Showing posts with label bookstores. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bookstores. Show all posts

06 March 2018

Book ’Em, Paulie


by Paul D. Marks

A weird thing happened the other day. It’s not a unique thing. It’s not something I’ve never done before—in fact I’ve done it many times. But quite honestly I don’t do it as often as I used to (get your minds out of the gutter here).

I went to a bookstore. And it was almost a revelatory experience.

Now, I have to admit it wasn’t a quirky little independent bookstore. It was a Barnes and Noble. And it was a wonderful experience. The feel of the books. The ability to read the jacket flaps. To see books on display that I might not come across online. And while checking out the clerk had some interesting things to say about one of the books I was buying, A.J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window.

One of my favorite pastimes is meandering through bookstores. And I'm not a snob about it. I like both the big chain stores and the small independents. Each has strengths and weaknesses. The independents often carry a more eclectic stock or are sometimes dedicated to a single genre, such as mysteries. Their staffs are usually more knowledgeable and well read. The big box stores often have more variety and selection.

L to R: me, Naomi Hirahara, Darrell James and Rochelle Staab
 at The Mystery Bookstore in Westwood
But either way, I look at going to bookstores as a social experience. Even if I say no more than "Hello" and "Thank you" to the clerk checking me out, I have a social experience with hundreds of authors and books. And that “hello” is more than I get when shopping online.

Also, on the social level I’ve met women I ended up dating at bookstores (before I was married, of course!) and have seen authors I like do signings and readings. Check out a James Ellroy event some time if you want to see insanity in motion. And I've done signings and speaking gigs at bookstores myself.

I like bookstores that stay open late. That I can run to when an urge for something in particular strikes at an odd hour—and I keep pretty odd hours. It was a place to go. A destination. Before moving out of the city proper (Los Angeles) to a more rural area, I would often hop in the car at all hours to go find a book to satisfy my addiction. But from here, everything is a trek.

Me doing a reading at Book Soup in West Hollywood
But that's getting harder and harder to do, even in the city as there are less bookstores. And yes, I also patronize Amazon, so in that sense I’m part of the problem. But I also still patronize brick and mortar bookstores when I can. And there is nothing like browsing through one, discovering new books and authors. And that’s what it’s all about: Discovery, with a capital D. Whenever I see a bookstore, I want to go in. Whenever I go in, I buy at least one or two things, hoping to help keep the stores afloat and also just cause I like books. And if you saw our house you’d know what I’m talking about. Books everywhere, including on shelves in the garage.

A scene from the movie Harry and Tonto
 where you can see Pickwick Books on Hollywood Blvd in the background
Before my mom got sick for many years, we would often go to lunch and then to a bookstore together. We’d peruse the aisles, not always the same aisles, and both of us would leave with armloads of books. That’s one of my fondest memories of her.

In the olden days, Los Angeles had a ton of bookstores. Specialty stores and general bookstores. Westwood alone (in West Los Angeles, between Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, home of UCLA and the Bruins for you non-Angelinos) had a ton of bookstores. It was so much fun just walking the streets of that little neighborhood and hitting all of them, and maybe getting something to eat and going to a movie as well.

Westwood also had the Mystery Bookstore, which began life as the Mysterious Bookshop in West Hollywood, the West Coast branch of Otto Penzler’s famous Mysterious Bookshop in New York. Both places were treasures in more ways than one and I’m truly sorry that they are no more. Luckily, while in NYC last April I got to visit the original Mysterious Bookshop and it was an amazing amalgam of mystery books. I can’t wait to go back.

Unfortunately, all those Westwood bookstores are gone now.

Other specialty stores that are still with us include, Larry Edmunds for film and TV books and Samuel French that specializes in theatre books.
Pickwick Books in Hollywood 

Back in the day, on Hollywood Boulevard near Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and definitely worth the trip, was Pickwick Books, three stories of book lovers’ delights. And way back in the day, Fitzgerald, Chandler, Faulkner, Bogart, Marlene Dietrich and many other celebs would haunt this place. Though I’m sure F. Scott wished he hadn’t one time. He went into the store and asked if they had The Great Gatsby by one F. Scott Fitzgerald. The clerk told him, “We don’t stock the work of dead authors on this floor. You’ll have to try upstairs [where used books, bargains and the like were kept].” The clerk later said, “I didn’t even recognize him and it’s been making me sick ever since. Especially since he died shortly after that. Another customer who knew him told me my not recognizing him and thinking he was dead had a catastrophic effect on him.”

There were also used book stores (and still are). Down in Long Beach was Acres of Books, a mere 12,000-square-feet. I went there several times but it was a bit of a drive. Closer to home and one of my faves was Book City on Hollywood Boulevard. Partly because of the books and partly because they had one of my favorite pix of the Beatles outside (see pic). They would order hard to find books for me and always came through. And in West Hollywood was the very independent George Sand Books. A small store that held a lot of readings. And even as I put the polish on this piece another one bites the dust: http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-caravan-last-chapter-20180301-htmlstory.html 

Book City in Hollywood
Even most of the mall bookstores are gone. Dalton’s and Walden. And Crown Books. It was always good when I had to go to a mall for one reason or another to be able to duck into a bookstore and pick up something.

There’s still bookstores, of course, though maybe not as many. But hopefully things will shake out and people will want the human and tactile experience of going to bookstores.

Small World Books in Venice Beach
I was thinking about including a list of now-gone bookstores, but for many of you, especially outside of LA it wouldn’t really mean anything. Suffice to say there’s a ton of them. But there’s also a bunch (both new and used bookstores) still around, so if you’re in LA you might want to check them out. But remember L.A. is very spread out and even though some places might seem close to one another they might not be. And if I’ve left any off this list, I’m sorry, it’s not intentional:

$10 or Less Bookstore – Tampa Ave., Northridge
Angel City Books and Records – Pier Avenue, Santa Monica
Barnes and Noble – various locations
Book Soup – Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood
BookMonster – Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica
Books on the Boulevard – Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks
Bookstar – Ventura Blvd, Studio City (owned by B&N)
Chevalier Books – Larchmont Avenue, Hancock Park/Los Angeles
Eso Won Books – Degnan Avenue, Leimert Park (Los Angeles)
Gatsby Books – Spring Street, Long Beach
Iliad Bookshop, The – Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood (near Universal Studios)
Larry Edmund’s – Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood
Last Bookstore, The – Spring Street, downtown L.A.
Mysterious Galaxy – Balboa Avenue, San Diego
Mystery Ink Bookstore – Warner Ave., Huntington Beach
Mystery Pier Books – Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood
Open Book, The – Soledad Canyon, Canyon Country/Santa Clarita (Los Angeles County)
Pop-Hop Bookstore, The – York Boulevard, Highland Park (Los Angeles)
Samuel French – Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood
Skylight Books – Vermont Avenue, Los Feliz (near Hollywood)
Small World Books – Ocean Front Walk/the Venice Boardwalk, Venice Beach
Vroman’s – Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

So, tell us about your city’s bookstores (now and then) and your favorites.

***

And now for the usual BSP:

I’m happy to say that my story “There’s An Alligator in My Purse” has been selected for the 2018 Bouchercon anthology, Sunny Places, Shady People, edited by Greg Herren. I’m pleased to be included with fellow SleuthSayers Barb Goffman and John Floyd.


Please join me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/paul.d.marks and check out my website www.PaulDMarks.com





25 March 2017

Advances and Royalties and Agents, oh my! A Primer on Traditional Publishing


by Melodie Campbell (Bad Girl, who is being especially good today)

Many here know I teach Crafting a Novel at Sheridan College in Toronto.  In weeks 13 and 14 of the course, we talk about the business of publishing.  I’ve prepared the following primer on traditional publishing to bring new authors up to speed on the basics, and thought it might be of interest to readers here.  (Insert caveat here: this is a general primer. Your deal or experience may be different.)

Advance:

…is just that.  It is an advance against the royalties the publisher expects you to earn.

If your book cover price is $10, and your royalties are 10%, then you can expect to make $1 per book sold at that cover price.  (Often, your publisher may sell for less when in bulk. And when that happens, you make 10% of the amount the book sold for, so a lot less.)

So…if you receive an advance of $5000 (which would be considered a nice advance in Canada from a traditional publisher) then you would have to sell 5001 books before you would start seeing royalties.  (At least.  It may be more like 7500, if they’ve sold some of your books below cover.)
In Canada, royalties are supposed to be distributed quarterly, according to standards set by TWUC (The Writers’ Union of Canada).  But this standard is not law; often, publishers ignore these guidelines and pay royalties semi-annually. 

Royalty Example:  Melodie sells 1200 copies of Rowena Through the Wall from Oct. 2015 to Dec. 2015.  She has already ‘sold through’ her advance in previous quarters (see below for an explanation of sell through.) The royalties on these sales will appear on the March 15 royalty statement.  So in fact, for a book sold Oct. 1, she won’t see her $1.50 until March 15, nearly 6 months later.  And that’s with the best kind of publisher.

Sell Through:

This is the term to describe if you have ‘made up’ your advance.  If, in the top example (advance of $5000,) your book has sold 5001 copies, you have ‘sold through’ your advance.

This is a key event in the life of your book, and a critical thing for your book to achieve.  If your book doesn’t sell through, then you are unlikely to get a new book contract from that publisher.

You can see why a large advance comes with stress.  The smaller your advance, the easier it is to sell through. 

(Even if you don’t sell through, you keep the full amount of the advance.)

Agents:

An agent handles the business side of your writing (contracts, etc.)  Agents typically take 15% of your income. 

So, if you got an advance of $1000 (a not unusual advance for a first book in Canada) an agent would take $150 of your advance.  Now you can see why it is so hard to get an agent.  They don’t want $150 for all their work – they want $1500 or more!  So until you are getting advances of $10,000, it is hard to get an agent.

Why you would want an agent:

Agents get you in the door at the big 5 publishing houses.  Most of the big publishers will only take query letters from agents.  If you are a published author already with a house, the main reason you would want an agent is to ‘trade up.’  i.e. – move from a smaller publisher to Penguin. 

Time from sale to bookstore with a traditional publisher:   
Usually 12 months to 18 months.  15 months is typical.

Deadlines: 

Miss your deadline with a traditional publisher, and you are toast.  This means deadlines for getting back on publisher edits too.  Production time in factories is booked long in advance.  If your book isn’t ready to go on the line in its slotted time, then your publisher loses money.  Say goodbye to your next sale.

Print on demand publishers: 

Some smaller traditional publishers have let go of production runs and are now using print on demand technology via Createspace.  Usually this means shorter time from sale to bookstore.  (i.e. a book sold to a publisher in March might be for sale by June.)

How bookstores work:

Bookstores typically buy books from the publisher or distributor at 60% of cover.  So the bookstore makes 40% (less shipping costs).  Usually the shipping costs are born by the retailer, but sometimes publishers will have specials.

BUT – if a book doesn’t sell, the retailer can rip off the cover, send the cover back to the publisher and get a full refund for the book.  The coverless books are then destroyed.  (Yes, it’s appalling.  It all has to do with shipping costs.  Not worth it to ship books back.)

Problem – this doesn’t work with print on demand books.  You can’t return anything to Createspace.  So retailers are reluctant to stock books that are not from traditional publishers using the traditional print-run method, because they can't return books that don't sell.

How long is your book on a shelf:

In a store like Chapters (the Canadian big-box equivalent of Barnes & Noble), if your book doesn’t sell in 45 days, they usually remove it.  Gone forever from the shelves, unless you become a NYT bestseller in the future, and they bring back your backlist.  Yes, this is unbelievably short.  It used to be 6 months.  The book business is brutal. 

I think the third word in that last line is the key.  The book business is a business.  It’s there to make a profit for shareholders.  We are in love with our products, so we find that hard to face.  I saw a study that said approximately 40% of writers are manic-depressive.

The rest of us just drink.

Melodie Campbell does her drinking in the Toronto area, where she writes funny books about a crime family.  Is it any wonder?  www.melodiecampbell.com

18 April 2016

Care & Feeding of a Mystery Bookstore Part 2





CARE & FEEDING OF A MYSTERY BOOKSTORE PART 2


by Jan Grape

More pointers on mystery bookstores:

Best laid plans of Mice and Technology Challenged Woman known as Jan Grape. I looked through several boxes of photographs and found ones I wanted to use in this article. Took my phone out and snapped photos of my photos. Got some fairly nice photos.

Oh dear, these are on my phone and my phone doesn't do email. Well, it would if I knew how to set it up but haven't been able to do that and haven't been able to get to Sprint store to get the guys there to help me. Got my tablet out and retook all the photographs. They turned out fairly well. Actually about as well as taking them by phone. Tried to send them to myself via email. That wouldn't work. And tablet is set to do email. in fact, that's how I do daily email. Have no idea why it wouldn't work. I was connected to Internet and could read and sent email but not the photos.

Finally, gave up and am just writing a few words about our bookstore and how we did things. What this will be is a bit of history but a little reminder of how authors can utilize their favorite Independent Bookstore if you are lucky enough to be near one.

First thing that is important is to remember most Indies have a limited budget to order author's books. However, if you live close to one then go in and meet the owner or manager. Tell them you write and who publishes you,  that you would like to do an autographing event and see if they are interested. Tell them your book is mystery, thriller, romantic suspense or whatever. If you have previous books, take one in and give it to the owner. If this is your first book, give them as much information as possible, a jacket cover or any reviews or blurbs. This might entail you making up a press kit. Also if you know there are other mystery writers in your area try to work out a joint signing with them.

We always enjoyed having 2 or 3 or 4 authors and have them do a panel discussion and/or a reading and that helps insure more people will attend. Because the other authors may have a following already and that will bring in more people. Also if you have a mail list or email list to give to the store that's even better. If you have any promotional materials tell the owner or bring them one if you have it. Find out if they might need a few extra dollars for refreshments. You can make cookies or candy and if you have another author or two see if y'all can pool money for coffee or soda. Most stores have a budget for drinks but offer and then let them tell you.

Also offer to get publicity out in your local newspaper. Maybe you can get someone to write a review for the paper's book section. Or if you have a favorable review already use it. Make up a poster, using your jacket cover and your photograph. If you don't have a jacket cover yet, call your editor and tell them you are trying to set up publicity for a book signing. Sometimes even a small press will do a couple of posters for you.

If you don't have an Indie store in your area, go to the big box store and get acquainted with their community or publicity director. See if you can get something set up with them to do a signing. Especially if you have a writer friend or two who might do an event with you.

Maybe next time I can get those photographs to make this all more interesting.



19 July 2015

The Spy Who Bagged Me


by Leigh Lundin

Zoya Voskresenskaya
Anna Chapman
Anyone who’s watched a James Bond or a tacky Derek Flint film knows the Russians have licentious taste in spies… well, perhaps not Rosa Klebb, more like famed Zoya Voskresenskaya (Zoya Rybkina, Зоя Рыбкина, née Воскресенская). Deported Anna Chapman wasn’t a very good spy, but her incompetence and stunning looks inspired the New York Post to ask “But can we keep her?”

Such a wistful propensity may have prompted other New York-based spies to opt for Hooters as a clandestine meeting spot. Hooters?

Code name Green Kryptonite

Meet Naveed Jamali. His parents owned a specialty store, Books & Research, in Dobbs Ferry, Westchester, New York. In the latter 1980s, a known Russian agent strolled into the bookshop and asked for arcane but legally obtainable reports available from a proprietary government database run by the Defense Technical Information Center. The FBI asked the family to fulfill those requests and notify the FBI as to Russian interests.

This continued for twenty years until young Naveed took over the store. Motivated by a desire to join Naval Intelligence, he leveraged his relationship with the FBI into becoming an amateur– but authentic– spy, complete with an audio recording watch Q himself might have designed.

Double-O-Nought

The FBI targeted the latest of a series of Russian agents, a trade mission attaché and seasoned operative, Oleg Kulikov. Diplomatic immunity meant the FBI couldn’t arrest Kulikov, but they could bring his career to a close. Considering occasional spy swaps, it was a smart move by the Feds.

The plan called for Jamali’s arrest at Pizzeria Uno in the presence of Kulikov, but at the last moment, the Russian opted to return to Hooters, putting the operation at risk. Nonetheless, federal agents swooped in and handcuffed Jamali in a fake apprehension, thus ending Kulikov’s espionage and usefulness as a clandestine operative.

Look for Naveed Jamali's book about his experience, How to Catch a Russian Spy. Fox Entertainment has negotiated film rights for the story.

Spies Through the Pages


Last year saw the release of a wonderful film about Alan Turing, The Imitation Game. For another great read and a chance to meet Turing’s competition in wartime British Intelligence, read Leo Marks’ autobiographical Between Silk and Cyanide.

01 December 2014

Holiday Blues


Jan Grape
by Jan Grape


My good friend, Harlan Coben had an Op-Ed piece in the NY Times on Thursday and he graciously gave me permission to quote from it. I'll actually take advantage and use the whole article and  along the way make comments.

RIDGEWOOD, NJ - THANKSGIVING weekend in1990, I spent two hours at the loneliest place in the world for an obscure novelist  -- the book signing table at a Waldenbook in a suburban New Jersey mall.

[Have any of you had this experience?]

I sat at the table smiling like a game show host. Store patrons scurried past me, doing all they could to avoid eye contact. I kept smiling.

[If I had know Harlan back then, I would have advised him to try his best to speak to people as they walked by. It's not easy if you're shy, but you just have to push yourself. Think of yourself as an actor playing the part of a well-known author signing books.]

I straightened out my pile of free bookmarks for the umpteenth time, though so far none had been taken. I played with my pen. Authors at signings like this get good at playing with their pens. I pushed it to and fro. I curled my upper lip around the pen and made it into a makeshift mustache. I clipped it to my lower lip, in an almost masochistic way, and was able to click the pen open by moving my jaw and pressing it against my nose. You can't teach that skill, by the way. Practice. At one point, I took out a second pen, rolled up a spitball, and then let the two pens play hockey against each other. The Rollerball beat the Sharpie in overtime,

[Maybe offer to give each one walking by a free bookmark and sign it for them. One of my big show stoppers is to ask someone, "Do you read mysteries?" If they say yes, then I point to my book. If they say no, then I say, I'll bet you know someone who does. This will take care of your Christmas list or their birthday list or Father's, Mother's Day? You know, improvise your holiday.]

During the first hour of my signing, a grand total of four approached me. Two asked me where the bathroom was. The third explained his conspiracy theory linking the J.F.K. assassination with the decision by General Mills to add Crunch Berries to Cap'n Crunch breakfast cereal. The fourth asked me if we had a copy of the new Stephen King.

I kept smiling. Four copies of my brand-spanking-new-first novel -- Waldenbooks knew not to order too many -- stood limply on the shelf behind me. I missed the Barcalounger in my den. I longed for home and hearth, for stuffing my face with leftover turkey, for half-watching football games in which I had no rooting interest. Instead slow-baked under the fluorescent Waldenbook lights, the early Hipster booksellers glaring at me as though I was some kind of pedantic squatter. I had become the literary equivalent of a poster child -- "you could buy his book or you could turn the page."

Time didn't just pass slowly. It seemed to be moonwalking backward.

Then, with maybe 15 minutes left before I could scrape up the scraps of my dignity and head home., an old man shuffled toward me. He wiped his nose with I hoped was a beige hankie. His eyes were runny. Odds were this was going to be a where's-the-bathroom question, but this guy had all the makings of another conspiracy theorist.

The old man's gaze drifted over my shoulder, "What's that like?"

"Excuse me."

He gestured at the four books on the shelf behind me.

"Right," I said.

He shook his head in awe. "That's my dream, man. Seeing my book on a shelf in a bookstore." He lowered his gaze and met my eye. "So what's that like?"

I paused, letting the question sink in, but before I could reply, the old man lifted his eyes back to the bookshelf, smiled and shook his head again. "Lucky," he said, before turning and walking away.

He didn't buy a book. He didn't have to.
 [Harlan Coben is the NY Times best-selling author of   MISSING YOU, TELL NO ONE and the forthcoming title THE STRANGER]

And I know for a fact that Harlan doesn't sit unnoticed anymore at any book signing. When you feel alone at a book signing, think about what you MUST do to make it a fun experience. Bring along a bowl of chocolate kisses or some peppermint candy. Have some ball point pens made with your name and book title printed on them and hand those out when you catch someone's eye. You don't have to give out everyone of them but one every ten or fifteen minutes or so won't wreck your pocketbook.
Have some free bookmarks or postcards to give to everyone. You have to do more to promote yourself than just sit there like a bump on a log. Get creative. If you can't think of anything ask a friend or relative who is a craft person. You know...sell your book.

That's my best advice for the moment. See you next time.

[Harlan's article used with permission from Mr. Coben.]

04 August 2014

Outside the Box… umm… the Store


Jan Grapeby Jan Grape

When it comes time to set up a signing for your new book, your first book or your latest book. Why not try some creative thinking?

There's no set rule that you MUST do a signing in a bookstore.  Of course, I'm not saying to leave your favorite mystery bookstore or even your favorite big box bookstore. Just wanting you to think a little outside the box for extras.

When we owned Mysteries & More, I had several signings there for my anthologies and for my non-fiction edited books, The Art of Murder and Deadly Women. I enjoyed signing at my own store and I also signed in Houston at Murder by the Book. I signed at mystery bookstores in Dallas, San Diego, Kansas City, Scottsdale, Bethesda, St. Louis,  and New York City. I was determined to help my fellow writers and my fellow independent bookstore owners sell a few books even if I didn't have a novel published. I'd set up signings with other anthology authors, authors who did have a novel out, and my co-editors. Usually we did panels talking about writing. By having three or four authors, the crowd will grow larger because of each person's fan following.

I tried to come up with promotional items to give to customers and bookstore owners for myself and others. When we operated the store we got many, many promo items. There were writing pens and pencils, key chains, postcards, bookmarks, caps, t-shirts, coozies, little pins to wear that had the book covers on it.  I wrote a few weeks ago about the little rubber jar opener promoting Deadly Women that I came up with and it was a hit. Eileen Dreyer gave away a ball point pen that looked like an actual hypodermic syringe filled with medicine, which was the blue ink. Promotions are good ideas to give away but how about where you hold a signing?

My first book came out and I decided to have a launch party at the bowling center where I'd bowled in leagues for years. They had a party room and we sent out invitations and an awesome crowd showed up… about sixty people, I think.

The beauty salon where I had my hair done wanted to host a book signing party for me. I said, sure, why not? Three years later when my second book came out, we had moved into our RV full time and traveled in the summer, but came back to the Hill Country in the fall and winter. Once again, I did a signing at a bowling center where we now bowled.

When we still owned the bookstore, a writer friend, the late Nancy Bell, was the house mother of a sorority house at the University of Texas for ten years. When her first book came out, we had her launch party for her first book at the sorority house.

Another creative place I had a signing was at the SPA Yoga center where I go. I once also signed on the patio of a restaurant and inside the same restaurant when the next book came out.

I've signed four years at a music festival that a singer/songwriter hosted several years and always invited book writers along with the musicians he invited.

Guess you get the idea that you can do book signings almost anywhere. All you need is a willing host,  a rather busy location and someone to sell the books for you. If you don't have a local indie bookstore who will order books for you, last resort order them from your publisher yourself. But you usually don't get credit for books sold if you, the author buys from the publisher. Just think outside the box… uh store and sell those books.

Groaner of the day: How many mystery writers does it take to change a light bulb?
Two, —  one to screw it almost all the way and the other to give it a surprising twist at the end.