I Love Bookstores. But Do They Love Me?

Your book, here? HAHAHAHAHA

We hear a lot about how authors, and everyone else, should favor local, indie bookstores over Amazon and big chains. I love bookstores, especially cool little ones, and I even link to IndieBound on my site above Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and other larger vendors.

Well, I recently tested the waters at the two most prominent indies in my town to see if they’d sell my book, Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom. (I should have done this months ago, but what with the crushing depression and electroshock therapy I just didn’t get around to it.)

The first I won’t name because I’m not looking to be personally contentious with them as they are very nice folks who run a great shop. It happens to be the very store where I debuted the novel in 2009, when I was with Putnam. I had a very successful signing with them, came in to sign books when they needed me to, and had what seemed to be a friendly relationship with the main folks there. I love this store. I showed it off to Nydia when she was visiting in the summer. I recommend it to folks all the time. I even used to link to their website from the Doc Wilde site, until I left Putnam and my book was temporarily out of print.

I walked in their door, an author who already ran the gantlet of traditional publishing, landing a multi-book contract with one of the largest publishers in the world, now carrying an improved, new, beautifully illustrated edition of my first book. A book with three pages of raves in the front from sources like Daniel Pinkwater, Kirkus Reviews, Publisher’s Weekly, and the screenwriter of Thor and X-Men First Class. A book, incidentally, with a 4.5 star rating from readers on Amazon. While I was waiting to speak to someone, I even helped a customer, selling her Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men (which is awesome and hilarious). Continue reading

Buy DOC WILDE In Paperback, Get The Ebook For 72% Off!!!

DOC WILDE AND THE FROGS OF DOOMFor intrepid adventure readers who straddle literary realms both past and present, traditional and technological, I am pleased to announce that I am participating in Amazon’s new MatchBook program (and will happily do the same with other vendors if and when they initiate similar programs; I’m not an Amazon partisan).

What this means is that folks who buy (or have bought) the paper version of Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom from Amazon can now also buy a digital copy for only $1.99 (that’s 72% off!).

So if you’d like a copy for your bookshelf but would also like to read on your tablet or phone or other gadget, you’re golden. Likewise, if you want to read it on your device and get a hard copy as a gift for someone, you’re all set.

The deal even applies for those of you who bought the book in hardback when it was first published by Putnam. The new version is a lot better, with my “Author’s Cut” expanded text as well as dozens of gorgeous interior illustrations by comics wizard Gary Chaloner. If you bought the original from Amazon, but would like to see the story in its full glory, you can check out the new version for only $1.99.

Also, and this is important, you don’t need a Kindle to read the digital copy (or any Kindle book, for that matter). There are free apps available for PCs, Macs, smartphones, and tablets, so if you have a device on which you can read at all, you can likely read this book. The apps can be found here.

I’m thrilled that Amazon has made this possible. As a reader myself, I jump back and forth between page and screen, and I’ve wanted to be able to do something like this since I was first published.

Misadventures In Holiday Book Shopping (UPDATED)

bookstore

Being a fan of the local indie bookstore as an institution, I went out to do a bit of holiday shopping on Saturday. I had two books I wanted to buy. My chosen bookstore, a very good shop which has a big inventory and many author events (keys to the fact that it thrived even when the market consisted mainly of the big book chains), had one of the two (a perennial seller) in stock. The other I told them I’d like to special order.

The on-hand volume was twice the price I’d have spent online, but I had credit from previous dealings, so I bought it anyway.

The clerk looked up the other. “We can’t get that,” he said. He couldn’t explain why a book in print, published by Dell, should be beyond the powers of their distribution system. They’re not a new store, and I assume they do special orders all the time.

So, as a customer, I entered their shop with two specific books in mind, aware of the books’ availability and pricing online, but wanting to support the indie. One book cost me double the money I needed to spend. The other book was simply impossible to obtain.

That impossible book just landed on my doorstep, from Amazon. They not only had the book, they had it for cheap, shipping cost me nothing, and they got it to me inside of 48 hours. They got the sale because the local store either lacked a certain competence or wasn’t willing to find the means to get me the book I wanted.

Local shops can thrive, and this one does. If their owners are smart, and make themselves into community institutions that offer great customer service and special benefits and events, they can resist Amazon’s eminence in a way they were never able to resist the intrusion of huge chain stores like Borders and Barnes & Noble. But they need to actually be able to get the books desired by their customers to those customers, efficiently, or they’ll lose valuable business. And that’s never good.

I’ll go back to the shop because I’m fond of it. But someone else may have walked out thinking, “Well, from now on, I’ll just go online…”  They’d have lost not only this sale but all the others that customer might possibly have made.

UPDATE: When I wrote the above, I forgot to mention that two weeks earlier I had gone to this shop’s website and used their automated search system to request ordering information on a title. Nearly a month later, I have yet to hear anything at all back regarding that search.

Fear of a Writing Planet: On John Green, Self-Publishing, and Amazon

A thoughtful post by novelist John Green is making the rounds today regarding self-publishing and Amazon:

I wanted to criticize Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, because I felt that in his introduction of the new kindles, Bezos repeatedly peddled the lie that a book is created by one person, and that therefore a book’s author should be the sole entity to profit from the sale of the book. (Aside, of course, from Amazon itself.)

Bezos and Amazon are consistent in their promotion of this lie, because it encourages the idea that the publishing landscape today is bloated and inefficient and that there is a better, cheaper way to do it—a way where all books can cost $1.99 with most of that $1.99 going to the author. Readers and writers both win then, right?

Well, no. Because the truth is, most good books are NOT created solely by one person: Editors and publishers play a tremendously important role not just in the distribution of books, but in the creation of them…Without copyeditors and proofreaders, my books would be riddled with factual and grammatical errors that would pull you out of the story and give you a less immersive reading experience. Publishers add value, and lots of it, and without them the overall quality and diversity of books will suffer.

Unfortunately, as fair-minded as Green obviously tries to be, at least toward self-publishing in general if not toward Amazon, he falls into the same trap a lot of defenders of traditional publishing fall into. He assumes that the current publishing infrastructure isn’t replicable within a self-publishing paradigm. This is flatly untrue. Continue reading

Are Self-Published Books Crap?

I really do wish this self-publishing ebook market would implode. It’s loaded to the gills with idiots, fools, and just by-Jove lousy writing. The purveyors of this monstrosity are, quite frankly, a bunch of jerks. I hope they all get ass-cancer and die horrible, painful deaths.

Thus spake writer James Robert Smith on his blog a while back. There are quite a few folks out there who share his view, and Smith often posts this sort of thoughtful musing about self published books and the presumably malignant souls who write them. Because what could be more malignant than putting out a book that inspires some good man to wish you get ass cancer and die an agonizing death?

To be fair, there is a great deal of utter crap being self-published, and unless you act as a rational consumer you can drown in it. But if you exercise roughly the same amount of care it takes in a bookstore to find something worth reading among the stacks of largely mediocre books, you can largely avoid buying shitty books.

Look at the cover; if it looks crappy, the author didn’t bother with doing better, and odds are the same holds for the writing. Read the reviews; yes, there are some slimy writers out there gaming the review system, but overall it’s still useful. Finally, before committing to buy, make sure you download the free reading sample offered by online vendors; if the writer can’t write, you’re gonna know that very quickly. Then, please, whatever your opinion of the book, review it on the site, even if you only write a few lines. A good review will help a writer who entertained you; a bad review will help warn others away.

It’s a time of great change in publishing, and self-publishing is the wild west. But it’s actually great for writers, and for readers, as I’ve written about on this blog (check the “Publishing” category in the sidebar), most notably here.

Here’s a thought experiment for you: Continue reading

Internet Killed The Literary Stars (Or Did It?)

There’s a lot of grumpiness these days about books, book selling, book publishing, the “proper” format of books, Amazon’s assault on books by publishing and selling lots and lots of books, and how nobody reads books no more.

Did you know that if you’re reading my blog on a screen of some type, it’s not literature (and you’re probably a subliterate ignoramus who DOES. NOT. LOVE. BOOKS.), but if I print it out on paper it is suddenly transformed and worthwhile? Apparently that’s the case.

Yep. Lots going on. I’ve written about it a bit before (like when I posted about the “Ebook Apocalypse“), and I’m active on the battlefield as an author who used to be with one of the Big 6 publishers but has now gone entirely independent (see my “Astonishing Adventures of Doc Wilde” Kickstarter project, live until April 28th, 2012, please take a look and help a strugglin’ wordsmith out).

Are things really all that bad? Or are they just different? Could they even be better?

I saw some reports recently that indicate that the doom and gloom may be uncalled for. Continue reading

Small Bookstores and the Ebook Apocalypse

When both the big bookstores in her community folded, author Ann Patchett stepped forward and opened her own small bookstore.

In a very charming appearance on The Colbert Report, Patchett offers proof of my argument that the apocalypse brought to the bookstore industry by ebooks and Amazon is actually favorable to small local bookstores. Where Borders fell and B&N stumbles, small stores can now take root and give good old fashioned service to their communities.

In time, they’ll incorporate infrastructure allowing them to infinitely expand their stock by selling ebooks on-site and actually printing books on demand (as with the Espresso Book Machine, which is pretty amazing).

I wrote at length about how ebooks and digital distribution are good for readers, writers, and booksellers here, and if you have any interest in the topic, please give it a read.

You can watch Patchett and Colbert here.