Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Anyway, color me surprised: Beaufort's announced a 125,000 copy first printing on the OJ book. For reference - 125,000 is a large first printing, something about on par with other celebrity books. Expect bestselling authors like John Grisham, Nicholas Sparks or Stephen King to have between 500,000 and a million for their first printings. A new, unknown author could call 10,000 to 25,000 very respectable. A book from a small press might have around 5,000 for a print run, or maybe less. There's no shame in any of those numbers - just showing that 125,000 is nothing to scoff at.
And considering one of my first reactions to the announcement was "hey, smartass, what's your announced first printing?" I thought I should address it. (And hey, I was close - I guessed 100K.)
He also claims to have 116,000 preorders, despite the fact that Barnes and Noble won't carry it.
That loud clanging you hear is my bullshit alarm going off. Is it possible? Yes. Is it likely? I have to say no. There are some books whose demand will far exceed their first printings - if you were a bookseller looking for a copy of America: The Book when it first came out and you didn't order enough, you were SOL for several weeks while the publisher scrambled to get reprints in. But there are other titles whose hype far overreached the actual interest in the book, and they've tanked.
As I've said, all of Kampmann's claims and statements so far have made me raise an eyebrow. Publishers don't disclose how many copies of something one store or another ordered - I don't know if it's a legal thing or something that is simply not done, a taboo along the lines of asking an acquaintance how much they make in a year - so unless Borders and Amazon and the big wholesalers admit how many they're taking, we won't know until press-time whether or not this 116,000 is real.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Unless I'm reading it wrong, or the article doesn't mention it, this poll takes into account only literate adults, which means that it's not people who can't read that aren't reading; it's people who just don't care to. The idea of it boggles me. I've always surrounded myself with people who like to read. Every time there's a gathering of my friends or family, there will at some point in the evening be a book discussion - what I'm reading, what they're reading, what we liked or disliked about certain books. It's not uncommon for those of us in the middle of a series to sneak off into another room and discuss theories about upcoming books.
But then there are statements like this one: "Richard Bustos of Dallas, Texas...a 34-year-old project manager for a telecommunications company, said he had not read any books in the last year and would rather spend time in his backyard pool."
Uh, why not read while you're poolside? The two activities aren't mutually exclusive.
And this one: "'Fiction just doesn't interest me,' said Bob Ryan, 41, who works for a construction company in Guntersville, Alabama. 'If I'm going to get a story, I'll get a movie.'"
Pardon me, what?
Now, I understand there are people who prefer non-fiction to fiction, just as there are people who prefer, say, Westerns to mysteries. Maybe Ryan is one of them. Although, most of the time, movies lose something in the translation from page to screen. Even Stardust, which I thought was wonderfully done, is less than the experience of the graphic novel.
Reading is more active than watching a movie. You have to do some work - letting the author lead you around while he or she reveals the story, imagining the characters and settings, hearing their voices. But done right, when a writer transports the reader, it's ten times better than anything on the screen. A hundred times.
The average person read four books last year. Or, excluding the ones whose total was zero, the average number is seven. How much of this can be attributed to there being more and more demands on peoples' time? More responsibilities at work, kids' extra-curricular activities, shiny new technology, things like that? Is there a measurable number of people who once spent their lunch hours reading and now poke through blogs instead? How about the amount of people who work through lunch because their jobs demand it?
Here are the rest of the AP-Ipsos Poll results for the curious - I don't think I can link directly to the PDF file, but it's easy to find. Go take a peek.
There will always be readers. So many people aspire to be writers, and part of what sparks that desire, more often than not, is their own love of reading. Bookstores aren't going to go away, publishers aren't going to shut down their presses. Maybe as the kids who grew up with Harry Potter achieve the august title of Adult, the next poll will show an increase in these disheartening numbers.
So, informal poll here, for the hell of it - how many have you read in the last year? Do you think you read more or less than you used to? What's changed?
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Although, it seems like we might be able to put published in quotes. Like this: "published."
When Sharlene Martin, the agent, announced that a New York publisher was interested and a deal had been reached, I wondered who on earth would pick it up, after all the hell that was raised when Harper tried putting it out late last year. I couldn't imagine, even in these days where any sensational news story seems to lead to a book being crashed into the list, that any of the big five would go anywhere near it.
Turns out none of them did. The book is being published by Beaufort Books, a small press who, up until this book at least, splits the cost of publishing with the authors.
Splitting the cost is a pretty way of saying the authors pay to be published. Yog's Law: Money flows toward the writer. (Yog is author James D. MacDonald, who is always watching out for new writers in danger of being scammed over on the Absolute Write forums.)
It seems pretty shady - they took the splitting-the-cost blurb off of their website. The publisher, Eric Kampmann, won't even throw out a ballpark number for the announced first printing when asked in an interview with Publishers Weekly. Something like this, I'd expect at least 100,000. I don't know how many Harper pulped, but it was at least that.
I have immense respect for Denise Brown. How Kampmann could sit beside her on The Today Show and not be horribly ashamed, I can't even begin to fathom.
The next question is, what are booksellers going to do with it? It's a tough question for all of them - whether or not to carry it, and if they do, how many copies? Should it stay behind the counter or be put on display? If they choose not to bring it into the store initially, will they be willing to special order it for customers?
There is absolutely a morbid curiosity factor to the whole thing. I'd imagine there would be a good chunk of customers who would come into the store, flip through to the chapter where he describes the murder, and put it back on the shelf without buying it. I also wonder how many people who would normally buy books from their local indie would instead order it through Amazon or B&N rather than be seen purchasing it.
This book was a bad idea. It's still a bad idea, no matter how much they're trying to spin it as benefitting charities and becoming the Goldmans' book. Personally, I wouldn't bring it into my store, if I had one. I think I would special order it for interested customers, simply because I hate the idea of telling people what they can and can't read, but I'd be uncomfortable doing it.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Quick summary - an Australian bookstore chain is demanding that small publishers pay the store ridiculous sums of money to keep their books in stock. Small publishers' reponse: "Uh, no. Idiot." Only much more eloquent.
I don't think there's anything I could say on this any better than Michael Rakusin, Teresa Nielsen Hayden and the commenters on Making Light. Just go read.
It's going to take more than a wee bit of google searching, but I'm fairly certain I remember a U.S. publisher doing something along these lines ten years ago or more. I want to say it was McGraw-Hill, or MacMillan, but I don't remember which and I don't remember what the demands were. I just remember Laurie running a report and pulling every book that we carried from that publisher off the shelves and returning them.
Vague recollections are making me think they sent a letter saying "As of X date, we're not selling to independent bookstores anymore." If they were going to sell exclusively to the chains, that would have prompted Laurie to pre-empt them and send their titles back at least a month or two early. (Thinking about it, I also realize there's an easier way to find this old information than a google search - I have some booksellers with long memories. I'll ask one of them today.)
Friday, August 10, 2007
One thing I realized was missing was a link to American Booksellers for Freedom of Expression. They're fighting not only against banning books, but also against the USA PATRIOT Act and other legislation that threatens free speech.
I used to have this bumper sticker which read "Free people...publish books, buy books, sell books, read books...DON'T BAN BOOKS." I actually still have it somewhere because when I found it, I was driving this monstrosity that was just waiting to head off to the junk yard and couldn't bear to put it on a car I knew I wouldn't have for long. The sticker is from a long ago Banned Books Week and was most likely my first exposure to ABFFE. 2007's Banned Books Week is just over a month away. Expect ramblings and recommendations.
Three-quarters of the way through King Rat by the way. Over half of that list read...now I have to actually review them.
Monday, August 6, 2007
1. On On Writing: never before have I underlined so many passages in a book, thinking to myself, "Yes, oh, he's so very right." I've loved King's writing since I was in junior high, so maybe I was predisposed to clicking with the book, but still. He is a genius.
2. I do not recommend reading King Rat when one is eating. The book is brilliant, I love Mieville's descriptions. However, I was having lunch while reading about Saul's first breakfast. Eep.
Okay, now I digress.
In part of my crusade to get more things accomplished, I'm trying to keep on top of housecleaning. I live in a perpetual state of clutter - junk mail waiting to be shredded or used as fuel for our chiminea, books that need to be put away, comics waiting for a new long box, clean laundry waiting to be folded, stuff everywhere.
I have in my mind this idea that everyone in the world is neater than I am, and while I know it's not true, going to family parties and seeing spotless houses doesn't help. (Yes, deep down I know that chances are the place was a mess twenty-four hours before, and the host/hostess frantically shoved anything that doesn't have a place into closets and under beds to be dealt with later, but still.)
Which means that this post from Bitch, Ph.D and the resulting flickr community make me feel a whole lot better.
Now, I know that having a neat house won't magically open a bookstore for me, or make a manuscript spring forth, complete and edited, from my forehead, but it's strangely related in my mind. Get the house in order, other things fall into place. Plus, if there's nothing to clean, I won't be vacuuming cats when I should be writing. No, I won't be abandoning that hour of writing I mentioned in the last post, but I will be tacking some extra straightening up onto the evenings.
As a matter of fact, I can tie this into bookselling. At the end of the night, when the store is quiet, you straighten the shelves. Walk around, look for the books that have been shoved back in on top of the others, alphabetize, find the stack of books someone left on a stool and put them in their rightful places. Replace the books that have been bought from displays and fill in gaps. Sweep the floor. Clear away the coffee cup that someone left balanced on a shelf - whether it was forgotten or left because he or she couldn't be bothered to find a trash can, it's trash now.
You do that because it's your store, and you're proud of it. When books are in their rightful places, you can find them for customers without having to cast about muttering, "It's supposed to be right here..." A cluttered store isn't very inviting.
So, without a bookstore to straighten, looks like it's the house. And the same philosophy applies: I straightened one section at a time - what good is it to alphabetize the top shelf and walk away if the six beneath it are still a mess? So. One section at a time, one room at a time.
Thursday, August 2, 2007
Five years since I last worked there, two years since it closed its doors for good, and I'm still having Booksmith dreams.
Usually it's the one where I want to close the store but I can't, because there are still customers browsing. There's probably some deeper meaning to that, something about unfinished business or things getting in the way of stuff I want to get done, but I never really stop to examine what's going on in my life when I have them.
Last night, though, it was about going back to work there. I was in the back room, and Pat was sitting at the supervisor's desk doing something. Laurie was standing on the stairs, or maybe she was over by the back door, receving books. Maybe both. I don't know. Dreams are fluid like that.
I stood there shooting the shit with Pat and pulled the schedule (a hand-drawn, photocopied grid on an old clipboard, which was suspended by a rubber band hanging on a nail) towards me. There were empty spots on it, places where I knew they needed someone else on the shift, and I said, very casually, "You want me to come in? I can."
That was it, really. Nothing exciting, just me offering to fill in some shifts, come in 6-9:30 some nights, or work Saturday mornings.
It's pretty obvious that I miss it a hell of a lot, but it's more than that, too. I seem to start feeling restless over the summers, like there's more I could and should be doing. I like my current job very much - good people, a place I know and a company that treats its employees well, customers I get along with. The only thing dragging me down is all the lost time - I leave my house at 7AM and don't get home until 6PM. That's an eleven hour day, and I only get paid for seven.
It's the kind of job where I could absolutely justify working from home two or even three days a week. Hell, I could argue for working full-time at home, but I'll admit it's helpful to be able to get up and walk over to the credit department, or our shipping person, or someone in customer service, and get an answer right away. I know that it won't happen; it's wishful thinking.
That desire to work from home, or closer to it, makes me start poking through the classifieds. There are a couple of small presses near where I live. Sadly, there are no indie bookstores close to home (until I open one...) Nothing, though, compelling enough for me to put in a resume.
Another thing that probably prompted the dream was that I am, finally, reading On Writing. Stephen King had short stories published before he was out of his teens. I'm fast approaching 30, with lots of things started, a couple things finished, and nothing submitted. Believe me, I am not wearing rose-colored glasses and thinking I could make a handy bit of pocket cash through writing. I know it doesn't work that way. You write for love of the craft, not for the piles of cash you might rake in if you get lucky. Same thing with bookselling - you don't do it because you're going to make millions.
But if I have to have a part-time job, it's going to either be in a bookstore or sitting my ass down and writing more.
Do I need a part-time job? No. We do all right for ourselves. It's simply something I toy with from time to time. Money is one of those worries always hanging out in the back of my head. What if...? What if...? What if...? My current job prevents me from working in a bookstore - it's considered a conflict of interest. And really, even if I could, where would I find the time? I know there are people who do it all the time, working 40 hours at one job and 20 at another, or working one job during the week and another on weekends. That's not something I'm willing to do right now.
Which leads me right back to writing more. My availability might suck for a retail position, but dedicating an hour or two a night to writing, that I can do. Plus, it's something immediately tangible: this is what I've done today, this is the progress I've made towards a goal. It's hard to measure my progress towards opening a bookstore in any sort of terms besides "Sent in monthly student loan/car payment." Writing - whether it gets published or not - feels like doing something.
Two different goals, but the rewards of one - the sense of accomplishment I get from writing - will help make the other seem more achievable.