Open Letter to Readers About Sex

Open Letter to Readers About Sex

My first novel, THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY, contains two sex scenes. The first catches Luz de Maria and Eddo as they fall in love with an emotional depth new to both of them. The second is when they reunite after each separately survives violence at the hands of a Mexican drug cartel. The sex scenes illustrate the raw emotion of their relationship and both characters’ weaknesses, all of which are important plot elements.

 

The book is not a casual romance novel but a political and romantic thriller. Get it here: https://amzn.to/2CCL19H

As I wrote, I looked to some great thriller genre role models. Martin Cruz Smith’s ROSE, as well as several of his Arkady Renko novels, contains sex scenes that expose an unexpected physical relationship that is integral to the plot. In the Renko books, Arkady’s life is punctuated by doomed love affairs. In one of fiction’s most memorable sex scenes, he takes an unfaithful lover on the floor so forcefully that her head thumps rhythmically against the wood.

By the same token, the sex scenes in Ken Follett’s TRIPLE created a bond between characters and led to confessions about the main character’s secretive background and emotional turmoil.

Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, I can honestly say I read TRIPLE many times and aimed to have HIDDEN LIGHT’s sex scenes advance the story in the same way. Given the Amazon reviews (4.8 out of 5 stars and proud of it), I think readers got the point.

Related: Read The Hidden Light of Mexico City, Chapters 1-2

That’s the reason to add a sex scene. To advance the plot, show emotional development, and dramatize a relationship with greater heft than a dinner date. It works best when the sex scene lives within a strong fictional framework and storyline.

When HIDDEN LIGHT was published, some family members were upset over those sex scenes. Asked if the scenes were the fault of a publisher out to woo readers. Added in later by someone else to spice up the book. Won’t buy it. Can’t read it. Certainly won’t review.

I was surprised at the level of controversy but not offended. Books with sex aren’t for everyone. My mystery and suspense novels are full of intense relationships, however, and there will be more sex scenes.

In my latest suspense novel, AWAKENING MACBETH, their physical relationship moves history professor Brodie Macbeth and Iraq War vet Joe Birnam along a trajectory of trust and loyalty that is pivotal to their very survival. Get it here: https://amzn.to/2Sp3CvB

In the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series, sex is a bit more off-screen. But Emilia Cruz and hotel manager Kurt Rucker are both very dynamic people and the reader is aware of the sexual attraction between them.

Sex in fiction can be a controversial subject. Are you for or against?

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Mystery and Thriller Trends for 2017

Mystery and Thriller Trends for 2017

I recently chatted with Mary Rosenblum from New Writers Interface about what we can expect when it comes to mystery and thriller trends in 2017, as well as what really hooks a reader and draws them into a story. She’s an author, editor, and marketer whose services replace much of what traditional publishing houses once did when it comes to prepping a book for publication and seeing that it gets to the right audience. So if anyone knows what is ahead for readers, Mary does.

Carmen Amato: As a publishing insider who helps bring quality books to readers, what mystery and thriller trends do you see ahead, when it comes to reading and publishing?

Mary Rosenblum: I’m seeing a growing shift to ebooks among the mystery readers in general. It was behind the fantasy, romance, and SF genres for awhile, but the ebook sales  have really strengthened.  It’s still a genre where you want to have the book available in print as well as ebook, however.

Readers are getting pickier now, dismissing books with weak descriptions or slow starts. Most people use ‘look inside the book’ before they buy. Series collections are increasingly popular in the ebook world, and for you authors, free book giveaways no longer translate into an increase in paid sales.  They’re good for boosting your Amazon ranking, though.

There is also a growing need to focus book promotion on increasing your visibility on Amazon.com as book purchases shift more and more to Amazon.  Amazon does not make all books visible equally, and good books can be quite invisible unless you know the author or title.  Don’t depend on Amazon only to find new books.  Use book discounters such as Fussy Librarian or BookBub, be on Goodreads, and follow reviewers in your genre for good leads.

CA: I’ve noticed that more and more mystery series are using title devices. For example, the title of each Hetta Coffey mystery by Jinx Schwartz starts with “Just,” while Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum mysteries are numbered. What do you think of this trend?

MR: It started some time ago and has recently gained momentum.  Sue Grafton really brought attention to it with her alphabet series quite a few years ago.

This is all about branding and it’s a really good idea in our world of one second visual hooks!  Some authors use a title device, perhaps using a particular phrase, a color, flower, bakery item or what have you as part of the title.  My own cozy mystery series with Putnam included a flower name as part of the title;  Deadly Nightshade, Bleeding Heart, etc.    Other authors use cover imagery as a brand — the covers all share a similar look.  You want instant reader identification — “Oh, I like that series…”

CA: As both reader and editor, what “hooks” you when you read a book description or see a cover on Amazon? What makes you pass on a book? 

MR: Covers are the first thing I look at and I can tell with about 90% certainty whether they’re professionally done or done by the author.  A good cover reveals the genre, the ‘tone’ of the story, and offers some kind of visual hook.  Vague covers that don’t make the content clear are a turn-off, not just to me but to other readers, too.  It implies a book that isn’t up to professional standard.

I will even turn down free books if the description is poor! I want a description that hooks me right away, gives me a sense of the main character and the central conflict, and excites my curiosity.  If I want to go read more at the end of that description, I’m 2/3 of the way to clicking ‘buy’!  (A quick glance at the start of the book is the deciding third…)

CA: Book reviews, especially on Amazon, have become an essential part of the book industry for both readers and writers. My own experience has been 1 review for every 1500 downloads. Do you think book reviews will become more or less important as time goes on? Why do you think so few readers leave reviews?

MR: Right now, reviews are becoming more and more important to Amazon visibility as are Goodreads reviews and reads.  These things change, but right now, authors need to actively solicit reviews.  But you must do it within Amazon’s best practices rules or risk getting kicked off Amazon.  You cannot offer a reward for a review and it is very dangerous to hire a company to ‘get you positive reviews’.  If that company is on Amazon’s black list, your book gets banned!  NOT good!

The best way to get reviews or Goodreads action is to cultivate a personal connection with  your readers.  Acquire their emails and their goodwill through giveaways of free short content, free book giveaways, contests, invitations to contribute something to an ongoing draft, and the like.  Then ask for reviews the way you’d ask them for a Facebook like.  If your fans feel that they’re your friends, they’re more willing to do you favors.

CA: Can you tell us a bit more about yourself? You have a unique place in today’s  publishing world but I think more agents and editors are going to follow your lead.

MR: I raised my kids as a mid-list author with Random House, Penguin, and Torr Books, writing SF and mystery (as Mary Freeman) as well as teaching writing. (And I won some nice literary awards while I was doing that, too).  As the publishing world changed and opened up to self publishing, I saw too many of my students getting scammed by fake ‘publishers’ or publishing books only to see no buyers.  I saw this new world of self publishing as a huge benefit to writers and readers both. The NY marketers were no longer the gatekeepers of published fiction!

But you have to do it right in order to succeed.  You must have a book that satisfies the readers in your genre and is well edited.  You must publish it in a professional manner.  You must promote it.

I have worked very hard to bring those three elements together for writers as New Writers Interface where I edit and help them publish and promote.  The promotion part has become more important lately, and I spend a lot of time keeping track of what is working for authors today to connect their books to the right readers.  It’s a lot of fun and keeps me busy tracking trends! And I love it when my clients’ books sell well!

CA: Can you leave us with two recommendations: A classic every mystery lover should read, and a book you’d give as a gift.

MR: Ah, I’m usually terrible at these recommendations, but in this case I can manage!  Whew!

The only classic that I’d recommend to every mystery lover is Sherlock Holmes.   No matter what sub genre of mystery you read or write, Holmes works.   The books really don’t fit into any modern genre, but for mystery authors there’s a lot to be learned from that distant, knows-everything character.  The books don’t sell just because they get assigned in high school and college English classes, they still engage readers in spite of the antiquated writing style.  A few authors since then have done very well with the Holmes archetype.  Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe series, begun in the 30s, was very successful and was quite popular for at least four decades.

A gift I actually gave this Christmas was an assortment of Raymond Chandler mysteries — another classic by the way.  The recipient is a younger mystery reader who likes noir detective fiction and hadn’t heard of Raymond Chandler and Phillip Marlowe.  He was very pleased with the books, and there’s another author whose stories have survived in spite of ‘antiquated’ prose!

CA: Mary, thanks so much for stopping by. This was great information for both readers and writers.

MR: Carmen, thank you so much for inviting me!  I just finished Hat Dance and am moving on to King Peso–I really like Emilia Cruz and her investigations.  And believe me, getting three books into a series is rare for me!  As soon as I start editing, I am done with a book!  That I do for pay, not for pleasure.  Excellent writing, characterization, and plotting.  I’m looking forward to more Emilia Cruz mysteries for sure!

You can find out more about Mary and her magic at http://www.newwritersinterface.com/

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

What I #amreading in December

What I #amreading in December

I hereby declare December to be Discover a Good Book Month.

Between decoration envy when I look at the neighbor’s artfully placed lanterns, red candles, and sprays of greenery; and the self-induced pressure to choose the right gift for everybody, by the end of the day I’m ready for lose myself in a good book.

Here’s what I’m reading this month.

DOG DAY by Alicia Giménez-Bartlett

Thinking there might be a kinship with Detective Emilia Cruz, my local librarian recommended this mystery, the first in a series from Spain featuring Petra Delicado, a female police detective in Barcelona. The author is the winner of the Feminino Lumen prize for the best female writer in Spain.

GALLOWS LANE by Brian McGilloway

Gallows Lane coverMy recent trip to Dublin—home of the famed Hodges Figgis bookstore—has inspired me to read some Irish crime and mystery writers. The Garda Inspector Benedict Devlin series looks like a winner.

THE GIRL FROM VENICE by Martin Cruz Smith

This is Smith’s first book in a number of years and is a standalone rather than a continuation of the Arkady Renko series. I adored his little-known ROSE and hope this book is similar. Reviews are mixed but we’ll see.

DECEPTION ISLAND by Judith A. Boss

This is an action adventure pitting an American scientist against bioterrorists in an abandoned World War II Nazi base under the Antarctic ice sheet. I’m a huge polar history buff, so had to scoop up this book and see how plausible it is.

DARK DEEDS by Sandra Nikolai

This is the fourth novel in the Megan Scott/Michael Elliott series set in Canada. I’ve read the others and like the clean style and down-to-earth characters trying to figure out their own relationship while encountering off-beat mysteries.

DONOVAN’S DEVILS by Albert Lulushi

Donovan's DevilsThis is the story of the OSS commandos who dropped behind enemy lines during WWII to help resistance efforts and make trouble for the Nazis in occupied countries across Europe. This is background reading for a possible new project.

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a second mystery series set in occupied Norway. It’s a long way from sunny Mexico and the Detective Emilia Cruz series but a germ of an idea has been hatched. But like a good mama bird, I’m going to sit on it for awhile.

Any suggestions? What’s your antidote to the holiday rush?

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

How to Make an Informed Reading Choice

How to Make an Informed Reading Choice

With so many books out there, how do you make an informed reading choice? From the author’s point of view, it’s all about “book discoverability.’ But I read more than I write and from the reader’s perspective, it’s all about knowing the book won’t disappoint.

How to choose

There are alot of Goodreads discussons about how readers choose a book. Cover? Synopsis? Word-of-mouth? Book of the month chosen by others?

Here’s a different answer: the book itself.

Sample Size

When the Emilia Cruz short story, The Beast, was featured on The Huffington Post’s Fiction 50 showcase, sales of the first two Emilia Cruz books, CLIFF DIVER and HAT DANCE, went through the roof. Readers got to meet Emilia, the first female detective on the Acapulco police force, and see what a fighter she is.

The lesson was the best way to help a reader make an informed choice with an excerpt that sets up a conflict, introduces characters to love, or otherwise intrigues. We want to make sure it won’t disappoint.

Reader Zone

That’s why I’ve created the free Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library for readers. It introduces Emilia to readers who might have seen the books on Amazon or on a book review site, but wonder about the tone and quality of the books.

The Starter Library includes a copy of The Beast, just in case you missed it on The Huffington Post last year. Free of charge.

Character Bios

In addition to the Reader Zone, in response to a reader suggestion, I’ve also added bios of the main characters in the Emilia Cruz mystery series. The bios were previously only available on Shelfari.

It is a real look behind the scenes. For example, you can find out what real life union jefe inspired the character of Victor Obregon or what Emilia Cruz and an Olumpic boxer have in common.

Writing for Water

Choose a book that gives back. During 2014 I’m donating $1 to Water.org for every Kindle book sold. Several other authors are joining me and together we’re the Writing for Water team. Each month I tally up how many peope we have been able to give clean water for life through our donations to Water.org.

We met our annual goal in August but we are still working hard. How much more can we do in the last 3 months of the year?  Help us out by buying books from Writing for Water authors.

 

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

The Lure of the Open Notebook

The Lure of the Open Notebook

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Maybe it’s a sickness.

Yesterday, as I was cleaning out my den (also known as the writer’s cave, Mom’s office, and a total mess) I found a COMPLETELY VIRGIN hardcover spiral notebook from Agatha Ruiz de la Prada. The rush of excitement was intense.

Paper Snob

I love the notebooks from Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, a Spanish designer whose paper products I first found in Greece. The notebooks have bright colors and the pages have color coded edges. But the important thing is that both front and back are hard laminated cardboard, which makes it very easy to scribble notes.

But why was I so excited?

Because a blank Agatha is an open invitation to write another book.

notebook mystery series 001

A scribbled scene from DIABLO NIGHTS between Emilia and her cousin Alvaro, since deleted from the final manuscript

The rush of ideas

I write many scenes, as well as my outline, longhand. At least one notebook is dedicated to every book. When I wrote THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY I used a dozen before the manuscript was completed, labeling them and taping peso coins to the covers for good luck. Don’t ask me why.

So I stood there, in the den/office/cave/mess clutching my Agatha, knowing that I suddenly had the tool needed to start the next book, even before DIABLO NIGHTS, the 3rd Emilia Cruz novel set in Acapulco, was out the door. When I finished DIABLO NIGHTS several weeks ago, I felt wrung out. To some extent it had been hard going.

The latest Emilia Cruz mystery deals with some heavy issues–religion and martyrdom, drug smuggling, Mexico’s vigilante problem, and being honest to your significant other. Emilia contends with the first 3 but suffers from the last.

Notebook Carmen AmatoMy reaction caught me by surprise. It said “I’m ready.”

Yes, the next book will be the 4th Emilia Cruz mystery. Several scenarios are already circling around, each biting at my imagination like a shark.

First things first

A few things need to happen before that new notebook gets used, however. DIABLO NIGHTS, the 3rd Emilia Cruz mystery novel, will be hitting the shelves soon–my subscribers will be the first to know the exact release date, so sign up if you haven’t yet.

Second, I’d better clean the den. Gotta find a pen.

Book Review: Homicide Chart by V.S. Kemanis

The second Dana Hargrove legal thriller is a well paced, polished, and highly enjoyable read. I liked the first Dana Hargrove book, THURSDAY’S LIST, but Kemanis has hit her stride with HOMICIDE CHART.

Related post: Book Review: Thursday’s List by V.S. Kemanis

Dana is still with the New York District Attorney’s office, but time has moved forward by several years and she’s now married to Evan, a private sector attorney. They have a toddler, Travis. The couple lives in Manhattan and employs a Dutch au pair, Annecke. With two busy careers, the couple depends on the girl, but they don’t know the heavy secret she carries.

Neither does the reader at first and Kemanis meters out the suspense in compelling fashion. There are three major plot elements all going on at the same time—Dana’s criminal murder case involving a notorious street gang, Evan’s defamation case for a looney romance author, and Annecke’s increasingly disturbing behavior. Points of view move between characters as the action takes us from courtroom to boardroom to the nanny’s woes. Each time the narration switches, the reader is left hungry for more from that plot element, making for great reading all the way through.

Each of the three threads is absorbing in its own right, and incorporates a different legal issue. I wondered if they would converge in a climax, or if one would eventually take center stage. The pieces fall into place (no spoilers!) in a highly satisfying way and justice is served in each instance.

HOMICIDE CHART is highly recommended, especially if you like the legal thriller genre.

Writing for Water Update: Hooked a Minnow in May

Writing for Water Update: Hooked a Minnow in May

Throughout 2014, I’m donating $1 for every Kindle book I sell to Water.org. Every time someone buys one of my books, they help bring clean water to communities worldwide. Some terrific author friends have helped along the way. Every month I tally up how many more people have been given clean water for life by this effort.

April was a fantastic month for donations to Water.org, based on book sales. Jerry Last, author of the Roger and Suzanne mystery series helped and we really put a dent in the goal of helping 25 people get clean water in 2014.

The minnow

But in May I was on my own, too busy trying to wrap up DIABLO NIGHTS, the next Emilia Cruz mystery and the Bookstores of the Future project, to promote existing books.

As a result, monthly Kindle sales weren’t extravagant, which translated into a less extravagant monthly donation to Water.org. Although I know I’ll meet the goal of 25 long before December, in all honesty, May was a big letdown.

Writing for water May update chartSend help

So I’ll say it up front–if you’re an author who thinks that clean water is critical and you want your books to have a global impact, come help. I’ll help promote your books in exchange for your contribution to Water.org. Read more here.

On the bright side, when the last joint fundraiser ended, the nice folks at Water.org sent me an email asking if I wanted the gift of a cool Water.org bottle. Of course I said yes.

In other news

Carmen Amato short story PDF version downloadThere are two Emilia Cruz stories currently available free at free-ebooks.net.

  • THE ANGLER is based on the 2007 unsolved murder of Fr. Richard Junius, my former pastor at Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church in Mexico City.
  • THE CLIFF is the original Emilia Cruz story, written for a critique group. CLIFF DIVER grew out of that short story.

Both have been downloaded over 120 times in less than 2 weeks. Find them both here: http://www.free-ebooks.net/search/Carmen+Amato

Many readers voted on a poll for their favorite cover for DIABLO NIGHTS. The big review of the Reader’s Choice cover will be on 26 June to email subscribers. If you aren’t on The List, you won’t be the first to know.

Fix that appalling situation by signing up below, getting your free copy of THE BEAST, and instantly being smarter and more entertaining. LOL. No, really.

 

Book Review: Something like A Dream by Robert Richter

Book Review: Something like A Dream by Robert Richter

SOMETHING LIKE A DREAM by Robert Richter is an unusual novel that crosses genres between international mystery and politically oriented literary fiction.

It’s the 1980s in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, but the shadow of the 60’s and 70’s still hovers over Cotton Waters, a liberal campus bomb-thrower from Colorado who fled to Mexico just one step ahead of US law enforcement. For the past 10 years he’s survived as a beach bum and “fixer” for unwary gringos visiting Mexico. He’s built a network of Mexican friends, ensuring a colorful cast of authentic characters from small kids who run errands, to a local herbal healer who lives in the jungle near Waters’s lonely beach cabin.

Waters is drawn into the struggle for the wealth of a Colorado-based foundation, whose director Bryant Springfield disappeared in Mexico on a quest to find a rare medicinal plant. Springfield’s wife hires Waters, based on his college reputation, to find her husband. Armed with two postcards with clues, Waters–whose nickname “Algo” is a riff on two words: the Spanish word for cotton, algodón, and algo, the Spanish word for something—Waters soon runs afoul of an array of enemies including Springfield’s father, a nosy reporter, corrupt federales, and a band of Huichol Indians who oppose outside influences. At the same time, Springfield’s wife and Waters are increasingly drawn to each other as they survive any number of efforts to keep them from finding the foundation director.

In the book, Puerto Vallarta is hardly the Love Boat stop from the beloved TV show, but is teeming with cheap beer, cantina hucksters, and layers of corruption. The plot is thick with double-crossing menace, allusions to liberal causes of the past (Tom Hayden, SDS, etc.) and smoky peyote-induced dreams and ceremonies. The story also moves beyond the beach, to the rural and dangerous Mexican hinterland, where Waters and friends take to burros to investigate secrets of the Huichol and rumors that Springfield is practicing the dark arts as a shaman.

The whole book is narrated by Waters, with a richly poetic and professorial “voice” somewhat at variance with the character’s persona. This voice, with its fulsome descriptions, heavy use of adjectives and adverbs, and dense phrasing, creates a pace that forces the reader to slow down and savor the imagery. The action scenes, however, would have benefited from fewer descriptive terms, more shorter sentences could have provided visual relief, and Waters’s peyote-fueled dreams were wrapped in page-long paragraphs that didn’t measurably advance the plot. The text contained many Spanish words and references to Mexican locations, which could be confusing to those without background knowledge.

These book review nits aside, Richter immerses the reader into the rarely seen wilds of Mexico. With less liberal baggage, Waters would be an interesting character to build a mystery series around. I’d be interested in seeing more from this author, if only to see what Mexican cultural issue he tackles next and if the prose lightens enough to gain traction with the mystery genre audience.

 

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I’m author Carmen Amato. I write romantic thrillers and the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco. Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.  More

Bookstores of the Future: A Case Study of Retail Creativity

Bookstores of the Future: A Case Study of Retail Creativity

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Are bookstores facing a “survival of the fittest” era? If so, what can make a bookstore “fit?”

In the case study letter below, the key is creativity and willing to do something wholly different.

Last week I wrapped up my Bookstores of the Future project, in which I asked 800+ people to give me their thoughts on how bookstores could survive and prosper in the era of ebooks and ecommerce. Dick McLeester had responded to me as a store owner but I did not use his comment because I could not tell if his was an online or bricks-and-mortar store and the series was about the latter.

Bookseller as retail innovator

When I let him know, Dick responded with this insightful letter, which he agreed to let me post here. For anyone thinking of going into the book business, Dick’s views are a must-read. Dick doesn’t yet have a blog to share his experiences, but you can check out his website: www.changingworld.com to see how he combines online and pop-up sales, as well as the line of products he sells to augment book sales.

Carmen,

Thanks for writing. Your articles were interesting.

I realize that people call them “brick & mortar” stores to distinguish them from online booksellers, but I think there is a danger in that term, which is to define the Successful Bookseller of the Future just too narrowly.

In 1976, I launched a bookstore called Food For Thought Books with a total investment of $25.00. I was the founder and co-manager there for 10 years, before leaving to start my current business. (You can check, Food For Thought Books is in Amherst, Massachusetts, now a proud brick & mortar bookstore. But struggling to find their way to a  successful future. And probably because they are struggling to find their way, they would probably not be able to speak with much clarity to your questions.)

I was able to start Food For Thought with little capital because of a strong vision of the possibilities and because we were able to bring  books to people who were hungry for them. For the first two years we paid no rent or salary, and grew very fast. We became experts at  setting up instant bookstores at event, conferences, festivals and meetings. We did this in a way that very few booksellers today know how to do, because they start with a retail shop where they need to pay rent and get people to come there.

When I left Food For Thought to start VisionWorks, it was because I had a larger vision of what was needed for booksellers to be successful into the future. I realized that today, ideas and information are carried not just in books, but often on other vehicles, such as postcards, bumperstickers, calendars, magnets or buttons. In most bookstores these are seen as valuable sidelines or gift items, but someone who runs a shop usually cannot devote much energy to having a really good selection because it is such alot of  work to order from all these little companies, including overseas suppliers. So VisionWorks is set up as a wholesale distributor, making it easy for any retailer (bookseller or otherwise) to get a great selection from hundreds of suppliers by placing one order. For us, we sell way more cards, stickers and calendars than we do books.  But books are still really important to us, and we sell large quantities of some books.

How? We sell at select Conferences, where we bring the books to people who are looking for certain ideas & information. 4 events per  year. We get huge book sales in a short time. We sell more books retail at those events than we do in our brick & mortar store. More than we sell wholesale. More than we sell online. At these events,  it is primarily books that sell, and the cards, stickers and calendars are an important, high-margin sideline. But it is really the Cards, Stickers & Calendars that we sell wholesale to retailers across the country that keeps us in business, that makes it all work. And now we also publish postcards, so we have a hand in making sure our selection is really educational, informative and connected to the ideas in books we offer.

My point is that anyone who wants to have a successful bookstore into the future, needs to be flexible and creative. They need to look at whatever will work for them, and then work that angle, even if it looks very different than how a traditional bookstore has looked. If this means taking the books to the events where hungry minds gather, they need to get really good at that. If they think that cards and stickers are something that can really work for them, they need to really work it, to be the best. And if that means those things become  75% off their sales and books only 20%, then go with that. What used  to be thought of as a sideline, may become the main thing. But we  need to pay attention to that.

I think there will always be an important role for good booksellers, but right now they need to be creative, flexible and willing to take risks, to think differently. That’s my perspective. One day soon, I  think I need to get working on a blog and put some of this out that way. I am especially curious to see how others will respond, esp.  those who are running some of the more traditional bookshops, indie shops, brick & mortar.

Thanks for starting the conversations. Best, Dick “I am a bookseller, really” McLeester 

VisionWorks website:  www.changingworld.com

Thank you, Dick, for agreeing to share your views and showing us that book retailers who think outside the cover will succeed!

Read all of the Bookstores of the Future posts in the #noticed category

On the Occasion of My Second Anniversary as a Published Author

On the Occasion of My Second Anniversary as a Published Author

In addition to being a famous Mexican holiday, now celebrated around the world for reasons unrelated to the Mexican victory of Puebla over the French in 1962, Cinco de Mayo is also my anniversary of being a published author. My first book, THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY, officially came out on 5 May 2012.

Second Year Goals

Last year, when I reflected on the momentous occasion of my first anniversary, I was really amazed at how far I’d come in terms of books sales and skills acquired. I also set out some goals for my second year:

  • 5 books listed on amazon
  • Redesigned website with free download of Emilia Cruz mini-anthology
  • Re-release of HIDDEN LIGHT with new cover, lower price, and at least 1 promotion

It was a short list but all the goals were measurable and had a timeline attached to them. But the year ended up being much more than just those three goals.

Learning as I Go

As I headed into Year 2, I was uncertain about book marketing, this blog, the whole face-to-the-world thing. So I took time out from writing to take two online classes: Blog that Converts with Derek Halpern and Instant Bestseller with Tim Grahl.

Blog That Converts was supposed to help me redesign the website. It did that but also opened my eyes to the whole issue of how people respond to online messaging and what makes them connect to a blog/product. Blog That Converts is primarily directed at those who run an online business but I really got a lot out of it.  Derek Halpern’s socialtriggers.com website is full of ideas, not just in regard to the content, but also in regard to how Derek presents information and how the site is designed.

I was one of the beta testers for the Instant Bestseller course, which is based on Tim Grahl’s book, YOUR FIRST 1000 COPIES. The book is hands down the most intelligent discussion of how authors must connect with readers in the new publishing age in order to be successful. Tim has a lite course that is free on his website. I hope Tim expands both the course and his website with more resources and case studies; I plan to regard him as the oracle for the foreseeable future.

Website Redesign

Both the classes helped me give this website a major upgrade with catchthemes.com’s Catch Everest pro theme and a monthly author newsletter via the aWeber email service.

Subscribers get a copy of THE BEAST, the first Emilia Cruz story which was previously featured on The Huffington Post’s Fiction 50 showcase, plus a guide to writing book reviews, my list of top 10 international mystery series, and monthly updates with exclusive excerpts and book release news. Making a newsletter has been another learning curve and I’ve been helped by fellow Instant Bestseller students.

I’ve probably spent too much time this year on web design, Twitter profile design, and Facebook covers. But as a book may be judged by its cover, so is an author judged by the professionalism and quality first impressions. I get a lot of positive feedback on the look of this website, my Twitter background, etc. Presentation makes a difference.

Book List

This anniversary I have 4 books listed on Amazon, not the 5 I’d planned. The 5th book was to be a short memoir based on letters I’d written while a student in France many years ago. I put it on the back burner while taking the courses above and the manuscript stares at me balefully as I type.

HAT DANCE and MADE IN ACAPULCO were released, however. HAT DANCE, the second Emilia Cruz mystery, was on the Top Rated Top 10 for Amazon’s International Mystery category for several months, and might still be in the Top 100. I think CLIFF DIVER still is. (I’ve stopped obsessively checking things like that, which is a major accomplishment on its own.) MADE IN ACAPULCO is a collection of short stories and includes the first two chapters of THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY.

The black matches-and-smoke anniversary cover of HIDDEN LIGHT turned out great. Bold, eye-catching, yet clean. It might be my favorite cover yet. HIDDEN LIGHT sells more in paperback than any of the other books. Maybe it’s the cover or maybe political thriller readers buy more paperbacks than mystery readers who prefer Kindle?

glasses of waterWriting for Water

Long before the Emilia Cruz series hit Amazon’s algorithm I knew that if I made enough I would donate a portion of my proceeds to Water.org, the charity co-founded by Matt Damon to bring clean water to communities worldwide. So despite the fact that Emilia hasn’t knocked Jo Nesbo off the top of the mystery charts, I decided there was no time like the present.

I started in January 2014, donating $1 from every Kindle book I sold to Water.org. After a bit I wondered if some fellow authors might like to help and Sharon Lee Johnson, Norm Hamilton and Jerry Last all stepped up with donations and promotional support. As I felt the effort gaining traction, I put up the Writing for Water page and set a goal of giving 25 people clean water for life. And it is happening! @Water is retweeting our updates, I got a nice email from the home office, and our numbers are climbing!

Have you ever done something that turns out to be bigger than the sum of its parts? Seen real change because of just a small thing? That is what is happening because of all the wonderful readers and fellow authors who are sharing this journey with me. We are giving clean water and changing lives. It feels amazing.

Golden Friendships

More than anything else, be it steadily rising book sales, the growth of the Emilia Cruz series, or an improved website, this second year has been made memorable by some wonderful virtual friendships with fellow writers. Norm Hamilton, Sandra Nikolai, Khaled Talib, Andrew Chesnutt, and especially Jane Rosenthal and Jerry Last have shared time, attention, advice, and good cheer. David Bruns from the Instant Bestseller course has helped with website ideas and tips, while Sharon Lee Johnson has been an infectious cheerleader and work ethic champ. Every day, on Twitter and Goodreads, I meet a fellow author with whom it is a pleasure to trade war stories and cheer success.

I’m thrilled to be participating in a group blog with 4 talented writers: Jane Rosenthal, Christopher Irvin, Guillermo Paxton, and John Scherber. The Mexico Mystery Writers Cartel is just getting off the ground but will be a locus for mystery and Mexico fans alike.

The team at Latinas4LatinoLit.com really gave my visibility a boost last summer with a series of 10 blog posts. Likewise, the editor of Mamiverse.com, Lorraine C. Ladish was a guest on my blog and hosted my article on bilingual humor. More opportunities came my way for guest posts, reviews, syndicated posts, etc. 

Time Management

Done properly, social media is not so much of a distraction as great tools for connecting and researching. I use Twitter and Pinterest to find great web design resources, news about Mexico, etc. Facebook is for advice from fellow authors and some great free promotion. I had been using the free version of Buffer, which seems to have gotten the vapors, so HootSuite is likely in my future.

Keeping a blog updated is hard work and it is tempting to turn each post into a nonfiction article about something I find interesting.  My “Future of Bookstores” series has been a huge time investment but I’m not sure it has had any impact on book sales. DIABLO NIGHTS might have been out 2 months earlier, too.

Yet I had the opportunity to connect with some amazing folks I would have  never have encountered otherwise: thriller author Dale Brown, with whom I had a memorable online exchange; Bernard Cornwell, author of the legendary Richard Sharpe series: Guy Kawasaki, author of APE: Author Publisher, Entrepreneur, and C.M. Mayo, author of a number of literary gems set in Mexico.

Now that I have some experience behind me, however, in the coming year I will keep unrelated blog posts from stealing too much writing time. Maybe I’ll cleverly combine things with a series on time management for authors!

For Next Year

For my third year of being a published author, here are my goals:

  • Meet or surpass goal of providing 25 people with clean water for life via donations to Water.org based on book sales in 2014
  • 2 more books listed on Amazon (DIABLO NIGHTS, the third Emilia Cruz novel is slated for late June release)
  • Publication of at least 1 Emilia Cruz short story in an anthology or ezine
  • Book trailers for all the Emilia Cruz books
  • A core group of 500 readers I connect with monthly via the newsletter
  • 100 subscribers to the Mexico Mystery Writers Cartel

Watch this space to see how it all turns out. While you’re at it, let me know your goals for the coming 12 months!

All the best, Carmen

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Bookstores of the Future: A Case Study of Retail Creativity

Publishing Insiders Dispute the Future of Bookstores

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CARMEN AMATO

Mystery and thriller author. Retired Central Intelligence Agency intel officer. Dog mom to Hazel and Dutch. Recovering Italian handbag addict.

 

Can publishing insiders predict the future of bookstores? What will stores look like in 10 years as they face competition from ebooks and ecommerce?

Over the past 6 months I’ve asked more than 800 people this question, including fellow authors, as well as book bloggers, marketers, and store owners. I’ve also followed the online debate fostered by many who have a large stake in the issue, notably those in the traditional publishing industry. 

The result of my curiosity has been a series of articles. The first article, with 25 author comments, including those from thriller author Dale Brown and Guy Kawasaki, author of ENCHANTMENT, was a real eye-opener and my most widely shared blog post (I’ve stopped counting).  Book bloggers presented more enlightening views, while the series has also explored book retailing innovation and potential partnerships.

This article, with widely divergent views from publishing insiders, raises the most questions out of all of the articles in the series so far. Many bash Amazon.com, without acknowledging that traditional publishing may be a “declining value proposition,” as economist Adam Gomolin ably put it.  Others believe that the indie bookstore, with a couple of baristas and roots in the community, offers the best hope for continued bricks-and-mortar stores even while acknowledging that owners must become more savvy retailers. The age of owning a successful bookstore just because you love books is over.

Questions I thought would be hot topics for the publishing industry really weren’t in evidence: 1. How to change book distribution to improve cost structures for bookstores, and 2. How to get the growing number of independently published titles into physical bookstores?  

Maybe the lack of big discussion is answer enough.

Note: comments listed in alphabetical order by commentator last name

Carolyn Burns Bass

founder and moderator of LitChat, a website devoted to reading and writing and #litchat Twitter discussions, email to author, 3 December 2013

www.carolynburnsbass.com and http://litchat.com

The writing is on the wall and the wall is electronic. As much as we love the smell of books, the turning of pages and beautifully designed typography, ebooks are the literary delivery devices of the future. Despite the convenience of ebooks, there remains, and will for a good many years, a devoted clientele for collector’s edition books and first editions. Publishers understand this and are even now responding with special designs such as wrap around covers for trade paperbacks, more deckle-edges and stunning interior designs. The bookstore of the future will feature these books, as well as kiosks such as the Expresso Book Machine for printing books on the spot. The bookstore of the future will have an agreement with publishers to get discount codes on ebooks their customers buy while logged into a bookstore’s wi-fi or from a local bookstore’s website. Successful bookstores of the future will cater to their patrons as a neighborhood deli serves its customers. They may not have every variety of salami, but they always have what their customers like best.

To survive against online book sales, bookstores can create alliances with other local businesses, such as a coffee/tea, juice or even a wine cart brought in during author visits. Bookstores of the future can be hubs of learning and culture, where people gather to buy books and talk about them. Of course, a bookstore is a logical place to host writing as well as reading groups, mini-TED-type talks, open mic readings by authors/poets, and other public discourse.

If this is not the bookstore of the future, then it’s my dream bookstore.

Carole Corm

publisher, Darya Press, 28 Jan 2014, email to author, www.daryapress.com

I don’t think I am the only person who misses their local bookshop. For the future, I am rather optimistic. I think bookshops could experience a renaissance.

Many people have remarked that the publishing industry is changing: beautiful, niche books continue to be published while the rest is delivered in the e-book format. In fact, there is already a market trend for well made books — whether cheap or high end. These volumes need a fitting space to be looked at – and bought.  In a way, the whole Internet adventure is going to help bookshop owners up their game, offering only the best books, in an improved setting and with the kind of service and perks the Internet cannot compete with.

Doris Heilmann

publisher and blogger, email to author 22 Jan 2014, http://SavvyBookWriters.com/blog, http://www.111Publishing.com

How can bookstores innovate to stay competitive? Just a couple of ideas that pop in mind : )

1. e-Book Order Feature
Since years I was wondering why bookstores did not offer their customers devices where they could order the e-book version if they liked what they found in print in the store. Or at least “bundle” print books with an e-book version. Amazon now tries to partner with bookstores (which might meet some resistance…) to offer exactly what I had envisioned.

2. Carrying Author-Published Books
Trade-published books do not automatically mean quality. There are so many wonderful books from independent authors out there – and it would be a smart move to offer them as well. Readers don’t care who publishes a book, they just want a good read.

3. Order Directly from Author-Publishers
This way, bookstores could circum-navigate the wholesalers and increase their profit quite a bit! As these connections are mostly with local authors, the bookstores could play the “local” aspect into their promotions to the communities around. Most people like to “know” the author who’s books they buy.

4. Offer Book-Layout, Cover-Image and Editing
Why not band together with professionals and offer authors these services to make sure the books’ content and layout gets a great start and is prepared for the Espresso Book Machine. Many authors would be happy to get technical help in the book production and publishing process.

5. Set up an Espresso Book Machine
Many authors (professional and hobbyists) struggle to create very small numbers of print books, e.g. for book signings, Goodreads Giveaways or as gifts. Bookstores would be the ideal place to offer this inventive book printing device. Motto: “Get your book printed while having your Java”, which brings me to the next suggestion:

6. COFFEE! Most chain stores, such as B&N or Chapters have a Starbucks in a designated area, but very few bookstores offer this pleasure. Independent bookstores need to give customers more reasons to come in!

7. More Space and PR for Author Readings
Supporting events such as readings and book signings should be a priority of bookstores – and organizing these professionally, including PR, should be a no-brainer. After all it is a promotion for the store as well.

8. Providing Space for Author Meetings
Charging a small fee (as libraries do) and renting meeting space for authors or even organize a writers conference could be profitable and at the same time a good PR for bookstores if they have the space.

Hugh Howey

author and self-publishing advocate,“Is Amazon Saving Indie Bookstores?” 18 April 2014, http://hughhowey.com

I posited this during my keynote speech at the inaugural PubSmart conference here in Charleston, SC. And nobody threw anything at me. A few people came up afterward and wondered if there might be some merit to the idea. My thinking is this: The true enemy of independent bookstores has been the large chains like Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Waldenbooks, not online shoppingThere was even a movie about this. Since the rise of Amazon, we’ve seen some of these chains shutter and many of the B&N stores close. Meanwhile, independent bookstores are experiencing near double-digit growth for three years running.

Is it possible that Amazon more directly competes with the large chains, and the independent stores are rising to reclaim their role in reading communities? I think so. Shoppers looking for discounts, or who know exactly what they need ahead of time, are using mouse clicks rather than driving to the big chain.

It’s also possible that the “shop local” movement, which is partly a response to the rise of discounters like Amazon, vastly benefits independent bookshops more than large chains. I know this works for me. I pay full retail for hardbacks at a mom-and-pop place but balk at 20% discounts from chains. Are there more shoppers like me?

Major publishers lambast Amazon, because they think the large chains are their main hope for the survival of brick and mortar bookshops. Independent bookstores (like the one I used to work in) go right along with the stone-throwing, assuming what’s bad for B&N and Borders must be bad for them as well. And yeah, I saw people scanning UPC codes and taking pics of books to buy online later. I also saw our sales numbers improve every year, partly because of our reorganization of the shop and our focus on customer service, but more because of the shuttering of WaldenBooks.

Amazon is knocking out the big predators. The indie bookshops are filling up some of that space.

Andrew Leonard

staff writer, “The independent bookstore lives! Why Amazon’s conquest will never be complete,” 4 Apr 2014, salon.com 

Stop carving that gravestone. Brick-and-mortar bookstores aren’t dead, yet. On the contrary, independently owned bookstores are growing in number. According to the American Booksellers Association, since hitting a nadir in 2009, the number of indie bookstores in the U.S. has grown 19.3 percent, from 1,651 to 1,971. The current total is less than half the 1990s peak of around 4,000.  But it still serves as a rebuke to the conventional wisdom that equates Amazon’s relentless rise with the inevitable death of the physical bookstore.

What explains this renaissance? The collapse of Borders in 2011 is one big piece of the puzzle. (Removing a dominant carnivore from the savannah gives all the other animals a little more breathing room.) The end of the recession also contributed to a more nurturing economic environment.

But there’s more to the story. There is increasing evidence that the same digital transformation that has so dramatically reshaped the publishing industry, and driven millions of consumers online, also paradoxically rewards locally rooted authenticity. Our digital tools are steering us toward brick-and-mortar stores that promise a more satisfactory consumer experience than either chain stores or online emporiums can provide.

In a world increasingly influenced by our social media interactions, it’s turning out there may well be enough room for the little guy to survive — and perhaps even thrive.

 Michael Kozlowski

founder, GoodEReader.com, “The Future of the Traditional Bookstore in a Digital World,” 9 Sept 2013, goodereader.com

. . . Book discovery is central to bookstores and they invest significant time and money into aesthetics. Barnes and Noble, Indigo and WH Smith all have it down to a science on the art of product display and maximizing space to visually draw the eye. Your average best seller shelf is filled with vibrant colors and display stands hype up other notable authors or themes.

How will the modern bookstore change when by 2015 the amount of digital books sold will reach 50%? We have seen the collapse of Borders in the US, Whitcoulls in New Zealand and RedGroup in Australia. Thousands of small bookstores all over the world have also closed due to readers shifting to digital. How will bookstores transition from exclusively selling physical books to actively promoting eBooks?

The one worry many bookstores face is being a showroom for 3rd party eBook companies. This is evident in the relationship with bookstores that belong to the American Booksellers Association and sell books from Kobo. The indie bookstore makes very little commissions on each eBook and relies on selling physical books to stay in business. Barnes and Noble is the only one in the world with quite a large ecosystem of content and makes hefty digital returns.

Indigo, Chapters, WH Smith, Foyles and many other bookstores all sell tablets and e-readers in their stores. Over the course of the last few years, reading devices have been a boon to these stores and they are seeing modest returns. Indigo recently has been launching a series of Tech Zones, which significantly increases the size of their product display area. They now sell iPad, iPad Mini and an assorted array of new e-readers and tablets. When customers buy these devices, where do they go to buy books?

The bookstore of the future must develop their own eBook infrastructure in order to preserve their own identity and maximize profits. It is critically important that major chains develop their own digital bookstore and sell eBooks directly to their shoppers. It is simply not sustainable to encourage all of your patrons to buy the digital editions from Amazon or Apple There is always more money to be made by phasing out the middleman and reaching your audience directly . . .

In the end, bookstores need to develop their own bookstore and develop a series of apps for readers to use. These need to be loaded on any tablet or e-reader that their store carries. If the hardware vendor does not want to play ball, you ditch them. Bookstores sustain themselves from selling books, magazines and hardware. They need to unshackle themselves from a strict reliance on a 3rd party and bite the bullet and develop their own digital storefront.

Cat Lavoie

author and #ChickLitChat Twitter moderator, email to author, 22 Feb 2014, http://www.catlavoie.com/

Even though I’ve switched from reading paperbacks to (almost) exclusively reading ebooks, there’s nothing that compares to the joy of browsing in a bookstore. I think bookstores need to collaborate with indie authors and publishers in order to highlight local talent. Book signings and book club meetings could also be a good way to create buzz and introduce new authors to bookstore patrons. And readers who prefer their novels in digital form could download their copy directly from the store. In the end, I think that embracing the new technology and finding a way to bring authors and readers together is how bookstores will stay relevent for, hopefully, many years to come.

Judith Rosen

“The Check Is in the Mail: Patterson Sends Over $267,000 to Booksellers,” publishersweekly.com, 19 Feb 2014

Last September 2 in an interview in the Wall Street Journal followed by an appearance two weeks later onCBS This Morning, James Patterson announced his intention to give away $1 million to independent bookstores over the course of the next 12 months . . .

A little over five months later, Patterson has made good on his promise and mailed out the first installment of the funding this week, totaling more than $267,000, to 54 bookstores across the country plus the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association in support of California Bookstore Day . . .

In a phone conversation with PW earlier this week, Patterson stressed that this is only the first round . . . A doer by nature, Patterson describes himself as “the anti-Congress. We just do stuff.” For him, that “stuff” concerns not just the future of bookstores, libraries, and publishers, but of the next generation of readers. “The future of books in America is at risk,” he said. “Bookstore traffic is down. Kids aren’t reading as many books. I want to really shine a light and draw attention to the fact that this is a tricky time. The government will protect the automobile industry and the banking industry, but not books.”

Mike Shatzkin

founder of The Shatzkin Files, “The future of bookstores is the key to understanding the future of publishing,” idealog.com, 23 Jan 2014

It has been an unspoken article of faith that bookstores would not go the way of stores selling recorded music or renting and selling video, both of which are segments that have just about entirely disappeared. The physical book has uses and virtues that a CD, a vinyl record, a DVD, or a videotape don’t, not the least of which is that a physical book is its own “player”. But it also provides a qualitatively different reading experience, whereas the other “physical” formats don’t change the consumption mode at all. Of course, that only helps bookstores if the sales stay offline. People ordering books online are overwhelmingly likely to order them from Amazon. In other words, it is dangerous to use the book’s ability to endure as a proxy for the bookstores’ ability to sustain themselves. The two are not inextricably connected.

But the fate of almost all trade publishers is inextricably connected to the fate of bookstores. There are only two exceptions. Penguin Random House is one, because they are large enough to create bookstores on their own with just their books. The other is publishers who are vertical with audiences that open up the possibility of retail outlets other than bookstores. Children’s books and crafts books are obvious possibilities for that; there aren’t a ton of others.

The feeling I had at Digital Book World is that most people in the trade have either dismissed or are wilfully ignoring the possibility that there could be such serious further erosion of the trade over the next few years that it would threaten the core practices of the industry. With more than half the sales of many kinds of books — fiction in the trade area, of course, but also lots of specialized and professional and academic topics — already online, many seem to feel whatever “adjustment” is necessary has already been made . . .

All that is possible, and I have no data to refute the notion that we’ve reached some sort new era of bookstore stability, just a stubborn feeling in my gut that over the next few years it will turn out not to be true.

Oren Teicher

CEO of the American Booksellers Association, “A Year-End Letter From ABA CEO Oren Teicher” 12 Dec 2013, bookweb.org

. . . Nationally, the network of independent bookstores has seen and is continuing to see real, sustained growth. This vitality is the result of your hard work, innovation, and a commitment to selecting and showcasing titles that we passionately believe in and that we know will find readers in our communities.

A few years ago, I characterized this revitalization in conversations with our colleagues in the publishing community and in talks as a renaissance in indie bookselling. Today, that renaissance has become resurgence. When Publishers Weekly recently announced that it had selected me and the ABA Board as its person of the year, it was a wonderful acknowledgement of the collective achievement of all independent bookstores. As PW put it, “independent bookstores are once again seen as critical to the success of the book industry.”

. . . Believe me, I know you can’t pay your bills with press clips and that there will be many, many hectic hours before you make that last sale on December 24, but I hope that you can take a moment to appreciate that the public narrative about our industry has changed in a very critical way, as more consumers recognize the importance, vitality, and health of indie bookstores.

Kate Tilton

blogger and author assistant, 12 Feb 2014, via author website form, http://katetilton.com/

How can bookstores innovate to stay competitive?: Bookstores have to compete in prices. If it is cheaper to buy a book of equal quality but for a fraction of the cost elsewhere bookstores are going to lose. As much as I love a nice bookstore the convenience of online shopping and money saved makes it very tough for bookstores to stay open. Author events are one of the only things I make the trek out to a bookstore but author events can happen in other places too (libraries, coffee shops, churches). In order for bookstores to innovate they need to find a way to win over readers once again.

 Michael Weinstein

“Reports of the Bookstore’s Death Are Greatly Exaggerated,” bookbusinessmag.com, 13 May 2013

. . . Part of me wants to suggest that we take the emotional hot button of the “nobility” of the bookstore (particularly the local independent variety) out of the discussion and just talk cold/hard facts. But I don’t think we can. I think there are enough people out there that see (and feel) the value of the experience (as Sturdivant wrote), who want and NEED bookstores to exist, to contribute enough to keep them going.

But I also think that from a business sense, publishers see the value of bookstores. They may sell more books at Amazon, but publishers are smart enough (I hope) to recognize that independent stores can help “make” a book if they like it, that author readings and signings build loyalty . . .

Also, we need to continue to expand the definition of  “bookstore.” Obviously, most bookstores won’t be  “just” bookstores. In fact, books may not be the primary function of the store, but that won’t mean that they’re not bookstores. What each store offers other than books will depend on the owners — how smart are they? How in touch are they with what their local community needs? The physical store allows a community to be built around events and activities, and that is more potent than an online community. Sure, I’m in an online community of Wheaten Terrier owners, but talking online and sharing pictures with someone from Norway is just not the same as sitting in a room with your physical neighbors . . . .

Like everything else in our industry it will require ingenuity, flexibility and the ability to adapt on the go to succeed.

Tom Weldon

UK chief executive of Penguin Random House, as quoted by Jennifer Rankin in The Observer, 5 April 2014

Some commentators say the publishing industry is in enormous trouble today. They are completely wrong, and I don’t understand that view at all . . . Book publishers have managed the digital transition better than any other media or entertainment industry. I don’t understand the cultural cringe around books . . .

It is a sad fact of life that there are fewer physical bookshops than there were. [Traditional media is declining, including books pages. As the book world moves from] “a browse-and-display model to one of online search and recommendation, publishers must adapt to capture readers attention. The challenge isn’t digital: it is how do you tell people about the next great book.

Book Review: The Bat by Jo Nesbo

Book Review: The Bat by Jo Nesbo

I have read all of the Harry Hole police procedural mysteries by Norwegian author Jo Nesbo, but read them out of order. Which probably was a good thing . . .

THE BAT is the first in the series, but was only recently made available in English and for Kindle. I was thrilled to read it, as the subsequent books in the series refer to Harry’s investigation of a serial killer in Australia. But as I gobbled it up, literarily speaking, one thought kept surfacing: this is a strange way to start a detective series.

The book introduces Harry Hole as an Oslo detective sent to Sydney, Australia to assist in the investigation of the murder of a Norwegian woman who was a moderately successful Norwegian TV star. His guide throughout the investigation is an Australian detective named Kensington who is of Aboriginal descent. Kensington’s boss isn’t thrilled to have Harry there and wants to shut him out even as Kensington keeps introducing Harry to strange folks in the outback as well as in bars in Sydney’s red light district called King’s Cross.

Now, I’ve been to both Oslo and Sydney (including a night of clubbing in King’s Cross) and the two cities have a lot in common. They are both vibrant and modern with an athletic vibe and a well-educated populace.  Lots of tall white people in rock band tees. Just like Harry.

But Nesbo makes the differences really speak to the reader by using the murder investigation to reveal the lifestyle, history, and integration difficulties of Australia’s Aboriginal population. We discover pain and passion through Harry’s eyes in a way that neither the Norwegian detective nor the reader expect to do so.

The serial killer does bad stuff, the ending is full of suspense, a romance goes awry, and the roots of Harry’s self-destructive behavior—more of a central issues in later books—are revealed. But overall, I can’t shake the feeling that this was an odd way to start a mystery series, because at no time do we see Harry as particularly Norwegian or in his natural element. We don’t meet his colleagues or understand the context for any continuing series. I recognized places in Australia, and loved the great descriptions, easy dialogue, and twisty plotting. But I’m not sure I’d be compelled to read more in a series set in Norway if I only had this story to go on.

Bottom line? Read THE BAT by Jo Nesbo, but not as your introduction to the Harry Hole series.

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