In order to deal with congestion issues at its warehouses, Amazon has been cutting book orders to publishers over the last several weeks. It isn’t clear how widespread the reduction in orders is, but several independent publishers contacted by PW reported cuts in their weekly orders since late October. One publisher reported that an order placed last week was about 75% lower than an order placed last year at this time. “It’s a nightmare,” the head of one independent publisher said.
Amazon has caused a fair amount of talk and concern amongst small publishers, and rightfully so. Publishers who need holiday sales to “make their year” worry those sales won’t happen if Amazon lists the books as out of stock.
We have alternatives, but for many readers, buying a new book automatically means logging onto Amazon’s website. It’s a habit that’s hard to break, yet every time it happens it makes Amazon bigger and makes us more dependent.
We could just as easily log on to the Barnes & Noble site where prices are similar. Or we can buy directly from IndieBound. Powells claims it’s the world’s largest independent bookstore. Its website is just as easy to use as B&N’s site, though the prices are a bit higher. On the plus side, they sell a lot of used books and those prices are pretty good.
A fair number of local bookstores operate websites like Powells where we can order even if we live on the far side of the country.
These are some of our options. I appreciate what Amazon has done for self-publishers.
However, they are a business and have to make decisions that work for them (as in making sure bestsellers are in stock rather than buying something from a publisher who may only sell 25 books during the holiday season), so I try to buy from other places from time to time. I’m sure Amazon doesn’t care, but it keeps me from developing too strong an addiction to the A-to-Z people.
It’s getting more and more difficult to talk about books, publishing, and authors without straying into political issues that often have a very polarized reader-base. Some people believe CNN 100%, while others believe FOX 100%. I’ve more or less stopped posting anything political on my Facebook page because it always ends up with people shouting at each other. Sexual harassment is one of those issues. I mention this here because Publishers Weekly ran into a few snags with a recent article about sexual harassment in our business (Item 1). Maybe they’ll get it sorted out this time.
Issues: Letter from the Editors: Covering Sexual Abuse in the Book Business, By Jim Milliot, Rachel Deahl, and John Maher – “The difficult nature of covering the subject hit home on December 5, when we ran a story announcing the resignation of Giuseppe Castellano, executive art director of Penguin Workshop, following claims of sexual harassment by actress and comedian Charlyne Yi. The article we published was intended to be a balanced account based on verifiable facts. Not everyone agreed that it was. Some readers expressed frustration that we put too much emphasis on Castellano’s account over Yi’s.” Publishers Weekly
News: Notable Literary Deaths in 2017, by Emily Temple – “This has not been the best year. In addition to, well everything, we lost a number of literary luminaries in 2017: beloved novelists, champions of the written word, legendary editors, and genre-defining journalists.” Literary Hub
News: The Tale of Two Literary Forums, by Malcolm R. Campbell – “If you were out on the Internet in the 1980s, you probably remember that CompuServe was a major ISP, providing e-mail and forums for millions of users. In those days, almost every hi-tech company, whether hardware or software, had a forum staffed in part by representatives of the company to help people with bugs, usage issues, and other information. In addition to these forums, CompuServe also maintained forums for pets, religion, political discussions, hobbies, and literature.” Malcolm’s Round Table
Film: Hollywood’s Once and Future Classic, Hollywood’s Once and Future Classic, Why it took 54 years to turn A Wrinkle in Time into a movie, By Eliza Berman – “A Wrinkle in Time, a Disney movie based on Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 novel of the same name, will come out on March 9, 2018. The film brings to life the story of Meg Murry, a gangly adolescent who travels across dimensions to rescue her scientist father. Meg is guided by a trio of guardian angels collectively called “the Mrs.” The book, and the movie, is about what it means to be a source of light in a world in which darkness seems only to proliferate. It also makes the case for thinking independently when conformity is the norm.” Time Magazine
Quotation: “When I see a store, I MUST GO IN. I’m a sucker for books, but indie bookstores take that up a few levels because they’ll curate for me. I go in saying I want to learn about some obscure topic and they won’t look at me as if I’m from Mars! Instead it’s almost as if I see my own curiosity reflected back at me, and they share it instantly. I’ve had that same experience happen in multiple cities, so I think it’s common to independent bookstore owners and I love them for it.” – Author Jessee Mecham Shelf Awareness
Review:THE ICE HOUSE – Home is a long way from here, by Laura Lee Smith, reviewed by Thane Tierney – “The Scots didn’t invent stubbornness, but they perfected it, raised it to a high art where irresistible force and immovable object are sometimes locked like two neutron stars in a perilous dance. So it is with American immigrant Johnny MacKinnon and his Scottish son, Corran, in Laura Lee Smith’s second novel, ‘The Ice House.'” Book Page
Lists: The Ultimate Best Books of 2017 List, by Emily Temple – “It’s the end of the year, and everybody has an opinion. And of course, where there’s an opinion, there’s a listicle. The river of Best of 2017 lists can be exhausting this time of year, so as a public service, and because my math skills are always in need of a little exercise, I’ve created a streamlined master list of the books that the most people loved this year.” Literary Hub
Review: LITTLE LEADERS: Bold Women in Black History, by Vashti Harrison ; illustrated by Vashti Harrison (Age Range: 6 – 12) – “Visual artist Harrison introduces 40 trailblazing black women from United States history in this inspiring volume for young readers…Perfect for exploring together at bedtime or for children to browse independently, a gorgeous invitation for children of all backgrounds, and especially for black girls, to learn about black women who were pioneers.” Kirkus Reviews
News: Indie Bookstores Tell Us About Their Most Stolen Books – Which volumes walk out the door most often, and why? by Jo Lou – “Independent bookstores are magical, endangered places. Stealing from these small, often struggling establishments is a mortal sin and the Book Gods will smite you. If you must kidnap books (which you shouldn’t, because libraries exist) then steal from big box stores instead.” Electic Lit
Book Bits is compiled randomly by Malcolm R. Campbell, author of paranormal, contemporary fantasy, and magical realism novels and short stories.
Cubans and Americans haven’t had much access to each other’s literature for fifty years. Even though relations are becoming more normalized between the two countries, the overall embargo remains in place.
Personally, I don’t think an embargo on consumer products ever made sense, much less now.
According to the Publishers Weekly article A Letter from PW on the Cuba Book Embargo, “The Cuban people’s desire, and need, for American books was evident during the February U.S. publishing mission to Cuba, organized by PW and Combined Book Exhibit, in close cooperation with Cuban government officials.”
Click on the link in the paragraph above to see why PW thinks the embargo should be lifted. Or, if you already believe it should be lifted, you can read the petition here.
The embargo can only be lifted through Congressional action.
With all the high-energy buzz surrounding books like Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement, and John Grisham’s Sycamore Row, I have to look a little harder to find new fantasy fiction, especially contemporary fantasy.
So, I’m happy to see that Gene Wolfe’s (“The Book of the New Sun” tetralogy) new release from Tor Books will appear a few days before Thanksgiving filled with corruption, supernatural powers and a Kafkaesque flavor. The Land Acrossunfolds in an imaginary Balkan country that’s difficult to visit and more difficult to leave–in part because of the secret police and in part because of a cult called the Unholy Way.
Teaser Excerpt from the Novel
Like most countries it is accessible by road or railroad, air or sea. Even though all those are possible, they are all tough. Visitors who try to drive get into a tangle of unmarked mountain roads, roads with zits and potholes and lots of landslides. Most drivers who make it through (I talked about it with two of them in New York and another one in London) get turned back at the border. There is something wrong with their passports, or their cars, or their luggage. They have not got visas, which everybody told them they would not need. Some are arrested and their cars impounded. A few of the ones who are arrested never get out. Or anyhow, that is how it seems.
Kirkus Reviews says The Land Across “seamlessly blends mystery, travelogue, authoritarianism and the supernatural.”
Publishers Weekly says “Wolfe evokes Kafka, Bradbury, and The Twilight Zone in combining the implausible, creepy, and culturally alien to create a world where every action is motivated by its own internal logic, driving the story forward through the unexplored and incomprehensible.”
According to Library Journal’s starred review, “Wolfe, in masterful mood, builds his characters, explores the puzzles, links the elements together and contrives to render the backdrop both intriguingly attractive and creepily sinister. Sheer enjoyment.”
And Booklist writes, “Master fantasist Wolfe feeds into every tourist’s worst fears in this cleverly constructed travelogue though a country figuratively accessed through a looking glass. When an American travel writer, Grafton, sets out to document his experiences traversing a small, exceedingly obscure Eastern European country (the land across the mountains), he winds up in a nightmarish predicament from which there appears to be no escape.”
I like contemporary fantasy because, in blending magic into the real world, it brings us plots and characters that seem somewhat more plausible than swords and dragons on far-away planets. Almost everyone who has traveled has worried about being lost in an unfamiliar and unfriendly place. Wolfe’s protagonist is a travel writer who should know his way around the risks, but he’s nonetheless trapped in a place where mere unfriendliness would be a plus.
Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of contemporary fantasy novels, including “The Seeker,” “The Sailor and “The Betrayed.” Released this month, “The Betrayed” features a young English teacher at a small campus where lies and deceits take precedence over literature, history and science.
Once the barrage of lightweight summer books has come and gone, readers’ thoughts to turn fall reading and holiday gifts. To help us make our choices, the usual flurry of best books of the year articles and lists is showing up all over the Internet and in your favorite book stores. For this, you can always start with the list of 101 best books of the year on Publishers Weekly. (The feature has site errors in it, but click on OK and get past them.) Or you can look at USA Today’s list of fall books here.
Indie Bound publishes a “Next” list for upcoming books. Here are their favorites for November:
Likewise, Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) keeps up with bestsellers for bookstores in the southeast. Here’s the link to their hardbacks PDF. On the download, they’ve highlighted several books, including:
When people ask me about fiction and poetry, my answer depends on what (if anything) I know about the person. Do they like romance, fantasy, general fiction, crime? However, my three top picks of the year in fiction are:
And, for those who like poetry (I think Bryant’s latest book is only on Sams Dot Com):
I’m intrigued by these short stories, but they may not work for everyone:
In the crime category, I liked Robert Galbraith’s (J. K. Rowling) The Cuckoo’s Falling and Stephen King’s Joyland. In plays, I liked Elizabeth Clark-Sterne’s On the Doorstep of the Castle. Also, Tracy R. Franklin’s strong collection of poetry and essaysLooking for the Sun Door is a beautiful book. And, since a short story of mine appears in the anthology, I have to mention Spirits of St. Louis: Missouri Ghost Stories. Of course, I wouldn’t mind if you clicked on the banner below to take a look at my new contemporary fantasy The Betrayed.
I hope you find plenty out there for your to-be-read list and for the lists of your friends and family.