Thompson on…My final “Goodbye Borders” after being absent ten years!
Another casualty in the decline of the paperback and hard cover book formats! When the unexpected announcement blared across the national news outlets that the bookstore chain Borders was seeking liquidation and closed all its stores a few years ago, the moan among authors was deafening. The company closed 399 stores which meant that over three-hundred outlets for author’s books was unavailable after July 2011. Now, ten years later there are fewer bookstores for authors to have the experience of a live in-store book event.
I just saw in Linkedin about a Mom/Pop independent bookstore closing their doors after years of serving their Texas community. Sure, there are “Virtual Book Tours”, but nothing beats standing in a store and a reader comes to your table and picks up a copy of your novel. It creates a warm feeling that cannot be duplicated. The only feeling better is to present on CSPAN’s Book TV. In the current days of Covid-19, and a pandemic, hopefully subsiding, in the land, you cannot stage live events and even traditional book festivals went virtual in 2020.
The AJC-Decatur Book Festival will have a one-day affair in the first Saturday in October at the First Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., without the street fair. This is a comeback and I hope next year we see the full event.
When we are back to normal, book events will again populate the calendars of Independent bookstores like Eagle Eye in Decatur, Georgia or Little Shop of Stories in Decatur or maybe an enterprising manager of a Barnes & Nobles will give another young author a chance at an in-store event. It was very, very sad news when Borders closed. Another casualty in the long drawn-out decline of the paperback/hardcover book formats. I remember when I was marketing my first two novels, A Brownstone in Brooklyn and Philly Style and Philly Profile, the venues for new authors was nil. Today, it is even hard for unknown authors to get any kind of book event at major venues. From experience, I can tell up and coming authors the road is hard,but can be vanquished. For years I tried in vain to get book signings in bookstores to prove to the reading public that I was a legitimate author. I walked into many bookstores and got a resounding “No!” I went to the Stonecrest Mall Borders in Lithonia, Georgia, without much confidence in getting a chance at a book signing. I met the store manager and told him I was a local author and teacher at a Dekalb County High School: Redan High. He was very gracious and loved the idea of a local teacher getting a chance at a book signing. While he was talking it was surreal, but when he walked me over to the community relations manager: I had my first major book signing. The glass ceiling was broken. At the book signing, I sold more than fifteen copies of Brownstone and Philly Style on that Saturday afternoon and gave out tons of marketing material. This was my first major exposure and it was a huge success! That was a signature moment, in my current career as an author, and when I applied for other events this was on the resume. That one moment in time propelled me into speaking opportunities at other major chain outlets (Barnes & Nobles, Books-a-Million) and eventually gigs as a presenter speaking at the AJC-Decatur Book Festival in the Atlanta area, The Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville, Virginia, Buffalo Book Fair in upstate New York, the New York City Book Festival in Manhattan, Baltimore Book Festival in Maryland and other major events. Now, in 2021, I wonder where the road would have taken me if it was not for a manager at a Borders store that gave an unknown author a chance to showcase his novels. Goodbye Borders you will be missed!