Tag Archives: publishing

12:01 The Day After

Book launches are funny things – and fun ones. You spend a year going over with a fine tooth comb every nuance and gerund of what you’ve written–first with your editor, then with the copy editors, then with the publicity team–and then there’s this short period of silence, followed by more bleedin’ marketing work than you ever knew could exist.

Amid the flurry of learning the secrets of social media (that there aren’t any) and the hoopla of “getting your web presence increased” you find that the book drops back to a distant reason for why all this is happening, but not the core of what you’re working on.

And then, this date that’s been on your calendar for weeks and months, or even a year, is tomorrow, and you haven’t got party hats or a plan. But you just move through the day, and then it’s midnight and your book goes off into the world. (Since we own a bookstore, and since some friends asked us to, we stayed up until 12:30 so we could sell books at midnight. I don’t recommend this as a lifestyle, but it sure was fun as a one-off brief party!)

And then the eye of the storm passes directly overhead…. all through the weeks leading up to publication, there are bloggers and GoodReads reviewers and other worker bees in the publishing world, getting your book presence in the big world. But once anyone can buy it, who does? How?

Sitting in that eye, the day after publication, it’s good to know a couple of things: that you meant what you said, and that what you said means something to others; and that you are part of a vast eternal library of all people, in all time, who have put out words that can be read by other people.

That first one makes you happy, especially when you see reviews from readers who have identified with, understood, even challenged what you said in a way that you think opens a healthy discussion. I feel like I’ve contributed something nice to the bookselling world. That second one keeps you balanced, and reminds you of your place in the grand scheme. Like the machine Douglas Adams invented that tells you your importance to the proper functioning of the universe (.01%) all you have to do, the day after your book gets published, is walk into a bookstore and look around.

As Masha Hamilton said in The Camel Bookmobile, “You are a part of this dance. You are not its center.” That’s a good thing to remember, because to your friends and family, you are the center of something, and it’s all too easy to mistake your small world for the big one. That would hurt. And be unwise.

So, my little book about our little bookstore is even now, knapsack over one shoulder, wending its way through the twists and turns of the Great Wide World’s path. It is navigating the mountains of China (got a foreign language contract in Mandarin!). And it is, I think, whistling a cheerful tune. Because it says what I meant, and it says things that mean something to other people.



Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

Jack’s Guest Blog about Wendy’s Surprise Party

I hardly ever get surprised by a surprise party. I remember when Wendy went to elaborate lengths to set me up for my sixtieth birthday surprise party, constantly rescuing the situation when people at work said things like “what time are we meeting Friday” and such. Finally, worn out, she went to lie down for an hour and the phone rang. I answered and it was my old pal Jock Duncan apologizing to me for “having to miss my surprise party.” I had to put on an act when we got there of being ‘surprised’! So it usually goes.

But this week the shoe was on the other foot when I got a phone call from our dear friend Ashia to say that she and her husband Witold wanted to recognize Wendy’s contribution to the well-being of the town through her book and the bookstore, by throwing her a surprise book launching party. Much subterfuge occurred as the week wore on toward Friday evening–careful wording of emails, phoning when I knew Wendy was out of the shop, making sure Witold and Ashia’s car was not parked outside the shop when they dropped by for planning moments. It was all so nerve-racking that I could hardly believe that it was going to work!

So Friday evening came and a dozen of our friends assembled at Witold and Ashia’s house half an hour before we were due to arrive and hid themselves away in a side room. As we were welcomed by Ashia I could see Wendy eying the dinner table set with all the best china, wine glasses and cutlery for more than just four of us. Before the penny dropped, though, all our friends came bursting in amid great hilarity. And a wonderful evening ensued. A slide show of pictures of Wendy at various stages of her past life played in the background as she was presented with a framed certificate awarding her ‘The Big Stone Gap Nobel Prize for her outstanding contribution to local self-awareness’; everyone received a bookmark with a picture of the book on it; everyone took turns reading glowing reviews that the book has received; bookstore stories and legends were exchanged and retold.

For me, of course, a big part of the fun was the sheer delight of seeing the realization on Wendy’s face when everyone bowled into the room. But even more I enjoyed looking round the room at those friends who were delighting in her delight, without a hint of jealousy at her success, just pleased to be part of what she’d done, part of our lives, to be friends.

As Wendy said in her speech, “It’s lovely if you can write something and have people like it, but better yet is being part of a group of people who like you just because you’re you.”


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The Best Part is still People

OK, so in just under two weeks I’ll be an official author, with my book launched. Thus it’s only right that I get to sit back on my newly-minted laurels and pontificate about the authorial life, right?

Actually it’s not a far stretch, because the coolest thing about being an author is the coolest thing about being a bookseller: the people that you meet.

People like Kim Beattie (Goodwill Librarian on FB) Robert Gray (Shelf Awareness columnist) Jennifer and Harte and Sarah (booksellers at Ebenezer Books in VT and Bookstore Plus in NY) to name a few of the new friends in the bookslinging crowd, plus some wacko bibliophiles on Twitter and a whole bunch of authors and about a thousand really lovely people who are READERS.

Readers make the world turn. And they’re interesting souls. A couple of publicity things I did recently netted a whole bunch of people emailing to say hi, and telling me about their library experiences as young’uns: how they had to pay fees because they were out in the county, or how their local library closed because the town grew too small to support it; or their work in various bookstores across the States (and England and Canada, in two cases) and the bookstores that are special to them –one woman is driving back across two states to celebrate the 20th anniversary of a bookstore in her hometown–or how they read real books to their grandchildren in shelf-lined rooms with comfy armchairs.

They are so very, very sweet, these human connections made from books. (And granted, they’re being made on computer, but still it’s just like sitting down with a cup of tea and talking to the people who email; I swear in some cases I picture the person with a mug, in others holding a china cup and saucer, without even thinking about it.)

So maybe that’s the coolest thing about books in general: they always come back to people. That’s the people who wrote them and put their ideas out there for us to enjoy (or shred); the people who gather around them to talk and laugh and discuss; the people who sell them to us and ask us what we thought about them and listen to what the book brought up in us, for better or for worse; and the people who read them, and validate those who write.

Huzzah for book people! You are a great tribe and I’m so happy to be a part of you.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

Jennifer’s Guest Blog

Today’s blog is by bookseller Jennifer Gough, an organic gardener who staffs Ebenezer Books in Fairfax, Vermont. Jennifer read my book and emailed me; we became friends, so I asked her to write a guest blog for sometime in September. I didn’t know she was going to write about her favorite five books about books, or include me in that, but I sure like that she did! (And no, I didn’t pay her, but I do intend to buy her dinner next time I’m in Vermont….) Enjoy, and if you’re headed NE, look up her organic farming business. Jennifer, maybe you could put your contact details in a comment, since I forgot to ask you to include them here? :}

And now….. JENNIFER!

As a bookseller and confirmed bibliophile, I’ve, natch, read a lot of books in my life. I’ve read books about circus freaks and snails; housekeepers and elephants. I like mysteries and memoirs; fiction and non. I read bestsellers and secret gems. I’ve been known to read a romance, but only if it’s, ahem, a very literary romance. There’s nothing I appreciate more than the diverse bookcase, but there is one subject that I can’t ever resist…books about books! Give me a title containing B-O-O-K and I’m sold. I love books about book writers, book sellers, librarians and readers, and I love books about where books live; libraries, bookshops, under the covers on dark, stormy nights. It’s not that unexpected, I live there too. I know my way around. Of course it helps that the landscape’s usually alphabetized.

So here, in alphabetical order by author, are five of my favorite books about books, and the people who love them:

The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde

For anyone who’s ever wanted to dive into their favorite book…literally. As Jane Eyre is my favorite book of all time, the idea of jumping into Thornfield and palling around with Jane and the Edward had me in convulsions.

Parnassus on Wheels, Christopher Morley

Christopher Morley insisted his early writing was “received with absurd overpraise.” While I wouldn’t dream of overpraising anyone, I love this tale of coming of (middle) age in a traveling bookshop.

Running the Books, Avi Steinberg

I often daydream about becoming a librarian. Of being surrounded all day by enthusiastic patrons, stacks of books and…convicts?! Excellent memoir of an accidental prison librarian.

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Wendy Welch

Three cheers for Wendy Welch! Keeper of Tales of the Lonesome Pine Bookshop and this blog, on which she has so graciously allowed me to spread a little book love. This memoir is a new favorite of mine. Wendy pulls no punches writing of the bookselling life, but somehow still makes us all want to live it.

The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon

While this book left me a touch despondent for a few days, it introduces one of my favorite places in all of book-on-book lit, The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. A collection of books, dangerous and rare, known only to a whispering few? Sign me up!

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, folklore and ethnography, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

A Steady(ing) Weight of Book Boxes

Boxes…. book boxes. They’re everywhere, coming in droves, full of hardback fiction, old textbooks, and occasional gems like the latest bestseller or an obscure Carlos Castaneda title. Jack reckons we’ve had 22 boxes of trade-ins come through in the last week alone.

These coincide with what might be the busiest two weeks of our lives. Big Stone Celtic Festival is Sept. 22. My book launches Oct. 2. I’m complaining about NOTHING, mind; The Celtic Festival is fun, and good for the town. My book is fun, and I’m so happy people are liking it, and it’s getting good publicity. (The Book News page has links.)

Through all the hoopla and the final arrangements of where to put the Shetland ponies (on the park lawn) and where to park the British Cars (outside the schoolhouse museum) and when the latest newspaper or radio spot runs for Little Bookstore (I don’t know) those boxes of books trudge like determined soldiers, reminding us that underneath everything else, our bookstore needs to keep running. Or limping, at least.

Between sheepdog trial planning and radio spots, the book boxes stack and empty as Jack and I try to keep the shop floor clear. That anchoring weight of books–solid, steady books–anchors us. Publicity is a wild ride. Running a festival is a wild ride. Books can certainly be wild rides when read, but triaging them for trade-in is a more staid activity. It’s like intellectual solitaire: categorize, value, stack, shelve. Repeat.

That repetitive motion of getting those volumes into places where customers can find them, buy them, read them, enjoy them, is the heartbeat that underpins everything else. We remember this, come happiness or high water, and we are grateful for that steady, weighted pulse, steadying us in the sturm and drang. Because when the festival is over, the hoopla past, and the publicity gone, it will be the two of us, and the book boxes.

What was it Thomas Hardy said? “And at home by the fire, whenever you look up there I shall be—and whenever I look up, there will be you.” The wild ride is fun, but it’s a ride. When it’s finished, more book boxes will arrive, and we will sort them, Jack and I. Then we will sit together amid our bookshop’s tightly-packed shelves with a sigh of contentment and a cat on each knee–ready to do the same again tomorrow.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book repair, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

OK, That was FUN!

Back from the Southern Independent Booksellers Association’s three-day trade show and conference, I pause to reflect that I just did my first author signing, my first author guest panel, and my first “hanging with the tribe at the watering hole” (in this case a swimming pool the size of Big Stone Gap)–and kind of didn’t notice.

It was fun, fresh and breezy, light and airy, and comfortable as a pair of cushioned house-slippers. It felt natural to wander through a ballroom full of books people kept thrusting at me with comments like, “Here, read this, you’ll want it for your bookstore; here, read this, you’ll want to meet the author later.” It seemed completely normal to sit with three other writers and talk about the influence of bookstores on our lives, then go sit in the bar and have people walk over to say, “Now where’s your bookshop?” instead of “Hey, what’s your sign?” Conversations flowed as easily as red wine–and plenty of that flowed, believe me. Booksellers on expense accounts at a free bar equals brilliant conversations on abundant topics.

In fact, I’ve been to LOTS of artistic events in my lifetime, and seen the prima donnas play (or sing, or tell stories, or dance….) and none were as laid-back or “equinanimous” as this. Five hundred bookslingers–people who write them, people who review them, people who sell them, people who publish them–all hung together, perhaps with a growing awareness that if we don’t, we will be hung out to dry separately by the Amazonian warriors. But it felt good.

Likely blogs in the coming week will be fed by the lively conversations, cheerful friendships, and overall sense of camaraderie that came from attending this event. But for now, suffice it to say that when my husband asked, “How was it?” the word that came to mind, and still seems to sum up the experience, is “comfortable.”


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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA

On the Road – Again!

I’m in Hilton Head, South Carolina (for my sins) enjoying a great night catching up with old friends. Tomorrow all four of us will caravan down to SIBA, the Southern Independent Booksellers Association. It’s on the beach at Naples in the Waldorf Astoria hotel.

Yeah, life’s rough….

Friday I speak on a panel, and Saturday we get to run through the great hall with a bunch of other bookslingers, snapping up free galley copies and talking trade with the tribe. I’m very much looking forward to it, and there will be a lot to say once we get to the expo, but right now we’re all full of pizza, wine, and girl talk.

So in place of any meaningful blog, let me just tell you my favorite story so far from another friend at another book expo. My friend Jade is a university librarian who travels the world searching for good books for special collections. A veteran of many book conventions, she told me this story, called ARC-gate:

ARCs are advanced reader copies; publishers make them up in droves and hand them out at conventions and trade shows and such. They are coveted by librarians on tight budgets, booksellers on tight budgets, bibliophiles who managed to sneak into the expos… you get the idea. Everybody loves a freebie.

So, although the tribe of bookslingers usually consists of polite, well-mannered people, well, as Michael Moore observed, librarians–no matter how mild they look– are not to be messed with. Especially when their budgets have been cut.

At the expo my friend described, the ARCs were not so plentiful as those who sought them, and a few displays of bad behavior erupted. The word ‘fistfight’ hovered in the background as the lucky, faster few fled with bags stuffed with goodies, while the hesitant (or more polite) stared glumly at spaces where stacks of free books had been.

But the punchline came at the end of the weekend, when one of the more aggressive librarins proudly laid her stuffed-to-the-gills-with-books bag on the scale–

–and got socked with an overweight fine of $150. Which was not reclaimable on her expense form.

As my friend Deb, in whose house we rest tonight, is fond of saying, “Karma’s a bitch.”

(Don’t forget to enter caption contest VI from the August 29 blog! and potential bookshop sitters should read the blog from Friday past for details of how to apply. Thanks!)

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, humor, small town USA