Monday, March 10, 2008

Better Get Your MBA Before You Write That Book

So it turns out being an author now means learning to market yourself to corporations. The days of just trying to get a booking in a local bookstore, a radio interview here and there and a profile in a paper just don’t cut it.

The New York Times ran a story in the business section on Sunday on how Seattle is becoming the new power center for book sales. The reason? Its triumvirate of Amazon, Starbucks, and Costco.

These three corporations are increasingly driving book sales as more and more of the market shifts from conventional bookstores to other points of sale. The good part of the shift is that the people in power at those companies clearly love books and often advocate for titles that are not just mass market easy reads. The downside is that there is just a narrow funnel to capture their attention, often driven by the publicity departments of publishers.

I went into a Whole Foods the other day and was surprised to see a rack of books and CDs right next to the prepared foods section. I guess the store figures people will browse while they wait for their number to come up. I think we are going to see more and more of this kind of unusual marketing for books. The rack was small, so I don’t know if this is a good thing.

In other book news, Ed Champion and friends are carrying on a week-long discussion about Nicholson Baker’s new book on World War II, Human Smoke. The reviewer for the Los Angeles Times, Mark Kurlansky, really liked the book, which challenges long-held assumptions about the causes of the war. But Ed and friends are suggesting that Baker’s newspaper-snippet-long sections are less historical than carefully selected to present an argument and that a book that poses as a historical treatise may in reality be much more manipulative. (I think that is what they say.) Anyway, all these discussion have gotten my attention and I definitely want to check out the book.

The Annual Tournament of Books has begun. Today it is The Savage Detectives vs. Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name.

The website of blogger Maud Newton was hacked over the weekend and all of her 8,000 posts were deleted. Fortunately, her webhosting site had back-ups.

Goodbye, The Wire. It was too short.

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