I’ve already blogged about this off and on the past few weeks, but this is the last week of business for All On The Same Page Bookstore. I’m sad to see it go. It was a local melting pot for indie authors. I hosted signings there myself, and it was the home base for a writers’ group I belong to.
I decided to catch up with owner Robin Tidwell to see how she is doing. From the bookstore, I can tell you Robin became an advocate for indie authors; she became an author herself! And she also became a publisher. She wears many hats and will continue to do so long after the door on her bookstore is closed for the last time.
Rocking Horse Publishing, of course—and finishing the update/expansion of my marketing E-book, a new title in the Reduced series, and a couple of new WIPS: exploding heads and historical fiction.
What will you miss most about running a bookstore?
Helping new and local authors, and finding unusual books for customers.
What will you miss least?
Standing around with nothing to do, when I have a ton of stuff to be doing elsewhere!
What was the biggest unexpected challenge you faced after the store opened?
The lack of traffic. People walking in after a year or more, saying they lived “just around the corner” and had no idea we were here.
What inspired you to give so much shelf space and attention to indie authors?
The surprising lack of support in most bookstores was a huge factor—plus, our first author showcased in the store, on opening day, was indie and I’d received a lot of emails before opening about others’ books. It didn’t cost us anything to put their books on the shelves, and people have different tastes, after all. I’ve read a lot of GREAT indie books and it’s a shame there’s such a stigma.
Did it work? I recall indie book signings almost every weekend and had three signings at your store myself. Were indie authors profitable for you?
Yes, they were. To a point. During their signing events, mostly; afterward, not so much. The problem, I believe, is that they had no real stake in the success of our store. Most indie bookstores DO charge for the privilege of shelf space—we probably should have. We ended with 130 local authors’ books—and closer to 150 titles—yet, at least ¾ of those authors never set foot in the store again after their events. Fewer of them followed our store on social media and recommended our store as a place to buy their books, even though we consistently promoted and shared.
Rocking Horse Publishing began as an imprint of the store; it’s now a separate company, with its own accounting and industry numbering systems. RHP started in October 2012, when I was procrastinating on my then-current WIP. I opened to submissions and my inbox was immediately flooded. To date, we’ve published sixteen print titles.
What’s next for RHP now that you aren’t running a bookstore?
More distribution, more promotion, more publicity. That pretty well sums it up. Well, and more books coming out this year too!
I’ve always said books can make strangers friends. No one bonds over buying the same toilet paper at Target. In that regard of how special books are, what’s your most memorable bookstore moment?
There were so many, but if I have to start with just one: opening day, with Tom Mee and Al Hrabosky. That day was the start of so many great things . . .
What did you learn from this endeavor?
Oh, my—lots and lots! Some university should give me a PhD in books. Is that a thing? It should be a thing . . . I wouldn’t even know where to begin, and that doesn’t bode well for a dissertation, does it?
Any advice for someone considering opening a bookstore?
Hahaha—funny. Persevere, and make sure you have enough money to do so. That pretty much sums it up, but also don’t go crazy on purchasing new books. Which, I suppose, ties back into the money part. A lot of it is guesswork, because each indie store is different and what works for one might not work for yours.
Any last thoughts you’d like to share about this experience?
Well, it was fun while it lasted—and a lot of hard work. I really, really hate to close, but without community support we just couldn’t keep going. And I don’t mean donations or volunteers; it was a business after all. Just have to chalk it up to experience and move on . . .
Thanks Robin for your time and best of luck to you!
Keep up with Robin online at Robin Writes.