Twilight and other books I won't sell

Due to the glorified cupboard space that will be my bookshop, it’s going to be necessary to be quite selective in terms of what titles & genres I serve up to my customers.  This isn’t an easy process, as excluding certain authors, subjects and series will mean losing out on potential income.

But, for me, owning a bookstore means maintaininga certain level of literary integrity; it’s about introducing readers to worthwhile books &, at times, challenging their preconceptions of what makes good reading.  It is with this world view that I have approached the task of making a list of books that will never be welcomed in my shop.

  1. Twilight. Stepahnie Meyer is, at best, an author of mediocre talent.  This is true of many Fantasy writers, of course, but Ms. Meyer  has messed around with the vampire mythos — this is unforgivable.  Vampires are creatures with class, style and more than a hint of sexuality.  The vamps in Twilight have had all the fun sucked out of them, leaving readers with nothing but pointy-teethed,  talking alabaster urns.
  2. The Bible & Religious Books In general.  Now, before anyone goes off on a tangent, my reason for banning the Good Book is a financial one, rather than motivated by a lack of faith.  You see, experience has taught me that out of all genres, Religious Books tend to be pilfered the most.  Why this occurs, I have no idea.  Perhaps people think they’ll be forgiven more easily than others who steal.  Whatever their reasons, I’m won’t be providing them with an opportunity to take from my store — that’s going to be a big enough problem without hawking holy goods.
  3. Any Romance Novels. I’ve perused through a few & come to the conclusion that no serious reader would give them a second glance.  What gets me the most is people who say they read all the time, only to find out they’re refering to Romance novels.  This is a completely superfluous genre.  If you want decent love stories, look to Speculative or just plain old Fiction.  The plots are usually better developed, the authors more skilled & the male characters are not cardboard cutouts.
  4. Self-Help. Books under the ever-expanding Self-Help umbrella, many of them come across as dogmatic — plus, no one person has all the answers to your problems.  Buying every single book that Dr. Dwayne Dyer has penned won’t make you a better person, just a slightly poorer one.

Twilight saga booksYes, some may think me a snob for even making a list like this, let alone actually enforcing such standards.  But in this world where everyone’s an author & book deals seem to be easier to get than a cold, bookshop owners can afford to be a little more discerning.  By excercising a little more discretion, book sellers can cultivate a culture of well-read inidivduals who are hungry for well-written books, not the swill that’s currently filling the big box stores.

If any of this comes across as elitist, than so be it.  But, I, for one, intend to make a difference in the reading lives of my customers and I can only hope others will do the same.

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Discussion

  1. Bill F.

    Although I do understand where you’re coming from in terms of wanting to keep a certain level of quality on your shelves, I can’t help but feel you are doing your public a disservice by not carrying what they may want to purchase.

    If a young girl comes into your shop looking for Twilight, as unfortunate as that may be, and you don’t have it is it realistic to assume that she will give up her search and pick up something else in its place? I am hesitant to think so.

    Same goes for the self help section. You, or I for that matter, may not put much stock in such literary wad, but if someone is looking for a specific book that falls under that category I doubt they’d settle for what they’re not looking for simply because it may be considered a better read by the shopkeep. I’ve always considered a bookstore’s main duty to provide books (hopefully good ones) that people want to buy. Otherwise, what’s the point?

    That being said, down with Twilight!

    -Bill

    1. Caro Hedge

      Now, now, Twilight has good aspects. I saw a fan-produced video on YouTube about the birth of the vampire baby that was pretty darn funny. That said, I have not been able to get through even one of the volumes. Once somebody told me that the vampires sparkled, it sort of messed with my head. I look at Twilight as a gateway substance. Get them reading, then lure them into the heavier stuff. Heh heh!

      1. Brian Green

        Problem is, from what I’ve seen, Twilight readers won’t touch the heavy stuff — which is why they’re reading Meyer in the first place.

        There is Nightlight, by Lampoon. Excellent sparkly vampire spoof.

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  3. Nora

    Twilight fortunately seems to have petered out and died for the moment. I’ve ceased getting requests for anything except the very last book (which is an amazing trainwreck.)

    Romances… that gets more difficult. In a general interest shop, you may be courting trouble right there since those sell no matter what. Not for high prices (generally) but they provide a steady cash flow and lack of cash flow can kill you more surely than anything.

    And you’re not going to force romance readers to read literary fiction by not having romances. Romances are like cookies. Oatmeal my be better for you, but being handed a bowl of oatmeal when you want a cookie just isn’t going to go over well. Not when there’s so many places to get cookies.

    That said, given half a chance to breed, romances will take over the place. The happy medium between NO ROMANCES! and having the pile is pick ONE type of romances you can live with, carry ONLY those. It doesn’t even have to be genre that stamped on the side of the book, just pick something you can use as the guide so you have enough to keep some on shelves without having lots. You can always draw line as “it must be set in the state/country we live in”, “only ones with cowboys”, or even something based entirely on looks like “Only ones with blue spines”. Then it comes across as eccentric rather than elitist.

    There’s just enough romances to keep romance readers from abandoning you entirely, but you may get them to try some different stuff this way. An all or nothing strategy is likely leave you both unhappy. If you really hate romances, go with the color of the spine. At least you’ll have something interesting to look at that way! Pick your color based on how many you can stand. Secondary colors are rarest colors. True yellow is rare. Black and cool colors are rarer than warm colors. White and pastels are the most common romance spine colors. So a wall of white will be a lot more likely than a wall of green romances.

  4. Paul Perry

    I don’t have as much room in my shop as I would wish – who does? – and I resolved never to carry Jeffery Archer or The Liver Cleansing Diet (ther first on grounds of sheer revulsion at the author, the second on general “anti quackery” bias.)
    But, bills have to be paid.. and now I’ll take the money from liver cleansers. Fortunately, nobody has asked for the works of the disgraced peer.

    Here in Australia, retail floor space is much more expensive than in the USA, so the pressure to carry saleable stock is even greater. I’m happy to sell out, if it means selling more!

    1. Judy

      Hey Paul, good to see another Aussie here. Whereabouts are you?

      1. Paul Perry

        Judy, I’m at AllSorts Books, 275 High St Northcote Victoria. I’m there because it is the only place I could find that is on a tram line (I can’t drive) with a reasonable number of people who can (and sometimes do!) read, and who have too much money. Have been here a year and a half, just breaking even from day one to now.
        Used to do books in the 80s, when it was easy money – but I knew it would be breakeven at best now ;D

    2. Caro Hedge

      So due to this post, we were having a conversation about Jeffery Archer, about whom I knew nothing (this bookstore has been such an educational process!) much less of disgrace or peer-ness. Susan pointed out we had a couple of his books which no one was buying. Her son, who was visiting, shook his head and said, “I don’t know, but that (insert mild to moderate profanity here) can’t do an ending to save his life.”

      I typed this on the second computer we put up at the shop. I also did a lengthy post which vanished into the ether because I forgot to fill in the required blanks. So, eventually, more on romance books.

      Now. What do I do with these Archer books?

      1. Brian Green

        Donate them to your local library, perhaps? Or to somewhere like Value Village or Good Will (second-hand clothing stores).

        Someone out there will find enjoyment from them.

  5. George

    The harder we make it for people to find the books they want the more harm we do the books business.

    Yes, I admit there are a lot of eccentrics in our business – but bragging about it in print seems wrong.

    1. Brian Green

      George,

      Harm has already been done to the book business, with big chains being the main culprits. By allowing things like Twilight and Dr Phil books to litter their shelves, they pollute the world with talentless writers and mediocre novels.

      I know that not everyone who runs a brick & mortar agrees with me on this issue. I know that not every shop owner can afford to be picky about what they sell. In my case, though, I’m willing to take a risk and try to point people towards authors whose works are enlightening, well-crafted.

      As for bragging in print, that was not the intention of this post. If I want to brag, I do that on my other blogs.

      1. George

        I have no interest in being contentious but that seems a little too easy an excuse to present the readers of this blog.

        As Walt Kelly said “We have met the enemy and he is us!”

        The big box stores have done far more than almost any independent store to promote books and reading. For a few years after their inception readership actually climbed. I believe the ebooks will do the same thing.

        Looking for a bogeyman whenever times get tough and coasting when money flows like water is seldom, if ever, in a merchant’s best interests. If we do not continue innovating, promoting and improving our businesses and our processes in good times and in bad times why should our customers care whether we survive in business. And does it really matter? The blue ribbon for a job well done is hearing customer afer customer saying “This is the best books store I have ever seen!” As more and more customers leave without buying a book you might want to start questioning them – or yourself.

        We possess the goods to help an ordinary person become an extraordinary person if we do our jobs properly. But if a novice reader enters one of our stores and is met by an attitude (rather than a person) anything less than personable – he has seen the books business at its worst and will likely be wary of entering any similar establishments – other than a big box store.

        If we want our businesses to be all that they can be we should start with ourselves to become, not act like, bigger people.

        Theodore Roosevelt said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

        Bullies and bully pulpits are anethema to the books business.

      2. Anesthesia Billing

        I hardly think that the downfall of the printed medium is due to highly successful, albeit mediocre, writing. It would be like saying the music industry is not selling enough CDs because Justin Beiber is selling a lot of CDs. Sorta counter-intuitive. If people can get their entertainment for free, a lot of people will. Or they can get it secondhand on eBay, which lessons the number of new products sold.

        I don’t claim to have the answer on books, though I suspect it’s multi-tiered. People have so many outlets for information and entertainment, the more challenging act in comparison (reading books), tends to be the odd one out.

  6. Diane Plumley

    Interesting conversation. Hmm. Brian, have you a bookshop already, or in the process of creating one? If the latter, you may want to rethink your theories of the book trade vs customers.
    First, I must strongly disagree with the concept that it’s easy as pie to be published. Not so. Not remotely true. Perhaps what is published isn’t to your liking, but with publisher upon publisher either downsizing or being sold, or combined into mega print houses, less and less ‘mid list’ writers have contracts. At one time, Dell, Bantam, Ballantine, Scribners, etc., etc., were separate individual publishing houses. Slowly one bought another and you had combos–Dell/Bantam or whichever way it went.

    And it didn’t stop there. Now Rupert Murdock owns a huge chunk of the book world. He eliminated an entire line of decently selling books. Time-Warner, a giant in publishing, was sold to a faltering French magazine company. My point being, superior authors try to get published daily, if there are less outlets to submit manuscripts to, there are less published works. Are there hacks who have multi million dollar contracts? Of course, as there have been since the common populace learned to read.

    Second, as someone who has been around the book business for what seems a million years, I find it rather humorous that you believe bookshop owners have’nt used enough ‘discretion’ in their stock selection, otherwise the public would be a much more enlightened group.

    Booksellers do not create their customers. One cannot mold a customer into the cultured creature one may desire as a patron. You either have a strong literary base shopping at your store, or you don’t. And it seems to me crucial to your plan to find the perfect spot where you believe that type of crowd will flock.

    And lastly. if you want to fail at this endeavor, keep up the elitist attitude. Stock the store with whatever you want, only you will be able to determine if you are losing ground by not carrying popular titles. You may not. But what will undoubtably turn people away including well read eager readers, is your theory of certain genres being worthless, telling customers of your mantra, discouraging them from exploring any type of book you feel unsuitable to the goal of providing culture to them. Make a face, sigh heartily, and snottily respond to a young girl’s request for a book that may not fit your standards of say, Poe, but will be a bridge to her next phase of favorite books. Alienate her. Make her feel stupid for interest in such swill. She’ll never return, not even when she graduates from Twilight and now needs college classics, which your standards would surely provide. And she’ll tell her friends-oh don’t go to that bookstore, they are so obnoxious.

    And she may have complained to a parent who usually stops by the store for an occasional title, but who now thinks the B&N is a better choice. They may not have booksellers on the floor to help, but she won’t be getting any attitude either.

    Perhaps you think I’m carrying this too far?
    I’ve been there, seen that, watched stores fall.
    In a small indie bookshop, the most important stock of all is the owner’s willingness to accept his customer as is, friendliness, with no hidden agenda of revamping society.

    Now more than at any other time, the atmosphere of a small store must must exude warmth, intelligence, yes, but with acceptance of each person’s interests. So someone buys a Twilight title, perhaps next time they shop, since you were so nice about it, you can ask if they’d ever read the classic vampire story, guide them over to it, give them something to ponder. They may lack enthusiasm. Let it go. Sell them another Twilight in the series and be thrilled you made a little cash, and someone who could be home typing stuff on blogs, lol, is choosing to read the written word instead.

    1. Smartbustard

      Thank Goodness, some sanity in this thread. Thankyou Diane for a well phrased response. I posted a shorter sharper one that wasn’t so nice as yours but it was quickly deleted. If the original poster of this article truly has a bookshop, then it is one that is going broke.

      1. Heartflower

        I agree with both of you.
        I mean, it is not on us to judge what you are doing wrong or right by eliminating certain book genres from your shop, only time will show you what the outcome of your decision is and I am sure you will take responsibility for the outcome.
        I partly agree and disagree with your eliminated genres: I personally don’t enjoy Twilight, but I do recommend some self-help books as I see any kind of influence as a valuable lesson, if you are willing to learn from it.
        In the end, out of personal reasons you limit the reader’s opportunity and choice of what their medium to help them grow and follow their interests.
        One last note: As I said, it is fine to decide what you want, that is your business and I wish that by now you have a well running store. But your last sentence, stating that you hope other book stores will follow ‘your example’, I don’t find very helpful as it implies that you are trying to tell others what is right for them. And that, everyone has to find out for themselves. If you are an example to someone by doing what you are doing and they are happy with running their store like you chose to, then there is no need to tell them that they should do what you are doing.

  7. Amber

    Wow. Well. Can we say censorship anyone? Let me guess, you’re naming your store “Bash-A-Book.” You know it is perfectly in your right to not sell certain books and genres – no matter what your reasons are. However, you really should keep those reasons to yourself.

    This is why, you walk into a big box bookstore and look around and say, “Wow, there’s a ton of authors (and a lot of them suck) and publishers out there.”

    WRONG.

    The publishing world is tiny, itty bitty, miniscule! All these publishers, editors, agents, and writers KNOW each other. And what’s more, it’s NOT a competitive industry. Check out the book blogs, go to writer’s conferences, signings etc. They promote each other constantly. You’ll also hear a very firm motto come out of their mouths: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

    Think about it, you just bashed Stephenie Meyer (and the fantasy genre in general)… guess who else you just alienated? Her agent, editor, publisher, publishing house … every author who blurbed her book, her agent’s college room mate who is an editor at another company… the list goes on and and on!

    I know what you’re saying – what do I care?

    Because those are your suppliers. Alienate publishers enough and they may not let you sell THEIR product. That is a bit extreme, I think it’s more likely that when it comes to cutting you a break or getting a discount on wholesale, they’re going to skip you and go to the next guy. You’ll always be that rude guy that they don’t have to play nice with.

    And author signings? Forget it! You’ll be “that jerk that hates my friend, so-and-so. I’m not going to his store!”

    And enlighening people? Seriously? You’re already alienating those you want to enlighten by telling them what they read is trash.

    Also, you will alienate the true book buyers. For example, I will never add to my personal 3,000 book library from your store.

    Learn to bite your tongue.

    1. Payal

      Well said! I was reading this article and marveling at the snobbery. Its amazing that someone assumes that a book lover can’t read a racy romance and a literary classic and appreciate them both.

  8. Twilight Quiz

    I think it’s a shame that you’re taking such a stance on the series, however I guess that even in the bookshop industry there are fast food joints and classy restaurants, yours being the latter of course 🙂

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