“Care of Wooden Floors,” by Will Wiles, is the kind of novel you’d expect to see on a “staff picks” shelf at an independent bookstore. A slim but sophisticated farce by a relatively unknown author, the book is full of witty asides and snappy comments about modern life; its wry, endearingly hapless narrator feels like he might have stepped out of a Nick Hornby story.
But many local stores, both independents and chains, are refusing to stock it. They don’t want to promote what they see as a predatory publisher. “Care of Wooden Floors” was issued this month by New Harvest, a new collaboration between Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and the arch-nemesis of brick-and-mortar bookstores: Amazon.
Earlier this year the two companies signed a licensing agreement whereby Amazon Publishing acquires, edits, markets and publicizes books that are then distributed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s sales force, according to Alexandra Woodworth, a publicist for Amazon/New Harvest. The partnership was an effort to woo bookstores into stocking Amazon-published books. But many booksellers are balking.