Challenge,  publishing

Something Really Crazy and Innovative

In Indie Book Selling

I am not suggesting that anyone try this. Nope. But it was certainly fascinating to see.

Started this afternoon when I drove Kris to an eye appointment that was beside a large mall here in Vegas. So I set off walking in the mall to get my 5 miles. (Yes, streak is still intact at 12 days in a row at five miles.)

I was coming up a ramp in the mall and there in front of me was a small kiosk covered in books of all kinds. Nonfiction, poetry, some fiction, some coloring books, some political books, and on the lower shelf were a bunch of tee-shirts. All the books were face-out.

I glanced at it as I went by and kept walking. There is no bookstore in that mall, so I figured it was from another local bookstore, although Vegas is pretty much a bookstore desert.

Next time around the guy running the kiosk bookstore was talking to a few people and I gave it a closer look. Very attractive. Interesting books, all of which were indie published, yet very professionally done.

Next time I stopped and asked him if some of the books were his. He proudly pointed out the five on the front shelf that were his and then to another twenty from authors he called his “clients” meaning he had done the books for them.

The rest of the books he had ordered for his bookstore. (His bookstore was the Kiosk.) All indie books.

Great guy, very sharp, mid-thirties, and his dream was to have a brick-and-mortar store, and write and sell books. I asked him if he was selling online and he was, through Amazon and Ingram Sparks.

I told him about D2D to get his books around the world more and he had heard of them, and was all excited with that information. I told him over the years I had owned two different bookstores and three different comic book stores. In essence, I had done his dream, so that sort of stopped the conversation, so I shifted the discussion back to how amazed I was at seeing an indie author in a mall kiosk. I told him I had never heard of it being done and got him talking about that and how he was making some money doing it.

Yes, he was making money doing it.

Now sitting in a mall for ten hours a day, seven days a week is not my idea of a good time, but he was sure enjoying talking to people about books, so I guess, more than likely, I am just jaded something awful. And he had a computer set up like I had a typewriter in my first bookstore, and clearly he was writing at times. Or doing covers, or selling. My guess… all three and more.

He was a member of the ABA and got some of his books and client books into stores through Ingrams, so he was going that trade-route way partially.

So I walked away impressed.

And surprised.

And pleased that it is only the limit of a person’s imagination in sales that holds us back. He wants his own bookstore, so he could afford a Kiosk in a busy spot in a busy mall to earn that store. I would not bet against this guy that he has his own brick-and-mortar store sooner rather than later. And like the publishers of the first part of the last century, he’ll be publishing his books and other author’s books out of the back room.

Sometimes I wish I was young again and had that kind of energy.

And a little less knowledge.

27 Comments

  • Jason M

    Did author/publishers in the first part of the 20th century often write in the backrooms of their own bookstores? I’ve never heard of this.

    • dwsmith

      Yup, a large number of the publisher names that made it into the big companies, only to be swallowed and vanish in the 1980s and 1990s started as one person operations in bookstores in the late 1800s and the early part of the 1900s.

  • Michael W Lucas

    My life has been spent around Minimum Viable Product. But this is the first time I’ve heard of Minimum Viable Bookstore. 🤣

    And seriously, it’s brilliant. The fact that he believes in his product and his clients enough to do this is fantastic.

    Part of me always wanted to run a bookstore, but the fact that people would come in and paw MY books, and even want to take some HOME with them, made it a firm “no.”

  • Ed Teja

    I’m talking to a bartender in Australia who wants to sell my books (both ebook and print). He has that same enthusiasm and vision. Even if it is never huge, a few new readers down under would be a great thing.

  • Sean Monaghan

    Here in NZ a fantasy writer Russell Meek goes around the small town fairs with a stand selling his books kind of like that. The books weren’t to my taste, but he does pretty well – especially in that thing we call the gift of the gab – he can talk endlessly with people. No hard sell at all, but they end up buying a book. I chatted with him, bought a book, then stood back with an ice cream from another stand and watched him for a while. Fascinating stuff.

  • Deb Miller

    What a lovely, serendipitous event that you happened upon this young man. I’m sure he took away many ideas from your conversation!

  • Geoff

    Inspiring but what do you think? — Im almost 52 –isn’t it too late to start as an indie writer now? There was a famous American writer who said “if you haven’t started by 26 its too late!” I hope this is a myth too. I have frenemies (cant say their friends) at work who tell me early 50s is too late to start and my desire is just from the pandemic and not to quit my thankless office cubicle job. Ive had this desire for years.

    • dwsmith

      Geoff, you need to walk away from anyone being that negative to you. 52 is scary young to start as a fiction writer. Cliche is that in politics and writing, 50 is young. I published 70 major books and over fifty short stories stand alone in my 70th year. A person who tells you 52 is too old is not a friend. Trust me. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. Run from them, don’t walk.

      • Geoff

        Thank you Dean. That’s incredible. all those books at 70 and I am here worried about 50s because I listen to these fake friends (think eddie haskel from the beaver tv show). I get the feeling they are all miserable and fear somebody leaving. misery loves company after all. I can do it. Coming from you that means a lot.

        I will walk (run!) away from these people. Actually I’ve decided to switch to remote office work until I can leave it completely. I read some of your smith’s monthly books –your stories are so imaginative, wild and free! I placed an order for your writing in the dark book. You know for the last 20 years I’ve listened to these negative voices in my life and I’m honestly fed up. Bless you.

          • GEOFF

            Thanks again Dean “keep the writing fun and it will work out ” you really meant it.

            I noticed the biggest temptation is to make it “a work project”. I think its my office training.
            I did a search on your website about having fun and boy do you mention that ALOT. I get why now. I told myself: I have no debt and very few expenses so –ease up! I just started writing out of the top of my head. Writing clean first draft and cycling is a game changer . ( I recieved your book in the morning and read it like a thristy man drinks a glass of water )

            Of course I have alot to learn but if I make it a game it’s strangely addictive this writing fiction thing. The last time I felt like this I was a kid addicted to “Master of Magic”. I am kind of mad at myself for not doing this years ago. I’m also cutting off fake friends, frenemies etc. They’re liars every one of them.

        • Greg P.

          Geoff, I started at 48 and I’ll be 52 next week. I have twenty published novels. (And people actually buy them!) I’m not stopping.

          Dean’s book (Writing into the Dark) and his course covering Lester Dent’s formula played a big role in getting me there.

          At 50 you have a lot to tap into.

          Also, you should go look up how many famous people started businesses or new careers in their later years.

          • Geoff

            Thanks Greg. Its funny how listening to the wrong voices for so many years conditioned me to literally not think outside the (cubicle) box. You’re 52 soon and you have 20 books from age 48? Fantastic. Also thanks for the info

    • Mark Posey

      Geoff, I’m going to have to agree with Dean. Run away, run away, run away.

      I published my first novel in January 2020 — about a month before I turned 55. Then, on Valentine’s Day that same year, was laid off due to shutdowns from the pandemic. My wife and I decided that this was our opportunity and formally incorporated our publishing company. I took in copyediting on the side and then a writer-friend let me know his publisher was looking for an editor.

      It’s been two-and-a-half years and we’re still here. The bills are all paid — although some months it’s just barely. I’ve learned a metric crap-ton from being in the trenches writing and editing and publishing and promoting. It’s been SO worth it.

      Don’t let anyone tell you it’s too late.

    • Ed Teja

      Geoff, I’m 74 and although I’ve written all my life, I really only recently kickstarted (figurtively) my indie career, getting up to speed. I’ve found Dean’s courses inspiring. I did his novel challenge (six novels in a year) and published them all (part of the challenge). Being older might give you more patience and perspective. Besides, what better use of your time than having fun making stuff up?

    • Kate Pavelle

      Um, you’re not old. I’ll be 57 and I’m not old. I’m finally getting the hang of this writing rhythm, figuring out what works for me and keeps it fun so I can do it sustainably. But if you have stories, write them. My grandmother, who had never written fiction, was big on other people’s poetry. Then she penned some kick-ass poems in her 80’s and 90’s. (I’d share them but they’re in Czech.) So go, do your thing. People who tell you it’s “too late” are scared to try new things themselves and they don’t want to look bad by comparison. Have fun with it!

      • GEOFF

        Thanks Kate. Yes I think it has to do not only with bad “friends” but also a media that gives the same subtle kind of message to people.

        Kudos to your grandmother. I think most Czech people are poets at heart. The Czech Republic is the only country I ever heard of actually electing a poet (and playwright) as their president. ,I am going to print out this entire comments page and put it by my computer.

  • Dawn

    I’ve thought about doing this too. The problem is that our mail only has weekend traffic and otherwise it’s pretty dead until the kids get out of school and come to hang out. With that being the situation, I knew it wasn’t viable in my area. Especially since a lot of weekends I’m out doing shows and conventions. I’d have to hire someone to sit. I decided it just wasn’t worth my time and energy. I’m glad someone is making a go of it. Vegas would be a much better mall venue. Did you get his card so we can solicit books to him? 😆

  • Sheila

    Just another old gal here to encourage Geoff that he’s not too old. I published my first short on Smashwords at the terribly young age of… 53! I’d been writing pretty much my whole life, starting when I learned letters and how they made words. Before that, I was telling stories in my head.

    Don’t let the naysayers push you away from doing what you want. Other people are afraid to try something, so they keep others from trying. You’re too old to go back to school, to old to change jobs, too old to do this, that or the other thing. You’ll only be “too old” when you’re dead, so have at.

    By the way, I’m on the express track to the whopping old age of 65, and still writing and publishing (well, writing again, after a four year dead space due to family stuff). I wasn’t too old to restart, and you’re not too old to start.

    • GEOFF

      Sheila your’re an angel -thank you for your kind words. Yes along with writing there are other things the “you’re too old” crew has told me over the years about everything under the sun. I could go down a list. You started at 53 and working now and here I am believing all these lies from ‘the crew’. You’re “too old” when your dead! I love that! Besides my coworkers I am starting to see there is a kind of lie all about tv and social media that you have to be a certain age to “do things” or to start them. ie an ideal age for a career change or getting married or whatever. It is very subtle but I’m only realizing it now. It really is nonesense.