Sunday, October 24, 2010
Local Bookstores; Neglected Writers
As a minor garden writer, I’ve long had a small complaint regarding local bookstores that my Seattle trip confirmed and magnified, and so I have to finally get it off my chest. When visiting two national-chain large bookstores (stores that have destroyed most of the local independent booksellers, but I’ll leave them nameless since I’m not into lawsuits), I found that they were stocked, as elsewhere, with the usual encyclopedias of plants and basic how-to gardening manuals and both had a conspicuous absence of the more conversational gardening writing that I adore. For instance, several well-known local Seattle-area writers with a number of books to their credit were absent from both the gardening and local/regional sections of the bookstores. I’m fully aware that Des Kennedy gardens and writes just a little bit north of Seattle and Ann Lovejoy is a fixture of Pacific Northwest garden circles and gardens on Bainbridge Island just across the Sound from Seattle. Of these two eminent writers, Kennedy wasn’t represented at all and I found only the Ann Lovejoy Handbook of Northwest Gardening to represent the latter. Amy Stewart, currently a very popular and prolific garden writer based in Eureka, California, had only a single book on either shelf; in both cases it was her latest text, Wicked Plants. But there were lots of unenjoyable texts on the shelves that were probably originally conceived by some editor who thought the world needed another book on the basics of how to compost or a book listing which plants were useful perennials and then said tyrannical editor created one by hiring a mercenary writer. They’re useful references, but they’re terribly uninteresting to read.
I suspect that better known authors are more successful in getting new books on local shelves, but my experience in Seattle tells me it is not that much better. BOOKSELLERS: WISE UP! If you don’t show the average gardener books written by local authors, then the average gardener doesn’t know they exist. And thus, the average gardener doesn’t get a chance to gain knowledge from experienced garden writers in their area. In the Flint Hills of Kansas, for instance, you can’t learn much about gardening by reading plant references or gardening technique books from England or the Pacific Northwest. I assume the same would be true for be true for gardeners from New Mexico or Arizona or Michigan.
For local gardeners wanting to read local authors, it might help slightly that if you know of a local writer, please request that your local store stock the book rather than ordering it online. Online sales may help our Amazon ranking, but it doesn't help us reach the audience that would be the most interested in our writing.