|A New York Barnes and Noble Location|
Not all that long ago, I was able to choose between buying a a recently published book from Barnes and Noble, B. Dalton, Borders, Book Stop, Crown Books, and even a handful of really good, but much smaller, booksellers. Now there are just Barnes and Noble and the Books-A-Million chains, the latter of which has never had much of a presence in Houston. When they first appeared, all of the national chains were harshly accused of running out of business all the little guys that had been selling books locally for decades. The chains were most definitely cast as the bad guys, and they probably were. Now, however, I would kill to have them back because even the last standing giant, Barnes and Noble, may not be long for this world and the little guys are not likely to return even if that happens.
Without Barnes & Noble, the publishers’ marketing proposition crumbles. The idea that publishers can spot, mold and publicize new talent, then get someone to buy books at prices that actually makes economic sense, suddenly seems a reach. Marketing books via Twitter, and relying on reviews, advertising and perhaps an appearance on the “Today” show doesn’t sound like a winning plan.
What publishers count on from bookstores is the browsing effect. Surveys indicate that only a third of the people who step into a bookstore and walk out with a book actually arrived with the specific desire to buy one.
While publishers’ fates are closely tied to Barnes & Noble, said John Sargent, the C.E.O. of Macmillan, it’s not all about them.
“Anybody who is an author, a publisher, or makes their living from distributing intellectual property in book form is badly hurt,” he said, “if Barnes & Noble does not prosper.”
If, as a true book-lover, any of this scares you or makes you nervous, you should read the entire article. It will terrify you and make you wonder if Jeff Bevos, head of Amazon, is on the verge of killing off the industry dearest to our hearts…and yet, few of us can resist the lure of Amazon’s cheap prices and quick delivery. Are we nuts?
The Guardian pointed me in the direction today of an interesting “conversation” about male vs. female authors that has been going on for a while.
It seems that nine-time novelist Jennifer Weiner, whose most recent book is 2011’s Then Came You, does not believe that the New York Times Book Review treats women writers fairly when it comes to reviews and feature articles. The folks over at Slate.com took a look at the situation and it does appear that the raw numbers back up Weiner’s assertion since somewhere between sixty and seventy percent of reviews and features have generally been allocated to male authors.
But first-time novelist Teddy Wayne (Kapitoil) disagrees that female writers are finding it nearly as hard as male writers to earn a living from their work. Wayne points out that it is women readers who buy two-thirds of books sold and, more importantly, that equates to 80% of the fiction being sold. He further contends that book club membership is dominated by women – and that they all tend to read other women, not male writers. Wayne goes on to argue that mid-list writers, like him, do not get covered by the Times, either, and that they do not have the women’s magazines to fall back on for the kind of publicity that sells large numbers of books.
So what do you think? Myself, I think both are correct in what they are arguing. It seems to be only a matter of degree on the “Miserableness Index” that we are talking about here.
Follow this link to The Guardian for the article because there is a good bit more to it than I mention here.
Fresh from the “this is the dumbest thing I’ve seen in a long time department” comes my frustrating experience trying to post the Vulture Peak review, as shown in the previous post, to Amazon.com (which was the source of my review copy, in the first place).
It seems that Amazon has some kind of snazzy computer program that looks for offensive words and the program kept rejecting my review. I removed the obvious possibilities such as “sex industry” and “ex-prostitute” but still had no joy in getting the review through the Amazon robot censor. I edited, and edited, and tried again, and again – a total of 8 more times. Nothing worked. The review got shorter and shorter.
Then it hit me. I made reference to an island off the coast of Thailand called Phuket because that is where much of the novel’s most exciting scenes take place. Never did I dream that the computer would think that Phuket was my attempt to disguise the use of a rather common “obscenity.” But it did.
I removed Phuket from the list of places visited by the detective, and the review sailed right on through.
Unbelievable. I just wasted an hour of my life.
|Book Jacket photo of Walter Mosley|
|Two of Book Chase’s Biggest Fans|
Well, you know what Robert Burns said about the “best-laid plans of mice and men”? I am here to tell you that the man was right on the mark about that one.
I had rather grandiose plans to work Thursday evening and Friday afternoon on the announcement that Book Chase has today officially reached the ripe old age of five whole years. I know that’s not a real big deal just based on the fact that I’ve seen so many 10-year blog milestones marked in the last few weeks. But, believe me, five years is about five times longer than I ever figured I would last.
Anyway, that was when the real world decided to take control of my schedule instead. Last night my tweener granddaughter invited me to take her to the Middle School girls basketball doubleheader – where I sat with a few fathers while she visited with her friends at the other end of the stands. (Hey, you take what you can get from them at that age.) And then, this morning, I got a phone call from my father’s assisted living center telling me that he had fallen and needed to go to the emergency room. So here it is, almost five p.m., and I’m finally at home trying to post something before I completely miss the date.
So, a brief summation it has to be. Since beginning Book Chase in January 2007, I have read 685 books and, according to the counter in my sidebar, I have reviewed 684 of them (and I have no idea why I skipped one, or which one it was). This is post number 1,771 since the blog’s inception, and those posts have drawn 9,445 comments. Answering comments from interested (or provoked) readers has been the most enjoyable aspect of book-blogging for me. I have been particularly enthralled by the long-running conversation under the post I made about Anne Perry’s murder conviction – and how could I ever forget being threatened with a lawsuit by the brother of a very well-known and powerful British celebrity?
I do want to tie in some kind of giveaway to mark the end of the blog’s fifth year, but that will have to wait until later this weekend.
In the meantime, I want to thank all of you who have read and/or commented on my posts here for the last few years. One or two of you have, I’m pretty sure, been here since mid-2007 or early 2008. It really is all about the book community and finding people who enjoy discussing the passion we all have for the written word. Coincidentally, I ran into a quote in the book I’m currently reading, A Novel Bookstore, that makes that exact point:
“You have just confirmed to me that one of the most fortunate purposes of literature is to bring like-minded people together and get them talking.”
Thanks for talking with me for the last five years.
We’ve all heard that “every vote counts” and, considering our most recent presidential elections, I think we all see the real truth in that old saying. On a much smaller scale, here’s another good example about why it is a mistake to stay home and expect others to show up and carry an election in the direction you might favor.
From Boston.com comes the story of how one single vote was enough to make a new library possible for the city of Shutesbury, Massachusetts.
A plan to build a new $3.5 million library in Shutesbury has been approved by a single vote after the town clerk determined that a previously uncounted ballot was valid.
The original count in last week’s referendum was a 522-522 tie, essentially defeating the measure for the town to borrow $1.4 million for the library. The other $2.1 million is coming from the state.
Library opponents, oc course, are ready for a “hanging chad” type recount. Oh, well.
(Click on the link for a few more details.)
|Joyce Carol Oates|
Other stories in the collection are more akin to what one expects from Oates. A young married woman seeks marital revenge and almost dies in the process. A formerly admired teacher she happens to meet in a hospital cafeteria molests a 14-year-old girl. The defender of one family’s honor pays for his audacity in the most heartbreaking way possible. A little boy becomes terrified of his own father and refuses to give away his hiding spot despite the danger he is in. And, there is more, much more.
Say what you will about the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, it has become a bonanza for self-published authors savvy enough to take advantage of it. The way I understand the process is that independent authors willing to give the Kindle Store exclusive rights to sell their digital work for a 90-day period can also opt to include it in the KDP Select program. This becomes a big deal because the book also becomes part of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, making it eligible to share in the big pot of money Amazon sets aside to compensate authors whose books are borrowed by Prime members. There’s the potential to make some good money in this deal.
Look at the numbers. If I recall correctly, Amazon placed something like $700,000 into the pot for January 2012 payments to “borrowed authors.” Let’s assume that 350,000 books are borrowed during the month – that means that Amazon will pay the author $2 each time one of his books is downloaded by an eligible Kindle owner. If your book is borrowed 500 times, you score $1,000. In the meantime, the book is still for sale in the Kindle Bookstore at whatever margin you have created for yourself there. It’s a sweet deal for independent publishers and writers. Interested parties can get the details (and check my understanding of the process) here.
According to Amazon, the Top Ten KDP Select authors earned over $70,000 between them in December 2011. Amazon also points to what seems a counterintuitive increase in sales for the most borrowed titles, creating a win-win situation for the authors in the program.
A question I haven’t seen addressed anywhere yet is how all of this will impact traditional publishers, bookstores, and libraries. Is this another nail in the coffin for the old way? Should we worry about the long term effect on print publishing, or is this something that will have little impact on print books? I suspect that it will impact bookstores more seriously than it will publishers, at least in the short term.
Seriously, is Amazon approaching monopoly status with writers who are likely to be reluctant to reclaim Amazon’s exclusive rights to their work as long as the checks keep rolling in? You tell me.
“Do you love a book so much you want everyone to read it?” If so, now is your chance to place 20 copies of that book in the hands of people who deserve to fall in love with it the way you did.
World Book Night fast approaches, but it is not too late to apply for a spot as one of those directly involved in giving 1 million books to people who have still not discovered the joy of reading. All it takes to make this project successful is for 50,000 people to hand out 20 books each on the evening of April 23, 2012.
This is your chance to be part of the first World Book Night held in the United States. The application process is pretty simple. Click here for the details, including what will be expected of you if you are one of the lucky ones chosen to distribute books.
Although I have written quite a few posts about short stories for Book Chase, most of those posts have pertained to collections rather than to individual short stories. I find it easier to write about collections than about single stories because, with single stories, I have to fight my tendency to give away too much. I hate reading spoilers and I try not to write any. That’s easier said than done when it comes to short stories. I do hope to write about individual stories more during 2012, maybe twice a month, beginning with today’s entry.
Perhaps I can begin safely with a “longish” short story from Joyce Carol Oates’s 2010 collection entitled Sourland. I’ve chosen the 37-page story called “Probate” because of how it so completely encompasses the general theme of the collection. Keep in mind that these stories were largely written around the time that Ms. Oates unexpectedly lost her husband of many years, a tragic experience that greatly influenced the stories in Sourland.
“Probate” tells one widow’s story – and a sad and scary tale it is.
The story opens “on the third day of her new life” as an older woman tries to find her way inside the Trenton, New Jersey, courthouse so that she can probate her husband’s will. Adrienne, the widow of three-days experience, is virtually helpless. She knows very little about the legalities of probate and is somewhat disoriented to find that hers is one of the few white faces in the entire building.
Things go wrong for Adrienne almost immediately, beginning with her strange encounter outside the courthouse with a young woman who barely seems to be speaking the same language. During the nervous conversation, Adrienne finally panics and runs for the building’s back entrance when the young woman (jokingly?) offers to sell her her toddler daughter. Inside the courthouse, Adrienne enters an alien world for which she is totally unprepared – and things keep going downhill.
“Probate” is a Oates’s portrayal of the bleak and confusing life faced by so many older women who are unprepared for the sudden loss of a husband who has taken care of all of life’s little details during their decades of marriage. It is a powerful and unforgettable story told in the way only someone who has experienced similar moments could possibly tell it. Joyce Carol Oates is a master at portraying the all too common violence and loss that can change a life instantly, and she tells Adrienne’s story in the voice I have come to love so much over the past 25 years. “Probate” is not pretty; it is haunting and real. It is a Joyce Carol Oates novel in a nutshell.
This is not exactly a “bookish” post, but it explains why a whole weekend has gone by without me posting on Book Chase. Most of you know that the NFL playoffs are in full-swing as of this weekend – and I confess to watching too many hours of football, both live and on television.
Before a new work week begins, I just wanted to check in and post these two pictures of where I spent a large portion of Saturday afternoon and early evening: Reliant Stadium, home of the Houston Texans who defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 31-10 in the first round of playoff games.
Click on the photos for a larger image. This is a screenshot taken off the Houston Texans website. I’m standing to the left of the goal posts, some 25 minutes before kickoff.
This is a zoomed in version of the same screenshot. I’m the guy fooling with his telephone (just above that number 13 jersey at the bottom of the picture). There’s a little Texan’s logo on my image to mark the spot. To my left are my daughter’s father-in-law, my grandson, and my son-in-law.