Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Thursday, June 22, 2006

We interrupt this blog for some moral outrage...

On Thursdays,I usually write about TV but I saw a story at Galleycat that got my pistons fired up so much,I felt the need to discuss it here. My two cents on the Rescue Me Tommy/Janet rough sex scene will just have to wait(believe me,I have some stuff to say there)until this particular itch is scratched.

Barry Eisler,a mystery writer who has a series of novels with a reoccuring lead,John Rain,shared an e-mail correspondance he exchanged with an independant bookseller in the Midwest(who is referred to as "G")who had Eisler and two other authors do a book signing event for his store. G sent him a e-mail in which he expressed his displeasure at Eisler for mentioning that he had to leave to do a stock signing at the local Barnes & Noble and for asking directions to the store.

This lead to a few more e-mails back and forth,which I won't summerize(there's a link to the blog entry in the title above)but the nasty tone of G's writing is highly insulting. I'll paste one qoute here to give you an idea:

"Put another way, bookselling is a very small club. Independents talk to one another regularly. We love to make people stars, it’s why we do what we do. The chains are always late to the party, the wholesale outlets even later. Independents may not do the volume, but we definitely pick the people when we want to. Conversely, much like John Rain, when we want to kill an author we can always make it look like natural causes. There’s always a different book to push."

G always tells Barry how the chains undercut the indies by ignoring on sale dates(certain books are only allowed to be sold on a date given by the publisher and bookstores can get into legal trouble if they sell a title before then)and by signing his books for them was an insult to the folks who went to the indie event.

First off,I've experienced the whole on sale date mess at my former job and yes,the chains usually get a slap on the wrist for putting out a book too soon while an indie store would get harsher treatment but that's something for a bookseller to fight over with the publisher,not the author.I sincerely doubt that many writers are aware of this and while you might want to let them in on it,to use it as an accusation towards the author is inappropiate.

Eisler made a slight faux pas in mentioning the B&N signing and asking for directions but it wasn't the kind of thing to threaten the man over. It's the type of situation where you would just take the person aside and say"Dude,these people are kind of sensitive about that...ex-nay on the chain-ay" not " Fortunately, we’re in the Midwest so we can laugh it off. If we were in Japan, I’d have killed you to avenge the family honor. Really, truly."

Also,it's nonsense for a professional book seller to be upset about an author going to more than one store in the area for a signing. Author appearance locations are not a state secret and it's just good business sense for both writer and publisher to have signings at as many bookstores in whatever city they're pushing in. G claims in a follow-up letter that he's not insulted by Eisler going to B&N but then tells him that other independants would've gone after him for mentioning it"We walk the walk. We know who you are." This whole Sopranos undertone is what gets me. Why would you speak to someone in this manner and then say you're just trying to help them?

As Loki says in Dogma"My God,I've heard a rant like this before."-I'm all for independant bookstores but I refuse to see the chains as Satan Incarnate and feel that this holier-than-thou attitude is only hurting,not helping the indie cause. Yes,many books and authors owe a debt of thanks to the handsellers and book buyers of small stores for giving them a leg up but the chains also contribute a little something with their discounts and larger stock. This shouldn't be an either-or deal here. If actors can go from big budget studio films to small time indie flicks and vice versa without too many qualms,why can't the same be done within the book industry?

The rudeness is what gets me-what kind of business person goes out of their way to insult someone who they might want to work with again? Frank McCourt once told a story about how some independant bookpeople were mad at him for doing a B&N credit card ad-they said to him"We made you." He replied"No,my mother and father made me." Good for him! Not everyone is a straight shooter like that but sometimes,it is warranted. Eisler doesn't seem to have any hard feelings about this but I think that maybe some folks should take a look at this post(and the reactions to it)and before they start to climb on their soap box to holler at someone,think for a moment.

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