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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sweet Mystery of Extortion

posted by on October 22 at 15:08 PM

On Seattle Mystery Bookshop’s blog, there’s a fairly long post that touches on a more and more frequent problem with author readings:

This morning, we got a message from Dana Stabenow. Her publisher was making the offer to send her to shops who could guarantee 100 ‘pre-sold’ copies of her new hardcover by Jan. 17, 2009.

Their response was both emotional:

On one hand there is the feeling of loss. We were the shop that hosted Dana’s first signing for her first mystery. In fact, it was our founder, Bill Farley, who told her she would win the Edgar with it, and his words were prophetic — she did indeed win Best First Paperback Original. That has allowed us to feel somewhat proprietary about her, as we do all the Alaskan authors.

and thoughtful:

Publishers and publicists have no right to place such demands on shops. I can understand how the expenses of author tours are eating them alive and that they need to do something different. Fine, I’d be happy to make some suggestions.

It’s a great post about the future of bookselling and readings. I think this practice of forcing independent booksellers to guarantee sales of a book are complete bullshit. I hear that James Frey’s publisher was demanding that bookstores order ridiculous amounts (something like a couple hundred copies) of his new novel, Bright Shiny Morning, to get Frey to appear at a reading. Of course, he only pulled a couple dozen people to Town Hall when he actually did appear here. Good on the Mystery Bookshop for making this public.

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How can publishers that undercut bookstores by selling to online retailers at a discount expect those same bookstores to invest so much effort in their authors?

For the most part though, I don't care about readings. I'm glad when they pull in money for the shops, but with a few exceptions, I've never wanted to hear an author's speaking voice, or even meet them in such a setting. Kinda ruins it for me.

Posted by Dougsf | October 22, 2008 3:32 PM

Mysteries shouldn't even be published in hardcover. Mysteries should be printed in mass-market paperback only, with lurid covers. I'd feel dirty reading Carl Hiassen in hard covers.

Posted by Fnarf | October 22, 2008 3:39 PM

Yikes! I actually really like Stabenow's books, too. She seems like the kind of author who would shut this crap down if possible. Wonder if she knows the full story...

Posted by leek | October 22, 2008 4:42 PM

@3: You make a good point. But lame as some publishers' marketing tactics may be, many authors feel just as hamstrung by them as the bookstores. Like musicians who struggle to get signed to major record labels, authors work hard to get published -- and then they're often dismayed by the hoops their new masters insist they jump through. But most authors (especially the new ones) feel helpless to protest, since that could mean falling back into obscurity and poverty.

It would be great to see authors stand up to their publishers and refuse to participate in these cheap schemes. Maybe it's time for a sea change, like what's going on now in the music industry.

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Posted by Broxx | October 22, 2008 6:09 PM

"On one hand there is the feeling of loss."

On the other, grow the fuck up and welcome to the real world. And don't expect to be taken very seriously by actually spouting sentences like that.

Posted by Some cheese with your whine? | October 22, 2008 7:31 PM

("Sweet mystery of extortion, at last I have foooound you...")

And thanks for bringing this to my attention after the Seattle Mystery Bookshop made it public. How many independent booksellers are left?

Posted by Amelia | October 22, 2008 9:27 PM

It is kinda rediculous, but I can understand it too. Authors often have to prioritize visits on tightly packed promotion junkets. It effects Big Box stores as well is independents.

Posted by Bubbles | October 22, 2008 11:30 PM
Posted by leek | October 25, 2008 12:33 AM

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