I’m quite disturbed by the news that Book City in the Annex (Toronto) is closing this spring after 38 years. I have shopped at this particular store since I was a University of Toronto student. It’s not the first, nor will it be the last bookstore to close, but it got me thinking that these brick and mortar independent stores have actually helped shape Koyama Press into what it is today.
When I started the company, I’d intended to publish more art books and then Pages and David Mirvish Bookstores closed.
Without a distributor at that time, I sold directly to stores and was successful in getting my books into those smaller venues by interested and interesting book sellers.
The momentum gained from having my books in those outlets lead to the large Indigo/Chapters chain contacting me with a request to carry the books as well.
I’m not sure how often that happens but for the type of books I publish, but I’m guessing that it’s not a common occurrence.
I did any and all publicity myself and the combination of using social media, some inexpensive ads and hyping the fact that these particular cool stores carried my books all helped to boost sales and grow my small press.
Because of the lack of art book stores around, I decided to sponsor art projects, produce zines, objects and shows for artists to satisfy my interests there.
I began working with some cartoonists to do alternative comics (for lack of a better term) since I loved the work I was seeing. It was a whole new world for me and continues to interest me no end.
I took a chance on a young artist, Jeremy Kai, who the great artist Fiona Smyth had mentioned to me at Canzine one year.
I knew Jeremy was an illustrator but then I discovered his underground tunnel photographs, was blown away by them and that ultimately resulted in a book called RIVERS FORGOTTEN.
Most of the bookstores that carried my books took a few copies of Jeremy’s book but Book City in the Annex took the most copies. They reordered frequently and without my asking, featured the book right beside their cash desk. I know from customers, that they hand sold that book. Frequently. Again, without any pleading from me. (And I’m not above pleading when I am selling my books)
Book City in the Annex was almost entirely responsible for the second printing of that book.
Jeremy Kai has gone on to have shows in the prestigious Contact Photography Festival and the Nomad store had a show/sale and created limited edition shirts after seeing the book.
This is only one example of how the support of an independent bookstore can affect others.
Without the continued support of bookstores like the Beguiling, fewer people would know about many of the cartoonists that Koyama Press publishes. Now the Beguiling are being forced to move and it will be no small feat to find affordable rent at a new venue.
When we lose these places we lose a little of the city’s infrastructure, in my opinion. As a born and bred Torontonian, it’s even more heartbreaking.
I have other examples of how having our books in these stores has given my artists a leg up and helped furthered their careers, but won’t list them here.
While it is hard to argue that it’s cheaper to buy from a discounter like BMV or Amazon, if you have the means, or for every other book you purchase, consider buying from a store like Book City.
They still have three other stores in Toronto.
It’s one thing to lament the loss of these stores when they are gone but if you haven’t directly supported them and the publishers and authors that they in turn support, don’t be surprised when the next one is gone. It affects all of us in the business.
While I have focused on Book City here, this plea applies to any small bookstore in any city.
I want to thank John Snyder and his staff for the great support that they have given Koyama Press. I hope that he and the other thirteen staff land somewhere where they are properly appreciated.