The November/December issue of Poets & Writers Magazine has published an article of mine, called “Consider the Elephant: Nine Ways to Feel a Bookstore”:
When you don’t know any better, there’s nothing to stop you. This is why, last fall, two friends and I decided to start a publishing company. Now, with twenty-five thousand copies of our first book in print, a five-figure unpaid invoice from the late Borders, Inc., and an incessant, restless anxiety — all things I didn’t have twelve months ago — I have tried to wrap my mind around that elephant in the room for anyone who thinks they can put out a book: the bookstore.
Everybody has an opinion on this topic. Financial analysts and book-industry insiders wring their hands as e-books threaten to outpace physical volumes in readers’ hearts and shopping carts, authors increasingly wonder what those stores are doing for them that they can’t do for themselves with a website, and the people who work every day between towering stacks of Penguin Classics and get-rich-quick hardcovers wonder if they’ll have jobs by this time next year. The bookstore is one of those elephants that the blind men take turns feeling in the old parable…
The book I’m referring to, of course, is Machine of Death, and in the article, I explain not only what we did to make MOD successful (a tale you know well), but what happened afterward, the strange lessons we have learned in the past year about the bookstore industry, and why there are no easy answers to the question of “what is the best way to sell a book these days?”
I’m pleased that a publishing-industry magazine chose to publish what is really a bit of an iconoclastic view, although it ends up rather optimistic, I think. The editor who worked with me on this story also told me that this is the longest article that P&W has ever published, which I will take as an insane compliment. “We got to make room for this thing, it’s gold!”
The article is not online, so may I suggest you check out the paper magazine in a…bookstore? (It’s really quite a good magazine, if you’re interested in writing.)