Category Archives: Bookselling

Using the Bookstore as a Library

Lynne Scanlon also complains about the shoppers in some stores, which I felt was interesting enough to put in a unique post:

If Borders were to become the preferred destination for book buyers, people would walk or drive the extra distance and pass right by a Barnes & Noble.

Jones already gets the message that too much time is spent by walk-ins and loungers who spend too little money at the cash registers. He’d like to remedy that, so would I. I loath tripping over those parked baby buggies (install meters!) and having to deal with kids whose moms use Barnes & Noble as a place to kill a few hours on the cheap. PT Barnum faced the same problem until he hung a sign that said: “This Way to the Egress!” I like the idea of a sign that reads: “First you pay, then you read.”

Is that too harsh? Does it conflict with her idea about inviting writers to write on in-store computers? Does it conflict a bit with coffeeshops in stores?

Suggestions for Remaking a Major Bookseller

Lynne Scanlon notes that Borders Group has a new CEO, and she wonders what he could do to make Borders and WaldenBooks more attractive than Barnes & Noble. She has many great suggestions:

  • Make exclusive arrangements with publishers to sell specific books at Borders and Borders only.
  • Create a “new format” book that is sold exclusively at Borders.
  • Co-publish books with Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and medium- and small-sized publishers. Give preferential shelf placement in lieu of a cash investment.
  • Have a prestigious VIP cash register and pass out discount coupons to the big spenders, say, at the $150 purchase level.
  • Rope off a special VIP room for people who buy books in quantity and make these readers feel important because they are!
  • Have “For Authors Only Socials” where local authors meet local authors in Borders to socialize over a glass of wine or something significantly stronger.
  • Offer to rent computer space in Borders to struggling writers.

There are more and commenters join in. What do you think?

Publicity, Good or Bad, Is Publicity

Author Katha Pollitt has turned a bad review into an interesting article in the NY Times on whether publicity is bad only when it’s unnoticed.

“Actually, this is good,” my editor said when my book got panned. “It’s a long review by a well-known person. It’s on a good page. It’s even got a caricature of you.” . . .

“Yes, it was pretty negative, and your arms looked like tree stumps,” said one friend, helpfully. “But so what? That just means you’re a star!”

I wonder how many people told her to avoid watching Amazon’s sale rank. I understand the appeal having checked my own site stats more often than I knew I should, but what is an author’s alternative? Do publishers let you know how many of your books sold in a certain time, say quarterly at least?

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RIP: James Patrick Baen

The man who gave me my chance as a published author, Jim Baen, passed away yesterday. Author David Drake provides an eloquent eulogy here.

In the ups and downs of our working relationship, I never lost my deep respect for the man they used to call the “GE” (officially General Editor, though many fans preferred God-Emperor, begging your pardon).

You’ll read now and then about the great old days of publishing, when Mighty Editors roamed the earth (or at least the hallways) wielding their red pencils and showing callow authors who showed some promise how to tell a real story.

Those days are mostly gone now. Today the industry is run by bean counters who sell books by the yard. Editors flit from house to house, perpetually frustrated that they can’t get approval for books and authors they believe in.

Jim Baen was a throwback to the glory days. He ran his own shop, and he ran it his own way. He published the kind of books he wanted to read himself, and he showed the world that you could make a nice living doing just that.

He was fiercely, even frighteningly, honest. When he said he’d do a thing, he did it.

He believed in freedom of speech and, unlike many in the publishing business, he practiced it. He published me (a Christian) and Eric Flint (a Communist). He himself was an agnostic.

I doubt I’ll ever see another editor/publisher like him.

We can never know for certain the fate of any soul. I pray Jim will have found grace at the end.