Category Archives: Bookselling

Lessons in Opening a Bookstore

Ms. Bagnulo said there were two major questions to consider when deciding where to open a bookstore: Which city neighborhoods are in need of one, and which can support one.

“It’s sort of joking, but the rule of thumb is, if the neighborhood can support a farmers market, the neighborhood can support a bookstore,” she said.

Jessica Bagnulo is one of the owners of two bookstores in Brooklyn, New York. They sold 500 books in their opening weekend.

Down in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a local publisher is opening a speciality store with rotating literary and local-interest themes.

Nothing in here is set in stone, and that’s why the community curation part of this is so vital,” Easty Lambert-Brown, who owns Borgo Publishing, said of her new store, Ernest & Hadley Booksellers. “If you can provide me a good, rounded set of people that had a major influence on how we think, let me have it! I’m not an expert in all this, and my goal is to learn something here. If I’m not learning from it, I’m just taking up space.”

The Girl with the Bestselling Novel

Why do so many bestselling novels have “girl” in their title? Maybe it was inspired by Larsson’s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and such. But author Emily St. John Mandel says the trend in titles started before Larsson’s books were released. Perhaps it’s a natural phenomenon. Mandel notes this interesting data point:

The “girl” in the title is much more likely to be a woman than an actual girl, and the author of the book is more likely to be a woman. But if a book with “girl” in the title was written by a man, the girl is significantly more likely to end up dead.

Breathless drama in the library

It’s the roughest week of the year for this librarian.

First week of school. I’ve already done my orientations (a lecture and walk-through for Bible school students, a walk-through for seminarians). I’m training two new assistants (most years I have a junior and a senior assistant, so there’s only one to train at a time. But things happen). And I have a lecture to do on writing academic papers, tomorrow (I’ll be doing that with less practice than I hoped). And I’m putting together an article on the Reformation in Norway, for the Georg Sverdrup Society newsletter, deadline coming up.

Oh yes, I sell textbooks, too.

I’m not complaining. The days go quickly, and I’m not bored.

I also agreed, in a preliminary way, to tutor a seminary student in Norwegian. But that won’t happen (if it happens at all) until next year.

Oh yes, the Viking Age Club will be at the Nordic Music Festival in Victoria, Minnesota this Saturday. I’ll be there if I have any strength left.

A Great Literary Mystery

“Why waste those cute little tricks that the Army taught us just because it’s sort of peaceful now.”

On a day in 1993, David Mason had possession of books and letters by and between writers F.S. Fitzgerald, E. Hemingway, and Morley Callaghan about a boxing match in Paris 1929. Callaghan leveled Hemingway, and whether it was for that reason alone or for many others as well, their friendship broke up. The whole story of the match has yet to be told, but it’s apparently all in the papers Mason locked in his safe one night in 1993.

The next morning, those papers were gone, making the great Hemingway Heist one of the literary world’s great mysteries. Mason tells some of what he knows to The Guardian. (via Prufrock News)

“Hello, this is a recording. You’ve dialed the right number; now hang up, and don’t do it again.”

Jonathan Edwards Wanted Nice, Expensive Editions

Jonathan Yeager tells Thomas Kidd about the great puritan preacher’s desires for the appearance of his work in print. No doubt, he would have loved today’s world of easy publishing.

Edwards was a meticulous author, and wanted his books to look a certain way. He was not the best judge on how his books should be printed, if the purpose was for them to sell well. Edwards wanted his books to have wide margins, generous line spacing, and to be printed on fine paper, with good type, and priced affordably. The model for Edwards was his book Misrepresentations Corrected, published in 1752. Ironically, Misrepresentations Corrected was his worst-selling book! A key reason, I believe, was that it was not economically printed. If a printer allows the use of wide margins and generous line spacing, it follows that it would require more pages, and therefore would be more costly.

Edwards vocalized his disgust with the way that his book Religious Affections was published in 1746, probably because it was concisely printed, with tightly cropped margins and line spacing. Despite his complaints, the printer for this book feared that he had not printed enough copies to meet public demand. In an advertisement at the end of the book, the Boston printer Samuel Kneeland remarked that some 1,300 subscriptions had been taken for Religious Affections, at a time when a colonial author would have rejoiced if 500 copies of a book sold.

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.