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The Craft of Writing

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Can Indie Booksellers Rise from the Ashes?

Publishers Weekly reported good news from Wakefield, RI on February 10!  Wakefield Books opened Feb 12, filling the space vacated by Waldenbooks after 30 years of occupancy.

“We are excited to welcome Wakefield Books to the Wakefield Mall with an expected opening date of mid-February,” said Phyllis Fish, mall manager, in an e-mail Wednesday morning as reported in the South County Independent online edition on February 12 South County Independent online edition on February 12.

The store will be opened by Bookstore Solutions Management, a new company formed by long-time independents Susan Novotny (Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, NY) and David Didriksen (Willow Books in Action, MA).  Their concept is to open bookstores that are ideally suited to their communities in the space left by the chain stores that are vacating in locations throughout New England, reported PW.

The stores are destinations for the community, many of whom are finding themselves without a local bookseller. In the case of Wakefield, PW reports that the entire staff will stay on at the new store.  It will have a larger local tourist books section and a larger children’s area.  Other than that, with only some cosmetic changes, they’re ready for business.

“What reader doesn’t like to go into a bookstore and poke around?” asked Marc Archambault of Wakefield [as reported in the South County Independent]. “They had the new books, and the staff picks were always interesting to see. Plus talking to the employees – I loved it – it was like a mini-book club walking into that store.”

PW weekly reports that Novotny will begin as the buyer for the store. something that will transition to Wakefield Books. Didriksen will oversee operations.

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Amazon Publishing – What’s the Story?

Publishers Weekly (PW) ran a piece on Amazon Publishing this week.  It seems Amazon is not going to rest with dominating physical and ebook sales, they’re also going after a piece of the publishing pie.

The agents interviewed for this article gave their thoughts on condition of anonymity.  (Can everyone say,  “McCarthyism” with me?)  They’re basically leery because Amazon Publishing is a new entity.  One agent is quoted in the PW piece as saying, ““As a matter of rule, I don’t like to test the waters with big authors. I’d rather deal with a firm that is well established.”  Makes sense to me.

The Indie booksellers interviewed spoke with attribution.  Their comments range from those like this from Richard Goldman, co-owner of Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, Pa., who is quoted in the PW piece as saying, “Generally our position on carrying a book is, if we can get it at 35% or better, and it’s returnable, we’ll order it.” to this comment from Lisa Sharp at NightBird Books in Fayetteville, Ariz., who said in the PW piece, “I hope not to [stock Amazon titles]. I mean, if somebody calls and wants one, I’ll order it, but I’m not going to keep it in the store.”

Indie bookseller Harvey Finkel of Clinton Bookshop in Clinton, New Jersey expressed his sentiments quite clearly in the PW piece. “We’re not doing that,” said Harvey Finkel at Clinton Bookshop in Clinton, N.J. “I’d love to stock their books and give them more money to put me out of business.”

The PW article also included some discussion of the lack of a clear understanding of Amazon Publishing terms, the method for coordinating between offices on both coasts, and questions about who was doing the actual editing. When asked about the editing, Jeff Belle, v-p of Amazon Publishing is quoted thus in the PW article, “Like many publishers, we do outsource some copyediting for our books. There are a lot of talented editors out there who have set up their own shops, and we’re happy to work with them where it makes sense. Over time, we will find the best balance of in-house and outsourced editing.”

The consensus seems to be summed up well by Jeff McCord, owner of the Atlanta shop Bound to Be Read Books, as quoted in the PW piece, “Amazon Publishing is a bigger worry for publishers than for bookstores.”

All in all, it leaves several big question marks!

Read the full piece for yourself 🙂