Dec 07

Trending: The Micro-Bookstore

stlbooksLet's scoop Publishers Weekly, which spoke with new indie bookshop owner Robin Theiss for an article about the phenomenon of micro-bookstores, intimate spaces with curated collections and personalized service. In a reversal of a longtime trend, Theiss, a book collector since age 13, moved her online store,, to brick-and-mortar on November 21. STLBooks, at 100 W. Jefferson, Kirkwood, MO, near St. Louis, already has regular customers and neighborhood foot traffic thanking her for opening a bookstore. It's a cozy space devoted, Theiss said, to her interest in creative expression, so the store carries plenty of literature new and classic, books on art and design, books by local writers (she has read them all), and Theiss loves graphic novels and wishes they had been around when she was in art school in the '70s.

Sep 10

The Bar Code Scandal

If you are publishing your own book, you need a barcode on the back cover. The barcode, based on your book's ISBN, goes into a database and will identify the item when merchants scan it. It does not encode a price. It's simply an identifier used for inventory. If you want merchants to stock and sell your book you need a barcode.

I had paid for a barcode to be placed on the back cover of my current project, The Woman Who Values Herself, and when I got the final cover PDF it occured to me to print it and test it with a barcode reader app. It wouldn't work, although the app read other barcode labels. I kept trying, freaking out incrementally. Because the book is so small, the barcode had been shrunk proportionally and it was too small for the app to read. Online I found that there is indeed a minimum size for barcodes: 80 percent of the original, or about .825" high.

Having advised the cover designer of these facts I was in turn advised that she'd never had any problems with shrunken barcodes, but she'd enlarge it just  for me, and so it was on the next proof. The barcode scanner could not read this barcode either. Feigning great patience (THIS BOOK HAS BEEN IN PRODUCTION SINCE JUNE for PETE'sSAKE!!) I advised her of this and asked her to test it on her end.

The project manager contacted me and swore it worked on their end, and it wasn't working for me because my proofs were electronic PDFs and low-resolution (high-resolution PDF proofs are so huge they'd crash a mailbox) although they didn't look it. So I chose to just drop the issue, now  that I had his email saying it worked--in case it didn't. So ended this tiny nightmare, and I learned:

1. You need an ISBN and a matching barcode.
2. Test the barcode.
3. There is a minimum size for barcodes, and even if it is plug-ugly and out of proportion to the book's size or design, you still need one if you want stores to carry the book, and of course you do.
4. Understand that your electronic proofs are low-resolution.
5. Get written assurance that the darned thing really works so that if it doesn't, this can all be done over again at somebody else's expense.
6. Everything in publishing works far more slowly than you'd think.
May 08

Bookstores Accommodating the Self-Published

In tomorrow's NYT is a juicy piece about self-publishing, but skip the article's opening moans and groans about how there are too many writers (they mean us). This is the news part:

". . .For the most part, big booksellers shy away from carrying self-published books. But they’re still looking to jump into the game. . . .

"The Borders site says self-published authors can even arrange readings in local Borders stores. . ."

And a big hint that a self-published author will soon be able to BUY space on bookstore shelves, if that's what he/she wants and can afford. (Vanity shelving!) That'll help keep the big-box bookstores open for a few more years -- because fewer people shop in those places anymore, unless they want Harry Potter or Rachael Ray. The surviving bookstores will be more like independent bookstores: smaller, and supportive of local authors; and a center for downloads. Or there will be small, dedicated book/media stores: one specializing in mysteries, one in romance, one in Spanish-language books, and so on.

Given that, and given all the new competition for readership -- what's your plan?
Apr 25

The Reader-Writer Alliance is Here

I delighted in this New York Times article about bookstores in the Berkshires becoming cultural centers where townspeople go not only to buy books but rub shoulders, chat, meet for discussions, and hear authors read -- local authors especially. The reader-writer alliance that will govern the future is not just a pipe dream. If you need to see something in The Times before you believe it, here it is, just as if writers had conspired and planned it. Does it not seem like Paradise Found?

The future will look like this, except it won't be just white, urbane, and middle-class. Where such alliances don't exist, they'll be created.