Across the books and in person.

Welcome! Since I write two English mystery series, I thought it would be fun to chat about that. And about England. Specifically, Derbyshire, since that is the county I know the best. If you have questions about my books, about mysteries or your own writing, or want to know something about England -- perhaps you're planning a visit -- I'd love to talk with you. Let's start chatting, shall we?

Derbyshire VIllage

Derbyshire VIllage

Sunday, February 13, 2011

On the Other Side of the Table

Yesterday I went to a book signing.  Doesn't sound so odd, since I'm an author who occasionally has them.  But yesterday's signing was Paul Schmit's, a fellow "sister" whose first novel recently came out.  It was fun sitting on the other side of the table, being the visitor instead of the visited.  Paul and his wife, Jan, smiled from behind a stack of books and a wonderful sign that I'm certain made Paul happy: Paul F. Schmit, Author of Atonement.  I and another fellow Sister in Crime member author, Eleanor Sullivan, sat on the customer side and chatted for about an hour about the publishing biz, Paul's book, and what we're working on.  I enjoyed the time there at Big Sleep Books immensely, not only because I was spared my usual stomachful of butterflies that I get when I do signings and talks, but also because I was so happy that Paul had his first book finished and offered for sale. 

It's an extremely tough business, writing and getting something published.  The industry is changing so quickly that authors' heads are spinning in the attempt to keep up with the latest technology and marketing ideas.  As author Pauline Baird Jones said recently, The print market is in trouble, not because people don't want books, but because of a BAD business model. Book returns have been a drag on the industry since they created it. No other business makes more product than they know they can sell, then destroys it when it doesn't sell. And when those over-produced books don't sell, big publishers punish the author. It's a business model that has hurt readers AND authors for years. Finally, the power balance is shifting to readers and authors.  Big publishers and bookstores are going to have to figure things out in a hurry if they want to survive, but they don't get to demand reader support for their business model. They are still trying to keep their little worlds intact, support their bad business choices, while the rest of us are moving on.

I could not agree more.  It's a goofy business.  Printers waste materials, money and time printing more books than are needed, yet the logical, economical way of printing -- print on demand, or POD -- is frowned upon by the big publishing houses as somehow being inferior or not "legitimate" publishing, as if an author whose book is produced this way is less of an author than someone whose publisher has a warehouse full of books gathering dust and wasting space and money.  POD makes sense -- the book is printed within hours and on its way to the bookstore where it was ordered.  No warehouse is rented to hold pallets of books, no paper is wasted producing books that aren't wanted, no money is spent on these unsold books.  The POD books are wanted and there is no waste of any kind.  Publishers need to wake up and see the future.

I don't know what Borders Books and Cafe will end up as (Friday we learned the company had filed for bankruptcy).  Did they not keep up with the shift in publishing, ignoring the ebooks that seem to be taking over the publishing world?  Did they use too much floor space on CDs, videos, notebooks and stationery, chocolate and gifts?  Could be.

Hopefully Paul Schmit won't be affected by all this.  He's got his first book in his hand and has stepped into the published author world with a humorous mystery filled with quirky characters and snappy dialogue.  I wish him success and I'm glad he's made it!


  1. Jo,

    Thank you for the kind words. For the longest time I've been on the visitor side of the table, hoping, someday to be on the signing side. It all came together on Saturday. Thanks to you, and all the other 'Sisters' who have suppoted me.
    About the publishing world. (Nifty trasisition, eh?)I read an article a couple of years ago about a fellow in a London bookstore--as I recall it was a large store-who had a printing press in his backroom. A customer would come in and request such and such a book. If it wasn't on the shelf, the owner would print it up then and there. In a relatively short time, he could deliver a bound book to the purchaser.
    Why hasn't our big box stores picked up on that?

  2. Maybe they never thought of it. I don't know if I would have! I guess e-books that are in the actual stores are sort of like that, but I don't know. I've never ordered that way. That's why POD makes so much sense -- they can have a book printed in hours and shipped to the store the next day. It saves time and money and materials. I wonder if that fellow is still cranking out books???