We are back…

but not without incident.

Went to the Gulf. Ate wonderful seafood. Cooked seafood in the rental that’s not really set up for cooking seafood, but we’re resourceful. No fishing but that’s another story. Absolutely delightful Sunday brunch at The Chimneys.

Turned North.

Just north of Hattiesburg the truck informed us that its engine thought it was too hot to go another mile. Okay.

Pulled over. Waited. Brain stormed.

Ah ha!

There’s a “Take 5” drive through oil change place in Laurel open seven days a week. Call.

Nine miles. And we’d been pulled over for 30 mins. Good to go.

So we pull in and the dude says they top off for free. Five and one half quarts of coolant is not exactly topping off. So John gave the kid $20. They also topped off the oil. See here for the saga of the oil change.

So I just want to comment that when I get the oil changed at the place in Starkvegas that reassures me they check all of the fluid level, I’ve come to realize they’ve lied to me. There was no coolant in the reservoir. None.

We’re home. Without the dogs. Fewer than 12 hours until we reunite. Then all will be well.

Let’s chat about the business of books

I spent all day writing this. Give it a go. I didn’t get it to where I wanted it to go, but it’s good enough.

I would like your opinions. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the book business, the book market, book publishers, book writers, and most importantly, book readers. I have some comments and questions.

I do not know the book business. But I do know retail (read large chain companies like JCPenney, Macy’s, etc.). I know how retail has changed over the last 50 years or so. A lot of that change was concomitant with the growth of computers and the internet, but there is more to it than that. Without going into unnecessary– but fascinating– detail, the bottom line is that a store’s merchandise assortment, i.e., the stuff on shelves, tables, and racks, went from being almost completely controlled by a human being who lived and worked in the same town as her customers, to being controlled by someone who did not– someone who had no earthly idea what the local market liked or wanted.

This happened gradually but the end result was huge. Of course, you have to be of a certain age to appreciate this. If you grew up knowing that the stuff that was available in your local JCP was the same stuff in the JCP 300 miles away, you wouldn’t know there was a time when it wasn’t. You would not know that at one time your choices varied, sometimes significantly, depending on where you were. You wouldn’t know, in other words, that the assortment of merchandise in a store once reflected the tastes and styles of the local market, and not the buyers who worked on 7th Ave. in New York City.

What does this have to do with books? Everything. There’s an old fashioned idea that consumers create a demand for a product, and creators/producers fill that demand. A creator may create something previously unknown, some people saw it, and before you know it, everyone wanted it. In steps a producer who churns out enough for (nearly) everyone who wants the thing. This idea assumes producers know the market.

Let’s look at the principles involved in the book market. We have first, the creator– the writer. The writer is to books as the designer is to clothes. Just as the designer needs to convince the manufacturer to produce quantities of her piece, so to does the writer need to sell their book or idea to a publisher. (For clothing, manufacturers could be buyers at Walmart who’ll pick up the design under the WM label, name band fashion houses, etc.; Birkenstocks. Jordache. Turtlenecks. Dolman sleeves.)

So we have the writer and the publisher. In the book world nothing happens in traditional publishing without the agent– the person to whom a writer pitches his book, and who then sells the book idea to a publisher. There are then book distributors (stores, online). And finally, the book reader.

Let us look now at an example of something I keep coming across:

I have written a book aimed at 4th-6th graders. It is a guide to ghosts and ghost hunting written in the guise of a nonfiction book but it written in the first person by a fictitious ghost expert who tells funny, fictional stories about his experiences throughout the book. I am having trouble knowing how to describe it to a  publisher in my initial contact with them.

Not going to site this, it’s from a members only children’s book writing forum.

Let’s just assume this is well written, funny, and a good story. What do the comments say?

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