A Bookstore Dedicated to Self-Published Authors

Two entrepreneuring authors have teamed up to open the first bookstore dedicated to books by self-published authors. Children’s author and illustrator Patti Brassard Jefferson and history author Timothy Jacobs decided to open a bookstore of their own after they became frustrated with the lack of opportunity for indie authors to showcase their works in existing bookstores.

Gulf Coast Bookstore

The two Florida authors opened the Gulf Coast Bookstore in Fort Myers, Florida. The store only sells books by indie authors. Currently, Gulf Coast Bookstore has around 50 local authors using the space.

Gulf Coast operates very differently from a traditional bookstore. Self-published authors rent shelf space for three months for $60, plus a $15 set-up fee, close to what they might spend to exhibit a single title at a day-long book fair. They also handle stocking and restocking of their books. In return, the authors receive 100% of every sale.

Gulf Coast Bookstore rearranges inventory every two weeks to keep the space fresh. The only criterion for authors using the store is that the author be “local.” Each author can display 10 copies of a single title or up to 10 titles with one copy each. With the rental of physical shelf space, authors are featured on the store’s website, and they can use the store for book signings.

What a fabulous idea! I am hoping that this concept will catch on and more large cities around the country will begin to host bookstores featuring only local authors’ books! If you are in or around the Fort Myers area of Florida, put this bookstore on your destination list.

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The Demise of Bookstores

Physical bookstores have been on a rapid decline for the past few years. Last year, in 2011, Borders declared bankruptcy and closed around 300 stores nationwide. Yes, a handful of these (14) were purchased by Books-A-Million, but that did not really make a dent in the decline in the number of actual physical bookstores.

More recently, citing steadily declining sales in their physical bookstores, The United Methodist Publishing House (UMPH) announced that they will close all 57 of their Cokesbury stores by April 30, 2013.

In 2010, CBA, the association for Christian retail, reports that 77 stores closed, while only 14 new stores opened. In 2011, 54 stores closed and 32 new stores opened. The number of stores closing continues to outpace the number of stores opening.

Interestingly, UMPH reports that while they are closing their physical stores, they will continue to operate their online bookstore at www.Cokesbury.com. The company says they have seen a steady increase in sales through their online bookstore over the past 10 years. The company has decided to put their resources into growing their online store rather than pouring resources into their dwindling physical stores.

Is the decline of physical bookstores just a sign of our economy?

I don’t think so. I think it is more. I think it points to a shift in our culture.

1. Our lifestyle is changing.

We lead increasingly busy lives. The big box retailers that offer groceries, home improvement, clothing, and other goods all under one roof are growing. More people are shopping at these stores for the convenience and time-savings they offer. Few people have the time to drive to multiple shops to buy niche products.

2. Our nation is becoming increasingly post Christian.

As our nation moves farther and farther away from embracing Christianity, the number of people seeking specialized Christian products diminishes. Many people may still purchase these products, but spending extra time to seek them out is not their priority. Hence, even Christian bookstores in malls are experiencing declining sales. Shopping for other goods is just more important.

Just as UMPH has experienced increased sales on their online store, so I think that more and more Christian book sales will be made via the Internet. As Christian books increasingly become a niche market, sales will migrate to the Internet. Currently, 49% of all books are purchased online. I believe the percentage for Christian books purchased online is probably higher than that.

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For Whom the Economy Tolls

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Stephanie loves books and loves to read. An accountant by trade, Stephanie decided to do what she is passionate about. So, taking her life’s savings, she opened a bookstore in Oregon.

Then the economy took a turn for the worse. Sales declined and bills mounted. Stephanie was forced to close her bookstore at the beginning of this year. Unable to find a job, she took to begging outside her closed bookstore.

While Stephanie did not own a Christian bookstore, her plight affects everyone in the book business. One less store means fewer books sold. Fewer books sold equals less revenue for everyone in the book trade.

Galatians 6:2 says “Carry one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Fortunately, Stephanie’s plight eventually came to the attention of the good people in her town and they set up a fund to help Stephanie get back on her feet. Donations can be made to Stephanie Griffin Fund, c/o Glenda Magistrale, Consolidated Federal Credit Union, 2021 NE Sandy Blvd., Portland, OR 97232.


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