Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ina and Minty, winning friends and influencing booksellers

Ina, who has long held the American record for uninterrupted monotonic exposition in the novel, has just published a new book, yet another homage to her favorite author.

The latest practice among some of our local self-published authors, including Ina, is not selling their books in bookstores but holding day-long signings in the ice cream store; teaming up with each other in the bagel restaurant, where Ina snags diners who naively thought they could have a peaceful coffee and a nosh without fear of being accosted, and drags them by the wrists to meet the author; and sitting together in the wintry lobby of the Smith's supermarket in White Rock, among the stacks of ice melt, bales of firewood, and cranky, frozen shoppers who just want to pick up the eggs and get the hell back home to the fire and some hot cocoa before the storm hits.

You may sell some books that way and get to keep all the profits. But eventually you're going to come to the realization that people aren't going to say, "Hey, I just heard about the new Elizabeth Gilbert. What say we head down to the fro-yo parlor and pick up a copy?" You're going to have to go to a place that sells books as its primary commodity. You're going to have to go to a bookstore.

So Ina came into the store to discuss arrangements for her signing. Actually, she came in to tell me when, where, and how she'd be signing in my store, and she said that she'd be happy to invite her friend Minty as well.

Minty, another member of the writers' group, had written a children's book about 120 pages long and had it published by one of the companies that does printing on-demand and self-publishing. It's a beautiful paperbound book, physically much larger than the usual trade paperback, and priced to move at $34.00.

We had told Minty that the book wouldn't sell at that price except in her immediate circle of friends but that we'd buy copies from her at the standard industry discount. She blanched and clutched her head. "I spent six months of my life on that book! You can't ask for such a discount! I won't make a penny on it!"

I told her them's the breaks.

She sold a few in the fall. Eventually Minty had her publisher change the dimensions of the book from gargantuan to something that could be held in one hand, eliminated the 4-color cover and illustrations in favor of black and white, and changed the price to something that wouldn't require a reader to scrimp and save. Then she and Ina hit the ice cream store and the supermarket.

So, Ina told me, even though Minty had already done a signing at the store with the original version of the book, technically she wrote a new book because it was reformatted and cheaper. I said that Minty's book was not new, and that I was in charge of signings. No Minty.

Unfazed, Ina said that she'd take care of the press release and all the publicity for the event, and assured me warmly that she'd bring in some posters that we could display throughout the store. As usual, before she left, she turned all the copies of her books face out.

A few days later Minty came in. She stared balefully at the display of books by local authors and asked, "Where's my book then? I'm a local author."

I checked the inventory and told her that we were sold out. She said, "How can that be? I brought you a book in December."

She returned her gaze to the display. "I see that you classify this woman as a local author. I know for a fact that she lives in Santa Fe. Well, I guess your definition of local is quite, quite liberal then." She turned to me. "So why isn't Michael McGarrity here? He's from Santa Fe. And John Nichols is from Taos. I suppose you'd classify him as 'local,' too, then. Why didn't you put his books here?" She sighed. "It's a shame that books by true local authors aren't displayed here, isn't it?"

I'm looking forward to the return of Margaret Coel and Richard Rhodes to the store. They're really nice.

Minty and Ina hoping to sell their books on public transportation

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Thanks, Ike

Ike was a smiley dog.

He liked being with kids in the Lunch Buddies Program . . .

. . . and in Reading to Dogs.

Lynn (center) showed him in three shows, and he took best of breed in all three.

He liked to hop on the bed and sit on Michele.

Bobbie and I stepped out in the Dog Jog with our pups.

And for one brief moment at the geographical center of the contiguous United States, he was the center of the country.

Ike. July 2, 1994-January 5, 2010

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Victory Bar

Yesterday I took a leisurely drive over to Las Vegas, New Mexico, on the old highway. I stopped at the little village of San Jose to look at the Plaza, then drove to the end of the road to look at the frozen Pecos River. Some calves thought I was going to feed them and ambled over to the fence to look pitiful and bawl.

I can haz kow treetz?

Las Vegas was pretty quiet. I drove around the neighborhoods where we used to live--911 Third Street, the houses on 8th Street, Melody Hall, Archuleta Hall--and I enjoyed a bus man's holiday at Tome on the Range, then walked up to the antique store on the Plaza to poke around a bit. A lunch of carne adovada, papitas, frijolitos pintos, and a tortilla at Estella's Cafe on Bridge Street made the day complete.

On the way back I stopped in Rowe and took some pictures of the Victory Bar.

"It's LUCKY when you live in America."

Late afternoon shadows on the door.

Peg's images of old door frames and door knobs. Collect 'em all!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Street fund and books, 2009

You probably recall that I keep track of the money I find on the streets and the number of new books I read every year. Here's the summary for 2009.

Street fund
  • 105 pennies
  • 10 nickels
  • 31 dimes
  • 12 quarters
That's a cool $7.66. I didn't find any folding money, though. Nor did I find any Canadian coins; Marion, I can't take you for some ice cream. The grand total, 1997-2009, is $300.51.

In 2009 I read 102 new books. I usually surpass my pre-owning-a-bookstore goal of 25 new books a year in mid April. I resolved in 2009 to read more literature in translation, and I accomplished that goal with eight books (my faves in blue):

  • Novels in Three Lines (Félix Fénéon), The Man Who Watched Trains Go By (Georges Simenon), and Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Dai Sijie), translated from French;
  • Club Dumas (Arturo Pérez-Reverte), The House of Bernarda Alba (Federico García Lorca), and The Angel's Game (Carlos Ruiz Zafón), translated from Spanish;
  • The Housekeeper and the Professor (Yoko Ogawa) and A-bomb Drawings by Survivors (Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum), translated from Japanese.
The best books I read in 2009 are
  • Arrival, by Shaun Tan, a beautiful wordless book about the immigrant experience;
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer, about the World Trade Center disaster and the search for family;
  • Watchmen, a richly textured and sophisticated graphic novel by Alan Moore;
  • Columbine, by Dave Cullen, about the Columbine High School shootings;
  • The Book of Genesis Illustrated, by R. Crumb; and
  • Suttree, by Cormac McCarthy; the first three pages are so beautifully written that I had to walk away from the book for a while.
What is the first book you'll read in 2010?

Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?--Henry Ward Beecher