All posts by Phil W

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?

CNN Reporting Hezbollah’s Prepared Message

CNN’s man in Beirut, Nic Robertson, told CNN’s Reliable Sources host Howard Kurtz that Hezbollah controlled his story entirely. Rich Noyes blogs on it:

Robertson suggested Hezbollah has “very, very sophisticated and slick media operations,” that the terrorist group “had control of the situation. They designated the places that we went to, and we certainly didn’t have time to go into the houses or lift up the rubble to see what was underneath,” and he even contradicted Hezbollah’s self-serving spin: “There’s no doubt that the [Israeli] bombs there are hitting Hezbollah facilities.”

Comic Con: Smarter Pop Culture

This report by Borys Kit states that Hollywood knows where to woo and make-up with “pop culture’s smart set”–at the largest comic book convention in the country. A quick run-down:

  • Bryan Singer announced that he was discussing the sequel to his Superman movie. The crowd loved the idea, despite the many problems they had with it.
  • How about this answer Singer gave to the fan who thought that having an illegitiate child would compromise Superman’s character: “Love in the modern world takes many forms,” he said. “There are many kinds of families that exist now, and sometimes pregnancies occur unintentionally, and it’s a choice to have a child.” Profound.
  • Principles from Spiderman 3 appeared.
  • Samuel L. Jackson, who hails from Chattanooga, TN, bowled over the crowds.
  • Studios showed excerpts from “Children of Men,” “Stardust,” and “Eragon.”
  • Bryan Singer said comic books will prove to be the mythology of our age.

Open Mic

I hope to blog later today, but don’t let that stop you from commenting while I wait. I know you’ve been wanting to say something, so go ahead.

Technical Errors in Some Recent Christian Fiction

Five-time Christy Award Judge Jana Riess talks about this year’s batch of first novels. After praising some specific books, she writes:

As a judge, every year I’ve been able to say quite honestly that despite generally uneven quality and a few total dogs in each batch, the overall picture for Christian fiction continues to improve. This year, however, gave me pause. What was interesting was that my main criticism in the past — that the novels tended to be overly didactic and preachy — was not a common problem among the 25 novels I read. There were only a few that hammered readers over the head with A Message. Instead, this year’s problems were technical: characters who were important in the first half of the book who entirely disappear in the second. Plot threads that go absolutely nowhere. Stock characters and plots that are almost entirely predictable. Overuse of sentence fragments. And excessive conjunctions at the beginning of sentences.

Read on. [seen in on JMarkBertrand.com]

Congratulations to Nicole Mazzarella for her debut novel, This Heavy Silence.

Words vs. Reality

Thomas Sowell writes: “One of the many failings of our educational system is that it sends out into the world people who cannot tell rhetoric from reality. They have learned no systematic way to analyze ideas, derive their implications and test those implications against hard facts.”

I guess we forgot in some circumstances that talk is actually cheap. We understand that in relationships, but not in world policies.

Mickey Spillane, 1918-2006

Mickey Spillane, 88, recipient of lifetime achievement awards from the Mystery Writers of America and the Private Eye Writers of America, died today in his hometown, Murrells Inlet, SC. His first novel, “I, the Jury,” starring Mike Hammer, was published in 1946.

The AP reports: “Spillane, a bearish man who wrote on an old manual Smith Corona, always claimed he didn’t care about reviews. He considered himself a ‘writer’ as opposed to an ‘author,’ defining a writer as someone whose books sell.”

Bestseller

Can you name the top three bestselling authors worldwide? Let me help. The third one is Paulo Coelho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His most recent hardback, The Zahir, is about a bestselling novelist who loses his wife, a war correspondent, in what may be adulterous betrayal. Another novel (republished by HarperCollins) is The Devil and Miss Prym, which deals with man’s struggle with good and evil.

Unlike the other two current bestselling authors on our list, Coelho has never sold the film rights to his books. On his website, he says, “I have never allowed [his books to be made into movies]. I recently made a US$2 million offer to recover the only rights I ever sold, The Alchemist (to Warner Bros.). They are studying the matter. I don’t intend to sell any film rights, because I think the film should be in the mind of the reader. My books use the creativity of those reading them.”

Are you familiar with Coelho? Do you know who the other two authors are?

Tags: , , ,

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?

Tags: , , ,

Spider Slayer, Bee Friend

[first posted September 24, 2003] I found a fat, orange spider on my car this afternoon. He was as big as my thumb, and though he showed sufficient fear when I poked at his legs, I dispatched him to the underworld. He was scary. I thought his bite would hurt should he decide to stake a claim on the car’s interior and run out trespassers, but I’m not heartless. I took artistic photos of him so he could live in immortality, which is more than any spider could hope for.

Driving home this evening, I had my window down. The Autumn Equinox has encouraged me somehow. My evening commutes are more heartening than they have been lately. While stopped at a light, a honey bee landed on my arm. I turned to look, and he was inches from my nose; but I blew him off and continued waiting without even a rise in blood pressure. He wasn’t scary.

Why am I afraid of the fly-catcher and not the honey-maker? Maybe since I haven’t stroked the back a fat spider while he was gathering pollen from a dusty lawn weed, I haven’t bonded with one like I have with a bee. Touching the back of honey bee like you would a baby’s nose has magic in it [In fact, I touched one again yesterday, July 15, 2006]. I am a friend to them now. Perhaps, they let me walk in peace. Whatever it is, I don’t fear them like I do some other bugs.

Graminivorous

Your word for today is graminivorous, which is an adjective meaning feeding on grass. For an example of its use, take this definition of abdomen from Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary:

ABDOMEN, n. — The temple of the god Stomach, in whose worship, with sacrificial rights, all true men engage. From women this ancient faith commands but a stammering assent. They sometimes minister at the altar in a half-hearted and ineffective way, but true reverence for the one deity that men really adore they know not. If woman had a free hand in the world’s marketing the race would become graminivorous.

Christian Book Awards Winners

The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) announced the winners of the Christian Book Awards (formerly the Gold Medallion Awards). Mark Kuyper, head of the ECPA, said, “From contemporary page-turner fiction to significant theological works, the Christian Book Awards recognize the best within our industry.” The categories are Bibles, Bible Reference & Study, Christian Life, Fiction, Children & Youth, and Inspiration & Gift.

I have confidence in the quality of two of the winners: A Sacred Sorrow by Michael Card (Navpress – Christian Life) and The Ezekiel Option by Joel Rosenberg (Tyndale House – Fiction). I don’t know about the rest.

What do you think about these categories? The whole industry summed up in six little boxes. Last year, there were 20 categories, including Biography/Autobiography, Devotional, Christianity and Society, and Elementary Children. You can see all of the them on faithfulreader.com.

I wonder what the criteria is for judging the Bibles. This year’s winner is The Message: Numbered Edition. The original unnumbered edition won in 2003.