Category Archives: Bookselling

To Work at the Strand

You have to complete a literary quiz. New York City’s Strand Book Store wants their employees to know something about books, so they ask job applicants who out of ten names wrote Infinite Jest or The Sound and the Fury.

Fred Bass, who with his daughter, Nancy Bass Wyden, owns the Strand, called the quiz “a very good way to find good employees,” regardless of their duties.

“Without good people,” Mr. Bass said, “you don’t have anything going.”

See if you have what it takes.

How Significant Is a Book’s Truth Claim?

According to Geoff Dyer, who says his next book is “a mixture of both fiction and non- but will be published as non-”, the strength of the distinction in anglophone culture has waxed and waned. “Orwell’s biographer Bernard Crick points out that ‘12 of the 14 pieces in Penguin New Writing in 1940’ – which included Orwell’s Shooting an Elephant – ‘were of a then fashionable genre that blurred the line between fact and fiction,’” Dyer explains. The nonfiction novels of Truman Capote and Norman Mailer blurred the lines again in the 1960s, he continues, and the boundary is “perhaps going through another porous phase right now.”

At first glance, this article on the demerits of the labels “fiction” and “non-fiction” seems to disparage the need to state whether a book claims to reflect reality or to be a work of imagination. Quoting  a translator, Richard Lea writes:

The division between “the writing of imagination and the writing of fact” that seems so obvious to the anglophone readers “doesn’t seem straightforward at all to much of the rest of the world.”

But how many non-fiction books do not represent the truth, because of shoddy research or editorial bias? How many fiction works have taught us profoundly deep truths (isn’t that what we love so much about some novels)? Perhaps claims of truthfulness should be done in ways other than publisher brands or bookseller shelving, but the reason we say truth is stranger than fiction is because when something bizarre actually happens, it doesn’t have to be as believable as something we make up. You might say, “That could never happen,” but if it in fact happened, that’s all the rationale you need.

Is Free Shipping Killing Amazon?

Hey, did you hear Amazon may be opening several brick-and-mortar bookstores? Someone said it, but whether it’s true is another thing.

Is the free two-day shipping available to Amazon Prime members hurting the company? When customers buy something small, like a jar of Nutella, and choose their free two-day shipping option as Prime members can, it costs the company a good bit. Amazon is working on multiple schemes for getting their products in your hands quickly, but their current schemes are soaking them. Perhaps if they can only drown all of their competition, they’ll start making money.

The CT 2016 Book Awards

Christianity Today has released the results of their annual book awards. Many attractive titles, including this one:

Science Fiction Theology: Beauty and the Transformation of the Sublime by Alan P. R. Gregory (Baylor University Press)

“Our culture is awash in science fiction. From post-apocalyptic young-adult blockbusters to hard sci-fi novels, the genre’s star has never burned more brightly. Science Fiction Theology demonstrates a masterful understanding of what makes it all tick. While the casual fan may find the book’s density off-putting, others will find themselves deeply edified by Gregory’s rigorous tracing of the dialogue between science fiction and Christianity. The dialogue, it turns out, is very lively, even when trafficking in distortions. The chapter on Philip K. Dick, an author criminally ignored by religious readers, is itself worth the price of admission.” —David Zahl, director of Mockingbird Ministries

(via Hunter Baker, who was a judge for these awards)

Be Not Inhospitable to Strangers

Paris (II) '09

Last Friday night during the attacks on Paris, twenty or more people nestled down at Shakespeare & Co. as safe-harbor against the violence. Shelf Awareness noted, “the store embodied its own prominent sign, a verse from the Bible: ‘Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise.'”

Canadian writer Harriet Alida Lye was there. At the time, she told reporters what they were saying inside the bookstore. “We’re saying it feels like this must be part of something bigger, like we are being senselessly attacked. It feels really close to home, because Paris is just so small and the attacks are all over the city.”

Surviving Your Book Promotion

Fame and Fortune Weekly Dime Novel Story PaperVery few authors believe they have sold enough books. Don’t seek personal validation for your career through book sales.”

Ed Cyzewski has a new book out today about the calling and career of writing, Write without Crushing Your Soul.  He observes how experts have differing ideas of what works and you can’t copy one writer’s successful habits to gain your own success (though perhaps that works for some).

I once asked an editor at one of the Big Five publishers about balancing traditional with new media advertising, and she said to do all of the traditional stuff and to then do the new media stuff until I dropped. That may have been realistic for success with a Big Five publisher, but it’s hardly possible for the average author who wants to have family time, personal pursuits, or some sort of spiritual practice each day.

I tried to follow her advice for a season, but over time I found that trying to dive into all of the social media marketing options out there at the same time meant I did all of them poorly.

He says he built an email list for a personal newsletter, which I hear is a strong marketing technique. Readers respond to email solicitations more than social media links, especially if they believe they have already gotten a good return from the emails they’ve received up to that point. There are different ways to do this. The main idea is to recognize and utilize your strengths.

Are Any Books Banned Today?

Ruth Graham points out the problems with that wonderful literary celebration currently engaging many sweet, ill-at-ease readers across the country, Banned Books Week.

Much of the rhetoric around Banned Books Week elides not just the difference between the past and the present but some other important distinctions: the difference between “bans” from public libraries and from school libraries, and between inclusion in school curricula and general availability in a library. A parent merely questioning the presence of a book on a required reading list is the same, to the organizations that run Banned Books Week, as the book being removed from circulation at the local public library. But the former, I would argue, is part of a reasonable local conversation about public education (even if the particular parental preferences are unreasonable). The latter comes closer to a “book ban.”

We at Brandywine Books hope you are enjoying your Banned Book celebrations. If you’re looking for suggestions, Lady Chatterley’s Lover has always been a great fire-starter. We’ve heard of some bacchants snatching books from tables at coffeeshops or smacking them out of the hands of readers on the sidewalk. Don’t let the reason for the season slip into history. Get out there and ban a book. (via Prufrock)

I See a Future for You in Audiobooks

Loren Eaton offers three reasons for new and established authors to have their work recorded into audiobooks.

“Most audiobook listeners are affluent professionals with plenty of time available during their commutes, and such availability is reflected in the sales numbers. A recent report from the American Association of Publishers shows that downloadable audiobooks are the industry’s fastest-growing segment.”

earphone fish

Commuters are a growing demographic for audiobooks.

 

Bookseller Offers Refund for ‘Go Set a Watchman’

A bookseller says the hype over Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman mislead readers, who are now expressing their disappointment in what was supposed to be a new classic.

Brilliant Books in Traverse City, Michigan, has said that its “dozens” of customers for Go Set a Watchman are owed “refunds and apologies” over the way the novel has been presented. “It is disappointing and frankly shameful to see our noble industry parade and celebrate this as ‘Harper Lee’s New Novel’,” the bookseller writes on its website. “This is pure exploitation of both literary fans and a beloved American classic (which we hope has not been irrevocably tainted). We therefore encourage you to view Go Set a Watchman with intellectual curiosity and careful consideration; a rough beginning for a classic, but only that.”

The Watchman