Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Chronicle: Nerd Star

Okay, let's just get it out there: this week's edition of Publishers Weekly features an article titled Booksellers: The Next Generation that prominently features your Book Nerd. It started out as a simple profile by my friend and mentor Robert Gray (of Fresh Eyes), part of a series he had planned, but eventually became a commentary on the larger issue of young booksellers. Aside from the usual cringing at a dorky quote or two, I'm totally thrilled to be representin' for my generation - hopefully it will lead to a wider discussion of how to motivate more passionate young book people to take up a life of retail.

I've been reviewing books for PW for years, and only twice before has my name ever appeared in the magazine. I have to say this is a little gratifying. Ben from FSG deserves credit for this entry's title; I may be famous in only a tiny little world, but it feels like the cover of Rolling Stone to me.

Also, look for my guest blog this week on MJ Rose's literary site Buzz, Balls & Hype. MJ does a great job of exploring the book industry from the writer's point of view; I'm honored to be part of a series of bookseller guest bloggers to give her readers a different perspective.

I do have real stuff to talk about this week, but today I'm just too darn excited. Please forgive the shameless self-promotion; apparently, I've just "lost all shame."


Anonymous said...

Congratulations! I thought Robert's focus on how you can't make money in the book business was intriguing -- especially since we was citing official industry statistics and spokespeople. People told us that when Chris and I got into the biz as well, in the early 80s. We believed them, and ran our stores accordingly. I told lots of people, for ten years, "You can't make money in the book business."

Then we got a very expensive location and started selling a lot of sidelines along with the books. We were paying double what the official bookseller "rules" say you should pay for rent. Our sales skyrocketed and our personal incomes tripled.

I no longer say to anyone, "You can't make money in the book business." Instead I say, "If jerks like Len Riggio of Barnes & Noble can make money, and outsiders like Jeff Bezos of Amazon can make money, then booklovers like us can make money in the book business." It's very simple: we just have to reinvent the wheel. With your own wheel, you can make money. With a borrowed wheel handed down from the "older generation" -- you can't make money, just like they couldn't.

Unfortunately, this "No Money" mantra is dragging the whole field down by keeping creative, motivated people out of the field.

Andy Laties

Anonymous said...

Let's hear it for shameless self promotion! I found your blog via Bookseller chick. Very fun- I suspect I've found yet another distraction from things I should be doing.

Anonymous said...

Just thought you might like to know that this article is being used as reading material in one of the Pace University graduate classes in the publishing program. So at least 30 people have read this article in the last week. So now you're more famous.

Book Nerd said...

Wow! I hope the Pace students get something useful out of it - it's flattering yet intimidating to find yourself in class reading material! Thanks for the info!

I agree with you, Andy -- there's no reason that bookselling shouldn't be a good way to make a living, and even a great living. That's what groups like Emerging Leaders are about. I hope my generation can help to combat that old mentality by creating new business models and ways of thinking.

I've got my own ideas for how to make a bookstore profitable, and I'm gathering my research and experience. I totally think it can be done. Thanks for your insights!