Wednesday, October 28, 2009

continuing the conversation about how we can make Athens better

Yesterday I learned about Elaine Ely, a woman who recently returned to Athens after living far away for awhile.  She and I exchanged a few emails about the downtown Athens scene as well as my take on what Avid Bookshop's role will be in town.  Today, her first installment in a series called "Athens Impressions" was in Flagpole magazine. 

Perhaps her most salient point, bookstore-wise, is that Athens lacks a cultural center.  Sure, we have an arthouse cinema, music venues, a gigantic university, a nationally-recognized literary magazine (Georgia Review), and tons of artists and writers, but where do all these factors combine? And why the heck don't we have a new bookstore to help bring these people and cultural elements together?  Ely gives a quick shout-out to Avid Bookshop (for which I'm grateful).  Please read the article and let me know what you think. Do you agree with Elaine's view of Athens? What do you think we can do to bring people together in more meaningful ways?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cheap books could lead to fewer books - the book price war

If you keep up with big retail news stories (or even book industry news briefs), you probably have heard about the recent price-gauging fight among Wal-Mart, Amazon, Target, and now Sears.  The New York Times had a feature on this battle today.  In an attempt to control bestseller market share and bring more folks to their superstores (where, inevitably, more items will be purchased), these retailers are cutting down prices on books to the point where they're taking a hit.

Perhaps you read bestsellers exclusively and drool at the thought of a new hardback book that's less than half the cost it'd be if you bought it at a brick and mortar store (chain or indie)--but think again before you rush off to Wal-Mart with your $10 bill in hand.  There's something afoot here, and it has nothing to do with the love of books, the love of reading, or the love of you--the customer.

The folks at WORD Brooklyn sent out a link to this piece about this week's price war and what it could mean for readers.  This price-gauging should frighten you and make you think again about where you buy books and the effect of your shopping choices.  Here's a quote from the above-mentioned New York Times article:
It’s a contest “that has no end in sight,” said Michael Norris, a consultant with Simba Information, which provides research and advice to publishers. Mr. Norris said the price war could be particularly damaging to the publishing industry and booksellers because the retailers who were currently slashing prices “don’t need to sell books in order to stay in business” and therefore can sell the books at a loss.
Please do take the time to read up on the issue, and feel free to leave any feedback here on the blog.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

more behind the scenes info: getting finances organized with help from a new book

It goes without saying I don't have enough cash in my account to open and fund Avid--I'll be applying for several loans, grants, and investments to add on to the savings I've already accumulated.  But before I could even think about acquiring a loan, I needed to get a better handle on my personal budget.

That's where this book comes in:  I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi. I don't know that I should be recommending the book just yet, as I'm only done with a couple of chapters and have many pages to go.  But hey--I can at least wholeheartedly recommend the first two chapters, right? 

Let's get this out on the table right away:  I am not someone who's fixated on money or even particularly amazing at managing finances.  Yes, I pay off my credit card every month.  Yes, I have a job with a salary.  Yes, I am good at math. But no, I don't ever look more deeply to find out what my exact credit situation is and how this could affect my personal and professional projects. 

Until today.

I read this book and immediately felt called to action.  This is pretty special for me, as most books I read that are billed as self-help don't make me get up and move.  (I especially like reading about yoga, exercise, and meditation while lying in bed doing none of those three things.)  Something about Sethi's tone (which can be obnoxious but is, in general, encouraging and genuine) drives me to work.  He said I'd feel empowered if I started working on my finances one little bit at a time instead of having the big bulk of them looming over my head forever in one scary thunderhead.  So today I found out my credit score (good), composed a letter to the credit reporting agency asking that some erroneous information be fixed (which will help improve my score), paid off this month's credit card bill, set up some autopay bills (which helps keep your accounts active, something that's very important), and applied for another part-time job.  KAPOW!

My true inspiration for all this movement is my goal of opening Avid Bookshop as soon as possible, first as an online store, then as a book fair operation, and finally as a brick and mortar storefront. 

What have you done in recent months to jump-start your professional or personal life?

(Thanks to someone at Workman Publishing who was kind enough to send me a complimentary copy of this book the moment I mentioned on Twitter that I wanted to read it! Now THAT's service.)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Book Recommendation & Giveaway! ELI THE GOOD by Silas House

What were you like as a child?  I'd like to think I'm now pretty similar to the person I used to be, but of course I can't be sure--memories are constantly being recreated and there's no telling how many Whiny Baby Janet memories I've blocked out in favor of the ones wherein I'm being smart and charming.

As a kid, I spent hours of every day outside.  My sister, neighbors, and I had every square foot of our wooded neighborhood memorized by heart.  We knew all the secret passages, all the best climbing trees, all the best places to play in the creek without chancing a spill into the creek--because of course a stumble into the water would mean wet pants, a dead giveaway to our mothers that we were, once again, playing in the forbidden stream.  (Sorry, Mom--but I'm sure you knew we played back there, right?)

It seems that many older (e.g., non-kids) folks have been complaining over the years about how The Kids These Days don't spend enough time outside.  They're overbooked with piano lessons, baseball practice, church groups, and video games.  Maybe that's true for lots of kids, but I happen to know several awesome children who still explore their yards and play pretend.

At the SIBA trade show a few weeks back, I attended an author luncheon.  While I ate a lunch of boiled vegetables smothered in 2" of cheese, I listened to some formidable authors speak about their work and read excerpts of their writing.  Though all four authors' books sounded intriguing, I could tell immediately that Silas House's Eli the Good would mean something special to me.  House spoke of the ways in which he revered the environment around him as a child, of the ways in which he felt he communicated with the trees and nature in a way that most children do not these days.  This was the kind of kid I was, scrambling up the magnolia tree in our front yard so I could stare at the patterns in the bark and maybe even read my latest Sweet Valley Twins installment.  I thought nothing of spending hours on end outside, peeing in the woods when I needed to rather than having to go back indoors.

In Eli the Good, we meet a quiet, introspective boy (Eli) who's slowly waking up to the idea that the romanticized view he had of his life might not be entirely accurate.  His best friend is the vivacious Edie, a girl who lives next door and who's tougher than any of the boys in the neighborhood (but who, of course, has some soft spots, too).  Eli's marked with a fierce love for his family, even when he can't firmly grasp why his dad gets so violent and why his mom always sticks up for him, what his beloved Aunt Nell and protective older sister Josie are whispering about in the dark.  As the story moves along, we watch Eli grow more mature, opening himself up to some of the profund sadness, beauty, and pleasure of the world.  Like many gifted children, Eli seems hypersensitive to sensory experiences and emotional interactions with people, even when he's not quite able to verbalize what he's feeling.  Silas House is adept at his characterizations, especially as he shows us Eli growing less sheltered but more mature by the day.

In the midst of Eli's love affair with trees and the outdoors, we have the oft violent presence of his Vietnam War veteran father, who is struggling with post traumatic stress disorder and can't quite figure out how to get help--or if he wants to get help at all.  I learned a lot about the effects of war on family life by reading Eli the Good; in fact, the war itself is an ominous, forever-lurking character in the book, always waiting around the corner to pounce on an otherwise peaceful moment.  Eli lives with the pressure of dealing with the war every day, never knowing when it will thunder down and disrupt the peace he's trying so hard to cultivate.  I imagine that veterans and their kids might do well to read this book.

All that being said, Eli the Good is neither a scary book about an abused family nor an idyllic description of growing up a weird, woodsy kid.  Eli's age and intelligence are clear to the reader; he's never imbued with an overly mature point of view (as many "kids" in young adult literature tend to be, thereby giving away the fact that the writer is, in fact, old and wise, looking back on his or her life).

 Silas House speaks at SIBA trade show

I really encourage you to buy a copy of Eli the Good to read it for yourself.  I also encourage you to try to win an advanced readers copy of the book that I have to give away, courtesy of Candlewick Press.  To enter this contest, please use the comments field below to share what book reminds you of your childhood.  Is it a book you read as a child?  One you read as an adult that reminded you of your childhood, as Eli the Good did with me?  If you feel uncomfortable leaving your full name in the comments field, please just make an anonymous comment and then email me to let me know which entry was yours. 

Congratulations to Barbara, who's won a copy of the book! Barbara, please email me at avid[dot]athens[at]gmail[dot]com with your mailing address so I can get the book out to you.  

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

more press for Avid + social media tools

A few days ago, industry publication Shelf Awareness included an article on the SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance) show and featured yours truly!  My mom and I had attended a panel on social media and bookselling, and it turned out that this blog (yes, the one you're reading now) and accompanying Twitter account were shown as examples of how to get word out about your business.

Longtime bookseller and writer Robert Gray was kind enough to contact me after the panel to ask me more about how I use social media tools to communicate with friends, other booksellers, and prospective customers.  If you have a couple of minutes, go ahead and read his October first article.


That's right, folks.  The Classic Center was kind enough to give me some tickets to this coming Thursday's Junie B. Jones event, and I have two up for grabs. 

To win, follow me on Twitter and re-Tweet (RT) my message about the Junie B. Jones giveaway!