksellers.

 

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Every single book on AALBC is actually presented on multiple pages.  Here is the link for Mitchell Jackson's book Survival Math, you will be taken to the book's primary page where you will see a big red “Add to Cart” button:

 

Add to Cart

 

You can also use the search engine to search for a title, like Survival Math or an author like Mitchell Jackson. If you are a bit more technical you can craft your own AALBC query in your browser address bar by just typing https://aalbc.com/search.php?find=what you are looking for.  For example https://aalbc.com/search.php?find=daniellegfny

 

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I revisited the article to see what the reactions to my comment about linking to the Black-owned bookseller sites instead of bookshop.org. 

 

The entire comment section, along with my comment was completely removed!

 

I guess I should be happy Oprah mag did not completely nix AALBC from the article.

 

I tell you it is a constant struggle... A Luta continua.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Hi @Bev,  Sure the bookstore list may be found here: https://aalbc.com/bookstores/list.php  

 

I see the ebook, Dr. Sebi Speaks of Dembali by Beverly Oliver is only available as an Amazon's, Kindle.  I assume you are the author. Assuming that you did not give Amazon exclusivity, you can simply make it available in a format that allows other booksellers to sell it. 

 

Does your ebook have an ISBN? I found the book here: https://booklife.com/project/dr-sebi-speaks-of-dembali-49864 but I recognize the code as an Amazon proprietary identifier.

 

---------------

 

I noticed that the comment section is back on the Oprah Mag site. I have not idea how long it was missing.  I also noticed that he bookshop.org buy links are affiliate links so I guess Oprah Mag was really just interested in supporting themselves; any support of Black owned store would be purely accidental.

 

 

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi Troy

On 10/18/2020 at 10:55 AM, Troy said:

Hi @Bev,  Sure the bookstore list may be found here: https://aalbc.com/bookstores/list.php  

 

I see the ebook, Dr. Sebi Speaks of Dembali by Beverly Oliver is only available as an am*zon's, Kindle.  I assume you are the author. Assuming that you did not give am*zon exclusivity, you can simply make it available in a format that allows other booksellers to sell it. 

 

Does your ebook have an ISBN? I found the book here: https://booklife.com/project/dr-sebi-speaks-of-dembali-49864 but I recognize the code as an am*zon proprietary identifier.

 

---------------

 

I noticed that the comment section is back on the Oprah Mag site. I have not idea how long it was missing.  I also noticed that he bookshop.org buy links are affiliate links so I guess Oprah Mag was really just interested in supporting themselves; any support of Black owned store would be purely accidental.

 

 

 

Hi Troy.  Thanks for checking on Dr. Sebi Speaks of Dembali. Ingram is a distributor now and it is now available as an ebook on Smashwords.com, which distributes the book to Kobo, Apple Books and others. The ISBN number is 9781005269548.  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1053173

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Hi @Bev I just checked the ISBN in Ingram's database it is not there yet.

 

One quick was for you to check is by checking bookshop's site.  They only sell books that are in Ingram's database so anything you see on Bookshop is something I can buy from Ingram. https://bookshop.org/books?keywords=9781005269548  Of course I purchase from other distributors Lushena and African World Press, I buy very few books directly from authors.

 

As far as getting the book into our bookstore.  Please read my reply to an author who posted a similar question.

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10 hours ago, Lisa Washington said:

want to promote these booksellers, but they don't sell my books.  I would much rather send people to black owned book stores

IngramSpark is a source that Bookstores use to order books. Many of the indie book stores will carry your book for a fee and on consignment. You seem to have wound up here like I did looking for a list of Black Book stores and distributors. Is that the case?

On 11/16/2020 at 5:24 PM, Troy said:

They only sell books that are in Ingram's database so anything you see on Bookshop is something I can buy from Ingram. https://bookshop.org/books?keywords=9781005269548  Of course I purchase from other distributors Lushena and African World Press, I buy very few books directly from authors.

@Lisa Washington

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On 11/20/2020 at 6:09 PM, daniellegfny said:

Many of the indie book stores will carry your book for a fee and on consignment.

 

I don't know about "many" Danielle, as Lisa wrote she only heard back from two.

 

As a bookseller I don't want to have a bunch of accounts to manage, so if there is an indie title that I want to sell that is not in distribution I will just buy the titles from the author. There also has to be a good reason for me to buy the books outright.

 

@Lisa Washington as a previous AALAS winner I'd be happy to add your books to AALBC. just email me your ISBNs as well as your bio and head shot troy@aalbc.com.

 

If your books are in distribution great, otherwise we can talk about alternative way of selling your books on AALBC.

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1 hour ago, Troy said:

don't know about "many" Danielle, as Lisa wrote she only heard back from two.

When I joined this site I had sent emails to each of the companies on your list. As I visited their websites I saw more that two would be willing to carry books on consignment and asked for a fee. That’s only natural because of space limitations.

 

One other thing can be explored is if they have started doing Zoom Conferences or Podcasts. I have noticed more indie books stores are on Instagram and you can reach out to them there. 

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On 11/20/2020 at 7:09 PM, daniellegfny said:

IngramSpark is a source that Bookstores use to order books. Many of the indie book stores will carry your book for a fee and on consignment. You seem to have wound up here like I did looking for a list of Black Book stores and distributors. Is that the case?

@Lisa Washington

All of my books are available through Ingram.

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21 hours ago, Lisa Washington said:

All of my books are available through Ingram.

They have a higher cost if you need to make adjustments. I recently found somethings that I need to change but I am holding back. Also I like the other marketing tools which are available through other publishing. 
 

For audiobooks @Troyrecommendation for Authors Republic was great.

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Actually @daniellegfny I sell audio book through Libro.fm.  I'm not familiar with Authors Republic.  Also, please explain how the paid consignment deal worked.

 

@Lisa Washington if your book is available through Ingram, then virtually any bookseller can sell it. If the books have a decent disc and are returnable, you should be good to go.

 

Now some booksellers don't have credit accounts with Ingram and these bookseller may be less inclined to carry your book, unless there is some compelling reason to thing it will sell, like a signing or the authors helps promote the fact that the book is available for sale at the particular store.  Most of use send readers to Amazon.

 

I tell authors all the time you have to tell readers your book is available for sale at (enter store name here). Everybody know books can be purchased at Amazon.

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3 hours ago, Troy said:

I'm not familiar with Authors Republic.  Also, please explain how the paid consignment deal worked.

You told me about Authors Republic in one of my post. But they are how audiobooks books are distributed to platforms like Libro.fm and more. I am trying to get Akoobooks to connect with the as a distribution point.

 

I go through the list of bookstores and post the link so you can see the different consignment schemes. 

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17 hours ago, daniellegfny said:

You told me about Authors Republic in one of my post.

 

Again, I'm not familiar with "Authors Republic."  I'm not sure why you keep writing that. I just ran a search on my site and you are the only one who have ever mention it.  You are exhibiting Troll-like behavior again.  Why are you trying to attribute support of Author Republic to me?

 

Bookshop lists all of the books that are available for sale in via Ingram.  They are defacto partners with Ingram, attempting to eat into Amazon's dominance, by positioning themselves as an ally of indie bookstore, which I think is bullshit... but that is another conversation

 

Yes, some bookstore owners have turned their online stores over to Bookshop.  This is one reason I have put Bookshop into the same bucket as Amazon.  I boycott both.

 

Basically authors publish with KDP and get the best terms on Amazon or the publish with Ingram Spark and get full distribution. Right now I believe Ingram Spark has the advantage.

 

Hakim's consignment deal is fairly standard and fair.  But, I asked about details on consignment arrangements requiring a "fee."

 

I don't offer a consignment.  I simply buy the books outright -- it is cleaner that way.  I will also order books from authors as orders come in, but that is not efficient, so I do not do it often. 

 

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23 hours ago, Troy said:

Again, I'm not familiar with "Authors Republic."  I'm not sure why you keep writing that. I just ran a search on my site and you are the only one who have ever mention it.  You are exhibiting Troll-like behavior again.  Why are you trying to attribute support of Author Republic to me?

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Just to defend my reputation and motives. Most of the time I play around with @Pioneer1 because I find his positions extreme, but I don’t think negatively in the way that it is being directed towards me. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 11/26/2020 at 6:48 AM, Troy said:

 

I don't know about "many" Danielle, as Lisa wrote she only heard back from two.

 

As a bookseller I don't want to have a bunch of accounts to manage, so if there is an indie title that I want to sell that is not in distribution I will just buy the titles from the author. There also has to be a good reason for me to buy the books outright.

 

@Lisa Washington as a previous AALAS winner I'd be happy to add your books to AALBC. just email me your ISBNs as well as your bio and head shot troy@aalbc.com.

 

If your books are in distribution great, otherwise we can talk about alternative way of selling your books on AALBC.

Just seeing this and I just sent my information. Thank you.

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