I am an advocate of Mom & Pop Shops. Small business. Joe’s Shoe Repair. Sally’s Nail Haven. Johnson Jewelers. They keep a town alive, give it charm, provide essential needs.
But wait… big businesses provide needs. Walmart. Target. Arby’s. Menards. Costco.
Why support small businesses? Why care about mom and pop and their little old shop? Let’s use restaurants as an example. Think about chain restaurants like TGI Fridays, Applebee’s, Chili’s, Olive Garden, etc. I know exactly what I’m going to have when I go there. It’s almost like home cooking in that I know what it will taste like, and I crave the flavors. Chain sit-down style restaurants provide a nice meal and familiar food. People like familiarity. We’re not always up for an adventure.
But, if we are looking for an adventure, and want to try something new or cultural to an area, it’s fun to check out little family owned restaurants. The local bar and grills, diners, bakeries, and steak houses. This is where you get a real feel for the locals. And more fun yet is, when you find great food at a little eatery, you then get to tell people about it like it’s your own personal discovery. You sort of claim it… own it in a sense. You bring your friends from out-of-town. You say, “I know about this little off the map place!”
Now let’s compare this idea to books.
There are big name authors who write under traditional publishing labels. These publishing houses have big marketing capabilities, just like the Applebee’s or Cheesecake Factory Restaurants. They have market research professionals who can say, “No… people don’t want to read about vampires anymore.” Kind of like Applebee’s chain restaurants follow the trends and provide health conscious meals on their menus now. The marketing experts ask the question, “What do the people want?” The answer they give is, “Whatever it is, let’s give it to them so we can make money.”
But does everyone really want the same thing? Don’t we appreciate innovative new business? We like authenticity, don’t we? We applaud creativity, right? After all, before KFC was a chain of restaurants across the globe, it was first an old dude with a good chicken recipe. First, McDonald’s had one store. These places were all originally Mom & Pop Shops. They didn’t start out with big marketing divisions behind them. They just started out with a passion to do something they loved.
I can walk through the art section of every Hobby Lobby or Home Goods and find very similar paintings for sale at affordable prices. Splashy floral scenes, or cityscapes, images of Paris life. And they usually have a few of each kind, so you know… at least a few other people will have the same picture on their walls, too. That’s safe, right? Everyone likes that picture, that’s why they sell so many. It must be acceptable. It must be cool. The cool kids are always who we want to follow. We’ll all just do what they do, and that will make us cool, too.
Right? Scratches head. Wait a minute. Is that right? Do we really just want to mimic what’s trending? Apparently so, for a great many, or we wouldn’t have Hobby Lobby with shelves and shelves of look-alike art and decor items. We wouldn’t have chain eateries so we could make sure we were going to the same place everyone else likes.
But truthfully, I’ve never been cool. I love to see people out there just doing their own thing. I’ve been a lemming most of my life. Following everyone else, trying not to step too far out of boundaries, but deep inside, I really want to get a tattoo, color my hair hot pink and wear crazy fashions. I’ve just never had the guts. But when I see that person, I think, wow… that’s confidence.
Back to books. So yeah, we have the big publishers and big names and that’s cool. It really is. Agents and editors and marketers all wave the big flags and the fans come running. But then there are us little Indie Authors. I suppose the arguments could be the same as restaurants. There will always be those who prefer to eat somewhere that’s cool, proven, accepted; just like there will always be those who prefer to read whatever the literary powers that be tell them is good. No thinking involved. Set your free will aside, folks. THIS is what we are all gaga about this year. Whole towns read the same book. Whatever Oprah tells us. And no doubt! These will be good meals to feast on. (Some better than others, but probably all quite digestible.)
But then there are those of us who like to discover things on our own. We liked the B side of the album better than the hits. (remember records?) Not everyone knew how awesome those songs were. When you could find that other person who also loved the B side, then you knew you’d found someone else who didn’t necessarily follow the beaten path.
I think there are definitely people out there who enjoy discovering new authors. And with Indie’s, like diners, not every diner wants to become a national chain. Some just want to do what they love and make a living. I guess that’s the kind of Indie I am. I don’t need to have the whole world looking my direction and throwing money at me, but I’d like to make a decent living and I get closer to it every year.
So, I hope you’ll take a chance and adventure into Indie books. I’ll tell you right now that it’s just like with any new restaurant. There may be some places you like okay, some you won’t revisit, but maybe you’ll find that hidden gem. You’ll be like the Magellan of Indie books. A discoverer. And when you find it, spread the news. Help a Mom & Pop out. They’ll appreciate it.