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  • jsensibar

Valuable Shelf Space

Coming off a five day snowstorm up here in Northern Arizona it was gratifying and a little uplifting to get a request from my local independent bookstore (shout out to Bright Side Books in Flagstaff, Arizona) for copies of my newest work, a chapbook called My Disappearing West, that was just released this month by Tolsun Books.

Even in the best of times chapbooks are a leap of faith for both a press and an author, but especially a press. And in these times of Covid they are an even bigger leap. Reason being is that chapbook sales are entirely dependent on sales made by the author and direct sales by the press. Usually the way the author and the press generate sales of chapbooks is by doing live readings and promotions at literary events, book readings at private and public venues (your living room, the poolhall your friend runs, etc.) and readings and appearances at conferences and book fairs.

In these times of Covid none of this has been possible and while Zoom readings and events are better than nothing and have helped some of us maintain some sense of connectedness and community they are a poor substitute for the energy of a live author reading and Q and A and don’t generate the sales that live events do.

My personal experience with Zoom readings and other events that were once in-person but are now online is that they are a pale fucking substitute for the real thing and oftentimes leave me as an author and a human feeling really disappointed and even further disconnected from my audience and the world at large.

So with all that constantly feeding ammunition to the snipers in my brain it was really nice to get a request for a few copies of My Disappearing West from a real brick and mortar bookstore. Bookstores don’t usually carry or sell chapbooks, in part because they are perceived as a little too unfinished and DIY but also for the very practical reason that they don’t shelve well and shelf space in any brick and mortar store, even the very large ones, is an extremely valuable and limited commodity.

The problem with chapbooks is that they are short, usually so short that they are not thick enough to have spines with title and author information on them. This means that they can’t be shelved like regular books because then there would be no way to know what they were, instead they have to be oriented with the entire cover facing out so shoppers can see what the book is. Obviously this takes up much more of a bookstore’s valuable and finite shelf space for a product with very little margin for profit. All of this means that bookstores usually carry few, if any chapbooks.

So now you know

Anyways, big shout out to both my press for being willing to release My Disappearing West in the midst of all this disappearing and a big thank you to Bright Side Books for being willing to give up a little of their valuable shelf space for it. Thank you.

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