Enough with the Postmortem
(Reposting here; originally posted 1/11/11 at AskLutz.com.)
Many authors learned the news today that the L.A. Mystery Bookstore will be closing on January 31st. The store has helped launch many authors' careers (mine included) and has been a major influence on the mystery community for years. It's also one of the few independent bookstores left in West Los Angeles. The odds of a new mystery bookstore springing up to take its place and build a comparable customer base seem beyond remote.
Today Facebook and Twitter are swarming with warm thoughts and condolences as if we were already drinking whiskey at a wake. But I question whether that's an appropriate attitude for authors whose future livelihood will depend, in part, on the existence of independent bookstores.
We can jabber all we want about the publishing model needing to change to adapt to e-books, but if the trajectory continues as it does, the book itself—the kind with pages that you turn with your fingers and not a button—might disappear or be reserved for only the highest level of authors. And when I say "highest level," that can also mean James Patterson.
Call me naive, but I don't understand why we aren't considering another option. While I know most mystery writers are scraping by, there are others who aren't scraping so much. It doesn't seem unrealistic to me that we could pull together enough local writers to invest in the store and keep it alive long enough to figure out how to make it competitive in this hostile climate. If we don't, we're consenting to a process that will soon completely kill the independent bookstore, the book itself, and potentially, many authors' livelihoods.
I, for one, am in. If there's anyone else out there interested in finding a solution, please email me.