Imagine My Surprise Update: Copperfield’s Book and the Nebula Nominees

(Note:  Chad Hull added some interesting, useful and slightly disheartening information in a comment to the original post. Chad*, thanks!  good stuff.)

I sent an e-mail to someone I know at Copperfield’s Books, talking about the Nebula nominees and how difficult it was to find them (any of them) at the brick-and-mortar stores. I was kinder than I was in my blog post. Vicki, my contact, who, among other things, plans the events for the chain (including the Neil Gaiman event last year,) replied in less than an hour.

She checked with the adult buyer and went through the list. While the Gaiman and the Wecker and Hild by Nicola Griffith are heavily stocked, they will probably order some more of Fowler’s book and the others. One, the self-published The Red; Station One is not available to them. That’s an interesting comment on the nature of self-publishing.

Vicki was delighted to see Helene Wecker’s debut novel on the list and said she might write something for the store’s website. I will have to check. Copperfield’s loves Wecker (and rightfully so), so I know they will do her justice.

In general, Vicki sees the problem of the books not being on the shelves as a symptom of the fact that every single genre can’t have an in-store champion. I agree with that assessment. SFF is a small genre compared to non-fiction, mystery or even romance/popular fiction. YA and children’s are hot markets and get a lot of attention. The issue of women’s SFF books being unavailable, then, is not one of misogyny directly; it’s about a distribution and sales system. This is exactly why it’s so hard to fight. If someone in Copperfield’s just thought that women had no business writing (no one who works at Copperfield’s thinks that, or ever thought it, I’m betting) then you could go talk to that person and show why that was wrong. You could persuade. You could march up and down outside the store. You could do something.

When it’s “the system,” it gets harder to address.

There is one thing some of us can do though. We can go into our local Copperfield’s and request books by the SFF writers we love. For many of us, many of those will be women writers.  I don’t see this as an ideal solution because Copperfield’s has seven stores. When there were two in the county, if six people asked for a book, it got noticed. With seven, if two people each go into their local stores, it’s still so diluted that I wonder who notices. The book-buyer, maybe, eventually, if they are ordering six or seven (or ten) more of a particular book. Well, it can’t hurt to try. Perhaps social media, like Facebook or comments to Copperfield’s via their website, would boost the signal a little bit.

Just as a start, in case you haven’t read them all, here is the list of Nebula nominees for 2013:

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

The Ocean at the end of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Fire with Fire by Charles Gannon

Hild, by Nicola Griffiths (probably still in new releases)

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie

The Red: Station One by Linda Nagata

A Stranger in Olandria by Sofia Samatar

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (newly available in paperback).

*And check out Chad’s blog, Fiction is so Over-rated, here.


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2 Responses to Imagine My Surprise Update: Copperfield’s Book and the Nebula Nominees

  1. Chad Hull says:

    Thanks for the shout out. And don’t be concerned about the comment’s delay (though I have to admit I did fear being blacklisted for a moment 🙂 )

    Some random questions: Does Copperfield’s sell online? This is my biggest complaint–and most obvious loss of revenue–with independent book sellers. If you open up a book store and your in store inventory isn’t perusal-able on your website you will never, ever, ever, ever come close to maximizing your potential profit. This is only frustrating because I like to support local stores but it seems that many of them go to great lengths to make doing so difficult. I won’t get into web design or internet practicality of doing so but the bottom line is: it would be extraordinarily easy to implement. (Any book sellers reading this who may be interested feel free to reach out.)

    Random question number two: Am I the only person who was bored to tears and near constipation reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane?

  2. Marion says:

    Chad, I don’t think they do. The website looks to be mostly advertising new releases and upcoming events, and contact info for each of the stores. From my experience with the secondhand bookstore where I work, where most of the inventory is available online, that seems ridiculously old-fashioned.

    As you your second question, Why yes, yes you are! Seriously, I’ve heard a couple of people say that. I’ve also talked to people who were disappointed/grumpy/irritated when they finished it, but then later, thinking about the book decided they liked it better. I liked it from the get-go, so I really can’t comment.

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