My uncle owns the Dickson Street Bookshop. It's something of a local treasure. (Locals, are we agreed?) He specializes in used, rare, and out-of-print books, specifically literature, poetry, and Irish Studies. He loves books.
|photo from their Facebook site|
No, really. He loves books. This is but a teensy fraction of the store.
He is a book snob. (Don't worry. He avoids the internet. Also, he would agree with me.) I have actually been at his house looking through one of his books in his personal library, which is pretty staggering on its own, only to have him take the book out of my hands and say, "No. Read this." Now, he doesn't do this to his customers. Hmm...actually that might not be true. He doesn't do it to new customers. But he has strong opinions and he's not afraid to share them.
It doesn't mean that he won't stock pop fiction or pulp fiction or stuff that rolls his eyes. That stuff sells and he sells it. And this isn't a post to bash any genre. My book is YA sci-fi. It's light and fluffy and whimsical. I can tell you right now that it won't be my uncle's cuppa, personally. And he'll turn books away. Not for reasons of his own taste but for reasons of a glutted market or something he just doesn't think will sell.
Lately, I've read a lot of posts accusing agents and publishers of being nothing more than "gatekeepers" and "tastemakers," as if these were slurs flung from the very gates of Hell. Most of these have been in the traditional vs. self-publishing debate. Now, I am in no way, shape, or form saying that everything traditionally published is wonderful or that everything self-published is not. This isn't really about that at all.
But I will say this. I cringe at the day when indie bookstores and libraries are obsolete. Do you know what my uncle (and his staff) would recommend you read? James Joyce. Iain Pears. Oscar Wilde. Osamu Dazai. Xaviera Hollander. Max Brooks.- (These last few are just from their status updates.)
Do you know what Amazon recommends that I read? An amalgamation of books that are statistically similar to titles I've searched for. They don't care if it's good or bad. No, seriously. They. Don't. Care. I'm not bashing Amazon. I hope my titles will sell well there, and I buy from Amazon. But if I really want to shop for a book, I go to a bookstore or library and ask the tastemakers what they recommend, see what they're actually investing their money in and stocking. I'm not a lemming who will read whatever book someone places in my hand, but come on! There's value in that.
I cringe at the day when editors aren't able to fall hard for a manuscript and buy it because they love it and they think others will love it. I think there's value in the gatekeepers. Do I think that current models will have to change and change fast to avoid obsolescence? Heck, yes! But I shudder inside when I read angry, gleeful posts about "The Big 6" falling.