Friday, July 14, 2006

Something else for the weekend

Closing (sniff) of another bookshop

As noted here in the past, Cody's (independent) bookshop in Berkeley, California, has closed. Last Sunday was the official closing ceremony, and it reportedly took place almost fifty years to the day after the shop opened. All very emotional, and Dibs was there, taking pictures and noting it all down.

My favourite quote from the owner: 'Nothing sells better than a good banned book.'

Betrayal, knives in the back, magazines, movies...

Lynne W. Scanlon, PEA (publisher/editor/author) is a truly decadent woman. She actually admits (post of 10 July) going to the movies for the 11.30 a.m. show. Yes, folks, that is a.m. and not p.m. I don't know about you but I am pretty sure that this is a 100% indicator that civilisation is about to collapse.

Anyway, having emerged from her air-conditioned womb, Lynne has some amusing things to say about the new movie based on Lauren Weisberger's novel The Devil Wears Prada. This 'novel' is said to be pure autobiography, and apparently not even thinly disguised. Will Wintour sue? Will it boost sales? What do Baigent and Leigh think about it? Will Wintour use Giovanni di Stefano as her lawyer?

Watch this space.

Bulwer-Lytton prizes 2006

Each year the Department of English at San Jose State University runs a competition for bad writing. It is named after Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who wrote a novel in 1830 which has what is widely regarded as the world's worst opening sentence. (After 176 years you'd think the poor chap would be allowed a little leeway. But no; every year he gets dragged out of the coffin and mocked all over again.)

This year's results have been widely reported in the press, but you can read the whole lot of them on the competition web site -- a place where www means 'wretched writers welcome'.

Best of British magazine

Of UK interest only, this one. There exists, I find, a monthly magazine called Best of British, subtitled Past and Present, though it mainly deals with the past.

Nostalgia, they say, is not what it was, but nostalgia seems to be fighting fit in these pages. Anyone over 60 will find something here which jogs their memories, and is more than likely to get them thinking that nothing much has improved over the past fifty years or so.

The story I liked best in the latest issue concerns the Coventry Hippodrome theatre. One correspondent says that 'the biggest laugh I ever heard at the Hippodrome was during an ice extravaganza, when the gentleman playing the demon king entered dramatically, overshot the stage, and ended up in the orchestra pit with a broken leg.'

On second thoughts, it's not fair to laugh really is it?

A year's subscription to this magazine would make an excellent present for Grandma. Details on the company web site.

Fake psychic

We discovered, immediately above, that it really isn't nice to laugh at other people's misfortune -- it's immature and silly, so stop it at once. However, I would be the first to agree that you can't help having a quiet snigger from time to time.

Galleycat has a lovely story about another set of memoirs (Miami Psychic) which turns out to be... um, not quite 100% accurate. Regina Milbourne offers spiritual counselling which will put you in touch with your God/Source/Spirit (for a modest fee, no doubt), but Bob Norman, of the Broward-Palm Beach New Times, has been checking her out and finds that nothing about her is genuine.

'According to her driver's license,' says Norman, 'the author's true identity is Gina Marie Marks. She's part of a notorious Gypsy criminal family that has personally been involved in well-documented fortune-telling scams. But you wouldn't know that if you read the book, which was released by Regan Books, a HarperCollins' subsidiary.'

Oops. I doubt if the boss lady of Regan Books, Judith Regan, is going to be too pleased about that. According to Wikipedia, 'Regan is a taskmaster who throws vindictive tantrums. She is said to be very abusive to her employees.' Vanity Fair magazine called her a 'foul-mouthed tyrant'. A former friend described her as 'the highest functioning deranged person I've ever known.'

So stand well back.

Maud Newton recovers

Maud Newton has had treatment for skin cancer, and I would like to leave a comment on her blog to wish her well. But damned if I can figure out how to do it. It's that techie stuff again. I have enough trouble posting to my own blog. Anyway, Maud darling, just stop doing the morbid stuff about where we scatter your ashes and get well soon.

New bookshop in Bath

Nic Bottomley, plus wife and brother-in-law, has opened a new bookshop in Bath (a city not entirely without such already, I have to say), and you are going to be able to read all about his trials and travails in a Guardian blog (link from If, that is, you are emotionally strong enough. I doubt whether I am.

Tightening hinges

Hmm. Perhaps you don't know that books have hinges. I'm not sure that I did. Anyway, they do, and they can come loose, and you can tighten 'em up. Joyce Godsey, on the Bibliophile Bullpen, has made a video that shows you how. There are also other videos in the series, elsewhere on the blog.

The key to success

You can never tell what will interest people in a blog, or in a newspaper. Mary Ann Sieghart had some thoughts in yesterday's Times.

My friend and colleague Danny Finkelstein once devoted several weeks of his end column to the subject of the worst food to drop on the kitchen floor. His least favourite was couscous. Mine was a jar of runny honey (the subsequent mixture of sticky broken glass is impossible to clean up).

Anyway, Danny was standing outside the Grand Hotel in Brighton at a Labour Party conference, deep in conversation with a pollster friend. “How can you sink to writing about something so inconsequential?” complained the pollster. “No one could be interested in that.”

At that precise moment, a very senior adviser to Tony Blair came past. “Yoghurt!” he exclaimed to Danny, and walked on.


Self-publishers, small publishers, and even big publishers with an obscure book to sell should take a look at Bookhitch. This is a site on which writers and publishers can post details of their books. Readers in search of something a little different can then type in some keywords, find details of your book plus a link to a supplier (yourself, or your publisher, or an online dealer). And bingo. Everybody happy. For book authors and publishers, a basic service is free, but for fancy stuff you need to pay.

Scott Stein's book notes

Scott Stein teaches writing at Drexel University in Philadelphia. So, not surprisingly, he has written a couple of novels of his own. His first novel, Lost (probably not the one that TV show was based on), was described by the Philadelphia Inquirer as 'wonderfully comic', and his second is due out next year.

Scott is a man who's read a lot of books, and his blog has notes about some of them, plus a lot more.

Wottakars and the long tail

In this morning's Independent (link from, Boyd Tonkin makes some points about the Waterstone's/Ottakar's merger and the arguments advanced in Chris Anderson's The Long Tail. The blockbuster, Tonkin suggests, is far from dead, and the long tail is not yet the force that Anderson would have us believe.

Meanwhile, earlier in the week, Galleycat noted the nice irony in the fact that The Long Tail seems likely to become the kind of large-scale success that its author says is history.


Anonymous said...

Boyd Tonkin starts his essay "This is the way that British bricks-and-mortar bookselling ends: not with a bang but a whimper."

Bollocks man, why must "Fleet Street" journalists keep on sending out messages that the B&M bookshops are doomed or dead and buried.

It is a sign of the quality of Tonkin's scribbling that he spells "Ottaker's" ; is the man such a piss poor journalist that he makes such childish putdowns, or perhaps he does not proof read the drivel he writes.

Sorry Grumpy, but journalists like Boyd Tonkin really infuriate me when the B&M trade is very much alive and vibrant. There will always be closures in trade ; however, despite challenging trading conditions for all UK's terrestial retailers I believe that we indie bookshops will survive and prosper and I can see great new windows of opportunity for the Big W, as Waterstone's start to reclaim sales from the merchandisers.

Anonymous said...

What? GOB has never been to the movies at 11:30 a.m? No line! Sit anywhere! (Watch out for the guys with the folded trenchcoats!)

It does feel kind of sinful, especially on a sunny day in July, but that's what makes it fun, and it is "so cool."

Lynne AKA The Wicked Witch of Publishing

Susan Hill said...

I went to the website / Blog of the new independent bookshop in Bath intending to say that my tiny publishing company LONG BARN BOOKS gives, as it has always done, independent bookshops 50% discount on all save single copy order. Alas, there is a notice saying it is Under construction/coming sortly. the website I mean, not the discount. If the shop itself is open this is incredibly bad planning. I will make a note to myself to keep going back until it is open but that won`t last more than a few days before I forget in the press of other jobs.
This is exactly the sort of thing they cannot afford to let happen.

Anonymous said...

A nice little video on tightening the book hinges. And here I've been trying to do it with a socket wrench. I tried to follow the suggested steps and found Super Glue is not the best to use--I now have six volumes of Shakespeare sealed cover to cover. Actually,though, a three foot-wide book is not that hard to tote around...

Kitty said...

I can't trackback to you, but I gave you credit for this post because I knew a psychic named Marks, too:
"Amber prescribed chakra-healing candles -- or maybe it was bath salts or incense -- costing $400. … I heard she left creditors in her wake, not to mention lots of p-o'd suckers."

Anonymous said...


Its Sunday morning,in common with many other independent bookshop owners I will be treating today as just another - albeit slightly shorter working day.

Boyd Tonkin further suggested in his weekly column ""The rolling-out of 340-odd centrally directed Waterstone's across the land will make many serious readers give up on the retail chains - or rather, on our single monolith. But independent bookshops are shutting at the rate of two a week. They urgently need help, and the preferential terms recently granted by a sales consortium of independent publishers may only offer a slender lifeline. In the longer term, the future of most broad-stock bookselling will be online. Amazon now needs some smart competition from sales-led websites run by publishers, singly or jointly.""

I consider all of the above largely misunderstands the present situation.

The last thing that the booktrade needs is publishers offering smart competition to Amazon by starting a publishers direct sales network.

The world and their dog now want to market books. 'The Independent', for which Boyd Tonkin has been literary editor for the past 10 years now merchandises books direct to the public alongside their current books reviews.

The sheer economics of a consignment warehouse like Amazon is beyond the understanding of most outsiders. Amazon does not pay for stock against invoice, but only after making a sale. (It is this consignment relationship which irks terrestial traders who pay hard cash against invoice for their stock) Very few publishers keep stock "in house" : books are generally held in central distributors. The only systems which would be capable of providing a single unit distribution for most publishers would be the likes of book wholesalers Gardner or Bertram - the latter is already providing such a service for such Guardian reader offers, and will be fulfilling all Waterstone on-line orders when their Amazon contract lapses this Autumn. The publishers would then be in direct competition with Amazon, with whom they have consignment contract supply terms which require upwards of 55% discount. One might suggest that it might be be more sensible for publishers to trim cover prices to a lower level and cut the Amazon consignment discount : that way the cover price would not be inflated just to give extra room for discounting by mega-corporates.

As an independent I do not want any "preferrential terms" : over the years, supply terms have been fine tuned to our mutual benefit with those publishers where a long founded relationship exists. I - and my core customers - have no interest in 3 for 2 offers and have no desire for a lite version of a corporate deal which Faber or other publishers might wish to dangle as a carrot.

Those terrestial independent retailers who survive the next ten years will have to be ahead of the game in their respective fields, be it butcher, delicatessen, or bookshop. Most indie bookshop owners spend hours choosing (forward) titles which we offer as core stock. We often stock many local interest titles (I have just taken delivery of a 1993 title which was exclusively reprinted for my business). Thanks to a genuine 24 hr delivery programme from wholesalers and distributors we can offer the fastest sourcing speed.

Where does this leave Boyd Tonkin and other literary editors. What the heck are they doing to promote the long-term prospects of many within the trade ; nobody has the right to expect a free lunch from the literary writers but their tastes in reviews seldom bears any relation to the quality titles which sell in the terrestial (indie) bookshops.

I am known to be passionate about the trade : there is little room for pretension on the shopfloor.

Next customer please !!!

ivan said...

re Bulwer-Lyton prizes; wreched writers welcome.

You are a wonderful blogger, Grumpy,but when it comes to fiction, maybe both you and I should line up?