Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Six Questions for Kimberly Longhofer, Manager, and John Haworth, Owner, at Brainfood Bookstore

Brainfood Bookstore is located in Longmont, Colorado and sells indie lit, exclusively. Learn more here.

Twitter: @BrainfoodVenue. 
Author & reader resources and blog: BrainfoodVenue.tumblr.com

1. Please provide us with a brief history of Brainfood Bookstore. (How long you've been in business, philosophy, goals, etc.)

KL: Brainfood Bookstore opened just a few months ago, in October 2012. Longmont had a few used bookstores but since the downfall of Borders, no sellers of new books had opened in the town. We knew that needed to change. But, looking to Borders, we knew we couldn't open a traditional new bookstore and expect to survive. We instead looked to the competitor, Amazon. We feel that Amazon is so successful-- successful enough that they've pushed Borders out of business and have their sights set on bankrupting traditional publishers like the Big Five-- because they sell the indie books you can't buy at traditional bookstores. While the former Big Six were banking on books by celebrities with built-in fan bases, indie publishing was attracting all the new authors. 

There is little other option for buying indie lit besides Amazon, and that's the niche we hope to fill. There are readers who prefer new authors and undiscovered stories, and there are readers who will always prefer shopping in a real bookstore to browsing Amazon. We are the bookstore for those readers. 

2. Your store carries only indie books. What do you look for in the books you stock?

KL: We believe in quality literature, regardless of where or how it is published. That is what separates us from traditional bookstores; we will carry a book regardless of imprint. Most will turn down anything that isn't from the Big Five, no matter how great of a read it is. When selecting books to carry, our first criteria is quality. Then we check to see that the book is independently-published, and we prefer local authors and publishers. We've discovered a host of small indie presses around the state, most with quality literature that you can't find in traditional bookstores. We want to know where the book comes from, because we don't believe in collecting our customers' money here in Colorado and then sending it out-of-state for stock. After quality of literature, type of publisher, and location, our next criteria are the audience the book is meant for; we try to stock a diverse selection of literature to compete with other bookstores' mainstream-only policies. 

3. Do you provide authors any services beyond selling books?

KL: Most of our authors have published through small publishing houses that can't afford to sponsor marketing campaigns, author tours, events, and advertising for their books. They're not big publishing houses, so that's not their function. They find new, quality literature from new authors, they publish a quality book, and then their job is done. The author is responsible for marketing their own book, which is difficult and frustrating once the author finds that most brick-and-mortar bookstores won't even stock their book. 

In addition to stocking indie lit, we help most of our authors develop a marketing strategy. We supply a list of resources, including reviewers, marketing articles, sample strategies, etc. Whenever an author scores a review or interview, or participates in a blog tour, Brainfood provides a platform on which to broadcast that information. 

We also sponsor author events several times a month, including book signings, readings, children's events, seminars relating to the topics of our nonfiction books, and even writing and publishing workshops. We sponsor the advertising and refreshments for these events, which is a huge help to our authors. It also helps us to attract more crowds. 

4. Can authors contact you directly about carrying their books?

KL: Yes. Although we do work with indie publishers and recognize them as a valuable component of the publishing process, authors are our focus and we like to work directly with the authors as much as possible.

5. What is your advice to authors looking to publish a first book?

KL: Your work needs to appear as professional as possible. There are three stages in which you can accomplish this. One, your book needs a professional editor. Find beta-readers for every draft, and revise after you get feedback from each beta reader. By doing this five to ten times before paying an editor, you ensure that the editor is only fine-tuning, not taking a hacksaw to rough draft. If you're going to pay a professional editor, you need to make sure you get every cents' worth by putting in the work yourself first. Two, whether you are personally responsible for your cover or a publisher is assisting, your cover needs to look professional. This can be the hardest part, especially because authors tend to live by the maxim, "Judge not a book by its cover." Find a design or graphic arts college student that will design your cover in exchange for credit ("Cover designed by..." somewhere on your cover) and a blurb on their resume (work/ intern experience). Three, your marketing needs to be professional. This can be difficult to motivate yourself to do, because as an author you tend to believe that once the book is written, your work is over. It's not. The work has just begun. You need to create an online presence: Check out Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Salman Rushdie and John Green on Twitter. Check out Goodreads' bestselling author list, and look at what they are doing on Goodreads. This is what you need to be doing. In addition to maintaining an online persona and presence, seek out reviews and interviews with bloggers. Never underestimate the power of a blogger.

More author resources are available at http://brainfoodvenue.tumblr.com/authors.

6. What question do you wish I’d asked that I didn’t? And how would you answer it?

KL: Does Brainfood Bookstore have any plans to expand their customer reach?

We are currently in the process of expanding to include Brainsnacks, indie-lit-dispensing vending machines. We believe that independent literature should be available to everyone, not just those who shop online or can drive to Longmont. Imagine walking into a bus station or laundromat in your home town, and being able to purchase a book from a vending machine-- a book that was written right in your own community. In addition to providing a convenient outlet for customers who are running errands and about to get on a bus or wait for laundry, these vending machines will serve as visible reminders to members of the community that anyone can write a book, that being an author is still a viable career option.  

We have a few vintage snack vending machines, but they only accept quarters so they are impractical for books that are priced more than $2. We are using these vending machines to sell used books while raising money for more modern vending machines that accept debit and credit cards. 

You can check out our Indiegogo campaign at http://www.indiegogo.com/brainsnacks. For a $15 contribution, we'll send you a random locally-published book; for $20, we'll send you a T-shirt. So on and so forth. We hope that by conducting this campaign, we will be able to reach new customers as well as fund Brainsnacks. It's a win-win for authors, for prospective writers, for contributors, and for the community. 

Thank you, Kimberly and John. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 3/1--Six Questions for Amy Pollard, Founder/Editor, Brevity Poetry Review

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