The Pace Of The Publishing Industry

A reader writes:

I'm going to dissent on one minor point you raised about the traditional book publishing industry. I'm not sure you can lament that Palin's book had no fact-checking, but then also lament that books take too long to publish after the author has finished writing them. I've published three books with a traditional publisher, and a good deal of the lag between completion of the manuscript and publication (4-8 months with my books) allows for a thorough, substantial edit (including the flagging of potential errors), a re-write, a thorough copy-editing and fact-check, proofreading, and so on. If a book is rushed online the moment the author finishes it – "overnight" as you suggest – you lose the chance to catch and correct mistakes. (I'm sure this would not have made a difference with Palin's book, but that's another issue.)

Another reader, responding to our self-published reader who made a deal with Amazon, sticks up for independent bookstores:

As a long-time bookstore employee, I want to mention a possible reason your reader's local indie won't carry his title: it may be non-returnable. I've been out of the inventory side of things since Amazon started publishing their own titles, but the few times we had to deal with them as a "wholesaler" (in quotes because we really were just like a regular customer buying off the website for special orders that were unavailable through normal distribution chains) they have very strict returns policies. For better or for worse (probably for worse), most of the business independent shops do is possible because they can order books and then return them for full credit (minus shipping both ways) if it doesn't sell.

If this isn't the case they may also be wary of the intimidating business practices Amazon has been known to engage in (see: pulling all affiliate status from affiliates in states that attempt to collect sales tax, also pulling all Macmillan books from the site until the publisher agreed to their terms with no compromise). As a small business, entering into a  partnership with a bad-faith vendor can be a big problem and this company has a demonstrated pattern of leveraging their market share to ransom business partners into terrible deals. Supporting Amazon's efforts to become a publishing house (where this leveraging could really hurt small stores that are their direct competitors) is something many book retailers are probably rightly nervous about doing, as well, considering the ruthless history of that company – especially so quick on the heels of that holiday promotion snafu, using retail locations as show rooms for their products.

With all that said, if I were a buyer in his neighborhood shop I would probably still have liked to carry it, and I'm sure some of the decision is just ridiculous knee-jerking. But I would like to ask everyone to cut these stores a little slack. It's been a tough few years, and people who own and work in indie bookstores do it because they love books and spreading that love to their neighbors. I promise we're not all snobby recent grads (in fact, most of us aren't). It can just be easy to feel under siege when all anybody cares about now is price, price, price.