Yesterday Juan and Ken Ahonen-Jover's recommend of Mitchell Gold's book Crisis: 40 Stories points up the extreme importance of our supporting the LGBT book business. If not Gold's book, then consider giving some other title as a gift. Why the urgency? Because the book industry is in serious trouble. Recent news stories in Variety and other publications reveal what professionals in the biz have known for some time. Even Barnes & Noble and Borders are in trouble. Which means that niche book markets, like our own, are in big trouble too. We're being hit by everything from shoppers cutting back to readers reading less.
Disclosure: I'm an author and publisher, so I'm tooting my own industry's horn here. But I can't stand by and say nothing while one of our oldest cultural treasures teeters on the brink. For years I've watched the problems creeping up on us. Like the gay and lesbian bookstores quietly going out of business. Fifteen years ago, when my business partner and I first launched Wildcat Press, there were around 300 LGBT and LGBT-friendly bookstores dotting the U.S. Now our bookstore list has shrunk to just 62. Many of our national gay media have stopped reviewing books, and their ad rates are now so high that most of us LGBT publishers can't even afford to advertise to our own book-buying public.
Now, suddenly, with the whole U.S. economy in crisis, LGBT book sales are down the way everything else is down. Sharp-eyed observers notice that the "gay section" has all but disappeared from chain stores. Some people are left wondering where they can even find an LGBT book to buy.
The LGBT book deserves more respect and support from us! Along with bars and a few early organizations, bookstores were among the community pioneers -- the ones that fostered the LGBT rights movement and the growth of our local business communities. Time was, that every LGBT enclave in every city had its crowded bookstore, often with a popular coffeehouse attached. Writers and publishers were dealing with life-and-death LGBT themes long before the film industry dared to deal with them. A book could save someone's sanity or sense of humor. A book could even save a life.
In short, books were there for us when we needed them, whether they were health information or stories screaming to be told. Now it's time for us to be there for books.
Dollar for dollar, a book is still one of the thriftiest holiday gifts you can buy. And the right book at the right place and time still has the power to save a life.
So ...do you want to buy Gold's book and are wondering where to find it? If you don't know of a local gay- or lesbian-owned bookstore to go to, the Web is now the best place to locate a book-buying venue. If it's not within driving distance, you can use a credit card and have your book shipped direct to yourself or a recipient. A fairly complete list of existing bookstores can be found at the Lambda Literary Foundation website.
A few bookstores still have websites with a book-sales feature -- like Lambda Rising in Washington D.C. .
How do you find out the hot titles? Many bookstores sell our trade magazine, Lambda Book Report, which is published by the Lambda Literary Foundation . It has a bestseller list that is broken down into many categories. The Lambda Literary Foundation is our one and only resource for book buying and publishing information.
The popular website, AfterElton.com, also has a gay bestseller list, along with a page full of book reviews and articles about authors.
If you see the hit film Milk and want to know more about this heroic gay political figure of the Sixties and Seventies, you can read Randy Shilts' classic biography The Mayor of Castro Street. which is #1 on the gay bestseller list after many years in print. You can also get the movie's screenplay, Milk: The Shooting Script by Dustin Lance Black, just out from Newmarket Press. You should be able to find both books easily.
If you google the name of your favorite author, you might find an independent-press website or an author website where his or her books are sold. You might even get an autographed copy that way.
Probably the most comprehensive place to search is Amazon.com's gay/lesbian 100 topsellers list. These are the 100 fiction and nonfiction books that are moving right now on the Amazon rankings, which are updated hourly.
Some LGBT people object to buying from Amazon on grounds that big online booksellers have helped to put independent bookstores out of business. On the other hand, people in many LGBT communities today find that they simply don't have a gay bookstore to patronize now. Indeed, their town or neighborhood may have lost its non-gay-but-gay-friendly independent bookstore too. And -- at the rate Barnes & Noble and Borders are closing stores -- there may not be a chain store to patronize either!
So, for many, the only place to buy is online. I'd rather have our people buy from Amazon than not buy at all. After all, Amazon does showcase and sell a lot of LGBT titles. It's easy for self-publishing authors to get their titles listed through the Amazon Advantage program. Amazon's LGBT listings can be viewed all over the world -- in Canada, the UK, the EU, Australia, and a variety of languages. So I'm glad that Amazon supports us.
In short, the LGBT book is in the same situation as Tinkerbelle in the Peter Pan story. She is dwindling dangerously -- but if enough people believe in her and clap their hands, she'll brighten up and get her own new lease on life.
So clap your hands for books, everybody...and put as many books as you can on your holiday gift list.