What are some upcoming trends for 2014?
It’s hard for me to say I have detected any themes in what is being published this year so far. Although, I have noticed a slight uptick in interest in thrillers set in the Ozarks or at least in really unreliable narrators, most likely due to the recent rediscovery of Daniel Woodrell and the overwhelming success of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (2012). A possible trend I’d like to see go away is the Skype-type author events that I am being offered. I think these come across as a little bit lame, like I am trying to sell the customers on a sideshow attraction. The single most significant aspect of bricks-and-mortar stores is our literal in-the-flesh experience that we are able to offer our customers. Readers look forward to actually meeting their favorite authors. They can look at them on a screen anytime. The time-space continuum and the original memories that are created therein just don’t happen through an LCD projector.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I always want to see more African-American literary fiction, memoir and history for all ages, including children. There just isn’t enough being published. Ditto for LGBT authors. With the abandonment of midlist authors by the larger publishers, we have lost an important segment of our community as a bookstore. These authors contribute to the cultural gestalt of our country as a whole. Our store also works with a lot of schools, and we sometimes have to stretch to find books that are at least integrated, if not Afro-centric. Since our local public school system is overwhelmingly African-American, I would like to be able to offer the teachers and administrators something better than the impossible-to-buy self-published stuff they are asking about. It’s all they see on that big e-retailer.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
I don’t think I get a vote here, but I am tired of dystopian fiction. I think that dates me as a buyer, though. It seems to be here to stay. But perhaps we could dial back vampires and bondage erotica.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
Left Bank Books, at 45, is a survivor in this very hostile bookselling climate. I think what indie bookstores can be is flexible and elastic, responding quickly to our communities’ interests and to new developments in publishing in ways that are expressly crafted to our part of the universe. This means that there is always something new to look forward to when you go into stores like Left Bank Books, and there is still a familiarity with our essence. Plus, we know your name.
Anything else you’d like to add?
If anyone at the Securities and Exchange Commission or in the Obama administration is reading this, please regulate Amazon. I thank you, the business community thanks you, and the free exchange of ideas thanks you.
Kris Kleindienst is co-owner, with her husband, Jarek Steele, of Left Bank Books, where she has worked since 1974.