Saturday, September 18, 2010

Amazon Can't Do That : Where Do Female Authors of Color Fair Better?

So a customer was looking for a new book the other day. She was a fan of Emily Giffin and had just broken up with her boyfriend. She was thinking about buying The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Larsson. Put aside the fact that I am not a fan of this series, I simply knew it wasn't what the customer wanted to read at that moment.

After thinking about it for a minute I suggested Good in Bed by Weiner. Of course I told her about 32 Candles by Carter but she was looking for a paperback. I flirted with telling the customer about Feminsita by Kennedy, but the more I thought about it the more I felt sure Good in Bed was the right recommendation.

The customer read some of Good in Bed before leaving and was very happy with it. Its easy to buy books online but a reader can't get personalized suggestions. I wonder how this impacts female authors of color

Do they sell better in bookstores? Or online? Part of me wants to say online. Customers never have to worry about an item being in stock. Though there's the issue of someone purchasing a book online that doesn't fit their reading mood or they simply don't care for it.

Someone buying a book they don't like shouldn't be a big deal. Unfortunately, too many readers don't regularly read female authors of color. So if a reader is underwhelmed by the one book they decide to read, chances are they won't be seeking out more female authors of color anytime soon.

In the bookstore, customers can get recommendations. They can browse the shelves until a cover catches their eye. I think there's still something to be said for connecting with a book in person. Especially when a reader is getting out of their comfort zone. Some bookstores make this difficult when seeking out female authors of color. Luckily I don't work at one of those stores.

Where do you think female authors of color fair better? Another guick questions - Do you think Independent bookstores are better at suggesting and displaying female authors of color then Chains?


Anonymous said...

I can remember so few booksellers helping me locate books that from my experience it relies more on the buyer to know or find what they want. I think a buyer would be more likely to randomly find a female author of color in a bookstore rather than online because it's easier to roam in real life.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Amazon does a fairly good job of paying attention to what I look at and buy, then recommending more books based on that. I also went through their recommendations a few times and let them know which books I already own and which I wasn't interested in. Their choices for me got better after that.

But all of that requires knowing what authors and books are out there already. Plus being willing to do some leg work.

I much prefer browsing in a store. And the covers are what catch my eye.

Amy said...

I think it depends on the bookstore and it's workers rather than just whether it is independent or big chain - but would still suspect recommendations in person would be better than online where people just look for what they want.

Anonymous said...

I've never asked an associate for a recommendation on a book. I know what I like to read and I don't trust that they know me well enough in 30 seconds to make an accurate recommendation.

When in the bookstore, I grab books with catchy covers or catchy titles. If I turn it over or look inside and see the face of a minority woman, I'm less inclined to put it down so quickly.

The only time I've ever ordered a book, it's because I knew specifically what I wanted and it wasn't in any of my 3 closest bookstores. Most of the books I've ordered that are by minority women, I've ordered because I've seen the author in person and didn't want to purchase at that time.

I've NEVER gone online to browse for books like I would in a bookstore. I go online to order.

So in my instance, an unfamiliar female author of color would fare better with me in stores than online.

Doret said...

Edi and Readinghaspurpose-
You should really give booksellers a chance to sell you a book.

Short story - A customer asked a co-worker for a suggestion. Something new and fun. Co-worker suggested 32 Candles, (which we both loved)

Anyway the customer sat in the store all day reading the book and didn't buy it. My co-worker was straight pissed.

Customers read in the store all day for free, and if that's your plan (I hate it, there's not I can do) fine, but don't ask for a freakin suggestion. That's beyond rude (sorry venting over)

So when we actually have legit customers ask for help its always a pleasure to make a few suggestions.

We may not also find a book you can to take home but we like trying.

Edi's already knows where to find me but Reading if you ever need or want a suggestion, I'll make a few.

Doret said...

Sarah and Amy - I agree that in store is better.

If you a reader is familiar with the author online is fine.

But they looking for someone new, instore is better.

Some covers pop more in person that they do online.

Well we know one place female authors of color haven't faired well recently Oprah's book club. I will have a post about that very soon.