Digital Killed the Paperback Star…or did it?

time cover July 11.jpgNote: I wrote this article a year back, in the time since, independent book stores are continuing their resurgence. Don’t believe me? That’s fine, but please take the time to check out this compilation of reference articles from the American Booksellers Association. More than fifty articles are listed: Independent Bookstores are Thriving


July 3rd, 2016

My weekly Time magazine came in the mail a couple days ago. The cover shouted in red, white, and blue letters, “240 Reasons to Celebrate America Right Now.” I was holding Thor (my baby boy), so I ended up flopping it open on kitchen counter with my free hand. I read articles out loud to him; if he cries, I know the article is boring. Nestled in the centerfold was the title of the 64th reason to celebrate: The death of the bookstore was greatly exaggerated. I read it out loud, and Thor giggled. Okay, maybe he didn’t, but that would of been a nice hook, huh?

The article, written by Lev Grossman, provides a brief snapshot of how independent bookstores are doing. The outlook was pleasing. Here are some takeaways and why it should matter to you as writers and as readers.

Independent bookstores are doing better than some media sources reflect in their reporting. According to the article bookstores have been growing in numbers steadily for the last seven years. Climbing from 1,712 all the way to 2,311 (Grossman cited the American Booksellers Association for these numbers). The growth was attributed  largely to new technology making inventorying libraries easier for small businesses and social media allowing for low cost advertising.

The next reason for this growth jumped out at me; these independently ran bookstores operate in a niche market. Grossman provided a quote from one independent shop owner (Brian Lampkin, owner of Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, N.C.) who stated, “We’re letting Amazon and Barnes & Noble take care of the best sellers. Where are you going to get poetry? Some Barnes & Nobles you walk into, you’re lucky to find Emily Dickinson.”

This quote brings me to my first point.

bookstoreamersterdam.jpgAs indie authors, citizen writers, and artists, why wouldn’t you go and support those who exist to support you? 

If you are a writer of any medium, you should be walking into the local bookstore and seeing what they have going on. You may not be J.K. Rowling or Stephen King (yet), but in your town or city, you might be the best thing since sliced bread. Even better, these struggling businesses want you to talk about your work with customers; they want poetry readings; they want the local flavor to come in and mix and mingle. It’s a powerful tool to reach out from beyond the glow of our computer screens.

I have indie author friends who made sure to go to local bookstores and get their work up on the shelves. I know from the Instagram photographs, Facebook posts, and conversations we’ve had, that seeing their work sitting in a bookstore shelf was one of the highlights in their journey.

print is dead.jpgPrint isn’t dead.  Digital may have punched it in the face, but it’s still in the game. Grossman provides an interesting statistic. “Last year the share of e-books
(at least the non-self published kind) actually receded to 24%. The book market appears to have rebalanced itself into a complex mix of paper and digital, with neither format completely dominating…”.

This is an important thing to consider when you decide what formats you are going to produce. I know plenty of indie authors who only sell e-copies of their work. The worry is they won’t be able to recuperate the costs of printing. But perhaps the tides are changing and there could be profit to go to print? Even if it is just a limited print. Especially if there are local stores who are willing to let you throw down a table, do readings, and toss your books up on the shelf. It is something to consider as you move through the process.

If you want to worship, go to the temple. I urge you to go check out your local book haunt. Plenty of these places aren’t making much money doing what they are doing. To them, that’s not the point. They do it because they have a passion for print. They love the look and smell of a wall of books.

Ask yourself this: are we so different from them? Are you making millions from your writing right now? Even if you are, is that the only driving force behind your stories? To be a successful writer, I assume an element of passion must be there. Surround yourself with those equally as passionate and see your fortune rise.

Final Words: To my fellow Americans, I hope your 4th of July is great and you are surrounded by those you love. To my friends outside of our borders, please enjoy the endless videos of us crazy Americans blowing ourselves to smithereens with pyrotechnics.

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Back to the Routine (800+ Followers!)

matthew8-1Hurricane Matthew—what a pain in the butt.  Not only did we (wife, baby, cat) evacuate to a different state, but to add to the stress, my sister-in-law was honeymooning on a cruise ship off the coast of Florida during this craziness (she made it home unscathed).

Fortunately, there was no major damage here at my house.  We arrived at 4 a.m. to find lots of downed trees, a few missing shingles, but nothing of considerable note.  The area directly around me wasn’t as lucky so I’m feeling very fortunate right now.  The Berkeley Observer compiled some photos of the damage here in my region.  The photo I placed of the toppled sign, taken by Cameron Scott, is where Heather and I get our sushi.  I checked and the sushi place survived (thank the sushi gods!).

crying boy_universe.jpgNow that I am back home in the comfort of my writing cave/study, I wanted to take a day to get my feet planted with all of you before diving back into the daily routine.  I’m very happy to be home, have a home still, and get back to the grind.

*Corey takes a cleansing breath*

First off, thanks for all of the kind words and emails.  I have a backlog of emails, comments, and posts to reply to.  I will be doing this over the next couple days.  Obviously, this weather event chucked a wrench into the gears of my daily posting goals.  I will note (for my own sanity), that it took an act of God to push me off the rails.

thanksSecondly, I logged in today to find I had passed the 800 follower mark.  Holy smokes!  Talk about a welcome home present from the blogoverse.  Needless to say, I’m humbled by the support I have found here and very thankful.  It’s nice to know so many others are interested in learning about the dark arts of writing and editing.    It’s thrilling to have found this amazing community, and I’m excited to have reached this point.

Thirdly, I know I mentioned last post I would be recycling older posts during this blackout period.  Truth be told, I simply didn’t have the means, ability, or time to get this done.  I do apologize for the brief lapse in posting.

donate.jpgLastly, for those of you who are suffering from the aftermath of the storm, my thoughts are with you.  I’ll be heading out to donate diapers and food to our local relief organizations.  If you are local, I absolutely encourage you to do the same.

Also, if you are in the Charleston SC area and need a helping hand, shoot me an email via my contact page, and I’ll see what I can do.

For the purpose of the blog, I’m putting the storm in the rear-view and moving forward.  As of tomorrow, I’ll be back on track with the daily posting schedule (unless the gods intervene again).  Until then, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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Hurricane Matthew: Evacuated & Safe

matthew skulls.jpg

Freaky skull hidden within Hurricane Matthew…

I wrote a couple days ago that we might have to evacuate due to Hurricane Matthew.  Many of you offered some really kind words, and I really appreciate the positive thoughts and prayers.  The good news is I am writing this from Georgetown, Kentucky—so obviously we did end up evacuating.  Here’s a brief recap.

Our governor, Nikki Haley, announced that evacuations would begin on Wednesday at 3 p.m. (EST).  We decided to fuel up our vehicles as soon as this was announced, and it’s a good thing we did.  We took the car to the gas station about 20 minutes after hearing the potential evacuation order, and it still took almost an hour of line-time to get gasoline.

gas lines.jpg

Image from the Miami Herald.  Linked to article.

After dealing with the chaos of simply getting gas, we decided not to wait until Wednesday to leave.  We got home and started packing.  Unfortunately, we still had to wait for the base (where my wife works) to give us permission.  Permission came at around 7 p.m. that evening.  Thor’s bedtime is 8 p.m., and we figured we should leave then so he would sleep for most of the trip.

Here are some of the things that were involved in the mad rush to leave.

  • We had to ensure we had all essential documents with us. We placed a special emphasis on having our home-owner insurance (we have a portable safe for documents).
  • Anything outside of the house (i.e. grill, metal firepit, flower pots) had to be brought indoors so they wouldn’t be tossed through windows.
  • Anything essential that could be destroyed by water, we moved to a center room with no windows and put them at elevation.  This probably won’t matter if we get nine feet of storm surge, but hey, you can’t blame us for trying.
  • As my desktop computer is pretty essential to my work, it came with us.
  • We didn’t worry about stockpiling water, food, and propane as we were going to leave.
  • We did bring diapers, baby food, cat food, and a small amount of food and water in case we were delayed during the evacuation.
  • Given my wife has been freezing excess breast-milk in the hopes of being able to stop pumping a little early, we brought that with us.  A prolonged power outage will ruin the contents of our freezer and fridge.

niblet-and-meThe drive from South Carolina to Kentucky usually takes us about eight hours.  In the first five hours of travel time, we had barely moved.  I wasn’t upset about this.  I was happy people had the sense to evacuate.  All told, it took us twelve hours to get to Georgetown (my mother-in-law lives there).

During the trip, Niblet (our cat) would start meowing, then Thor would start making noise, and vice versa.  Basically, if one was awake, they were both awake.  They both slept like champs if we were moving, but much of our travel time was spent in stop-and-go traffic.

Some people evacuated to hotels, but with a baby and a cat, this would be pretty inconvenient. Also, if the coastline really gets thrashed, it would be costly to be in a hotel for a few weeks.

With 200+ people dead in Haiti and the Caribbean already, I really hope people are taking this hurricane seriously.  We can argue about the infrastructure of Haiti compared to the US, but if you’ve ever seen the aftermath of a serious weather event, you’ll know infrastructure doesn’t matter to Mother Nature.

hurricane-matthew-track-oct-6-11amjpg-dad50870cb290fa9.jpg

If you are staying on the coast, my prayers are with you.  Matthew has surged in power as it moves toward Florida.  Gaining in strength back to a Category 4.  From the National Hurricane Center, a Category 4 is described as:

“Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

My academic training in homeland security has taught me to not take these things lightly.  Also, my job a Navy journalist, photographer, and combat cameraman has shown me first-hand the destruction and loss of life extreme weather events cause.  I promise you, nothing in your home is worth your life.  Please be safe and don’t take unnecessary risks.

Regardless, I should be back on track for posting and work now that I’m safely in Kentucky.  I am going to still take a day or two to do maintenance. I will recycle older posts in the meantime.  Until then – stay safe.

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QE vs Hurricane Matthew & Maintenance

Almost a month ago exactly, I wrote a post about my family preparing to evacuate due to Hurricane Hermine rolling through.  Fortunately for us, Hermine only succeeded at throwing around trashcans and stripping a few trees of their limbs.

Hurricane Coming.jpgWell guess what, another hurricane—Hurricane Matthew—is making its way toward us.  According to the Weather Channel, the whirling monster is supposed to impact the Charleston, S.C. area directly (where I live).

I guess this is what happens when you name your son Thor…

Conflict 101: Man vs Nature

On a more serious note, we are under a Level 3 advisory from the base where my wife works.  As she is active duty Navy, we can be ordered to evacuate and must comply.  I am currently gathering food and supplies.  There’s a chance I’ll be getting to play Yukon Trail: Hurricane Edition™ with my wife, baby, and cat.  (Hopefully, we don’t die of dysentery.)

I also was planning on having my monthly maintenance period this upcoming weekend.  When I wrote my 100th post, I talked about scheduling maintenance once a month to ensure categories and site analytics were being tidied up.  With all that being said, I’ll likely roll my maintenance into this unscheduled outage.

The QE page may go dark for a few days, but I’ll still have recycled posts scheduled and rolling through.  I may also toss in an update if I can, but until the storm passes I’m going to have my hands full.  So if any of you leave an amazing comment and it sits for a few days, know that I am likely convoying away from the storm.

To my blogging friends in the impact areas, stay safe.  To the rest of you, stay classy.  I’ll be back just as soon as the storm subsides.  Until then, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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Feature Friday #3 (Bloggers & Books)

feature-friday

Welcome to another Feature Friday!  We’ve survived another week.  Today we’ll cast a blazing inferno on some bloggers who are consistently generating insightful posts about the written word.  I try to dedicate time to broadening my understanding of the craft, and these folks seem to deliver on a regular basis.  I’ll also be compiling the books I used to generate my blog posts this week into a one-stop-shop.

spotlight-facing-rightThe first blogger I want to talk about is QuestingAuthor.  Not only is this a blogger who offers great comments on my page (thanks!), but this blogger also writes a variety of really enjoyable content.  If you scroll down to the bottom of their page, you will see all kinds of info-rich categories that include things like writing advice, processes, analysis, and inspiration (to just name a few).

The post that prompted me to reach out and share the love is called, Three Tips to Spice Up that Fight Scene.  I know many writers struggle with writing believable fights scenes, and this post offers some enjoyable advice.  Not to mention Final Fantasy was used as an example (which is a win in my nerd book).

spotlight-facing-rightThe second blogger I wanted to give a shout out to is Andrew, over at The Idiot In Tin Foil.  Some of you have mentioned how impressive it is that I generate a post each day, well, Andrew writes enjoyable short stories every day.  The last time I stopped in, he was on Day 161 of his 642 day challenge.  You heard me right.  For me, Andrew serves as a source of inspiration.  Plus, his short stories are a lot of fun to read.

While I don’t have a specific short story to point you all toward, Andrew has taken the time to categorize his content.  You will find short stories that creatively explore the following: violence & murder, sky pirates, the supernatural, superpowers, the bleak wasteland, and many, many more.  When I feel my creative well getting dry, I look at Andrews page and say, “If he can write an entire short story every day for 160+ days, I can at least pump out a few pages.”

spotlight-facing-rightThird, I wanted to point folks over to Jenn Moss, over at Rough & Ready Fiction. Her page is neatly organized, and her content is always full of insight.  She recently updated her page and has done a fantastic job of breaking down her posting schedule.  Jenn is also a regular comment contributor here at QE, and often offers very informative tips to help me expand my content and improve collaboration.

While I enjoy all of her writing, I’m a sucker for Meta Mondays as well as Tarot Tuesday.  Meta Mondays cover a range of topics, but really they are a way for people to collaborate and discuss varying concepts.  For instance, within Meta Mondays she recently posted Anachronisms—Nay or Yea?  It’s a great topic for discussion, and her comment section almost reads like a web forum because there are so many thoughtful posters.  As for Tarot Tuesday, I find this series to be one of the most insightful explorations into character archetypes, as well as symbols and metaphor.

thanksAs always, I wanted to take a moment to thank all three of these folks for (1) contributing regularly on my page, (2) being a source of inspiration, and (3) consistently encouraging enjoyable discussion about both fiction and non-fiction.  You all rock!

resources

These are the resources I used this week (Friday to Friday) to create my posts.  I’m a voracious eater of greens and believe in the power of self-study to improve writing skill and understanding.

Writing Monsters, by Philip Athans [Amazon] [goodreads]

Theory and Technique of Playwriting, by Howard Lawson [Amazon] [goodreads]

How to Write Dazzling Dialogue, by James Scott Bell [Amazon] [goodreads]

Writing Novels That Sell, by Jack Bickham’s [Amazon] [goodreads]

The Sense of Style, by Steven Pinker [Amazon] [goodreads]

For a more comprehensive list of books I have utilized to build content here on QE, you can refer to this post.

hourglassThat’s it for today!  If you would like to be featured next Friday, contact me.  It always helps if you let me know what specific post you would like to be featured.  My goal with Feature Friday is to connect like-minded individuals with one another.  The blogoverse is a giant place, and it’s nice to be able to provide some navigation. Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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Barnes & Noble: Burning Bridges

burning bridges.jpg

Well, Barnes & Noble (B&N) is getting pulled off my Christmas Card list.  It all started with a simple phone call.  By simple, I do mean the soul shattering betrayal type.  Okay, maybe that’s a bit much.

First some backstory.

flash back.pngFLASHBACK…Flashback…flashback, to about two months ago.  My various family members, all who live hundreds of miles away, send me a stack of B&N gifts cards for my birthday.  Score!  They know I dabble in the arcane art of word-crafting and enjoy a good portal into another world.

Now normally I frequent the smaller, “mom-and-pop,” bookstores.  Because, screw the corporation man!   Not really.  I just prefer smaller spaces, shelves packed to the gills, and the scent of worn dusty books.  I like older texts.  You find all kinds of cool stuff in them.  Doodles, highlighter marks, snippets of paper, or even a handwritten note gifting the book to whoever tossed it aside under the cover.

Regardless of my normal habits, I had some $100 dollars of gifts cards to use, so off I went to B&N.

barnes-and-noble-inside.jpgB&N was just how I remembered it.  Clean.  Tidy.  Sterile.  Everything sorted and in it’s place.  Instead of the scent of old books, the air was heavy with whatever cleaner they used on the carpets combined with the latest caramel-frapa-whipa-latte-vento the attached coffee shop was pouring.

It’s not that I dislike B&N.  I appreciate any place that promotes the sale of books.  If you love B&N, that’s awesome.  For me, it’s just not an adventure.  There are hunters and there are gatherers when it comes to finding books – I prefer the hunt.  B&N is the supermarket meat section.  Everything is prepackaged and perfect.  I want to get dirty.  I want to roam the jungle with a knife in my hand wearing nothing but leaves and a smile as I stalk my prey.

Anyways.

sleeping.jpgI moved to the non-fiction writing section.  There might as well been a dotted line on the ground leading me there.  I looked through, snagged a few selections, and then wandered around a bit.  There were two people sleeping in blue cushioned chairs next to the magazine section.  One of them, an older man, was snoring loudly.  I understood exactly how he felt.  Convinced I had exhausted my limited patience, and daddy free time, I headed over to the checkout counter.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a B&N, but they employ the airport security checkpoint method of herding paying customers.  You have to wander through a nylon-strap partitioned maze to get to the counter.  Which was amusing, because I was the only person checking out at the time.

TSA_LINES_001905820611.jpgOnce I emerged from the labyrinth (now older and wiser, having learned an important lesson about life, and more importantly about myself), the lady behind the counter greeted me, asked me if I found everything okay, and inquired if I was interested in pre-ordering the upcoming Harry Potter book.  My wife LOVES the series (I enjoy reading them too), so I agreed.  Of course I then had to get a B&N card, fill out some paperwork (like I was getting a home loan instead of a book), and viola – book is pre-ordered.  I left with my chin up knowing I had fulfilled my husbandly duties.

flash backFLASH FORWARD…Forward…forward, to last night.

I am sitting in my sanctuary expelling evil from my body (going to the bathroom).  My phone rings, I ignore it, and ding – a voicemail.  I open it and it’s someone from B&N letting my know my book was available for pickup today.  Awesome sauce!  However, a little late in the evening for the heads-up.

They are holding it for me.

Thanks B&N, you’re the best.

There is a high demand for the book.

Really, you don’t say?  Thought that was common knowledge.  Good thing I pre-ordered it!

And if I don’t show up by the 3rd (two days from receiving the message) they will sell it to the floor.

Wait.  What?

We understand this is an inconvenience, but to provide the book in a timely manner to customers we must release pre-ordered copies after three days of the books release.

So what you are telling me is your mega-store didn’t stock enough copies so you are going to resell the book I already purchased?

Have a great day.

Have a great day?  No, no, no B&N – we are now enemies you and I.

And that is the story of how B&N got removed from my Christmas list.  They were added to a different list.  My shit list (sorry for the vulgarity, but hey, I’m a Sailor).

Shady Salesman.jpgThis exchange is exactly the reason why I feel so disconnected from society sometimes.  I can’t go anywhere to buy something without someone trying to get me to sign up for a card, join an email list, or some other nonsense.  My money isn’t enough.  They have to try to sell me something else.  Then when I bite, something like this happens.

When it comes down to it, I’ll get the book today.  I’ll take time out of my schedule, strap Thor down, and wander over to get the book I already bought before they sell it out from under me.  Heather will be happy.  I’ll be happy as a result.

As for Barnes & Noble – they won’t miss me.  The store will remain how I remember it.  Clean.  Tidy.  Sterile.  Devoid of adventure and absent another customer.

small bookstore.jpgNot really a writing tip today.  More of a life tip.  A while back I wrote a blog post about print being dead, here.  In it, I talked about the misconception that bookstores were dying out.  The truth is, small bookstores are on the rise.  They are run by people passionate about writing.  Places where an indie author can wander in with a box of books, and get them up on the shelves.

If this new experience taught me anything, it’s that I should have never left my local book haunt and wandered into the sterile convenience of B&N.  Never trade adventure for easy passage.  Never worship in a temple where the worshipers are asleep and snoring loudly.

We will kick it back off with writing tips tomorrow.  Until then, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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Pretending to be Aristocrats

humor-yard-of-the-month

That’s a yard with purpose.

Mowing the lawn isn’t just tedious and repetitive, I think  it enforces classism.  In this American dream, the lawn of the month gets its address posted on a bulletin board and receives a cheap looking gold and black placard to plant in their perfectly manicured yard.  Emblazoned upon it is, “Yard of Month Winner”.   It might as well say, “Rob this house, they have the most money to blow on pointless aesthetics”.

That’s just me.  If you are the lawn of the month guru, good on you!  I’m not saying you shouldn’t get to enjoy your lawn, I’m just saying I don’t care about mine being perfectly sculpted.

meadow.jpgI would prefer a meadow to a patch of boring grass.   There is a single reason why I don’t have a meadow; if I don’t mow, I get a letter from the Home Owners Association harassing me.  As if the monthly money they snatch from me (money used to buy things like Yard of the Month signs) isn’t enough, they must enforce social order among the unwashed rabble.

This lawn obsession traces back to the Aristocracy.  When the wealthy used peasants and livestock to manage the grounds.  Now we fork out money to buy machines, fuel to power them, and toil away to fight a battle against nature we will never win.  Fertilizer to feed some of it, weed killer to destroy some of it, and pesticide to wipe out unwanted visitors.  It seems so ridiculous.  Is this our futile attempt at becoming Aristocrats ourselves?

To make it worse, the summer temperatures here flirt around 100-degrees Fahrenheit.  No one is out in their lawns enjoying the fruits of their labor.  However, their sprinklers are there to ensure those precious blades of grass don’t wither away in the sun.  Yet more waste.  As I drive home, streams of water run down the roads sloping gutters into the storm drains as house after house over-saturates the American dream of greener pastures.

I understand there is satisfaction in coming home to our castles and surveying our little plots of dirt.  I get that some of us are actually able to withstand the blistering summer temperatures and enjoy the front and back yards.  Good on you!  I just don’t understand why something as basic as a lawn must be treated as a mark of class.  I went to plenty of domestic disturbances when I was cop that took place in really nice houses with really nice lawns.  The element of class was still sadly missing.

overgrown city.jpgA part of me wishes the woods bordering my house would explode to life and take back the subdivision overnight.  I would wake up, open my door, and be underneath a canopy of trees.  Vines would creep up out of the earth and break the road to bits.  It is the apocalyptic part of me.  Perhaps it’s partially why I’m writing a post-apocalyptic novel.

Anyways, until that happens I will just be over here watching the grass grow during the day, and out in the woods with Miracle Grow and a hose at night.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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