Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Another thing that happened, when I was on vacation this month, was the resignation of William Lynch, CEO of Barnes & Noble. Leonard Riggio, who is the largest shareholder in the company, proposed to the board a buyout of the bookstores and website but without the Nook and the e-books business. I don’t know what has happened since then - I do own a color Nook but Mr. Riggio isn’t  communicating with me although I’m in the phone book - but I’m ready and willing to offer advice for the future of his stores.

True, I’ve never owned, managed or worked in a bookstore. However, I’ve spent a lot of time in bookstores, don’t want them to disappear, and I know what I like about them.

In the 80s and 90s, the big chain bookstores, of which B&N seem to be the last, wiped out many small independent stores, but today the American Booksellers Association says small bookstores are making a comeback. I’m all for that, but I want B&N to stay as well. So I’ve made a list of ideas Mr. Riggio should adopt.

To be honest, B&N is already doing some things right. They have unobtrusive music, cafes with Starbucks Coffee and snacks, and free WiFi to customers. It’s fine with me if they also sell Nooks and e-readers (but that’s up to Mr. Riggio) and also offer items such as periodicals and CDs related to books. But no toys or other things not directly related to reading.

What they don’t do yet and, should, in my opinion, is what Amazon cannot do because it doesn’t have a brick and mortar store. (Yet) That is, have authors’ book-signings regularly and advertise these events. (Perhaps there is an occasional book-signing in one of their stores, but it hasn’t happened in mine.)

Next, fill the store with books. And not just traditionally published books. I’d like to see an entire section of the store devoted to self-published books by local authors. They could allow an author to place 3-5 copies of a book for 90 days and if those sold, they could add more. If not, they’d be returned. Self-published authors should also be allowed to hold signings.

Finally, they need to add the scent of chocolate. I’ve just read a blog that revealed greater romance book sales when the smell of chocolate permeated the romance section of the store. Not only that, sales of mysteries increased with the odor of chocolate in the mystery section. I’m not sure about Science Fiction, but, at the very least, there ought to be aroma in the cook book area.

And, oh yes, stop fighting with Simon & Schuster about book placement. When you restrict S&S books, you’re only hurting authors. If you’ve learned nothing from Amazon, learn that making authors happy (the people without whom there would be no books)  is one of the keys to success.

Barnes & Noble
Simon & Schuster

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


While I was on vacation, two interesting things happened in the publishing world. A first mystery novel by a heretofore unknown male author got great reviews but poor sales. Then it was found to have been written by J. K. Rowling, and sales skyrocketed. Plenty of bloggers have discussed this, so I will refrain, except to say I believe Rowling wanted to have her work judged on its merits and not her name, and it’s sad she was “outed” so soon.

Speaking of “Names...”


The RWA Conference was held in Atlanta last week and the Rita and Golden Heart Winners were announced. The Ritas are for published books, so the judges know which companies published them and, as usual, only books published by the Big Five and Harlequin, won the eleven category awards. Altogether, there were 81 Finalists, yet, with the exception of five from Amazon’s Montlake Romance, no finalists were either self-published or from a small press.

IMHO, the outdated belief that, unless a book is published by the Big Five, it can’t possibly be any good so judges don’t vote for it, persists. I hoped the myth had died by now, but apparently not. I wonder if - had the same books been entered in manuscript - as in the Golden Heart, the results would have been different.

When self-published books are topping Best Seller lists time after time, how can this bias still exist? I find it hard to believe that of the many small press and self-published books entered in the contest, none were deemed good enough even to final. When will we see recognition for books published for their quality instead of a big New York corporation, which are actually mostly non-American?

They are British, German, French, Australian and Canadian. In addition to all the other categories in which Harlequin has finalists, the Short Contemporary Series category should be titled “The Harlequin Category,” because every finalist is one of their books. Every year. Here’s a radical idea: Since the name of our association is Romance Writers of America, how about allowing only books published by American publishers to compete?

Every year, when the winners are announced, I think, “Maybe next year,” but I don’t intend to enter again (I did in 2011) until things change.


On the other hand, I’m happy to report that, over at the Daphne du Maurier Awards, not only were four self-published books among the Finalists, but three of them became the winners of three of the six categories. That’s half, more like reality.

Not that they didn’t have plenty of competition. Seven of the thirty-two finalists were Harlequin books, five were Penguin, three were Pocket titles, and six were from other Big publishers. However, in addition to the four self-published books, two were from Amazon’s Montlake and seven from small presses.

Readers, am I the only one who feels this way? Tell me, please.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


First, I’m going on vacation so my blog will be on hiatus for two weeks. Catch me later.

Meanwhile, I’m sharing an interesting thing I read about how one reader chose a book to read. After approving the title, cover and  jacket blurb, she then opened the novel to page 69 and read that one page. If it passed, she bought the book. This method wouldn’t work with Amazon’s “Look inside” feature as they might not get to page 69, and I have no idea why she picked that page over, for example, the first or last page, as many people do. But it made me curious, so I thought it would be fun to look at page 69 in a few of my books and see if I’d buy my own.

This is from STRANGER IN PARADISE, about the assistant manager of a hotel in Hawaii, and the man whose company might buy it.

     "Forget last night." She said it almost too sharply, and then instantly regretted using that tone of voice with him. Yet she had to make him understand. She pulled her hand away.
     "Did Tom tell you he resigned and is leaving the hotel in two weeks?"
     Matt nodded.
     "And did he tell you he's recommending me for manager?"
     "He mentioned it.”
     "Even with Tom's recommendation, there are no guarantees, but if your company buys the hotel, that opportunity will vanish."
     "You don't know that as a fact, and I certainly don't.” He raised one hand as if to touch her again, then dropped it to his side.
     "What I know is how few women managers there are in this business. I read a magazine story that profiled the managers of eight large American hotels. Without exception, they were all men.”
     "All right, so I admit that life can sometimes be unfair. But that kind of attitude is changing all the time."
     "Who manages La Casa Grande--excuse me, The Monarch--in Mexico?"
     He held up his hands, defeated.
     "You see, it isn't changing fast enough."
     "Would it help if I steered Danforth away from buying the Ocean Breeze? There's more than enough to keep them interested out here without that."
     Dana's temper flared momentarily. "I don't want any favors from you, and I don't want my success that way."

Try this with one of your own novels. It’s interesting and fun.
Back in two weeks. Stay cool.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


A long time ago, I read a description of a character in a book by Calvin Trillin, and I’ve never forgotten it. Well, almost. I may not have the words exactly right, but I think they’re close enough to give you the idea.

“He was dark and swarthy, with oily black hair, and looked like someone who would sell fake passports on a street corner in Istanbul.”

Now that I need it, I can’t remember who wrote these:

“He carried his weight like a weapon instead of a liability, had stiff white hair you could land a 747 on, and a handshake just short of causing paralysis.”

“He walked so slowly an arthritic centipede could have passed him.”

“Bad economic times resulted in lots of travel. When the going got tough, the tough packed the U-Haul.”

“He wasn’t much of a man, more like a moist robot.”

“She strutted as if she knew her bank balance was the equivalent of the GDP of Belgium.”

“He kept an army of lawyers around him like some women keep cats.”

“She had obviously cornered the market on pointy chins.”

And then there’s mine. I never thought I was very good at clever descriptions, but I like this one that I put in a recent book:

“Looking like a young Clint Eastwood, he appeared at her side again. Dirty Harry, with a 200-dollar haircut, wearing Armani.”

Have you written or read some clever descriptions?