Bookish Tuesday

How to Publish… Advice from Your Local Indie Bookstore

At least once a week, someone will walk through the doors of the bookstore, or send us an email, asking us to have an event with them or carry their books because they’re now published! And they’re so excited. And then we ask who their publisher is. And they say Createspace. And we say, sorry, but no.

Getting Published

Those who love to read often enjoy writing. And when they read their favorite author’s works, they often think to themselves, I can do that. I’ve got a book in me. And then they sit down, and they crank out of draft, and are faced with a decision – how do they get their draft in the hands of readers. Three main options exist.

Option 1: Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishing means that you send your manuscript out to agents in the hope that one will represent you, in a similar manner to those who are looking to get into the film business. Not sure how to find an agent? Check out The Writer’s Market, an annual publication that spells out the steps needed to get your book from draft to bookstore shelves. If you want to see your book on the shelves of a chain bookstore, Barnes & Noble in the US, Chapters Indigo in Canada, Waterstones in the UK, etc. Traditional publishing is the way to go. In the US, if you are traditionally published, it means that your book is distributed by one of the big publishing houses, Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Hachette, Houghton Mifflin, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster or Scholastic. There are a few others that stores work with, but these are the big ones.

Perks of going the traditional route – cost to you – minimal. The publishing house, once they accept your manuscript, you work with their editors, their graphic designers design your cover, the format your manuscript for printing, they promote your book, they make sure that their sales team knows your book is coming, and they in turn inform booksellers about how cool you are/your book is MONTHS before it even hits their shelves so that they can help spread the word that your book is coming.

Option 2: Small Presses

These are the indies of the publishing world and are often distributed by big printer and US nationwide distributor, Ingram. Small and university presses offer some of the same benefits as the larger publishing houses, such as editors, but often don’t have the same resources in house that the houses do. The print runs are going to be smaller, your book may go out of print more quickly, and it might not get any promotional assistance from the publisher. Upside here – if you go into an indie bookstore and ask them to carry it, they probably will. They’ve probably worked with the publisher, or at least Ingram, before. In this instance, you are more likely to see your book on an indie store shelf than a chain store shelf. However, if you want your book to be a major success if it’s published by a small press, you need to be prepared to do a lot of promotional legwork yourself.

A note about small presses and books being carried in a bookstore: Ask what their terms are with bookstores. Most independent bookstores are looking at the 45+% discount they receive from major publishing houses and the 42% they get from Ingram. And they want your book to be returnable to the distributor if it doesn’t sell off their shelves in a predetermined amount of time (most stores it’s anywhere from 12 to 24 months). Familiarize yourself with the term “consignment” and what that means to a local bookstore.

Option 3: Self-Publishing

This should be your last choice if your end goal is to have your book sitting on a bookstore shelf. If you want to publish only e-books, sure. Go for it. Self-publishing, by definition means you did it yourself. You may have conscripted friends into proofreading, or hired an editor, graphic designer, etc. but you fronted the costs. Once you agonize over whether or not your book is ready, you have to make a decision about who you want to print it.

You may entertain the following idea: Oh! Amazon does printing! I’ll publish it through their in house press, Createspace! If you ever want your book in an independent bookstore, DO NOT DO THIS. Indies have been suffering for YEARS because of Amazon’s book selling business practices. Indies will not bring your book in from Createspace because doing so directly lines the pocket of our biggest competitor.

If you insist on doing your own publishing AND having your book carried in traditional book stores, search out other options that aren’t owned by their biggest competitor. You can try Lulu, or one of the other options for self-publishing that exist out there – a basic internet search should help turn up a few options.

• • •

Note from the Sarah: I’m the manager and adult book buyer for a sizable independent bookstore. I get asked to explain the differences between publishing options on a regular basis and have found that the vast majority of those who are self-published didn’t want to put the time and effort into query letters and attempting to be published traditionally. Most of the time, their books are not of the same caliber as those that come in from the major publishing houses. I firmly believe that self-publishing should be a last resort if you want to see your book on the shelves of a bookstore.

Childrens, Classics, Fiction

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie

I own more editions of Peter Pan than I care to admit. I’ve seen the movie of the Broadway musical with Mary Martin more times than I can count. And yet, as an adult, I’d never reread my favorite book. Until now.

Synopsis

On a starry night, Peter Pan and his fairy friend Tinker Bell fly with the three darling children to Neverland, a magical place filled with mermaids, magic, and mischief. But Captain Hook and his band of pirates lurk nearby, plotting revenge against Peter and his happy band of lost boys…

Review

I have reenacted the story of Peter Pan, in the staring role myself, countless times throughout my childhood. The story of Neverland and the lost boys, the pirates, it all has fascinated me for a very long time. Last Christmas my husband got me tickets to see a reinterpretation of the play and it was the two of us, and two hundred children at the Arden Theater in Philadelphia. It’s a deep and abiding love I have for these characters, and their creator, J. M. Barrie.

J. M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan, I am convinced, with the primary purpose of it being read aloud to children. Often times he address the reader and his prose affects that of a parent telling a tale that is well known and well recited. There are times when it goes on a bit too long – as when the children are first flying to Neverland – and there are words and turns of phrase that one would never find in a book published in the 21st century. However, as such is also offers a wonderful teaching point for small children (I refer here to the terms used for Tiger Lily and her community) as to not only how we address different groups of people, but also how language and society change over time.

For being more than a century old, Peter’s tale is still one of childhood adventure and, most importantly in this, the technology age, of using your imagination. Children should have the opportunity to play act, to feel wild and free in the great outdoors, to be able to fall down and skin their knees without adults hovering over them waiting for the first sign of stress or a tear. Peter Pan embraces all that makes childhood exciting, and for that reason, and so many more, it is the perfect book for children of all ages.

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars (yes, I’m very biased)

The Fancy Edition in the Picture: Hardcover • $27.99 • 9780062362223 • 256 pages • published June 2015 by Harper Design

The Penguin Puffin Classic Edition: Paperback • $7.99 • 9780147508652 • 224 pages • originally published in 1904, this edition published July 2013 by Puffin Books • average Goodreads rating 4.09 out of 5 • re-read in August 2018

Peter Pan

Contemporary, Fiction, New Adult

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

A book? About a mysterious bookstore with a millennial cast of characters? My response to finding out about was as follows: WHY DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS BOOK SOONER?!? And then I told my boss about it and made him buy it. Yep, I’m that kind of indie bookstore manager – I upsell to my boss. 

Synopsis

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the isles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything – instead, they “check out” large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele’s behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends. But when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore’s secrets extend far beyond it’s walls. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave.

Review

To say that I enjoyed Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore would be to put it lightly. I had been intrigued by it for quite some time and eventually requested the audiobook on the library Overdrive app. I was hooked immediately – and for someone who has only read a handful of fiction titles this year, that’s saying a lot. There was a lot I thought would annoy me – it’s in first person, it’s a male narrator, Kindles are referenced in the first few pages… all the things that might annoy a feminist bookseller. But I kept listening, and just wow.

I now realize that I am 5+ years late to the Penumbra party. It’s a book that has been raved about in various literary circles for years now but hasn’t graced the shelves of my bookstore for the better part of those five years. Why, I asked myself, if this book is so good, do we not have it? Because it needed a champion. There is nothing about its spine to entice a reader to pick it up off the shelf. This is not dissimilar to Penumbra’s bookstore – there’s nothing about the outside that would make you necessary decide to go in and browse (other than the fact that it’s a bookstore… but, I digress on that point). There’s a mystery inside, as there is in the physical book, and there’s a bunch of references to things that you really wish actually existed, just like Harry Potter.

There are hidden gems for booksellers to find, and Clay, our protagonist and narrator, goes on a journey from Kindle reader to indie bookstore champion that all indie booksellers adore. There are secret reading rooms, artifacts from antiquity, and, most important to us millennial readers, accurate depictions of people who are disproportionately affected by the great recession. As a 2011 college grad, these are my peers in these pages. And I can relate to them all. The book is fun, the characters and their friendships are great, the whole effect of the book is great, and I know I don’t usually repeat such a useless word so often, but I’ve decided to become this book’s champion and so, if you haven’t read it, go do so. It’s really great.

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $17.00 • 9781250037756 • 304 pages • originally published October 2012, this edition published September 2013 by Picador • average Goodreads rating 3.75 out of 5 stars • read August 2018

Robin Sloan’s Website

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore on Goodreads

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Bookish Tuesday

Favorite Pages in My Book Journal

So I’ve decided to mix it up a bit in order to keep myself accountable for regular posts and moved Bookish Friday to Tuesday and made it, therefore, Bookish Tuesday! My book journal is pretty epic. As an avid reader, I’ve collected many book journals over the years and have now create my own, based on my favorite topics from all the previous book journals I’ve had. The Table of Contents for the current incarnation is a separate page located here under Bookish Lists, Reviews & How-To’s.

Books That Made Me Cry

The best books are the ones that make you feel. And while most of us don’t love to be brought to tears of sadness in our every day lives, some of the best books as the ones that made use shed many tears. Highlights include: The Nightingale, The Montmaray Journals, and most other WWII novels among others.

Signed Books I’ve Read

I love to go meet authors and hear their stories about how their books came to be. The best part is when I’ve read the book before meeting the author and already love it, but I also love being intrigued by an author and then reading their book and loving it! I’ve decided to include the book pictures below, but for my favorite author encounters, they can be found here and here.

Literary Crushes & Book Boyfriends

Yes, I’m happily married. Yes, I still get excited about a great fictional man. Favorites include: Rhys in A Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J. Maas, Henry in Royally Matched by Emma Chase, and Hideo in Warcross by Marie Lu

Biography, Non-Fiction

Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret by Craig Brown

I’ve always had a certain fascination with Britain’s royal family, ever since Princess Diana died. When The Crown started airing, I was watching from the beginning, and, like most, discovered what a volatile character Princess Margaret was. So, as per usual when it comes to books, when our publisher rep for Macmillan told me there would be ARCs for this book, I begged her for one immediately!

Synopsis

She made John Lennon blush and left Marlon Brando tongue-tied. She iced out Princess Diana and humiliated Elizabeth Taylor. Andy Warhol photographed her. Gore Vidal revered her. Francis Bacon heckled her. Peter Sellers was madly in love with her. For Pablo Picasso, she was the object of sexual fantasy.

Princess Margaret aroused passion and indignation in equal measure. To her friends, she was witty and regal. To her enemies, she was rude and demanding. In her 1950s heyday, when she was seen as one of the most glamorous and desirable women int eh world, her scandalous behavior made headlines. But by the time of her death in 2002, she had come to personify disappointment. One friend said he had never known an unhappier woman. The tale of Princess Margaret is Cinderella in verse: hope dashed, happiness mislaid, life mishandled.

Such an enigmatic and divisive figure demands a reckoning that is far from the usual fare. Combining interviews, parodies, dreams, parallel lives, diaries, announcements, lists, catalogues, and essays, Craig Brown’s Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret is a kaleidoscopic experiment in biography and a mediation on fame and art, snobbery and deference, bohemia and high society.

Review

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Princess Margaret could, at her best, be described as lacking direction, and at worst, a terrible human being. It is also worth remembering that Vanessa Kirby, the wonderful actress who portrays Margaret on The Crown, is not actually Princess Margaret which I had to remind myself of repeatedly.

The woeful tale of Princess Margaret, as I’ve taken to calling it, is, as some have described, Cinderella in reverse. I disagree. Cinderella, regardless of her circumstances, was still charming and delightful. Which some people seemed to have thought of Princess Margaret, but doesn’t seem to be the prevailing impression of her. However, what one’s personal opinions of the Princess, and whether we should really judge a woman who grew up in a very different era in a very different circumstance than 99.999999999% of the world’s population, is a discussion for a different day. Today, I will try to focus on the book itself, and less on my judgemental opinions of its subject.

Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret is just that, 99 short vignettes about her life, of which about 90 are true and 9 are hypotheticals – tales of what Margaret’s life would have been had she made a different decision at key, often romantic, points in her life – i.e. married Peter Townsend, been seduced by Picasso, etc. The vignettes are snarky and satirical, which, once I Googled who Craig Brown was in British society, made a great deal more sense than they had before I did a little digging into the author’s background.

The best analogy I have to Ninety-Nine Glimpses is that of a train/carwreck. It’s terrible, but you just can’t help but stare. Or in this case, turn the pages. Brown covers every bit of her life from the tales of the little princesses’ governess/nanny Crawfie to her later years and the burning of the letters towards the end of her life. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a Queen’s little sister, of which history has given us very few, Ninety-Nine Glimpses is a book for the ages.

Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Edition: Hardcover • $28.00 • 9780374906047 • 432 pages • originally published in the UK September 2017, published in the US August 2018 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux • average Goodreads rating 3.73 out of 5 • read in August 2018

Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret on Goodreads

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Princess Margaret2

Memoir/Autobiography, Non-Fiction

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

To say that I am a Gilmore Girls fan may be a bit of an understatement. I am a basic white (elder – according to Iliza Shlesinger) millennial young woman, therefore I love Gilmore Girls. It’s basic logic. However, as I wasn’t a huge fan of Graham’s fiction (Someday, Someday, Maybe) it took my sister over a year to convince me to actually read her memoir.

Synopsis

In Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, “Did you, um, make it?” She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood, the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge on Project Runway.

In “What It Was Like, Part One,” Graham sits down for an epic Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay “What It Was Like, Part Two” reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her.

Some more things you will learn about Lauren: She once tried to go vegan just to bond with Ellen DeGeneres, she’s aware that meeting guys at awards shows has its pitfalls, and she’s a card-carrying REI shopper. Including photos and excerpts from the diary Graham kept during the filming of the recent Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, this book is like a cozy night in, catching up with your best friend, laughing and swapping stories, and—of course—talking as fast as you can.

Review

I find the best way to “read” celebrity/prominent people’s memoirs is to listen to the audiobook. Oftentimes the person in question reads the book themselves, as is the case not only with this book, but also with Who Thought This was a Good IdeaI Hate Everyone Except YouWhy Not Me?, and all of Anthony Bourdain‘s works, or at least those are the ones I have listened to. The other side of celebrity memoirs, which Lauren Graham actually points out, is the idea that the celebrity clearly didn’t write the book themselves. Of those mentioned above, I can guarantee at least two were self-written, one admittedly co-written and the other, who really knows?

Then I start thinking to myself, well, do they only have a book deal because they’re a celebrity? Most likely. Does being a person of interest increase public interest in their lives? Yes (whether this is good or bad is not the topic of debate here, but an interesting one to be sure). Lauren Graham is certainly a good writer. And her essay collection here is entertaining and delightful. She approaches her life honestly and with contemplation, particularly in why the character of Lorelai Gilmore has always had such a precious place in her heart.

As a long time fan, I was delighted when the revival of the show was announced, however, I was extremely disappointed. Lauren, naturally, loved stepping back into the role and, as the book, and therefore stories, were written and published before the series was available for viewing and as she was a large part of it, it would make sense that her opinion differs from that of the public. However, her stories were good, and her emotional investment in the series certainly contributed to our continuing love of it in 2018 (despite the revival – we’ll pretend that never happened.)

My only gripe, is that she continually referenced the photos in the book, while reading the audiobook. Can’t very well look up the page in the book while listening to it while driving, now can I? And for those who don’t have the physical copy and just the audiobook? Not going to work out so well.

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Edition: Paperback • $16.00 • 9780425285190 • 240 pages • originally published November 2016, this edition published October 2017 by Ballantine Books • average Goodreads rating 3.99 out of 5 stars • read in August 2018

Talking as Fast as I Can on Goodreads

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Talking As Fast As I Can

Bookish Tuesday

A Book Buyer’s Top Picks for Fall

In my role as assistant manager/adult book buyer at an independent bookstore, I get to meet with sales reps from all the big publishing houses, as well as a number of smaller ones. Below are the books that they, and I, are most excited for this fall!

1. The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher

Kennedy Debutante

Publisher: Berkley Books, a division of Penguin Random House
Pub Date: October 2, 2018
Format & Price: Hardcover, $28 list price
Genre: Historical Fiction, main character was a real person

I have been enamored with Kick Kennedy’s life for a number of years – I’ve read biographies of her, fiction where she is featured, and now she’s getting her very own historical fiction interpretation. It’s mostly the love story of her early twenties, but also paints a vivid portrait of World War II England and Washington D. C. Well known historical figures make cameos throughout the book, including the rest of the Kennedy clan!

2. Becoming by Michelle Obama

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Publisher: Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House
Pub Date: November 13, 2018
Format & Price: Hardcover, $32.50 list price
Genre: Memoir/Autobiography

She was in the White House for 8 years and is an overall inspiring woman. This book is definitely close to the top of my Christmas wish list and will be a gift that I give to most of the women in my family. Regardless of how you feel about her husband’s politics and policies, Michelle’s approval rating hardly wavered.

3. My Squirrel Days by Ellie Kemper

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Publisher: Scribner Book Company, a division of Simon & Schuster
Pub Date: October 9, 2018
Format & Price: Hardcover, $26 list price
Genre: Memoir/Autobiography

I, like most other female millennials, fell in love with Ellie Kemper of the adorably lovable and naive Kimmy Schmidt. And if you’ve never watched The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, you’ve probably seen her in The Office. I can’t wait to hear what stories she has to tell about her life. They’re sure to make me laugh!

4. The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

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Publisher: Harper, a division of Harper Collins
Pub Date: September 11, 2018
Format & Price: Hardcover, $28.99 list price
Genre: Historical Fiction/Magical Realism

When I tell you that this book was everywhere in the UK, it was in the front windows of just about every bookstore my sister and I happened upon in June. The advance copy is still sitting on my shelf at home, but I will get to it soon, hopefully before it’s actual release date here in the States! I always enjoy a good book with some magic thrown in and The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock seems like it would be right up my alley!

5. Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand

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Publisher: Little Brown & Company, a division of Hachette Book Group
Pub Date: October 9, 2018
Format & Price: Hardcover, $28 list price
Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction

After Lisa Scottoline, Elin Hilderbrand is our bestselling local author. But Sarah, I thought she lived in Nantucket? You’re right, she does. But she grew up in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, where our store is located, and her mother is a regular customer and we do an event with her in some way shape or form each time a new book of hers is released. And for the fact that I’ve met her a half dozen times, I’ve never read one of her books so I figure now is the time to start!

What books are you looking forward to most this fall?