Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Why More Authors Should Be Like Hitler

Photo by Jessica Schley (cc)
Thought I'd go for a deliberately provocative title today.

Here's the thing about Hitler. He wrote this book, MEIN KAMPF. And many, many years later (in 1998, to be exact), Houghton Mifflin published it in this very compact, chunky volume.

This wasn't Hitler's doing. But it's given him a crazy, crazy sales advantage over every other book in the German history section.

MEIN KAMPF, as it turns out, is a really great bookend.

Every night, when we straighten the store (aka do "recovery"), we try to get every book so that it is standing upright, spine out, so that the shelves look beautiful. We do this by facing out titles that will hold up other titles.

Yes, we try to face out new releases, and hardcovers, and books that are selling well--this often happens by default, because when you have seven copies of a hardcover, it takes up less space to face it out rather than to let all seven stretch across the shelf. But sometimes there's no new release, or no book with a bunch of copes—and then, with the eye of a practiced recovery artist, we look for a book that is solid enough, not too wide, not too short, not too flimsy.

MEIN KAMPF keeps fitting that bill.

Why does this matter? Because faced out books sell more.

Go into a bookstore and look around a fully shelved section (i.e., not the front with all the tables and bestseller shelves). Which books catch your eye first? The ones with their whole covers facing you. When I put away a stack of books that customers have pulled off the shelves, usually 30-60% of them are books that are faced out. The customer saw the whole cover, and nabbed the thing. A book that has been nabbed is much more likely to be bought.

Authors often despair over bookstore presence. If they aren't a bestseller, or their publisher isn't paying co-op (which means they go on one of those promo tables you see—yes that's all paid placement), their book gets lost in spine-out land. This causes some authors to come into a store and try to move their book around, which is unhelpful for a whole lot of reasons, both to the booksellers and to the author.

But face outs? Those are totally fair game. Go to the shelf, find your book where it is, and, if there's room on the shelf, you can wiggle the book into a faced-out position. Face out your friends' books while you're at it. As long as you don't disrupt the order of the other books on the shelf, and face your book out right where it sits, we really don't mind. Even if it doesn't sell more, I can guarantee more people will take a look.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Strict Pick: ODDLY NORMAL by John Schwartz

My full up-front disclaimer: one of the primary reasons I'm so excited for this book is that John Schwartz's daughter, Elizabeth, was one of my student employees when I was working as a student services assistant at my alma mater. I met John and Joe many times over the intervening years, and I'm so excited for their important story to hit bookshelves today.

The LGBT memoir is almost a genre unto itself. Each person's experience is different, but there are almost always some unifying themes: difficulty connecting with family, the "coming out" narrative.

This memoir isn't like that.

For starters, it's written by John Schwartz, a father of a gay teen, rather than by the teen himself.

See, John and his wife never were confused. They knew Joe was gay before Joe knew. On the interview John did yesterday with Terry Gross, he describes how Joe, who was a precocious reader, found the word, "Homosexuality" at about age 5 or 6, and then looked it up—only to find, to his dismay, that apparently boys were supposed to like girls.

John spent all of Joe's childhood trying to figure out how not to jump the gun: how do you let your child come out to you naturally and at his own pace, without making it seem to him that you are invalidating his experience by saying, "Oh, you were the last one to know." How do you balance your child's natural flamboyant energy with your desire to keep him from doing things that will cause him to be ostracized? (There's a heartbreaking story about the conflict behind their choice to hide Joe's Barbies in the attic to keep him from taking them to kindergarten—is it the right thing to do? Will it hurt him? Are they being terrible parents, or making way for him not to be bullied?)

And most importantly, how do you face the moment when, despite your unwavering, constant acceptance of your child and his sexuality, he decides that death is preferable to the ongoing harassment he experiences at school?

ODDLY NORMAL is a memoir that doesn't follow the traditional "overcoming your family's hatred" narrative, for as the U.S. becomes a nation that increasingly accepts marriage equality, that repeals DADT, features same-sex romances on popular teen shows like GLEE, that narrative starts to change. ODDLY NORMAL is an LGBT story for the 21st century—about how one lives in a family where you are accepted and loved, but still have to go through the process of learning to accept and love yourself.

You can listen to Terry Gross interview John and his wife about this book at the NPR website.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Strict Pick: THE CASUAL VACANCY, by J.K. Rowling

I said that last week and this week's Strict Picks would be "If you happen to be living under a rock" kinds of recommendations. Although, as I was tweeting about this, I discovered that one of my writing friends apparently does live under a rock and, despite the biggest media push aside from the book I'm calling 50 Bit Grayscale, did not know that Rowling had a new book coming out.

So...

Rowling has a new book coming out today. And I'm thrilled.

Here's the summary from the publisher: 

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.
Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war.
Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils...Pagford is not what it first seems.
And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?
The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.

This is not HARRY POTTER. 

And yet I'm so excited to read it I may have camped in the receiving department until someone opened a box so I could read the first chapter. 

Which begs the question: what makes me so confident in an author to follow her into a completely different genre of books? Harry Potter was middle grade fantasy, this is adult literary. No matter how much I love Harry Potter, there is no doubt that TCV is going to be a complete 180. So why get so excited? 


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I Haven't Finished

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish that combines lists and books.  This weeks topic is...Top Ten Series I Haven't Finished. 

This bloghop was brought to my attention by Rachel over at Rachel Writes Things. Yay, I've found a new hop! 

First off, let me confess: I don't have 10. I am a sucker for finishing series, and buying them all so they look pretty on my shelf. I am that guy. On the other hand, I am totally that guy (gal) whom you want to read the first book in your series, because I'll totally read the rest of them. Especially if you have pretty covers. 

But here are the ones I haven't gotten through. You'll notice many are in the same genre...as it turns out, epic fantasy? Not my thing. 

J.R.R. Tolkien, THE LORD OF THE RINGS. I am bored of the rings. I have tried to read LOTR at least five times, first in high school, then before the Jackson films came out, then when the Jackson films were finished (because I loved the Jackson films), then when I had to teach LOTR:FOTR in the reading classes I taught, then when I was on a cruise and thought I'd have enough time to finish them (I packed them to go on a cruise! Why did I do that? There's THREE--I read SHADOW OF THE WIND by Carlos Ruiz Zafon instead).  I realize it's darn-near book sacriliege to have never finished LOTR, but there you are.

Christopher Paolini, THE INHERITANCE CYCLE. Now, I loved ERAGON. LOVED it. Loved it so much I went out and bought ELDEST at the 24-hour grocery at 11 PM one night so I could keep going. Loved it so much that I asked for a hardcover of ERAGON for Christmas that year so I'd have a matching set. And then? I got about four chapters into ELDEST, laid it down one evening, and never picked it back up. Now I don't remember who the characters are any more, and I have no desire to go on. 

Ally Condie, MATCHED series. I thought MATCHED was pretty catchy. But I didn't buy the love triangle at all, and I didn't care about...gosh I don't even remember his name. Kyle? I feel like it was more future-y than that. So when it split into a dual-POV in CROSSED I was pretty much done. I didn't care enough about half the cast to want to read his POV. 

Rick Riordan, PERCY JACKSON series. These just didn't cross over well enough for me. Unlike Harry Potter or some other middle grade series I've read, I felt like I was reading middle grade. There's nothing wrong with a book that's correctly written for its audience, and I can see why 8-12 year-old boys love PERCY. But he didn't hold much appeal for me. 

Two that I've started but haven't even made it through the first book: DIVERGENT series by Veronica Roth and GAME OF THRONES/SONG OF ICE AND FIRE by George R. R. Martin. The Roth series I dropped because as I read it, I was thinking, "This book opens perfectly, is paced perfectly, and is otherwise exactly what this genre should be." That was when I realized I was just exhausted from reading too much YA dystopian. Even though I knew it seemed like a good book, I was just bored. The Martin books have too many characters for me to handle at this time. My friends have told me to watch the TV series first, to have faces to put with the names, but I just don't have the time to do that right now. Maybe later.

And last, THE GIVER quartet by Lois Lowry. Why haven't I finished that, even though I love that series to pieces? Because she just added another book! Squee! And thanks to the National Book Festival, I have a copy of it even though it isn't out for another week! Stay tuned--it'll be my Strict Pick for October 2.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Strict Pick: WINTER OF THE WORLD, by Ken Follett

The next two Tuesdays, I'll have Strict Picks that are less, "Here's a cool book coming out," and more, "If you haven't heard this is coming out this week, you may need to see if you've been under a rock." But that's okay. I'm insanely excited about both books, so I'm going to take a minute to indulge in exploring why.

It's a worthy question. What makes an author, or a series, worth essentially camping out for?

With Ken Follett, it is absolutely his ability to throw you into the world of his characters. I once was critiquing a query on Absolute Write for a historical fiction, and my comment was to compare the book to FALL OF GIANTS, which I was reading at the time. My note was, "Your query is all about the history. We know the history. I'm not reading FALL to find out how World War I ended. I know the Allies won, the League of Nations was formed, etc. etc. What I don't know is, did Maud and Walter get together? Did Billy Williams come home from the trenches? Did Ethel settle for something less than pure passion? Did Grigori ever find Lev?"

Those are the questions history can't create...but that Ken Follett can.

I remember when someone loaned me PILLARS OF THE EARTH. For the life of me, I don't remember what on earth they said when they loaned it, but I read it. And I was hooked. Yet every time I turned a page, I found myself going, "How on earth is it possible that I am this engrossed in a novel about building a cathedral?"

Follett is a master at creating characters who make you want to follow their stories. I admit fully that I haven't finished FALL OF GIANTS yet (I've been having format problems--do I want it in e-book? It's expensive in e-book, and for that price, I'd kind of rather have it on my shelf. But I don't like mass markets, which is the only inexpensive option. And the hardcover is HUGE. Plus there are two more in the series, and I'll have to wait awhile to get matching books if I don't get hardcovers... So I've been borrowing the ebook from the library and have to go to the end of the line each time I return it). But the fact is, each time I pick it up, I am excited to be thrown right back into the midst of the characters I care so deeply about. His characters grow and change, they have faults that you can see, you can predict where they're going to stumble, but also cheer them on when they don't.

And no matter how many times I pick up a Follett book, I don't lose track of the people in it.

To me, that is a sign of a fantastic book. Where each page takes you further on the journey of each character, and where you find yourself, in the absence of the story, wondering what happens to them while you're not reading. When you reach the end of a book and think, "Hmmm. I wonder how these families go on?"

And the beauty of Follett's Century Trilogy is that these questions are going to be answered.

So because he's made me want to stay on the ride for two more books, no matter how thick, today's Strict Pick is Ken Follett's WINTER OF THE WORLD, book two of The Century Trilogy.  I won't reach it for a little while yet--I finally got FALL OF GIANTS back from the library and am tearing through it, but I'll certainly post a review when I do.

Stay tuned for next week, when I'll speculate on why I'm chomping at the bit to buy a book that crosses genres and audiences from anything I've ever known a particular author to write, with J. K. Rowling's THE CASUAL VACANCY.

Winter of the World at Indiebound
Winter of the World at B&N
Winter of the World at Amazon

Monday, September 17, 2012

Why Brick and Mortar Costs More



Back to school is always a bit of a nutty time to work in a bookstore. One, you have all the students who "forgot" to do their summer reading, who suddenly need a book right this minute (and who for some reason have missed that as being a benefit of owning an e-reader). Two, you have the students who have just gotten syllabi, whether for high school or college, who need a very specific edition of a particular book, which, because their teachers often haven't updated said syllabi in years, is often out of print. And three, you have the people who've never realized that your run-of-the-mill Barnes & Noble doesn't carry specialized textbooks like the one you need for Organic Chemistry 210.

The thing is, most booksellers in this situation, whether B&N, Books-a-Million, or indie, will do their level best to sell that customer a book. They'll offer different editions; they'll track down the book with used retailers, they'll spend hours of their time unraveling exactly which edition of the book the teacher intended for the student to have.

All of this time costs money.

Last Thursday, I helped a mom who had an ISBN written down from her daughter. Now, an ISBN is usually faboo--it's the easiest way to make sure we are getting the exact book that the student was assigned. But neither my manager nor I could find this ISBN. Not in the store, not in Google, not anywhere. (Mind you, this was a 10-digit ISBN, so it was years out of date.) So we started searching for the prefix in the Bowker database, to see if we could figure out who the publisher was. No such luck.

I finally just decided to throw a wild guess, since I knew Penguin had a series with a similar name (which is the kind of jump a live person can make that no computer can), and searched for the book with Penguin as the publisher. Boom. Found it. The daughter had written the ISBN incorrectly. But we didn't have a copy in the store.

I offered to order a copy for the student; we could bring it into the store, or she could have it shipped directly for even less (the price differential between the warehouse and in-store pricing often works this way). The mom, after having been helped by two booksellers for over half an hour, whipped out her iPhone, checked the price on Amazon, and said, "Well, I can get it overnight shipped for $3.99. I'm sorry. She does need it right away."

Click. Sale.

Honestly, at the time, I didn't know what to say. But next time, I won't be so tongue tied. Because as I did the math, I realized that that half-hour of mine and my manager's time cost the company around $20 in salary. So a single customer directly cost our store $20, and made no purchase. Yes, in the grand scheme of things, it's not much, compared to the thousands of dollars we sell in an hour. But that $20 has to be absorbed somewhere...

...which is something to think about the next time you see someone mutter, "I'll order it on Amazon," after a bookseller has helped them locate their book.

Photo courtesy of ImaginaryGirl via flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

Friday, September 07, 2012

No Takebacks!

I bought a book last night at work. And I bought it in hardcover instead of for my nook. Why? Because I think it may disappear and I don't want it taken away.

NO EASY DAY by Mark Owen [Matt Bissonette] was supposedly vetted carefully by a special ops attorney before its publication this week. However, the Pentagon has serious concerns, and feel that the book releases classified information that affects the US national security.

It's entirely probable that the book will be recalled.

This isn't anything new. Two years ago, OPERATION DARK HEART, by Lt. Colonel Anthony Shaffer (ret.) was removed from shelves, purchased by the Department of Defense, and redacted of what DoD officials in several branches felt was classified information (though some news outlets questioned whether what was redacted ultimately posed much risk at all). It was returned from all the bookstores and distributors, and the publisher put out a redacted version, with all the black line redactions on the page.

Given that the DoD is concerned about the content of this book*, I believe that another recall is likely. So I purchased the book, knowing I was off work tomorrow and that the book may well be gone by the time I get to work on Saturday—either sold out, recalled, or both.

But here's the interesting part: I knew I needed to buy a paper copy. 

Since I own two e-reading devices, it briefly crossed my mind that perhaps I ought to look into buying an electronic copy.  But in 2009, in what had to be the most ironic move the company has ever made, Amazon deleted copies of Orwell's 1984 and ANIMAL FARM from readers' Kindle devices.

Readers were outraged, even though they were told that they removal was because their edition was plagiarized, and though they received refunds for the books.  Regardless of reason, the removal proved the additional power granted to the distributor of an e-reading device; unlike print, they can force an end-user return, even if the terms of service indicate otherwise. In print, there is no such ability; a publisher has no ability to break into your home to take your book away, nor can they require you to return it to the bookstore.

So this is still one major hurdle that e-reading needs to contend with. It is entirely possible for Amazon, B&N, Sony, Apple, or any of the content providers to yank all copies of a book which have been downloaded by their users. So far, this hasn't been used in a recall, for instance when Jonah Leherer's IMAGINE was pulled from shelves a few months ago for his own plagiarism, but the ability exists, and who's to say that a few years down the line, when e-readers are even more ubiquitous than they already are, that the idea that an ebook could be taken back becomes even more palatable?

Whether or not NO EASY DAY is pulled is yet to be seen, though I believe we'll have an answer presently. But what will be interesting is what, if anything, the e-tailers do with the electronic copies. Will they yank them and refund customers? Will they offer no time-limit, no-questions-asked refunds, as they did with Leherer?

And perhaps the more interesting question: should an e-tailer's ability to do a mass removal of an  e-book title ever be invoked?

For me, I'm not going to experiment. I bought a paper copy, and I'm calling "no takebacks."





*I do not in any way mean to downplay the DoD's concerns about the book's contents; I am not in the military and certainly not a Navy SEAL, and also have not yet read my copy of the book.  It is entirely probable that classified information has been divulged, and certainly clear that Bissonette violated the ethics of the SEAL community. I'm interested in this solely as it pertains to what I know, which is bookselling, publishing, and reading.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Why KDP Select doesn't give a true picture of B&N sales


*disclaimer Yes, I work for B&N in the evenings for extra cash. My opinions are my own and do not reflect those of my employer.

I've seen some posts across the blogosphere about Kindle Direct Publishing Select, the program through Kindle publishing which allows authors to have free days (usually next-to-impossible on Kindle unless you manage to get a free price price-matched) and allows books to be lendable to Prime members, etc. in exchange for the book being available exclusively to Amazon customers and their family of e-readers. I think it's innovative, and I've heard various comments on one of my main hangouts, Absolute Write, about its usefulness.

I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on it, in any way, shape or form. I don't plan to self-publish and haven't learned much about the different options beyond my own sheer curiosity. If you're looking to find out about the ins and outs of KDP Select, you can do so on the KDP Forums, or (my preference) on a neutral site like Absolute Write or Backspace.

But I have seen one thing lately that has made me scratch my head.

As mentioned above, I work part-time at B&N. I find it a useful job for what I'm doing with my writing because it keeps me with one foot in the book industry, keeps me thinking about my own books professionally, and, most importantly, gives me access to lots and lots of free reading. Great job perk. So, of course, as a result, my e-readers are B&N e-readers. My comments, however, are as a nook owner, and not as a B&N employee (though part of the reason I am the former is because I am the latter).

I've noticed a trend lately that I find interesting, because I realize I contribute to it. KDP Select authors, who have tied their books exclusively to the Kindle platform for the first 90 days after release, finish with KDP Select and then are inveitably disappointed in their nook/Sony/Kobo numbers by comparison. Some use this as a reason to either keep their future books on KDP Select, or even to revert back to KDP Select with their existing title.

Part of this is simply market: Kindle dominates the e-reader market (and even the e-reader app market) and as such, the majority of buyers for any book will buy it on Kindle. But there's another factor at play in those lower non-Amazon numbers as well. Here's how this goes for me:

Scenario A:
1. A book I'd like is on KDP Select, which means I can't buy it for 90 days.
2. I might add it to my to-read list on Goodreads. But that's a long list, and there's no guarantee I'll remember to buy the book.
3. I remember to buy the book when it comes out on nook. Maybe. 80% of the time, I've totally forgotten about it, and/or am on to other things by the time it's available and am no longer interested.

Scenario B:
1. A book I'd like is on KDP Select, which means I can't buy it for 90 days.
2. I think I'd really like it, and well, hey, the author is doing KDP Select so she can offer it for free, right? I'm frugal after all. So I lurk on the author's blog to see when the free day will be, and I download it. I can only read it on my computer and my phone that way, but hey--it was free, so that's okay. I promise myself  I will pay for a copy when it's available for nook if I like it.
3. I have a free copy, and then when it's available for nook, I realize I didn't like it nearly enough to pay for a second copy. So I don't.

Scenario C: 
1. A book I'd like is available for nook the day it's released and/or is available for nook when I hear about it.
2. I buy it.

In the first two scenarios, I probably would've been a sale. But since I couldn't pay money for it, I didn't. And thus a surefire sale of the book turns into one B&N sale that doesn't come to fruition.

This is not to say that KDP Select is a mistake, by any means. As I said, I've seen many authors use it to great effect. But after 90 days, the non-Kindle market is substantially diminished anyway--either because they've forgotten about the book, or because they may have grabbed it for free. So when someone looks at their post-KDP Select numbers and says, "Gosh, it's just not worth it, only a handful of people bought," remember that a much larger handful might've bought it for their non-Kindle e-readers right away...

...it's just that now we've forgotten all about it. 

Image (c) seanbonner, via flickr,and made available under a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 license

Monday, August 13, 2012

Defying the Laws of Physics

An object in motion tends to stay in motion.
An object at rest tends to stay at rest.

My physics teacher explained inertia to me senior year of high school which was *cough* a few years ago, and, being a geek, of course I recalled way too much of both the theory and the formulas which help explain it (I thought about making the picture one of the ╬╝, the letter that represents the coefficient of friction, but I thought that might be overboard.)

Inertia, though--it's as much a law of mental states as it is a law of physical states. I find it hitting me a lot. For instance, I actually landed three days off from the bookstore this weekend. I was also on Season six of LOST on Netflix. I decided that I would, for once, not beat myself up for not getting anything accomplished and enjoy watching LOST.

So Saturday, I watched LOST. I did very little else, aside from prepare food. And when I needed to do the dishes (of which there were approximately ten from my three meals), it just seemed like SUCH A CHORE. Same thing with clearing my desk of the general debris that had accumulated while I spent time surfing the web. I finally got my first wind at about 11:30 at night, and within 20 minutes had washed all the dishes, cleaned the kitchen counter, and straightened the desk.

This morning I just vowed to do more stuff straight from the beginning. Still watched six episodes of LOST (and finished it--more on that later, because boy is that show an exercise in the problems of a runaway plot). By 11 AM I'd read blogs, critiqued queries, and during the afternoon I finished 2/3 of a quilt and edited a chapter, and critiqued some more. Also put away my laundry and cleaned the kitchen.

I was an object in motion.

The same thing happens with my writing, whether it's a WIP, my revisions, or as you may have noticed, my blog. The moment I stay away from something too long, the idea of going back to it seems like it will be a Sisyphean task. Everything inside me just resists and resists and resists. 

In June, I took part it Camp NaNoWriMo, mostly to get my rear in gear. And even though I had been, up to that point, a complete lug with regard to my writing, I got moving on that 1,667 words per day, and lo and behold, each day it was easier to sit back down and get back to work, and has been every day since, even though I'm no longer shooting for such a high word count. An object in motion.

Since then, things have been better, though I still have my days when I don't sit down and BICHOK (butt in chair hands on keyboard) the way I'd like to. And I certainly have my days (months? Eeee!) of being an object at rest with my blogging. But thinking about it as merely staying in motion, not doing a huge task all at once helps with a bit of the mental energy in keeping this all going.

With that in mind, here are two things going on right now that will provide the Force to make your mass accelerate:

Camp NaNoWriMo: I am a firm believer it's never too late to start a NaNoWriMo novel. So don't let the fact that it's August 13 stop you. Or set a smaller goal--no one judges you for not writing 50,000 words. Just get in there and write. I'm delighted that the Office of Letters and Light has started offering programs in the summer, and send people there as often as I can. 

Write On Con: The annual online Kidlit conference is back again for another year, this Tuesday and Wednesday, 8/14-15. If you have a work ready for show, you can hop into the forums and post your query, first page, and first five for critique--and maybe even get a critique or even a request from one of the "Ninja Agents" who will be hanging out in the forum. And if you just have a WIP, there's still lots to learn from the conference itself. I've found WOC to be an unending source of great information, and two years running now, it's helped me get my butt in gear to have something ready to query.

As for me? I'm sorry for the long hiatus. And I'll try not to be too much an "object at rest," because if I remember correctly, my physics teacher said something about less force being needed to accelerate an object already in motion, too...


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thursday Blogroll—May 17, 2012

Woohoo! Two weeks in a row--this makes it a tradition, right?
Here are the blog posts that really have my mind spinning this week! Go forth and comment! 

Preventing Summer Reading Lag in Struggling Readers (Passion for Learning)

It's really easy in all the writing blogosphere to forget that we YA writers are writing for the next generation of readers, readers whose attention is consistently being drawn away by iPads and PSPs and XBoxes, to say nothing of the things which have always occupied kids' time--friends, family, school and attendant schoolwork.

So I find it refreshing and helpful to think about ways in which adults associated with young readers, especially struggling readers, can help get them to read (one reason I seriously love the 39 Clues series and Diary fiction...they're blasting open doors for reluctant middle grade readers). Many of my friends teach at this level, and I think this is a wonderful reminder as to ways to help junior highers and high schoolers get reading.


Indie or Traditional Publishing: Don't Take Sides, Take Your Time (Anne R. Allen)

I love well-rounded discussions of self-publishing (I confess still don't love the term "indie" as I worked for an indie publisher and it was not self-publishing--but I'm also a linguist, and I'm willing to accept a process of semantic shift). This is one of the best I've read. Too often the self- vs. trade-publishing discussion turns into an argument with daggers out on both sides. I really like that this one takes a very balanced approach. No matter which route you choose, you should be choosing it for all the right reasons. Incidentally, this same blog posted another really interesting take on the same topic back in 2011, which I read and re-read so many times that it popped up automatically in my address bar when I went to grab today's link: Roni Loren on Why One Author Chose Traditional Publishing--And How to Decide if it's Right for You. 


Uncovering YA Covers 2011 (Kate Hart)

@yahighway tipped me off to Kate Hart's fabulous rundown of diversity in YA book covers. What began as part of the #yasaves  campaign to show that YA is not at all necessarily "darker" than any other genre wound up showing that YA is very much not dark in another sense--persons of color are woefully underrepresented in both content and covers. Kate repeated her study and her infographics this year. They're fascinating to think about, gorgeous to look at, and extremely carefully researched. And the comments are leading to some fabulous discussion, to boot.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

YA Highway 130: A Book that Brings Back Memories


"Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic." Today's question on the YA Highway Road Trip is: "What is a book that brings back memories?"

For me, the answer is super, super simple. THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB series, by Ann M. Martin. I devoured these books. They were hot right when I was busy being a precocious reader--like many people who go on to spend the rest of their lives writing, I read middle-grade novels early, in first and second grade. I found the eleven and thirteen-year-old protagonists so glamorous, and longed for the days when I could baby-sit.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Blog tsjuz: Expanding Text

I've been wanting for an age and a half to have expandable text on my books page, and I finally tracked down good instructions on how to do it. You'll find them here, courtesy of itechcolumn.com.

What does it do? It allows you to create a single word, like "query" which your visitors can then click on to expand out your text, so that the query only appears when clicked. A nice way to save some space and make your blog a little neater overall.

This is not for the faint of heart, but if you understand the very basics of markup language (that everything between an open and close tag is subject to the parameters of that tag), it's fairly straightforward.

NOTE: this is different than the blogger "jump" break, which you'll see below. For that, all you need to click is the jump break button in the "compose" field.  You can only insert one jump break per post or page; you can insert unlimited amounts of expanding text links.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thursday Blogroll—May 10, 2012

I'm going to be trying something new.  Each week, I read really cool things; things that come across my google reader, things that other people tweet, interesting posts by authors and agents I follow. I could retweet them, but 140 characters usually isn't enough for me to explain why they struck me, or why I think they're important to share. So...I'm going to start rounding them up on Thursdays, so that I can share them enmasse. Welcome to my Thursday blogroll, and enjoy!

FAQ about Royalties and Book Advances (Writer Unboxed)

When I was a book publishing peon, it was my job to calculate the royalties twice a year. Thus, I know a lot about them, and often forget that others aren't privy to the same level of knowledge. This is a great rundown of how money operates for commercially published authors.

How to Keep Writing When the Shit Hits the Fan (Nathan Bransford)

I found this fascinating, because at times I find myself in a bit of a slump emotionally, and it drains into my writing in the worst way. But perhaps even more useful right now was a post linked to this one, How to Begin Writing Again After a Break. Of course, I can't find it again to link it, so I apologize for sending you into the wonderful, informative, but incredibly time-sucking breach that is Advice from Nathan Bransford (TM) to find it.

You may note that I am actively engaged in the "start with less scary writing. Blog posts. Forum posts"  stage...

Does Every Scene Need a Goal? (Jami Gold)

It's one thing to say that every scene needs to move the story forward; it's quite another to explain how. Jami explores some ideas from a great writing book I already love, Techniques of the Selling Writer, but I think Jami really accessibly breaks down the structure of scenes even beyond what Swain does in the book. Plus, I found it personally useful in getting through a block on the WIP this week. Thanks, Jami!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Rest in Peace, Maurice



Maurice Sendak

June 10, 1928 – May 8, 2012

 

When you get to Heaven...may you find that your dinner is still hot.

 

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Strict Pick: IN ONE PERSON by John Irving

In One PersonIn One Person by John Irving
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(ARC received from Simon & Schuster via Barnes & Noble.)

John Irving doesn't really write books. He writes journeys. I once read a director (I believe) quoted regarding adapting A Widow for One Year for film (The Door in the Floor) that adaptations of John Irving novels ought to be considered an art forum unto themselves. Certainly, the scope alone makes adaptation difficult--we meet William "Bill" Abbott at age fifteen in the beginning of the novel, and at the end he's seventy. But the beauty of Irving is that he can make a sixty-year journey in the same head a worthwhile read.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Friends Wanted!

I want to make friends.

Not blog followers, or twitter followers, though I think these things will maybe surface? But I don't want to meet people just so I can up my numbers.

I want more people to talk to.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

In Brief: Don't Worry


A friend of mine posted this photo with the explanation that she was trying to install Windows 7 and cursing and screaming at her computer.

This was her dog's response.

A someone who is cursing and screaming at her computer because her characters aren't cooperating with her desires for rewrites, this was a nice reminder for me that sometimes the best thing to do is just to relax and love.

Silly humans.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Are Blogs a Thing of the Past?

So last Thursday, Jessica Faust over at Bookends, LLC announced that Bookends will be disbanding  daily posting (and posting little, if at all). I'm sad to see them go—I find that I refer others to them frequently for discussions of how to sub a book that's been subbed, how to talk to an agent if you've already had an agent, and lots of other things that some agent blogs don't address.

Jessica said an interesting thing in her post, however:

It doesn't seem like blogs have as much "power" as they used to, especially with the ease and speed of sources like Twitter and Facebook. Most important, however, I don't have the passion for the blog that I once did. While I will surely miss hearing from the authors I've learned so much from, I think I will find other ways to interact.
It's an interesting question. Have blogs lost their "power" in the face of speedier sources? I know that I tend toward Twitter, but that, as far as I'm concerned, is a personal preference, mostly due to my time. And that and it's a lot easier to connect to people in 140 characters than on a blog. I'm nothing if not a verbose person and twitter keeps me down to earth.

On the other hand, could that be a sign of the times? It's faster to tweet than to blog, so perhaps my preference is exactly the same as others. 

There's something refreshing about stretching out for a full post, being able to better extol the benefits of something you've enjoyed (like Bookends' blog) and get a chance to talk to others about it. So I like to have that room, also, even if a lot of the time you'll also find me in 140-character bites on twitter. (@jsschley, if you wish.)

What do you think? Are blogs a thing of the past? (And, by extension, are all of us on-submission authors wasting our time cultivating them?) Do "faster" social media take precedence over blogging in this day and age?

And whether blogs are passe or not, I will certainly mourn the passing of this one. Thanks for all your time, Jessica and Bookends. It's been a great ride.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Play Your Game

I don't usually watch the PGA.

When I was growing up, the golf tournaments were always my father's purview. I'd get to watch cartoons in the morning, and then the TV would be commandeered for these four-hour marathon events of golf tournaments. So when I was home this weekend, I was none too surprised to find that while I was writing and fixing viruses on my parents' computer, the Master's was on.

But this time, I picked it up on about round three, when Phil Mickelson had an unbelievable afternoon that put him squarely in the lead. So I was pulling for him to have a fourth green jacket, because although I don't follow the PGA, I do know who Phil Mickelson is. But in round four, this other guy I'd never heard of came to the fore, going from fifth, to fourth, to third, to second...and finally winning on the second hole of sudden-death shootout.

His name is Bubba Watson.

And he's never had a golf lesson in his life.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Girls Write Now


This is simply awe-inspiring, and so I'm re-sharing it. Wish I was in New York to help out. I found it via Sara Crowe.

When I was younger, I was a part of Women Writing For (a) Change, a fantastic writing workshop with a focus on letting girls and women get their voices out on the page. I got to take part in several workshops in junior high and high school, and I owe the organization a lot of credit for my development as a writer and the fact that I'm still hard at it a few decades later.

I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here when I talk about writing itself being transformative, but sometimes it's nice to have a reminder that it is.

GirlsWriteNow.org

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Green-Eyed Non-Monster

I have a writing confession to make.

I'm a competitive person.

This helps, in a lot of ways, when I can channel it correctly--challenge myself to write every day for a month? Heck yes! How many hours can I rack up on my dissertation in a week? Bring it!

But sometimes, it makes me a little jealous of things other people have.

Friday, March 09, 2012

How to use an ARC (and the ARC winner!)

So I've been struggling all week to figure out, "Gee, what do I post with the winner of the PANDEMONIUM ARC?"

And then, last night on AbsoluteWrite, I saw this:

Terminal Cancer Patient Gets a Harry Turtledove ARC (link is to video--couldn't get it to embed here!)

Quite possibly the best use of an ARC, ever. And unbelievably heartwarming to boot.
So with that in mind, Munnaza, I hope you make great use of the copy of PANDEMONIUM! 

Thanks to everyone for entering. Next up, I think, will be GRAVE MERCY byRobin LaFevers. I'm a little ways in, and hope to have it finished soon!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Writing as a Bookseller: James Patterson Sells

Monday nights are always fun at the store because we get to put out all the Strict On Sales, the books that can't be sold before their release date. But they also always remind me of the reality of this business.

The week before last, we released yet another James Patterson novel, PRIVATE GAMES. Through the help of ghostwriters, Patterson manages to release around a half-dozen thrillers a year, and stays on the NYT list with a good amount of regularity. As we were setting up the "stepladder" display which greets customers as they enter the store, my coworker commented that she didn't much care for Patterson's books.They are formulaic, she says, and his ghostwriters do an uneven job of producing quality prose.

"But," she said, as we put the last of the books on the ladder, "he keeps me in this job."

She had a point, and it's a lesson which I find so valuable as a writer that I consider it one of the primary reasons to keep my part-time job. Working in a corporate bookstore is to do daily battle with the effect of sales numbers on your personal cash flow--when we sell more books, we can budget more bookseller hours, which means maybe I can hit that fancy restaurant this weekend instead of staying in for spaghetti.  Lower sales? Fewer hours--and it's a direct hit to my wallet.

I often see railing complaints about the publishing and bookselling industry and the pursuit of art--that they stifle writers, that they force writers into formulas, that they "only want what sells." (And yes, there's a lot they could do differently--you won't get any fight on that point from me!) I absolutely realize that it's disheartening; heck, at least half the time, I look at my own finished novels, which have a tendency to go interstitial instead of hitting the ball straight up the middle of a genre, and want to wail a little bit, too.

But in the end, about twenty hours a week, I do hand-to-hand combat with the end result of all that creativity-stifling, mass-market pleasing, whatever-the-publishing-world-baddies-are-getting this week. The truth is, an awful lot of people need to make money from sales of my book, from the CEO of the publishing house right down to the bookstore barista. And in order for me, as the author, to get paid for writing a book, all those other people have to reasonably expect that they're going to profit from it, too.

So, yeah. I think I'll try to make sure I have a book that will sell. My writing is my art, sure, but I'm okay with making money being part of the equation.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Review + ARC Giveaway: PANDEMONIUM by Lauren Oliver

Pandemonium (Delirium, #2)Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You have your world, the way it is, you think you're ready for things to proceed exactly as they should, and then you suddenly understand the cracks in the pavement and all hell breaks loose.

Pandemonium.

The third book in Oliver's DELIRIUM series is titled REQUIEM, and given how aptly the second is titled, I'm eagerly anticipating the third.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Kindle-only?

I've noticed a trend with some self-published, and even some commercial e-press published books recently, and that's the trend to publish Kindle-only. Yes, Amazon has the largest share of e-readers, and yes, people with iPads can get a Kindle app. And it's true you can root a nook and put a Kindle app on it as well (I'm planning to do this, but haven't gotten around to it yet). And I'm well aware of all the financial incentives Amazon puts in place

But most of the time, I can't be bothered. One of the huge advantages for me in having an e-reader is to be able to nab a book, or at least its sample,  right when I think about it. When I hear about a new book, if it sounds reasonably good, I want my hands on it quickly. Amazon-only or even a 90-day Kindle exclusive means that I can't do that on my particular brand of e-reader.

Ninety days in book publishing is an entire season's worth of releases. By the time the book gets free of its Kindle exclusive, I've forgotten all about it.

Perhaps non-Kindle readers are a small enough market that the 90-days thing makes sense. But I wonder at the long-term viability of such a technique, as it seems to me to be a gamble that Amazon will remain solidly the frontrunner in ebook distribution. 

Which device (if any) do you read on? Do you run into this problem? Do you hang on to some way of remembering the book anyway? 



Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: DELIRIUM by Lauren Oliver (ARC giveaway of book 2 to come!)

Delirium (Delirium, #1)Delirium by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The writing: Dear god, the writing in this. It gives me hope that people will buy and read things that have great imagery, and which spend time describing the environment rather than making every single moment slam-bam-thank-you-ma'am nonstop action. I loved wallowing in Oliver's descriptions; I felt very much like I was there with Lena as she went through her story. Particularly wonderful, I thought, were the ways in which the settings contrasted--the Wilds vs. Portland, the houses in Deering Highlands vs. the homes in the rest of Portland. Oliver has a way of writing description that puts you right in the middle of the action, and for someone who tends to otherwise imagine characters kind of moving about in blank white space, that level of attention to detail was very much appreciated. There aren't senses missing in this--Oliver gets in to how things smell, feel, taste in addition to just how they look.

The plot: DELIRIUM starts out slowly. VERY slowly. Had I not been reading it mostly so that I could get to my ARC copy of PANDEMONIUM, I might have put it down. That said, there are plenty of twists and turns on this path (even if some are a bit predictable: Alex somehow not being a real Cured is foreseeable from the very first moment Lena sees him) to keep one interested. I'm happy that DELIRIUM ends and PANDEMONIUM begins with some big issues still in play, such as the ultimate fate of Lena's mother.

The book does fall in to the ongoing problem of teen trilogies, however, which is that it feels like there was little self-contained plot in this book alone. Like many others (Ally Condie's Matched for instance, comes to mind), the book ends on a cliffhanger, and it feels very much like 1/3 of a larger work, rather than a first book in a set of three. If there's anything contributing to my dropping a star on this book, it's that.

The characters: Lena is very relatable. One of my favorite tiny details about her was her friendship with Hana (Hana got her own novella, which I don't have time to read before PANDEMONIUM releases, but which looks interesting), which plays as a very normal teenage girl relationship. I especially loved that she and Hana had the "Hallelujah Halena!" cheer for each other. It's exactly the kind of thing I remember creating in junior high school, and details like that made Lena a very real, easily identified-with character.

And Alex--I loved his comfort with who he was and his ability to move in and out of Portland society. He had just enough "cool" to make him believable in all the things he's been able to accomplish, but also had a deep caring for Lena which makes him easily sympathized with.

I loved the secondary characters, also. Grace is a wonderful foil for Lena, and lets us see a lot about who Lena is as an "infected" person. So far in PANDEMONIUM, great secondaries seem to be Oliver's specialty, so I'm looking forward to getting to know them more.

My one very minor beef: Is it ever mentioned in the beginning of this book that "Portland" is Portland, ME? I spent a long time trying to figure out if perhaps the sea level had risen and that was why there was shoreline in Portland, OR, and was a little jolted to find that the book was set on the opposite side of the country halfway through the book.

Overall: This is one of the more interesting dystopian ideas I've read in a while. When I first heard the premise, I thought it sounded silly--love as a disease? But as I read and understood it not as only romantic love, but all feeling and strong emotion, I found myself strangely agreeing with many of the society's premises--that love and strong emotion causes as much destruction as it prevents, and able to see exactly how such a society might come into being. For me, that's a critical piece--can I buy in to the dystopian world? DELIRIUM delivered on that front, and that made it an enjoyable read for me. On to book number 2--and I'll be giving away my ARC when I'm done!

4 stars even on this one. One star loss for the slow start and the ever-present YA trilogy "no full plot in this book" problem.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Nab Delirium: 

Indiebound
Amazon 
B&N 

Have you read Delirium? What did you think? Link your review if you have one!  



Wednesday, February 15, 2012

On Writing: Surprise!

The rag disappeared from her hand. 

Not long ago, one of my crit partners had a scene where she wanted to show a character being surprised by something. He was drinking a beer, and he was supposed to have been startled by his mother. 

I suggested that she write the result rather than the action itself. When we're surprised by something, we don't notice what's happening, we notice what happens because of it—what we're holding hits the floor, what we're drinking spills down our front. 
 
I ripped the sentence above from one of my WIPs because it's a good example of this. The character is thinking about something else, looking at something else, and she doesn't notice the person approaching her. Since she's the POV character in a limited third-person narrative, I can't very well write, "She didn't notice the person approaching." The fact that she's not noticing means that the narration can't notice, either. 

What does she notice? When the rag she's holding suddenly disappears. Then she looks up and realizes that someone else has joined her in the room—someone nosy and bossy enough to just take things from her hands without greeting (which also went a long way in characterizing the second character).

The trick: make the object of the sentence the thing the character finally notices. In my crit partner's work, it was "Beer sloshed down my chest." He didn't notice himself jump, or notice his mother--his body reacted, and his response was to the result of all of that—the thing that finally actually caught his attention. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

In Brief: ...to Pulp






Every author hears about "returns" when they hear about trade publishing. They're often invoked as one of the big bad problems of trade publishing (and while they are a hurdle, it's more nuanced than that). There's a lot to be said about returns, and at some point I'll blog on it, but today I wanted to share this photo, which I snapped as we were closing the store location where I used to work. (I transferred locations recently due to a store closure--I will get around to blogging about that, I promise!)

This photo is why you see that little note inside a mass-market paperback that says, "If you purchased this book without a cover, it has been reported as unsold to the publisher and neither the publisher or the author have received money for it." Mass-markets have a cost of goods of cents per copy, and it is more money-intensive to return the whole book than it is worth. When you return a mass-market, you "strip" its cover, and only the cover is sent back to the publishing company, because it is light, and cheap. The actual books themselves go to the recycling bin.

Don't ever pay money for a stripcover. Anyone who has one and is selling it is criminally infringing on the ability of the author to earn money from her work. These are unsold books—not used books, not special books. Unsold. They are supposed to be destroyed.

And now you know why my blog is called "From Prose to Pulp."

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Blog Rec: Susan Kaye Quinn

I'm a big fan of the book industry, from top to bottom, with all its gnarly parts and all its pretty parts, and I always welcome wonderful reads on every aspect of it. And even though I'm still planning fully to pursue trade publishing for a lot of reasons (one of the biggies being my genre--while YA fantasy is huge in the self-pub sphere, YA and adult contemporary are kind of, well, not), I love, love, love to read smart discussions of current trends in self-publishing, especially self-e-publishing.

I've been following author Susan Kaye Quinn's progress for a while. She recently released a new YA dystopian title, Open Minds (#1 in the Mindjack triology), and she's a fantastic writer to follow when it comes to audience building. She's got two great posts up on self-publishing this past week: Seven Questions to Ask [Yourself] Before you Self-Publish, and How Many Book Sales Equals "Success" (The latter has inspired me to write my own post on number-crunching and trade publishing. Watch this space.) I find the takehome messages of both enlightening (I particularly think everyone needs to read "Seven Questions"), and if you're a fan of smart writing on the land of self-publishing, you should take a look.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The One Rule to Rule them All

I don't usually blog on the submission process. I don't think it's a terribly effective use of space. But I was reading a blog of a soon to be self-publishing author, and in it I saw something I see a lot--on author blogs, on Absolute Write, on twitter, etc. And that is the idea that agents, editors, the publishing industry as a whole are in the business of making rules and hoops and hurdles for authors to jump through in order to get their books published. 

And I can understand where it comes from, to a degree. Yes, agents have ideas about how to pitch things. And they have ideas about what is popular. And they have ideas about what sounds like good writing. And for heaven's sake, yes,  put two agents in a room together and they may disagree on all but one thing that they both prefer to see. (Want evidence of that, mosey on over to WriteOnCon and visit the live chat transcripts from this last year's conference.) But all those things they say work? They're things they've seen work.  When you view 100 queries a day—and I can't fathom that, the most I ever saw as the slushpile reader was ten!—you have a sense of what is going to make an individual query stand out in those 100. They aren't "rules." As someone who sat on first one side of the desk and is now sitting in a tiny kid's chair on the other, as near as I can tell, there is only one rule:

Write an awesome and marketable book.

Take the time to pitch it well.

And then, be ready to keep pitching, and to keep revising, and to keep working.

That's all. Yeah, you can get caught up in write the query this way, write the query that way, don't use a penname, do use a penname, don't ever send an email with an attachment, don't double-space in an e-mail, do double space in an email, yadda yadda. But in the end, I've found that it's more about just using common sense, and being professional, and first and foremost, having a good book.

Of course, I'm not agented yet, so, take that with the requisite canister of salt. But in the meantime, I'm holding fast to a great piece of advice I stumbled across just as I was starting on this whole adventure (and I wish I could remember the source, but I don't--if someone knows, please help!):


There's a term for writers who don't give up: Published.

Friday, February 03, 2012

In Brief: I'm Judging By a Cover!


From the perspective of a bookseller with a scan gun, this is quite possibly the best spine design ever invented. (sorry for the darkness...on a bottom shelf and wanted to get it in its "habitat")

And it's a National Book Award finalist, too. Who said great design and great writing don't go together?

I am judging this book by its cover and it gets two thumbs up.

Only Revolutions by Mark Z. Danielewski at:

Powell's
Amazon
B&N


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

How Dare There Be a Bottom Line!

I've been lurking in, and participating in, several discussions of late on the self-publishing, e-publishing, commercial publishing debate (and I'm not going to put "versus" in there, because I really feel that all these things are important and no one is actually diametrically opposed to any of the others). One thing I keep see being brought up is the scare that "commercial publishers just publish what they can sell!" They aren't worried about quality, just look at some of the typos or the horrific writing of [Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer, John Grisham, pick your poison of the day].

And here's the thing. That is absolutely true. Publishers want stuff they can sell. Why? Because when it's your book they're trying to sell, they're going to put a lot of money into it, and do their darndest to make sure it makes them (and you) money.

Here's a short story. My first two years out of college, I worked for a small publisher who shall remain nameless (mainly because I'm about to talk about acquisitions). Most of the staff were involved in acquisitions: the editors, the publisher, the marketing and sales staff, and me, the office manager and profit-and-loss statement generator.

There was a day when a book came to us. It had been previously self-published (no, self-publishing has never been the end of the road for any good book), the author had gained a good following for it, she had a niche, she had a blog with lots of followers—and this was almost ten years ago when almost no one was on blogs—the book itself was funny, fresh, and interesting. She sent two copies of the book for our consideration, and we shared it around the lunch table. And then we got to the acquisitions meeting.

Do we love this book? we asked ourselves.

We love this book, we agreed.

Is it a good book?

It's a great book. It's funny; it approaches its topic in a way no other book does; it's appealing.

Does the author have a platform?

A super platform.

And then came the moment of truth.

Are we going to be able to sell this book?

We looked at the P&L. It was in the black, provided we made some changes to the book itself--took away the fun four-color process in favor of maybe a single signature of four-color photos. The book was a outside our usual genres--in fact, we didn't have anything else like it on our list for the next eighteen months. Would the sales staff at our distributors be able to make the kind of sell-in that would justify the numbers on the P&L? Or were we overestimating, since they'd never seen a book like that from us before?

We talked, and talked. And crunched numbers, and crunched them again. And it all led to one conclusion--as much as we loved the book, and as good as we thought it was going to be--our house was not the right house. Given the other things we published, given the funds we had available to us to print, given the kinds of sell-in we could expect, we were simply not the right place for it.

It was not a judgment on the book. We loved the book. It was not a personal judgment on the author. We thought she was doing a stellar job.

It was because we couldn't make the bottom line work. And that, ultimately, would've meant that book wouldn't do as well as it would with another house.

The end of the story? We rejected, the book was eventually picked up by an imprint of S&S (I found this out four years later when I was no longer working in publishing), and near as I can tell on Amazon, it is still backlisting well six years later.

If we'd published it? It would be out of print.

That publishers are in the game to make money isn't about some dirty thing designed to be exclusionary. A lot of times, it's about what's in the best interest of the book.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

In Brief: You Know Who

So sometimes I am a barista instead of a bookseller. Today was one of those days. It's generally not very fun--I have my job because I like to sell books, not because I like to make coffee. However, there are a number of distinct advantages to being a barista in a bookstore instead of a regular Starbucks:

Me: Can I have a name for the order?
Customer: Voldemort. Lord Voldemort.
(I write "He Who Must Not Be Named" on the cup.)
Coworker, after making the latte: Lord Voldemort?
Customer: Did you dare use my name?
Coworker: Fear of the name only increases fear of the thing itself. Have a nice day, Mr. Riddle.

I love working in books.




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