One Author’s Paradox

ParadoxI want to live my values, yet so many of my choices are complex, multi-layered. I will never be able to avoid this paradox, but it is important to me to keep asking the questions, noticing my inconsistencies, always seeking to bring my values more in alignment with my actions.

For example, I buy locally; shop predominantly in neighborhood stores; support small businesses; and hire individuals doing a service or producing something that flows from their hearts.

These are important values of mine.

And yet a huge online bookstore is also part of my life. Big Topics at Midnight, both paperback and eBook versions, are carried in that store-without-walls. Occasionally, I purchase a book there myself.

This cyberbookstore is often where book buyers turn to when looking for a specific book—including mine. Their selection is vast. Drive-less shopping is convenient. Prices are often discounted.

And this business is hurting local bookstores.

How can I reconcile this paradox?

Initially, I begrudgingly put my book on their virtual shelves. I didn’t want to be there, yet I wanted my book to be available there. Whenever I could, I directed people to buy the book from my website, local bookstores or at my Big Topics Conversation workshops. I was on their “shelves” but I didn’t want to promote them by advertising that fact.

In essence, I was trying to go two directions at the same moment. Stepping in while holding back put me in conflict with myself. That was neither good for my health nor for selling books.

Since neither removing my book from their stock nor being in conflict with myself is an acceptable choice for me, what can I do?

I am searching for the deepest foundation where I can stand solidly, with integrity, amidst opposing values.

Online publishing options, bookstores and social media platforms are central marketing arenas for today’s author. Part of me resists offering Big Topics at Midnight in eBook form. I love reading books printed on paper, underlining favorite quotes, leaving colorful tags sticking out to note cherished passages and sharing a favorite read with a friend. But my deepest value was to offer Big Topics at Midnight in a variety of formats, both paperback and eBook (and, I hope, an audio version sometime in 2014).

In a similar way, I love to meander through a local bookstore, touching books as I walk down the aisles, flipping through ones that catch my eye. When I purchase a book, I know that I am also supporting a business I want to remain in my neighborhood. But I also want to offer Big Topics at Midnight to readers at the huge online “bookstore” where so many routinely shop.

That is where I have landed. For now. My preferences remain, but my choice is clear: I want to reach readers through a diversity of formats and locations.

As I type, I must admit that I am a little afraid that writing about my issue with huge online stores will result in their refusal to sell my book.

But silence in the face of fears of retaliation by a powerful corporation also violates my values.

Paradox again. Nevertheless, my choice clear. I will click “publish,” and this blog is released to cyberspace.

Illustration by Khara Scott-Bey

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