Monday, August 2, 2010

Bookstore Blues

I went to a bookstore this weekend, for the first time in a long time. And I realized I love bookstores, but they're also a little depressing.

Am I the only person who stands in a bookstore, looking at piles and piles of books and thinks, "Jeez. There're just too many books! How could I ever get any traction in a place like this, with the little books I'm working on?" Sometimes, I'll go through a shelf and read the first few pages of every single book, just to get a feel for what's out there. But every time I put the book back on the shelf, I imagine a chill running up some author's spine somewhere.

And holy first person! I write MG, so I must have looked at 60 MG books, and I literally found ONE new book that was written in third person. It was weird. What's the deal with all these first person books?

As always, I looked for all my published friends' books in their respective sections. Sadly, I didn't find any. Which was a bummer. I make it a habit to face out books written by people I know and hide their competitors. No such luck yesterday.

Finally, I found a book called the Billionaire's Curse in the middle grade section. Get this ... in the book, a kid inherits a billion dollars from his eccentric grandfather and is sent on a quest to find a diamond to save his family's reputation. This is EXACTLY the same plot of the book I shopped in 2008, except mine had the added wrinkle of time travel. I know it sounds like I'm obsessing, but I swear I rarely think about that whole episode anymore. Still, every so often, something happens and the whole thing comes whooshing back and smacks me in the face. This was one of those things.

I ended up not buying the book I went there to get. I don't know. I had it my hands, and just changed my mind. I was feeling a little rattled at this point. So instead I picked up a paperback and left, feeling altogether less wonderful than I usually feel when I leave a bookstore ...

11 comments:

Mark Terry said...

I love bookstores, but I always have the fairly negative thought, "Man, there's a hell of a lot of product here." I suppose that's good. One writer once commented to me that publishers needed writers just to help fill those bookstore shelves, although that was sort of pre-Amazon, pre-ebook publishing. I think you just need to tell yourself, "This bookstore really needs a book--or two, or twelve--that has my name on it. Right here on the bestseller shelves would work."

E. Flanigan said...

In describing what it's like to be a therapist, I tell that story about the guy throwing starfish back into the ocean to save them. In the story, someone asks the guy, "Why do you bother? The beach is littered with starfish. You can't save them all." To which the guy replies, "No, but I can save THIS one." And he throws the starfish back into the water.

Your post created an image in my mind of all those starfish as authors and their books littering the beach. "PICK ME! PICK ME!"

Jon VanZile said...

Mark,

I like the way you think ...

Jon VanZile said...

E,

lol, but also kind of depressing. Poor starfish.

Natasha Fondren said...

What I find terrifying is how many of my friends' very good books, published by the big 3/5 whatever, with solid advances and a reasonable amount of enthusiasm, don't make it onto the shelves AT ALL. It's happened a lot in the last couple years.

Terrifying stuff.

But in general, I love going to the bookstore and writing all day. I look around at all the books and all the authors and think, "If all these people can do it, it can be done."

Kath Calarco said...

Back when I seriously queried, I'd enter the book store and get the same type of feeling - overwhelming defeat. I felt like the favorite in the Kentucky Derby that gets scratched minutes before the race. So close yet so far. And then I'd think to myself that perhaps the cool kids' time is yet to come.

We will rule!

The thing that frustrates me when entering Borders is the type of books that get the front table exposure. What's up with all the memoirs, life stories, etc. of people who aren't dead yet? Sara Palin? Seriously? She can write? (Well, at least the ghost writers' jobs are safe.)

Melanie Avila said...

I went to B&N Saturday and looked for my friend's book that was just released. I already bought it online, but wanted to take a picture for her. It wasn't there, but I found ONE copy of her first book. I turned it out. :)

I do feel slightly overwhelmed now at bookstores, but I think it's really cool that I know a few names on the shelves now.

Jon VanZile said...

Natasha,

Me too. It's weird ... because one of the advantages of publishing with a big company is supposed to be distribution. If that doesn't happen ... well, that's a problem.

Jon VanZile said...

I totally agree about the front table exposure. Publishers pay for that space, so that must be what they think will sell, or perhaps what they know will sell. But I honestly can't remember the last time I bought ANY book off a front table. And I don't think I could possibly drink enough to end up buying a Palin book, no matter where it was shelved. There's not that much liquor in the world.

Jon VanZile said...

Melanie,

I get a thrill out of seeing names I know, too. I always want to grab whoever's nearby and say, "Hey, I KNOW this person." It's kind of goofy, but hey, reflected glory is still glory :)

Kath Calarco said...

Not enough booze in the world, lol!!! High five on that one. :-)