Scarlet Letters

The not-so-private thoughts and rants of Elizabeth Donald, journalist/author and founder of the Literary Underworld.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Borders Deathwatch: Tick Tick Tick

The hits just keep on coming for poor Borders. I've been waiting to see the bookseller go under for ages, not with anticipation, but with dread.

We all know they are closing a zillion Waldenbooks, and while at first they intended to pulp the unsold books, apparently they are now donating them, so bravo there.

But now CEO Ron Marshall is leaving (to head up the A&P? really?) after only one year on the job. His chief merchandising officer is the interim CEO.

Meanwhile, Borders' holiday sales were dismal, even extending the definition of "holiday" from Nov. 1 to Jan. 16. Sales were nearly 15 percent below last year.

Worse, they have been accused of delaying payments to small publishers, because small press has more shallow pockets and doesn't have the wherewithal to sue the hell out of them like Random House or Harper Collins. I might point out they still owe me a check for a signing I did in 2008, so clearly something is wrong here.

This attitude toward small press doesn't surprise me: the reception I received with my first two books four years ago was a hell of a lot warmer than the chilly fill-out-this-application reception I got last year with my latest release. You used to be able to find small press in Borders. Now it's 900 copies of the same damn TWILIGHT book.

Let's not be coy: Borders is in serious trouble. Worse for the workers, since 10-15 percent will be laid off on Thursday.

Despite all this bad news, despite the shady desperate ploys and paperwork games, I will be very sad to see Borders go. Not just because they're the big bookstore about three minutes from my apartment - hey, we still have two independents here in town. Not because the books are so much cheaper than Buns & Noodle (two towns away) or Amazon.com (they're not).

It's because the original philosophy of Borders was to put a large general-interest bookstore in towns that didn't have them anymore. They put bookstores everywhere, even places where the people - by demographics - didn't read. It was a neat idea, that if you put ready access to books within a short drive of everyone, then everyone will read.

Unfortunately, as the public librarians of the world could have told them, it doesn't work. People need a reason to buy a book these days, when fiction of any kind can be beamed to their new device-of-choice in 30 seconds.

The publishing industry's woes didn't help. The economic free-fall didn't help. The general piss-poor state of retail didn't help. And their own management strategies didn't help.

I continue to root for Borders, and I hope this new guy has some magic wand that will save the chain. But I'm not looking to get my check in the mail anytime soon.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

question for y'all

So, if I were to write another story set in the world of THE COLD ONES, which would you prefer?

A sequel, with the surviving character(s) facing new challenges?

A prequel, with the original team before they met up with It?

Not saying I'm gonna do what you say, but I am curious which would be of greater interest. If you delve into COLD ONES spoilers in the comments, please tag! Not everyone's read it yet, despite my best efforts. :)

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Booksigning postponed

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Ottawa booksigning has been postponed. We're talking about late February or early March - the Facebook event has been altered to March 20, but that is NOT set yet, it's just that Facebook doesn't have a "maybe" button. :)

My apologies for any inconvenience. I do intend to wend up Chicago way at some point this year!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Best of the Aughts

Time to vote in the CultureGeek Readers' Choice Awards! Never heard of it? That's because we never did it before. Ah, the power I wield.

Seriously, I got sick of the same old lists popping out on all my competitors, lists that made me think these guys were so not watching the same stuff I was watching the last ten years. AMERICAN IDOL is the best TV show of the 21st century? I do not think so.

So regular CultureGeek readers nominated their favorite books, movies, TV shows and comics of the past decade, and I created a poll for them to vote. On day one we had hundreds of responses. I'm hoping for a lot more. :)

I contacted as many of the authors as I know or could find to let them know they'd been nominated. Including Neil Gaiman's publicist, since at the moment he is trashing all the competition with AMERICAN GODS. I'm sure he is too busy to give a quote to a mid-size paper like mine, should he win, but it's worth a try.

Go forth and vote.

For the record, I disqualified myself. But thanks for the noms anyway, denizens. Like I was gonna beat Neil Gaiman or Joe Hill. :)