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A (gentle) rebuke to Anne Lamott By Joan Schweighardt

Anne Lamott was recently quoted as saying:

“I always tell people at readings that if they’re not buying books at independent bookstores, they’re going to get really sh*tty seats in heaven.”

I take issue with her position.

Anne is part of the 1 percent who can easily get into bookstores. Her first book was published in 1980 when getting into the 1 percent club—essential for getting a book on bookstore shelves—was relatively easy to do. That was back in the days before Amazon, before e-books, before books on demand. There was less competition back then because the tools to quick publication for virtually anyone had not yet been invented. In fact, back in the late 70s, when she would have been writing her book published in 1980, people didn’t even have personal computers yet.

To be a good writer you had to first be a good typist.

And when you were done typing, you had to have the time and money to make multiple copies of your manuscript and then send them to multiple publishers by mail. You did not have the option of sending an attachment to 20 or 30 houses in one fell swoop. It could take months to hear from two or three publishers. In the meantime, would-be writers might become more deeply ensconced in their nine to fives, more detached from the dream. The challenges of these peripheral tasks eliminated many would-be writers from ever getting close to the 1 percent club. Hence the few who did make it to the club back then found the doors relatively wide open.

Anne Lamott is a wonderful writer,  and I’m not suggesting that she would not have gotten into the 1 percent club if timing had not been absolutely on her side. But surely anyone who knows anything about the book world today knows that there are a lot of wonderful writers banging at the club door demanding their right to entry.

There just isn’t room for everyone.

There aren’t enough indie bookstores anymore. There aren’t enough publishers with enough clout to get their authors into indie bookstores. And the agents who are there to help good writers get into the publishing houses with clout are inundated with submissions. Some of these writers are not so good and would never have made the cut anyway. But some of them are excellent and don’t make the cut because their work is deemed less likely to make big bucks than other work. Thanks to e-books and books on demand, there are more people writing than ever. Heck, the bottom line is, there aren’t enough readers to go around. It’s a simple case of oversupply.

So, Ann Lamott, be thankful you got your club pass early on and that your books will always be on shelves where readers can easily find them. But I urge you, most gently of course, to consider that in book heaven the best seats will probably go to the very best writers, whether their books made it into the remaining indies or only as far as Amazon. And the second best seats will go to readers who are willing to look beyond the indies in their search for the best books.



The Last Wife of Atilla the Hun by Joan SchweighardtAbout The Last Wife of Attila the Hun:

Two threads are flawlessly woven together in this sweeping historical novel. In one, Gudrun, a Burgundian noblewoman, dares to enter the City of Attila to give its ruler what she hopes is a cursed sword; the second reveals the unimaginable events that have driven her to this mission. Based in part on the true history of the times and in part on the same Nordic legends that inspired Wagner’s Ring Cycle and other great works of art, The Last Wife of Attila the Hun offers readers a thrilling story of love, betrayal, passion and revenge, all set against an ancient backdrop itself gushing with intrigue.

One of the greatest of the [German heroic] legends from a woman’s perspective, with emotion as well as action, bringing new meaning to an ancient tale.

–Diana L.Paxson, author of the Wodan’s Children trilogy, co-author of the NYT bestseller Priestess of Avalon

The entire tale is related in a lean and powerful prose style that consistently finds the perfect mix of quasi-fantasy and gritty history.

–Historical Novel Society

An epic delivered in lucid and lyric verse…a mesmerizing story deserving to be read aloud and celebrated like all the world’s best tales.

–Julie Shigekuni, author of A Bridge Between Us

A deeply moving, perfectly written story that is both deeply rooted in history, legend and myth, and very much a story of today.”–CompulsiveReader

A riveting historical fantasy that deserves a place on the bookshelf.

–LiteraryFiction Review

Winner of ForeWord Book of the Year and Independent Publisher award

Buy The Last Wife of Attila the Hun on Amazon.

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Joan Schweighardt

Joan Schweighardt is the author of The Last Wife of Attila the Hun, The Accidental Art Thief, and other novels. She is also a freelance writer and ghostwriter.


Catch up with Joan on her website or on Facebook, and Twitter.





  • M
    Mica Scotti Kole
  • November 2, 2016
I think Anne Lamott is going both ways here - asking for support for the books and authors themselves, and support for the indie bookstores. I agree, though, that plenty of authors can't get on physical shelves anymore. My opinion on this issue, then, is to simply pay full price for books wherever you buy them, rather than buy used - but to support your local bookstores when they have what you want, or when you need a good coffee or gift item!