Monday, December 15, 2008

The Pre-Holiday Rush

I believe I have now survived the worst of the holiday madness. All that's left is a choir party Wednesday night, for which I need to bake some cookies, and then I need to wrap my gifts. But my shopping is done and I'm through with all the rehearsing and performing. The first part of this week will be pretty busy with work stuff, but then I think I should be able to relax and enjoy the season.

I started Saturday morning with a choir rehearsal for our big musical presentation. Went straight from there across town to a meeting of a published author group at a new bookstore in town (more on that later). Then clear across the metro area to another meeting. Sunday was the performance of the big musical presentation, followed by a meeting after church, then that night I went to the madrigal feast at the high school. Whew.

The madrigal feast was a lot of fun. I've never been all that nostalgic about my teen years, never wanted a do-over or a return to high school, but I'd almost be willing if I could be in a group like that, getting to wear medieval costumes and sing that kind of music. This bunch seemed to be the kind of kids I would have wanted to hang out with, and the boys were all the smart, funny, talented guys that were cute but more of the "adorkable" type that I would have had major crushes on (and that were pretty much lacking in my school). My school was too small to even have a choir, and I doubt I could have afforded the costume if we'd had a group like that. Supposedly, I was seated with other people at a group table, and I saw other names listed for my table when I checked in, but nobody else at my table showed up, and the one thing I don't like doing alone is eating out. There's something sad and awkward about sitting alone at a table in a room full of people. It would have been nice if someone had managed to figure out there were no shows and move me to another table (and some people I knew from choir were sitting right behind me and had empty seats at their table, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they didn't see me or recognize me). On the up side, my table was right in front and there was no one to obstruct my view, and there was a "serf" assigned to each table, so for one night, I had my own personal serf.

Then I think an arctic front chased me home. It was really warm yesterday, in the upper 70s, and I went out in a light dress without a jacket and was perfectly fine. The school is about five miles north of my house and a little to the west, and by the time I changed into my pajamas after getting home and got up to my office to check e-mail, the wind had shifted, and within an hour the temperature had dropped something like 30 degrees. So today will be a day to cuddle under the electric blanket and write.

Now, about that bookstore ... I've snarked about the literary snobbery I've encountered in independent bookstores, but this one seems to be doing it right. It's about the size of a large B&N, and the people running it are all people who've worked in chain stores and who want to take what they've learned and do it right. Some of them are also big genre fans, one a romance expert who's even been the Romance Writers of America bookseller of the year, and one a big science fiction/fantasy and mystery reader. It's a three-level store, with the cafe (which not only has coffee, but also wine!), gifts, magazines and general fiction on the ground floor, non-fiction on the top floor, and genre fiction on the mezzanine you have to pass through to get between floors. They have a section called "paranormal" where they're shelving the cross-genre stuff that could be fantasy, romance and/or something else, and that's where my books are (it will be interesting to see how that affects sales). The store is Legacy Books in Plano, Texas, so if you're in the area, check them out.

I'd love to see them succeed, not just because I'm friends with some of the people involved with it, but also because the more books that are sold outside the major chains, the better. The main gatekeepers in the publishing world aren't the editors and publishers, but rather the store buyers, since there are two major chains that sell most of the books, and that means there are two people who pretty much decide what gets published and sold. Those are the buyers for that genre for the two big B chains. If one of the big chains doesn't take a book, it doesn't mean that book won't be published (it's a little late in the game for that), but it does decrease the chances of more books by that author or in that series, since one of the two big chains not carrying a book pretty much dooms it to low numbers (it was B&N cutting their order for book 3 in my series that pretty much meant no book 5, since that made the book that much harder to find, and even though they re-ordered repeatedly, the low initial order had a big impact).

There are two oddballs in the industry. Wal Mart is actually the biggest seller of books in that they sell more copies of the titles they carry than any other store, but their selection is so limited that being skipped by Wal Mart isn't a death sentence, while being selected by them can be a big boost. Amazon is selling an increasingly large number of books, but they don't do the kind of big, up-front order that determines the print run. The brick-and-mortar stores are more supply driven -- they choose what they want to sell, and customers have to select from that merchandise. Amazon is more demand-driven -- they order based on customer orders and don't keep that many copies in their warehouse at any one time.

So the more stores other than the two big Bs out there, and the more books they sell, the less influence the two big chains have on the fate of a book. With lots of buyers making ordering decisions, it's less about what those two people at the two big chains like. Unfortunately, to really get that kind of balance, we'd need several big indies in each market, and they'd need to outsell the chains, but each success is a stepping stone toward that.

And now, to work!


Carradee said...

*drools at the bookstore description*

The only independent bookstore in my area that I'm aware of has a pretty, erm, poor selection, per my tastes. And horrible service. *sighs*

If there were a place like Legacy here in Greenville, I would LOVE it, as would many of my friends. I would sense a new hangout to complement the tea place we like.

Pity it would take so much capital to start.

Carradee said...

P.S. I forgot to mention... someone put your books up on 4shared again.