August 31st, 2013
It’s over, the long standoff. Simon and Schuster, Barnes and Noble, they’ve shaken hands and gone back to work, one publishing books and the other selling them. It’s been a battle hard on a lot of us in the trenches, those of us whose livelihoods depend on the visibility a chain like Barnes and Noble can provide our work. In the time when B&N would allow no S&S author to do an event or signing in their stores, when no store in the chain could order more than a couple of our new books, we worked hard in the other markets, knuckling down with the independent bookstores and with the smaller chains, and employing the internet in dozens of innovative ways. Through it all, we wondered: Can we still make it?
For me, at least, the answer is yes. I just learned that Tamarack County, the thirteenth in the Cork O’Connor series, will debut tied at #15 on the New York Times bestseller list. This despite the fact that the resolution of the issues between my publisher and Barnes and Noble came too late to be of any use. The lesson for me? There are two, really. First, and most important, the bookselling world is still a large and vibrant one, and no single entity dominates. All the wonderful indies and all the other smaller players still make a profound difference. And second, this whole crazy situation has just reinforced my awareness that if you let yourself worry too much about of the incomprehensible business of the publishing world, you’ll just go nuts.
To those of you who bought Tamarack County and helped it hit the NYT list, I offer you an Ojibwe thank you: Migwech.
August 17th, 2013
Tamarack County, the next in my Cork O’Connor series, goes on sale this Tuesday. My last four novels have been New York Times bestsellers. Tamarack County may not join the others on this list. That’s not because it isn’t good—it received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist—but rather because it won’t be on that front table in every Barnes and Noble in the country. Nor can I appear in any Barnes and Noble stores to help with the promotion. This is because Simon and Schuster, my publisher, and Barnes and Noble are still at odds with one another over economic issues, e.g. the cost of in-store placement. They’ve been going at it for months and months now. When I tour with a new book, ninety-five percent of the stores I visit are independent booksellers. I love supporting the indies because they’ve always been very supportive of me. But the reality is that very few books reach the stratosphere in sales without a significant push from the big chain store.
I can’t do anything about this situation, but you know what I’m hoping? I’m hoping that fans of my work will help spread the word that a new Cork O’Connor is available. And I’m hoping that readers will descend on their local independent bookstores and purchase the novel there, and that Tamarack County will still find its way to the bestseller lists. I’m thinking wouldn’t it be a wonderful example to S&S and B&N that readers can find good books on their own. And maybe these two giants can finally shake hands and get back to business.
Yeah, I’m a born optimist.
May 30th, 2013
I just learned that I can’t visit any Barnes and Noble store with the release of my upcoming novel Tamarack County, the thirteenth in the Cork O’Connor series. There’s a spat going on between my publisher, Simon and Schuster, and the bookstore chain. No Simon and Schuster author may visit any Barnes and Noble until further notice. It has something to do with money, but nobody seems to know exactly what.
I’ve been setting up my tour for Tamarack County, which comes out on August 20. I’d arranged two events at Barnes and Noble stores in the Twin Cities, two stores that have been strong supporters of my work from the beginning and that sell enormous quantities of my work. Then I got the word from New York: No visits to B&N. I called back the Community Relations Managers of both stores, the wonderful women I’d work with to set up the events. We all scratched our heads and said it was crazy, but there it was. The gods had spoken.
There’s more. Many S&S authors’ works are no longer being ordered or displayed. I suspect this rift, which has been dragging on for months, has drastically affected my sales and the sales of other Simon and Schuster authors. And I can’t help but think that the entity benefitting most from this kind of nonsense is Amazon. Readers who can’t find authors at B&N and who have no local independent are going to pop onto the Internet and buy there, it seems to me. Or they’re simply not going to buy at all.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my publisher. But this business is difficult enough as it is, and I bust my rear end to sell books. Then this kind of chicanery gets thrown into the mix. I have a friend who used to wear a T-shirt at writers’ conferences: Publishing Business—Isn’t that an oxymoron?
May 8th, 2013
I grew up in the 50s and 60s, and my favorite movies all had monsters in them. The best of those wonderfully terrifying creatures were the brainchildren of a man named Ray Harryhausen. He was the genius behind the Cyclops in The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. He created an army of sword-wielding skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts. The Ymir, his alien creature from Venus in Twenty Million Miles to Earth, made me believe in life on other planets—terrible life. His dinosaurs that menaced James Franciscus in Valley of the Gwangi also menaced me in my nightmares. Harryhausen was the best stop-action animator the film world ever knew. With the advent of CGI and the demise of other, earlier, cruder forms of animation, he’s probably the best of his kind that we’re likely ever to know. He died yesterday.
I’d just like say goodbye to a guy who made my Saturday afternoons at the movie theater something to look forward to. So long, Ray. Give the angels a thrill.
April 22nd, 2013
When I was a kid, every town had a bookstore. An independent bookstore. Some towns had several. They were as ubiquitous as local drugstores with soda fountains and as important as any other element to the life of a community. It’s not like that now. Our local, independently owned bookstores are an endangered species. They’re the victims of big chains and of Amazon, yes. But they’re also endangered because of our own lethargy and our insensitivity to both the necessity and the importance of these very valuable resources.
Borders has gone the way of the dodo bird. If what we hear is true, Barnes and Noble is on the ropes. And when that chain is gone, know who’s left? Amazon. The big faceless corporation for whom books are simply another commodity and each of us is simply a revenue source.
Buying from independents is in our own best interest. It assures that no one large entity will control what’s available to us as readers. Freedom—and it does come down to this—is all about choice.
Most of the signings I do are at independents. I’ll be signing on Friday at a wonderful small bookstore in Hudson, Wisconsin, called Chapter2Books. Like most independents, they walk a fine line between red ink and black. If you live in the area, I would consider it a personal favor if you came and experienced this lovely shop and began to do your book buying there. Here’s a link to a great blog about these folks and their plight.
Thanks for listening. And remember: Think globally. Shop locally.