Tag Archives: self-publishing

“Is That the Bookstore?”

crazy bookstoreMaybe it’s that blood moon. Maybe it’s the pollen count making us all high on Sudafed. Or maybe I just happened to catch the best moments, but this week has produced some absolute classics in “funniest things ever said in a bookstore.” Here are three of my recent favorites:

*phone rings*

“Hello, is that the bookstore? I am downsizing and have a truckload of books for you.”
“Oh, lovely…” Oh, sh———
“These are all that’s left. I’ve burned about as many as are still here, but I can’t burn fast enough. Would you come and get these?”


*door opens, two women enter*
First woman: “We heard you could tell us how to market a book.”

Me: “Pardon?”
First woman: “We wrote a book. It’s a mystery, set ’round here. We’ve sold a lot to our family and friends, people that know us, but we want to sell it to more people.”

Second woman (to first): “Maybe she could sell it in here.”

First woman (looking around, shakes head): “Nah. Too many books in here, it’d get lost. (to me) Can you give us any ideas on how to sell it?”


*phone rings*

“Is that the bookstore that has the book about it?”

Me (bracing for impact): “Yes?”

Person: “I’ve written a book. Would you sell it?”

Me: “Sure! We like to promote books by local authors, but we can’t do any specific special promo because we don’t have the space. We have a shelf first thing when you come into the store, and we will put it there with the others. If you want to put a sign up on top of the shelf or hang it from the ceiling, we do that for the first six months your book is out.”

Person: “Well, my book is only available on Amazon. Could you put up a sign telling people to buy it there?”

Y’all come on down. We’re here, bricks, mortar, books, sense of humor and all.




Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, crafting, humor, Life reflections, publishing, reading, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, writing

A Bookstore in Wisconsin/Minnesota Needs Our Help

We all know that independent bookstores are riding a dangerous wave in today’s economy: some dance; some drown.

There’s a nice bookshop in Hudson, Wisconsin, called Chapter2Books. It’s at 422 Second Street, on the bank of the St. Croix River, at the border with Minnesota. And all 842 square feet of it is struggling.

Sue and her husband Brian set up shop in Summer 2011, after Brian lost his job managing a credit union because of a merger with a larger firm. They launched their little bookstore with high hopes and higher rents.

chapter 2 booksAnd now, as Sue puts it, the economy is kicking their butts.

Sue understands that people think Amazon is cheaper, but, as she says,”Cheap is not cheap. Cheap books=no indies=no story hour for the babies at the shop=no support for local authors=no writing groups=no forum for national authors to come to town=no special, hand picked books, just bestsellers you can find anywhere=noone to personally make a connection with your reluctant reader=no indie store participating in chamber and town events, etc. etc. etc. Is that download on Amazon really worth it?”

“I’ve realized in the last few weeks that I have become a curator of books,” Sue said. “It actually is an important function to help people, whether they’re looking for a gift book or expanding what their kids are reading.”

For his part, Brian opened the doors to local authors: self published, house published, prospective writers and all. Not only did they set up a writing group, but when self-published authors came to do book talks, if the turnout was low, Brian slipped a $20 here or there from his own dwindling wallet and went to merchants up and down the street, suggesting they stop in, listen a few minutes, and buy the book.

That kind of human touch doesn’t come from cyber-deals.

sue and brian“This bookshop was our prayer to the universe,” Sue said. “Brian spent 30 years in banking, and then we got to do this. We advise customers and listen to their needs and all the things you talk about in your book, Wendy, and yet, now….I’m mad, I’m sad, I’m frustrated, I’m devastated, I’m heartbroken, I’m terrified.”

Can we afford to lose another small town store–a BOOKstore–folks? Do we really want another one to bite the dust?

Perhaps we can help. Could you repost this information – whole blog, condensed piece, whatever you can. Here are some basics: The shop is open from 10-5. Mon-Wed and Saturday, 10-7 Thurs and Fri, and 11-5 Sundays. Their website is http://www.chapter2books.com/. Thanks for doing what you can. Sue and Brian support their community. They could use some nice email (Brian@chapter2books.com; Sue@chapter2books.com), Tweets @chapter2books, and LIKEs on Facebook to boost morale–and spread the word that they’re standing, ready, to serve booklovers along the St. Croix River. Thanks!


Filed under book reviews, bookstore management, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized

Small Town Writer Tribes

The bookstore, like every small town shop, rejoices in several networks and tribal affiliations. The tribe of writers is just one of these. Today I present three members who have recently published their own work–resulting in some very diverse stories, now available on-line.

Joann Lee

Joann’s mom is the lady my friend Elizabeth and I bought our goats from. (Welcome to the networking hotbed of rural living!) Joann lives where people tend to believe her lifestyle is not okay and theirs to comment on; she balances daily between being herself and flying below the radar. It comes out in her work, a romance about two women from very different backgrounds spending the summer at the beach.

Broken Star is available from jms-books.com.

Sheila Mayes

Sheila is from Pennington Gap and has written a novel based on real events, the story of a young girl from Afghanistan who struggles to get an education in America. In her words, the book “was important, but not a priority. As I was writing, Malala, a 15-year-old Pakistani girl, was shot in the head on the way home from school by the Taliban. My writing hit fast forward, the book became a priority and I completed it in March 2013. I am only one person, but I knew I had to do something to help end the violence against women all over the world.”

Sheila is donating a  portion of her e-book’s sales to the Malala Fund to help educate and end violence toward women. Sheila is on Facebook.

Michael Samerdyke

Michael is the writing group coordinator at our bookstore; if you’ve read Little Bookstore, he’s the one who started the group and has nurtured it these past five years. He writes lovely, strange short stories that range from hearts-ripped-out-of-bodies horror, to ripping through your heart with empathy at his nuanced portrayals of how people interact. His snowmen dance, his cat people long for more than blood. http://www.lulu or Barnes & Noble on-line carry Mike’s e-books, both collections of short stories linked by a framing story.

In Featured Creatures: a Phantasmagoria, space invaders, experiments run amok, rampaging dinosaurs and other horrors parade across the Star-Lite Drive-In’s screen for the greatest summer film fest ever. In The Dream Cabinet of Dr. Kino, the mysterious doc travels from town to town showing visions of mad scientists and monsters, vampires and werewolves, and other horrors in his cabinet.



Filed under book reviews, publishing, small town USA, Uncategorized

New Year Resolutions Bookslingers Tend not to Make

1. This year, I resolve to keep my manicure perfect. No more scraping off old price stickers, lifting bits of unidentified goo from covers, picking off bits of melted candy from the children’s books. I will not allow them to get dirt trapped beneath from the books. Lovely fingernails will be my priority.

2. Be nicer when people start haggling with me over prices. After all, it’s a terrible economy, and that dollar for the pristine copy of “The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig” could be all that stands between this well-dressed, hair-highlighted woman with the perfect manicure and her last six packages of Raman Noodles. I can eat mac and cheese again tonight.

3. Exercise more. Tonight when the shop closes I’ll get on the treadmill, since the eight miles I covered walking the shop floor today isn’t really exercise. Nor is that “bend from the waist, pick up the stack of hardbacks, back and forth to the shelves as fast as I can go; repeat” thing that comprises about 2 hours of my day. And I have to work off those cheese-covered carbs, because I sold “Three Little Wolves” for 50 cents.

4. Get out there and find authors or artists to support with great in-store publicity and shelving displays at my own expense. I need to help develop single-person-focused events that build ego rather than community, because artists with unrealistic expectations of their place in the world are truly hard to find. I must beat the bushes, and devote more resources to this field of endeavor.*

5. Drink less coffee/tea/vodka. I don’t need it to get myself awake Saturday at 7 a.m. so I can get the shop floor cleared of books by opening time and make that cute display for the upcoming author signing. I don’t need it to make the customer who came in and needs to talk feel welcome and like I have time to listen to her at 11 a.m. I don’t need it to wake myself up at 3 p.m. after a vigorous physical day during which I stuffed a fiber bar in my mouth at lunch because the place was mobbed and my part-time student help didn’t show. And I don’t need it to stay awake at 7 p.m. during the author event, because this paranormal romance is well-edited and has such an innovative plot that I’m fascinated, despite that carb-heavy meal of mac and cheese I wolfed down from 6:32-6:34 p.m.

6. Spend more time in my shop. Ten hours a day six days a week really isn’t enough to get the feel of the place. I must make an effort to be there more often and take a livelier interest in its day-to-day workings.

*Authors and artists, don’t take personal offense. The world needs you! Many wise and wonderful creators understand what’s realistic and what isn’t — like Lisa Pell and Heather Volk and others who have been a pleasure to work with. But, as one small bookstore owner and I discussed recently, we average five people per week asking to do signings or display items. Not all of them are cued up–or polite.


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

“Of Course You Are”

As it is sometimes wont to do, our phone died at the bookshop. We jiggled some wires and then called The Phone Company. They dispatched someone. He arrived 37 hours after they promised he would.

A nice guy, “Steve” smiled at us, jiggled something, went outside, came back and jiggled something again, then said, “Fixed.”

And it was. Steve asked to wash his hands (whatever he’d jiggled was dusty) and be pointed to Peter Straub.

“You like horror?” asked my husband, leading him through the maze that used to be our kitchen, and is now an intricate system of one-way tunnels walled by books.

“I am the author of a horror novel,” said Steve, hauling a card from his shirt pocket and handing it to Jack. “Self-published my first this month! It’s 99 cents on Amazon this weekend if you download it to Kindle.” He then bought four Straubs.

So now we have several spaces in our horror shelf inventory, someone to lead this October’s adult scary stories night, and a phone that works. Hey ho, just another day in the bookshop.

Don’t forget to enter Caption Contest V! You can see the picture by scrolling down to yesterday’s blog; leave your caption entry under “Comments.” First prize is a free copy of ‘The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap.’


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

The Bookselling Lexicon of handy if mildly impolite Terms

If a person who likes to read books is a bibliophile, then perhaps …

Someone who reads a lot of trashy books is a biblio-philistine.

A student who likes to read but recently finished his dissertation, law school, or other massive text-driven project is bibliofull.

The owner of a used bookstore who buys bulk lots of books from estate sales, private libraries, etc. is a bidliophile.

The customer who enters the store and really, really wants to buy a book but can’t remember the name of it, just the picture from the cover, experiences bibliofail.

A person who likes to browse bookshops is a bibliofly (as in butterfly, not the pesky kind you swat. This one needs crowdsourcing: Letterfly? Bibterfly? Help, you wordsmiths out there!)

The first-meeting suspicion of the shop cat toward a customer who turn outs to be a creep: bibliofelinia

The first-meeting twining of the shop cat about the ankles of a customer who becomes a pleasant regular: appurrrrval

Someone who uses online sites to find books she wants to read, then buys them from her local bookshop is a bibliotech (and a saint).

And if the owner of a bookshop is a bookseller, then….

The person who consistently argues at a used bookstore that he didn’t get enough credit for his books is a booksulker.

A person who reads across genres with equal interest: booksailor

A used bookstore that is out of room for its stock has a bookcellar (and if you can get in there, you will die happy).

A self-published writer who brings you a complimentary copy of her latest book and asks you to read it, “and if you like it perhaps we can make a consignment arrangement” is a booksalter.

A self-published writer who brings you ten of his latest book that REALLY needed one more copy edit and demands that you stock it because he’s “local,” and you don’t want to force him to bad-mouth you to the regional writing community, of which he is the very core, and anyway it will sell out in a couple of weeks so he’ll be back to bring you more and collect the money, and you can thank him later: an annoying bastard

A customer leaning against a shelf asking about a book she can’t find, but which is in fact sitting near her left ear, is bookblind.

A book that turns up everywhere, mis-shelved and omnipresent, in the shop, but disappears  the moment a customer wants it: a bookslider

That odor coming from a book, indefinable and not part of the overall pleasantness of used book smells: scentipage

And, my personal favorite: a person who believes in the importance and future of bricks-and-mortar bookstores is a bookshoptimist.
Please enjoy our “50 Shades of Grey” spoof on youtube! 



Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, folklore and ethnography, humor, Uncategorized