Open Wounds

Bookstores

Conspiracies, Obsessions, and Crossing Boundaries

Virginia Festival of the BookIt’s coming.

My first book festival in which I’ll be on a panel discussing a subject that has to do with my book.

I’m very excited about this. So far I’ve been to a few (3) conferences (ALA, BEA, and a NYC Dept. of Ed Librarians Conference) and each of them I’ve signed and done some author speed dating but no presenting on panels.

It seems like a cool thing that an author would do. I’m excited about it.

The Virginia Festival of the Book invited me (thanks to my great publicist JKSCommunications!) and as a Yankee, it’s a real honor to have been picked. Maybe the road trip last summer down south paid off. Whatever Goddesses were looking out for me I’m one happy camper.

I’ll be on two panels.

Panel 1: Conspiracies and Obsessions – novels of unravelling lives – with Alma Katsu, Virginia Moran, and Amelia Gray (and me). It’s an adult author line-up, not YA. I’ll have to think about the context but it sounds like a good fit for Cid Wymann and Open Wounds.

Panel 2: Crossing Boundaries – novels about family drama, love, and loss beyond borders – with N.M.Kelby, Jacqueline E. Luckett, and Elizabeth Nunez (and me). I can’t forget me. Also adult novels but I think I’ll fit in with Open Wounds just fine.

The festival is on March 21-25 and I’ll be on panel 1 on Thursday the 23 and panel 2 Friday the 24. If you’re in Charlottesille VA around then… come say hello. I’ll be the author with the big smile on his phiz.

And here’s the real kicker. The panels will be at a Barnes and Noble. They won’t carry my book normally in store (although they do sell it online) but I’m betting they carry it for the festival. Oh yeah. Uh huh. Oh yeah. I’m still stopping at indi New Dominion Bookstore – oldest in VA. That’s going to be even cooler. Maybe I can convince them to carry my book…

Here’s the link: Virginia Festival of Books

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Lemonade and the Predatory Lemmings of Pricing (part 1)

Okay. This is a long entry but stay with me. I want to hear what you think.

So I checked out the fuss about Amazon and their predatory price app.

Let me see if I get this straight.

You go into a store and scan the bar code of a product using your cell-phone and get a comparison price from Amazon. And, you get an additional 5% (about $15 off a $300 dollar order) discount on your order. And you send the location of the store to Amazon.

Do I like the way it sounds? Not really. Is there anything anybody can do about this? Not really. Is it legally predatory pricing and therefore able to be stopped by a court of law? For example is Amazon purposely going to sell their products at below cost in order to steal customers? No. Not, as far as all I have read.

So what is going on around here? Is this capitalism at its best? Am I a socialist? Do I want the best product to win at the lowest price?

I’ve been trying to figure out what this could mean to independent booksellers. You know, how pissed off should they be over this for it seems many are pretty pissed off.

Let me take apart the two sentences above.

You go into a store and scan the bar code of a product using your cell-phone and get a comparison price from Amazon. And, you get an additional 5% (about $15 off a $300 dollar order). And you send the location of the store to Amazon. 

1. Amazon is telling people to go into stores to compare prices. Now that doesn’t sound too bad to me. Go into a bookstore and scan a book price in to get a comparison price. Go walk or drive or take mass transit, journey to a book store – a bricks and mortar store, in person – walk in the front door and search for a book you want to buy, passing impulse purchases along the way, maybe talking to a bookseller on your way to finding the book, maybe having a latte if there’s a café attached to the bookstore, look at the price, scan it and comparison shop. I don’t know about you but so far I’m good with this operation. Anything that gets a customer into a bookstore is a good thing. Come in out of the rain. Rest tired feet while paging through a current bestseller by a window seat. Comparison shop. If they’re in the store they can buy from you. If they’re sitting at home on their sofa surfing the internet they can’t. So chalk one up for Amazon for pushing people into stores where they can breathe in the aroma of books and be confronted by your your flotilla of warm, friendly, and knowledgable booksellers.

2. If you want the lower priced product then order it from Amazon and they’ll send it to you in a few days, maybe longer depending on delivery method. Okay. So again. I’m not sure Amazon has a winner here. It’s a week before christmas and I’m in a store with a product I want to buy as a gift in my hands and I can either take that product home with me right now – have instant gratification – and cross off another gift on my list of gifts to get for the holidays or I can order it from Amazon for a reduced price, maybe a few dollars, but it may not make it here by christmas and I won’t know for sure until it’s in my hands delivered to me by UPS or the postal service. I can’t help but think most people will pay the few extra bucks and leave the store with the product. I’ve probably spent the extra bucks anyway on either gas or mass transit getting to the store in the first place. If I’m an independent bookstore I’m still liking this deal.

3. So let’s say that you go the Amazon way and buy the book online from them at a reduced price. Forget about the gas you spent money on to get there, or the transit fare, or the travel time. You want your discount so you get it. You still have to get out of the store, the wonderfully friendly, beautifully designed, warm with coffee smell permeating the air independent bookstore, with staff who know book lists backwards and forwards and who can recommend and sell the book socks off your feet. Go ahead. Try to leave the store without picking up a stocking stuffer. A game maybe? A bookmark? Reading glasses? Book light? Mr. Potato Head?

Go ahead. Make my independent booksellers’ day.

Am I looking at this the wrong way or what?


Four Calling Agents, Three French Editors…

Three things I learned this year about publishing (please remember I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. These are based on my experiences this year).

  1. It’s better to be published by a legitimate press than to be self-published. Even if it’s a small press – if you want your book to be carried in a store it has to be available from Ingrams, Baker and Taylor, and or Folio. These are the big distributors in the business. I found in every instance in approaching booksellers and managers in over twenty bookstores across the country that as soon as I told them I was not self-published and that the books were available from Ingram or one of the others I was treated instantly differently (ie: better).
  2. Marketing is like a second job all by itself. I now work a full time day job, teach yoga twice a week, write, and do marketing for my book. I spend at least 1-2 hours a day marketing (twitter, facebook, blogging, emailing, interviewing, reviewing books, etc…). And that’s probably low. Finding a balance between marketing and writing is key to surviving your first publication.
  3. The publishing business is crazy. Agents leave the business without telling you, publishers are put up for sale seemingly out of the blue, subsidiary rights can be sat on, writers are just as competitive as world class athletes when it comes to snagging a seat at a full table of librarians during author speed dating, books don’t show up at readings, managers who’ve been called ahead of time about your store visit can’t remember talking to your publicist even though it was only 24 hours ago, Goodreads is like crack (or craic) for writers, it seems no two writers have the same writing process though most would agree it’s incredibly hard work to do (find a writing process and to write), and finally once your book is published writers you’ve never met before will help you to sell it through blurbs (which are key to getting your book looked at by just about everybody in the business and many readers looking for a new author to read.

After Christmas I”ll have to come up with some writing resolutions. That will take some thought. Here’s something though. For the last twenty years I wondered if the coming year would be the year I finally published my first novel. This year I don’t have to wonder anymore.

And that’s a very cool thing.


Hill of Humongosity – Seattle Day 2

Usually a little walking does not daunt me. I walk at least an hour every day just to the subway and back and taking out the dogs. But the hill you climb from Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill and the Elliot Bay Bookstore is brutal. I got a ride downtown this time and skipped the light-rail then figured I’d just walk the thirty minutes to the bookstore.

How tough could it be? I walk fast. I figured I’d make it in 15 or 20 minutes max.

It was cool and misty but I was sweating heavily by the time I got to the top of Capital Hill and over onto 10th Avenue. Capital Hill shouldn’t be called a hill. The word just doesn’t suit it. Hill of death. Hill of humongosity. Ankle-break hill. Mountain called hill. Really.

Elliot Bay Bookstore is a big indi and I wanted to make an impression. I’m sure my disheveled look and the beads of perspiration rolling down my forehead did the trick. Bookseller Mathew was kind enough to take my book.

“Can I give you my pitch?” I asked.

“Not necessary,” he said.

He checked to make sure he could get it from Ingrams and to make sure it was not self-published (yes, these things do, in my experience over the last six months marketing my book, matter). Satisfied with both, he assured me he’d get it into the hands of their YA specialist. Then he kindly got me directions to the Club Auriol, Fencing Salle – just 30 minutes … down hill … north of where I started.

“Downhill?” I asked.

He nodded sagely.

“Well,” I said, “it’s better than up hill.” And off I went. Back to sweating.

I had planned to go to two fencing salles in two different parts of town but at 7:15pm I knew I would never make it to both. So I went for the closer of the two – Salle Auriol. And I figured I’d work the opposing muscles in my legs on the downward haul – always searching for balance.


Oxygen Debt and Yoga Surplus

I love Seattle. It’s not New York, but I love it just the same.

I’ve been to Seattle three times now. The first time was after I finished the Peace Corps and I traveled up the west coast to Alaska then across the country to New York (a 6-month trip). I stayed in Seattle for 11 days, a few on Bainbridge Island at the home of a family friend, the rest at a Hostel.Elliot Bay Bookstore was in Pioneer Square – far from it’s present 10th avenue location. I travelled up to Juno by ferry from there and stayed north for a month afterwards. It was sunny six out of eleven days in Seattle, even though everyone swears to me it’s never sunny there.

The second time I was in Seattle it was for the National Association of Drug Court Professionals national conference and I stayed four days – mostly at the conference center but one afternoon we got a tour of some parks on the outskirts of the City by the sister of a colleague. It was sunny every day. A Seattle resident told me, “Yeah we love the summer but we all hate the winter. It rains every day and we don’t get much daylight as the days so much shorter up here. Everyone goes on antidepressants to get through to the spring.”

This third time in Seattle was for only three days, but I definitely made the most of them. I rained every day and I didn’t see the sun.

Four things I noticed this time about what I consider to be a unique and beautiful city include:

  1. This time I walked, bussed, and light-railed a good part of the city and it is oxygen-debt-in-the-thighs hilly. It is also hard to figure out the bus lines but the men in yellow make it all easier than it should be. “Just ask the men in yellow if you get lost,” the hotel manager told me. “They’ll help you find your way.”
  2. In the neighborhoods outside downtown there are a lot of runners – I mean a lot. They run alone, in pairs, and in packs. They run in the rain and mist.
  3. The city overall is pretty clean – now remember I’m from New York City which is not.
  4. There are a lot of yoga studios, massage and wellness centers. This could have been the neighborhood I was in but I don’t think so. This is a city relaxed with the concept of new age.
  5. Booksellers are friendly at the indies. This should go without saying but… it doesn’t. But I had three for three good experiences at indies and that was cool.