Archive for category Authors as Guest Bloggers
Okay, first of all, I know I don’t own a bookstore and so I guess most of you won’t count me among your ranks. I don’t spend my days keeping the door open, the lights on, making payroll, or stocking books and then hooking them up with my customers. But—that understood—in the end we’re both in the same business; selling books to readers.
So, with your permission, I am writing as one of you on behalf of Karen Spears Zacharias’ debut novel Mother of Rain (Sept 2013) being published by Mercer University Press. Of course, I could have simply written a blurb, but as I made my way through the manuscript, it seemed this historical novel deserved more than a blurb.
As a Southerner and a Tennessean, I am always happy to see a book about my people come up through the ranks. In her opening notes, Karen wants to be sure we know her voice is authentic as she chronicles her own heritage, long anchored in East Tennessee. I guess she does this because of having been replanted in the Northwest many years ago.
Truth is, the words of Mother of Rain speak far louder than any family pedigree ever will. Her story is authentic, through and through. The folks that populate her world are as hard and rough as the mountainous terrain they struggle to survive.
Their lives are filled with the sadness and craziness that seems to be our lot in the rural South, coupled with a depth of love that gives meaning to their struggles. She has given us a beautiful book, brilliantly written—a book for generations to come.
I owe you booksellers a lot. Any success I’ve ever had is forever linked to the power of hand-selling a book. Hopefully, I will never miss an opportunity to thank you for that privilege. Likewise, because of you and your passion, I have been introduced to other books and storytellers I would never have known.
So, here I am, asking you to meet the folks Karen has given us in Mother of Rain. I hope you love this book as much as I do—and, if you do—I hope you will pass it on to your readers. She has done her part and done it beautifully. Now it’s up to us to get the word out.
Thank you again,
The Widow of the South
and A Separate Country
August 1, Beautiful Book, Blurb, Craziness, Debut Novel, East Tennessee, Family Pedigree, Generations, Karen Spears Zacharias, Manuscript, Mercer University Press, Mountainous Terrain, Payroll, Privilege, Robert Hicks, Sadness, Selling Books, Southerner, Stocking, Storytellers, Tennessean
Back in the 1970s, when I roamed the aisles of bookstores in Boston and Cambridge, all bookstores were independent. I loved browsing shelves where classics, modern writers, and obscure authors published by equally obscure presses stood side by side, all presented as works of equal value.
Every bookstore seemed run by an odd man, sometimes stoop-shouldered, sometimes bearded, who got just as excited talking about literature as fans of college basketball do about the NCAA tournament.
As a young writer these bookstores were refuge and home, a place where the breadth of choices and the knowledge and enthusiasm of the people who worked there gave me hope for my own life as a writer. Readings were rare events, occurring once every few months, and they were always packed. Everyone who attended bought the author’s book in lieu of a ticket for the reading. If you didn’t like the book, no matter – you could trade it in at a used bookstore later. The important thing was to support the bookstore and the writer, whose successes appeared intertwined. We were all part of the same community, the same family.
Through the years I continued to support indie bookstores. I remember visiting Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh when they actually were in Quail Ridge, and had foot traffic of about 12 people a week. When they moved to bigger digs on Wade Avenue, I started their Angel Tree, even hand-delivered the books their customers purchased for children in housing projects in Southeast Raleigh. It was a good program, serving the needs of both the bookstore community and the larger community.
As a published writer, and now publisher of Jacar Press, I have always supported indie stores. In turn, they have been generous to me and my authors in terms of hosting readings, ordering books. Although my experiences have been for the most part good, I can’t help but notice it hasn’t been the same for all indie authors and presses. The mutual community feel of writer-press-bookstore is changing. Increasingly, independent writers, especially younger ones, and independent presses, don’t feel a sense of loyalty towards independent bookstores. They don’t feel support is mutual. I think this is bad for everyone involved.
Writers and publishers need allies. They shouldn’t turn their backs on stores that have historically supported them. Bookstores, as their customer base ages, need to bring in new customers committed to them. Indie stores can’t afford to lose what has always been a solid core of customers. With the advent of chain stores, Amazon, ebooks, and the explosion of MFA grads and self-publishing options, all indies (bookstores, publishers, writers) need to find ways to strengthen their relationships.
The crux of the situation seems to be this – indie presses and writers often feel under-supported by their local indie bookstores. Bookstores in turn feel indie writers and presses don’t understand the realities of marketing, distribution and bookselling.
Jamie Fiocco at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill says indie stores need to be able to “get the books at a reasonable discount, reasonable shipping and reasonable returns policy. Best case scenario, get the book available at a regular discount and returnable at the wholesalers.”
Her comments are echoed by Tom Campbell of The Regulator in Durham, who pointed out, “Bookstores have cut back on their help and where this shows up most is in the office. It’s really time-consuming to write one check for $20 to this press, another for $30 to that press. It’s easier to write a $500 check to one distributor.” He says indie publishers should be listed in the American Booksellers Association’s on-line Book Buyer’s Handbook (also known as “The Red Book”). “This is the go-to place for independent booksellers to find out how to order books, terms of sale, etc.”
Which, say some indie publishers, is a major part of the problem. Most distributors still want publishers to print up press runs of 2,000 or more, and do offset printing, which is far more expensive than digital. Often distributors charge publishers up to $500 to set up an account, then monthly fees to maintain it. On top of that, they take 15-25% of sales, on top of the 40% bookstore discount. Which means the publisher might only receive 35% of the cover price for each book sold. Plus the publisher pays to ship the books to the stores, and when unsold copies are returned. The cost of having your books handled by a major distributor is prohibitive for many indie presses. But without a relationship with a major distributor, small presses are required to have at least three titles currently in print and consistent discount and returns schedules for all independent bookstores in order to be eligible to be listed in the ABA “Red Book” database.
Kevin Morgan Watson, Publisher of Press 53, believes “Too many independent booksellers are looking at national sales databases to determine what they should carry, rather than getting more involved with what is also going on regionally and locally to round out their offerings. This would create more sales and a wider customer base. Marjorie Hudson’s story collection, Accidental Birds of the Carolinas, has sold 2,000 copies, over 400 of those at two stores in the Triangle [the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina]. Why aren’t other stores selling this book? Because they have convinced themselves there is no market for short stories and by doing so have lost those readers to Amazon and other online booksellers.”
Mention Amazon and you’re sure to draw the ire of every indie bookstore owner. Conversely, most indie presses and authors say a presence there is a necessity given the realities of the market. But indie bookstores feel publisher and author giveaways and 99-cent specials on Amazon undercut their ability to sell print copies of the same books. Indie presses see it differently. Since out most of these sales books aren’t even shelved by the bookstores, how can ebook sales be taking bookstore customers? Not all writers favor selling their books at a deep discount. Although the rationale for giveaways holds that these specials increase one’s audience base down the line, some indie writers believe the opposite. They refuse to participate in free or cheap giveaways, claiming it devalues writing, and creates an audience that expects to get books for free. Most writers would prefer to sell their books through local bookstores, but feel that is often difficult to do.
The single biggest complaint indie writers have about bookstore policies is that the increasingly popular bookstore model – where a writer brings their books to a reading, gives the bookstore 40% of all sales, then removes all unsold copies when they leave – benefits primarily the bookstore. “I wouldn’t mind,” said a writer whose work has been published by one of the larger indie presses, “If they kept even one or two copies on the shelf.” Without the bookstores retaining even one copy, writers feel there is no reason to support the bookstore. It has ceased to become a partner. “Why should I sell at a bookstore if they’re not even keeping my book?” Why not read at a bar, art gallery, or coffee house and keep all the proceeds, rather than turn over 40% of sales?
Bookstores believe writers don’t understand that it costs to sponsor a reading – someone has to write the press releases, add the announcement to the web, set up the chairs, etc. They also feel writers over-estimate the market, and can’t keep books on the shelves that won’t sell. “We don’t have a magic core customer base,” says Campbell. “In the best of times poetry never sells well. Neither do most story collections by single authors.”
Now with so many books, particularly in poetry, flooding the market, sales, rather than increasing, are on the decline. Everyone wants to publish, but no one wants to buy. With the expansion of readings and open mics, the audiences for bookstore readings are diminishing. It’s up to the writer to help bring people into the store, bookstores feel. But just bringing in an audience isn’t enough.
Everyone agrees that there is a drastic increase in the number of writers who want to see their work in print. Ten years ago only 32,000 books were self-published. A year ago, over 1 million. And it’s not difficult to find a publisher willing to print up a writer’s book if the writer pre-sells 50-100 copies prior to printing. Bookstore owners feel this is a major part of the problem. They say publishers who require authors to pre-sell so many copies of their books before the books are even printed make their authors unattractive for store readings. If a writer pre-sells to their family and friends, who is left to buy the book at the bookstore? Every bookstore owner has a story about readings where they sold no books because everyone in the audience had already purchased copies. There is suspicion among booksellers about this publishing practice.
“There are ‘printers’ out there who are not publishers, and a lot of authors are duped into getting ‘published’ by these outfits. It’s okay to go this route, but the authors need to understand they will be taking a loss if they want to play wholesaler and resell their books to bookstores,” said Fiocco.
For publishers who require this it’s a Catch-22. Pre-sales are necessary to cover their costs. One of the reasons they cite is the difficulty of getting bookstores to carry, and make an effort to sell, their work. By pre-selling they can be sure not to lose money on a book, and in turn be able to publish more work by more writers. All of whom want to do readings.
The increased availability of reading venues may be a problem, too, since the sales are split over multiple venues, rather than being concentrated in the bookstores. In the Triangle area of North Carolina alone, there are probably 15-20 opportunities a month to hear a writer read – at bookstores, coffee houses, open mics, bars, art galleries. Almost all of the writers reading at these venues publish with independent presses, self-publish, or haven’t published a book yet. Difficulties occur for bookstores when writers read at alternative spots, selling books at restaurants and coffee houses, and also want to read at bookstores. “If someone is doing a reading at a coffee house, I won’t host them here,” Campbell said. Writers and presses point out, since the bookstores don’t carry their books, they have no choice but to find other places to read, and sell, their books.
While the open mic phenomenon has democratized the writing scene, especially for poetry, it hasn’t improved the situation for bookstores that need to sell books to survive. Increasingly, in order to draw crowds at bookstore readings, those readings have to have an open mic component. And increasingly, that audience does not purchase books.
To address this problem, many indie bookstores are starting to charge fees for reading events. Jill Hendrix from Fiction Addiction in South Carolina feels it’s necessary to charge a $75 fee to indie publishers or writers if they wish to hold an in-store event. That covers the upfront costs of newsletter, web posting, etc. These events usually draw an audience of 10-15, so, factoring the bookstore cut of sales, the authors don’t really make money, but they consider it good exposure. And the store keeps those books on its shelf for 6 months.
“This is a business,” Hendrix said. Some people pay the fee, others aren’t interested.
But it doesn’t help that business to have book-buying writers feeling frustrated.
So what can be done about this? Here are my modest proposals. I offer these as a starting point, to encourage dialogue about this issue.
1) Instead of separating out local or regional authors, mix them on the shelves with those from major publishing houses, so that people who browse the well-known names have the opportunity to come across local writers. 2) If someone lives in your state, keep at least 1 copy of their book on your shelves. 3) If you are going to charge a fee for a reading event, allow the writer to keep the proceeds from the first 6 books sold, so they get something back for their investment. 4) Make sure when you highlight books to include many indie published books too – remember, 2 years ago it was an indie press that published the Pulitzer Prize winning novel. There are many fine indie books that can be suggested as holiday gift books, or excellent reading choices. Don’t just be led to read what the major publishers suggest are their best books. Highlight local and Indie authors, too. 5) Be aware of the serious distribution problems facing indie presses, and try to work with them on that. One solution proposed by more than one bookstore owner is for several small presses to band together to produce events and distribute books. www.WritersDeliver.com, a writer-based co-operative distribution service, is attempting to do just that. It offer bookstores the opportunity to order from 10 presses, 20 authors in one simple online form, and will arrange a readings for bookstores. Order from it. 6) Remember, if you are claiming it is better to purchase from an indie bookstore, you have to be about more than just business. 7) Ask indie presses and writers who wish to have a reading to take on the burden of preparing press releases, newspaper listings, social media listings, etc. – all that upfront work you have to do. Make that part of your agreement for hosting a reading.
For Indie Presses and Writers
1) Band together to create joint-distribution groups. 2)Write up press releases, handle social media marketing, for proposed readings. 3) If indie bookstores do carry a title you published, don’t undercut them by offering that particular book on ebook discount in their market area. 4) Don’t pre-sell your book. Or if you must, ask your friends and family to reserve a copy at an indie bookstore. Or better yet, you, the writer, can collect these reservations and turn them over to the bookstore, encouraging them to order a couple extra copies for their shelves. Then negotiate with your publisher to accept these reservations as part of your pre-sell package. The publisher will actually make more money from that. 5) Don’t do free giveaways or 99 cent sales on Amazon. Unless you’re writing genre fiction, they don’t work. It is never a good model to give away 4,000 free books to sell 10. People will only be expecting your next book to be free. 6) Don’t book so many readings in the same area that it becomes oversaturated. Honor the indie bookstore sales area if you wish to read at that store. 7) Hone your pitch to bookstores. Publishers can offer a one or two line explanation of why each of their books will appeal to readers, who the audience might be for each publication, so bookstores have a starting point for selling. 8) Give up Starbucks for 1 week every 4 months and use that money to buy books at readings instead of coffee. You can’t sit in a restaurant for 2 hours without buying something. Treat bookstores the same way. That would go a long way towards alleviating the concerns of presses, writers and bookstores.
One last piece of advice to indie bookstores – rethink Kobo. Ebooks are not going to increase your sales of print books. And like it or not, most users, and techies, consider Kobo an inferior product to Kindle. Rather than remind people there are cheaper ways to get books, ways that exclude bookstores, focus on what Indie bookstores always offered in the past, when they were more than just a business – a wide range of literature, enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff, a mission to support writers and the wider community. The old cliché, charity starts at home, can be recast to “Indies support Indies.”
Richard Krawiec is Publisher of Jacar Press. His poetry collection, She Hands me the Razor(Press 53) was a SIBA nominee in 2012.
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Southern … independent booksellers … on the beach. What could be better?
Being a big fan of all three, I jumped at the chance to attend my first trade show—the 2012 get-together of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance in Naples, Florida.
If I had to pick a single word to characterize the weekend of the show, it would be warmth. You might think I’m talking about Naples’s subtropical heat and humidity (and you would be partly right), but my stronger recollection is of the warm enthusiasm of the other bibliophiles in attendance.
The crowd included book publishers, booksellers, reviewers, editors, and fellow authors and readers. Some were newcomers like me; others were old hands. I had the sense that we all shared a love of books, language, creativity, and a strong sense of place.
Among the highlights for me (I’m a little biased here) were the Saturday and Sunday beach walks. With two new beach books on the show roster, organizer Wanda Jewell had arranged for “walking book talks” with authors Carl Hobbs (The Beach Book) and yours truly (How to Read a Florida Gulf Coast Beach). Each tour began in a shadowy mangrove swamp and ended on a breezy sand beach. (Coincidentally, my book includes an aerial photo of the SIBA convention location, including the very boardwalk and beach we traveled.)
A central theme of any beach book is change (“no one ever steps on the same beach twice”), and Clam Pass Beach obligingly proved the point for us that weekend. On Saturday the view featured brooding storm clouds and rhythmic beach cusps. On Sunday a few clouds still hovered, but the tide and surf had wiped away all cusps. The overnight rise and fall of the Gulf of Mexico had instead left the gift of a rich wrack line (drift line) full of seeds, shells, and grasses to explore. We also visited a sea turtle’s nest and chatted with the local turtle patrol.
Other SIBA highlights included many opportunities to
- Meet the friendly people behind some favorite titles (the display table of Rocky Publications and Tim Ohr looked just like my bookshelf at home)
- Connect with independent booksellers, who so vitally link authors and readers (thanks to #siba12, I’ll be participating in next year’s “Ding” Darling lecture series on Sanibel Island—can’t wait!)
- Discover new publications (I’m currently reading Air by William Bryant Logan and looking forward to forthcoming Florida goodies from National Geographic Maps)
- Be inspired by creative marketing (the University Press of Florida was giving away little boxes of cereal—can you figure out why?)
- Start drafting my holiday shopping list (there will be a definite book-vibe going on this season)
- Spend a few days in the company of like-minded community (I’m just sorry I missed Sunday’s flash mob)
After all that, could there be a downside? Well, just a couple—sort of. With so many intriguing titles on display, I came away with a severe case of book envy. My ever-growing wish list now includes many more pounds of new books.
Field and travel guides are a particular hazard. My current bugaboo is The Living Gulf Coast by Charles Sobczak, who welcomed visitors to the Indigo Press table. This book is a lush, irresistible invitation to roam Southwest Florida’s natural places. Daily now I am tempted to trade the white glow of my iMac for some fresh Florida sunshine.
Such are the perils of SIBA.
Nevertheless, I heartily encourage other authors, new and seasoned, to visit with SIBA if you can.
… which leads me to I wonder, can I finish How to Read an East Florida Beach in time for a #siba14 Daytona Beach book walk?
I’d better get back to work.
Tonya Clayton is the author of How to Read a Florida Gulf Coast Beach: A Guide to Shadow Dunes, Ghost Forests, and Other Telltale Clues from an Ever-Changing Coast (Southern Gateways series, University of North Carolina Press, 2012). She thanks SIBA and UNC Press for providing the opportunity to participate in #siba12.
Beach Books, Bibliophiles, Book Publishers, Book Talks, Booklovers, Clam Pass, Convention Location, Cusps, Drift Line, Fellow Authors, Florida Gulf Coast, Independent Booksellers, Line Drift, Mangrove Swamp, Naples Florida, Sea Turtle, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, Storm Clouds, Turtle Patrol, Wrack Line
Their reputation had preceded them. I’d heard the (SIBA) Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance put on the best conference in the country. Now I have not attended many of the others but I came away from Naples, Florida feeling so welcomed by the group that gathered there for their annual get together. I met so many nice people, all of whom expressed a genuine interest in my novel, despite the snowy cover that does not speak of the South, and the chilly story of The Sausage Maker’s Daughters within. Was it that they accepted me as a southerner myself, albeit one from Southern California whose story takes place in Southern Wisconsin?
No I think it is just their way: graciousness, openness, and sincerity in action. Kudos to the entire organization!
I’m hoping my dubious southern roots will enable me to return, and that SIBA will eventually adopt me as one of theirs.
Entire Organization, Genuine Interest, Kudos, Naples Florida, Nice People, Novel, Openness, Reputation, Sausage Maker, Shares, Sincerity, Southern California, Southern Hospitality, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, Southern Roots, Southern Wisconsin, Southerner, Story Takes Place
A Debut Novelist Reflects on SIBA 2012
I arrived at SIBA 2012 in a near-comatose state, the inevitable result of cramming international travel, two full days at the arts nonprofit where I work, taping a TV show three hours’ drive from home, and travel to Naples into a five-day period. By the time I reached SIBA, I was operating on pure adrenaline—and not nearly enough caffeine.
Then I arrived, and was revitalized … not by a fancy Frappuccino, but by the intoxicating, giddy sensation of being surrounded by an abundance of fellow bibliophiles.
I’d been to SIBA before—years ago, in Atlanta—but in a much different capacity. That time, I’d been staffing a booth, representing the small publishing company where I served as editor. This time, I was there as an author, promoting my debut novel, THE MEMORY THIEF (Ballantine Books, August 2012). I felt like I’d fallen through the rabbit-hole, and woken up in Wonderland.
I know that, in these digitally dominated, penny-pinching days, attendance at traditional conferences is increasingly being supplanted by virtual participation. And if all you’re after is information, then sure, I guess that does the trick. But if you want to build relationships and get to know people, in my humble opinion there’s no substitute for looking them in the eye—or making a fool of yourself in front of them as you struggle to guide an Oreo cookie from your forehead to your mouth, without using your hands (note to self: not a future career path; thanks a lot, Writers Block Games).
But I digress. Simply put—to all the folks who claim that, in the second decade of the 21st century, in-person connections are overrated, I reply: Bah Humbug!
As proof, I offer up ten events that transpired as a direct result of my participation in SIBA 2012.
- En route to Naples, I persuaded a random woman in the Charlotte airport to download my book to her ereader. (What can I say? I am shameless.)
- At the Moveable Feast, I met fellow North Carolina author Marybeth Whalen (The Guest Book), who kindly invited me to participate in an October event at Park Road Books in Charlotte, also featuring NC author Erika Marks (The Mermaid Collector).
- Veteran author Melanie Benjamin (also published by Random House) graciously spent an hour with me in the hotel bar, sharing her writerly wisdom as she sipped a grownup drink and I gobbled fish tacos in a most undignified manner. To say I am grateful would be an understatement.
- University of Central Florida professor and book festival organizer Susan Wegmann generously invited me to participate in the 2013 UCF Book Festival.
- The lovely folks at the Charlotte Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association asked me to be a part of their October BIBLIOFEAST event.
- I met the enthusiastic and fabulous PR mavens of JKS Communications … who are now organizing my blog tour. I am so excited to be working with them, and who knows whether we would have found each other, were it not for SIBA?
- JKS Communications connected me with author and literary activist Jenny Milchman (whose debut novel, COVER OF SNOW, will be released by Ballantine Books in January) … and Jenny invited me to participate in her Montclair, NJ literary series, Writing Matters.
- I had the chance to shake the hands of some of the wonderful people who advocate for my novel at Random House, and thank them in person for all of their hard work.
- Ditto the many fabulous independent booksellers I had the good fortune to meet—on the trade show floor; around the tables at The Moveable Feast; while stacking red plastic cups into an improbable pyramid at the Writers Block Minute to Win It Games (see the Oreo incident, above).
- I discovered that I possessed a hitherto unrecognized talent: picking up a series of increasingly small paper bags off the floor with my teeth at the selfsame Writers Block Games, all for the sake of a raffle ticket. (Let us never speak of this again.)
From the absurd to the sublime, none of the above would have happened if I hadn’t been given the opportunity to attend SIBA 2012. To Wanda Jewell, Nicki Leone and all the rest of the SIBA crew—a heartfelt thank you.
Emily Colin is the author of THE MEMORY THIEF (Ballantine Books, 2012). She can be found skulking about on her website, www.emilycolin.com, and on various social networks as the spirit moves her.
Bibliophiles, Block Games, Career Path, Charlotte Airport, Comatose State, Debut Novel, Frappuccino, Inevitable Result, International Travel, Novelist, Oreo Cookie, Oreos, Paper Bags, Rabbit Hole, Random Woman, siba, St Century, Traditional Conferences, Virtual Participation, Writers Block
Being on the panel at the SIBA trade show in Naples, FL gave me a rare perspective on the inner workings of other authors and illustrator of children’s books. Those of us in the profession rarely meet each other since our work involves a lot of isolated time in our studios. We got to share our delights and joys and ups and downs of our magical profession with an audience of our biggest appreciators, independent bookstore owners. It is rare to have an open dialogue with people who know and believe in the work we do. For sure we should have more exchanges like this in the future. I believe creative people have a lot to share. We are by nature isolated storytellers. I think anyone who owns a bookstore is a lover of tales . Perhaps meeting more of us in the creative trenches would add new ways to get buyers excited by books. After the panel discussion, I was truly touched by how many buyers came to my book signing and wanted to know more about my new book, The Moogees Move House. I think SIBA people are passionate about creativity and books and I was deeply appreciative of their enthusiasm.
Book Signing, Bookstore Owners, Creativity, Dialogue With People, Illustrator, Independent Bookstore, Inner Workings, Leslie Mcguirk, Naples Fl, New Ways, Open Dialogue, Panel Discussion, Profession, Rare Perspective, S Books, Storytellers, trade show, Trenches, Ups, Ups And Downs
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by Lisa Pell
In this election season, with all the talk of red states and blue states, last weekend at the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance conference in Naples, Florida I saw a mixing of the two in a perfect shade of – purple.
And in this blog about North meeting South, the South wins.
One of the most fascinating scenes this newbie author witnessed, one every new writer should consider trying to observe, in the flesh, not on Facebook, was a session where the New York publishing industry reps presented their wares to independent southern booksellers. Each publishing house had four minutes to showcase its line of books, and the bell tolled mightily when the time was up for major and small publishers equally. Somehow a literary Gong Show struck me as a bit of an oxymoron, but maybe my naiveté regarding the publishing industry was simply moronic.
This scene brought home for me the epic nature of the struggle not only to get a book published, but sold. And these booksellers know their business – you could see the grit and gleam in their eyes as they scribbled notes on the hot hits to buy. To have survived the ravages of the publishing industry over the past few years and continue to maintain faith in the valiant cause that is the promotion of literature has taken almost Scarlettish determination to never go hungry again.
These booksellers rocked. I had a blast chatting up folks on various excursions, in the free-for-all that was the exhibit hall, on the Sunset Deck, at the hotel bar, and in the various meeting rooms where so many talented authors and experienced marketing hands shared their considerable wisdom. But most of all, where the conference truly gelled for me was in something called The Moveable Feast. These southerners really were determined not to go hungry again. The luncheon was billed as a sort of speed dating for authors in their courtship of booksellers. As one of about two dozen authors chosen to participate, each of us had seven minutes to pitch a table of booksellers, then the voice behind the mighty microphone beckoned us to move on. I could have danced this SIBA Shuffle all afternoon – didn’t even miss the beach other than a longing glance from my hotel room window as I left, wishing I could have stayed another night. Rather, this was about a novelesque type of Beach Music, the sounds of impressions and connections being made to the rhythm of table talk. The appropriately colored haze swirling about my head as I endeavored to avoid sounding like a repetitive robot was thankfully limited to my imagination.
What a colorful mix of people I was fortunate to meet, so diverse, but with the same collective purpose – selling books.
Power to the purple!
Alliance Conference, Blue States, Courtship, Election Season, Exhibit Hall, Gleam, Grit, Hot Hits, Hotel Bar, Hues, Industry Reps, Meeting Rooms, Moveable Feast, Naples Florida, Oxymoron, Publishing House, Red States, Small Publishers, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, Southerners, Sunset Deck, Talented Authors, Wares
by Steve Piacente
Waiting last Sunday to make the first of many rapid-fire pitches to a ballroom full of booksellers, I thought of how Elmer used to gaze at Bugs, smack his lips and imagine Wabbit Stew.
It seemed an appropriate image, for the premiere event at the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) is called the “Moveable Feast.”
The “feast” is comprised of some two dozen authors who move from table to table every eight minutes. The goal, obviously, is to get your book added to the menu in independent bookstores throughout the South.
Any fear heading in was quickly dispelled. The sellers were engaged and personable, and asked questions that made the exercise feel more like a conversation than an interview.
And yet that’s what it was, and what it is anytime you get a stranger to sit still and listen to your pitch. Eight minutes is actually long. In my experience, if you can’t arouse interest in the time it takes the elevator to go from 1 to 12, you’re done.
The other challenge is maintaining your own energy and enthusiasm after uttering the same words over and over. It’s wise to remember that Table 23 doesn’t know you from Adam, and couldn’t care less how sharp you were two tables earlier.
In fact, Table 23 looked a little overwhelmed by the time I got there. They had already heard from several authors and really, how much literary speed dating could anyone handle in an hour?
I kept it short. My novel, I said, is built around a dark secret that will disrupt a historic election. It will take you where CSPAN is never invited, to back rooms where deals are made, futures are decided, and where the line between right and wrong is not so clear. The title, I said is Bootlicker.
I glanced from person to person, saw they were at least interested enough for me to go on. So I did, any thoughts of Wabbit Stew now long vanquished.
Have you had a similar literary speed dating experience?
Booksellers, Elevator, Fact Table, Futures, Independent Bookstores, Last Sunday, Moveable Feast, Naples, Own Energy, Person To Person, Pitches, Premiere Event, Rapid Fire, siba, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, Speed Dating, Steve Piacente, Stranger, trade show, Two Tables
“What I didn’t know the first time I attended SIBA was how kind, genuine, and supportive the booksellers would be to a debut author like me. Being new to the industry, pitching the book is what we’re used to as debut authors and booksellers are looking for us to be ourselves. If authors can stay more relaxed and have conversations with booksellers, the story of your book will come out naturally. So don’t be a PITCH. Be YOU.”
- Sandra Brannan
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