Sunday, September 22, 2019

Blending my own stubborn tastes with what will sell.

I'm finally bringing in more journals. I get asked for them all the time, but the journals I've had up to now haven't been what people are looking for.

I made a ginormous order a couple days ago, (over 50 journals), then had second thoughts. 20 journals ought to be enough to give me a hint about what will sell.

Journals are a lot like posters and t-shirts. Often, what I think will sell--based on my own tastes--don't. Stuff I think sucks, do.

I remember a godawful t-shirt I once got in. Florescent puke-green color. It sold within a day. Meanwhile, the ultra cool but subtle t-shirts I thought would disappear instantly, stuck around for years.

Posters? I swear, I look at some posters and think, "Why would anyone buy that?" Then the next time I look, they're gone.

So anyway, I'm going with cool designs to start with, and a few fantasy themed. Might not be the right choice, I don't know. But picking a particular "brand" seems kind of iffy to me. I did get an Alice in Wonderland cover (John Tenniel art), but how many people know who the original artist was? When it comes to art, you can be too informed.

People love an artist like Boris Vallejo, for instance, or Alex Ross--but to my mind, they are too slick. Like eating too much candy. I like rougher artists like Frazetta, where you can actually see the paintbrush strokes. There's an artist named Royo who I like, but I like his rough sketches even more.

Oh, well. The market speaks. As usual, I will blend my own stubborn tastes with what I think will sell.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Re-engagement with the real world.

For six years I buried my head in imaginary worlds. For the first couple of years, I barely poked my head back up into reality. Most of my days were spent in a creative fog. Things were left undone, the store was left in other's hands. I rarely spoke to anyone else, except Linda. (Or online.)

I was astonished by how much creative energy I had stored up. I decided to keep writing until it faded.

I wrote almost every day. I published 21 books over that time, some with more fanfare than others. I wrote what I wanted, when I wanted. I had to find publishers, and then find new publishers. I had a unpropitious encounter with a mainstream publisher, reminding me why I wanted to avoid that avenue.

It was all very satisfying. The reviews were mostly good, the sales on a few of the books were all right. I felt like I'd more than accomplished my goal.

In the last year, or so,  I started to slow down. I had several books that needed to be edited. I had a heart attack, and instead of that motivating me, it seemed to do the opposite.

When Dylan went of the college in N.Y., I decided to start working his two days.

Unexpectedly, I'm getting pretty engaged in the workings of Pegasus Books again. Before, when I was just filling in here and there, the store was something I could do and then forget about. Now, suddenly, I'm finding things I want to change. I'm enjoying my interactions with customers.

Yesterday, as I drove into Bend, I realized that I was feeling energized, re-engaged with the business, and with other people. It's as if I went on a long vacation, visited exotic worlds, and now I'm ready to simply engage in everyday transactions.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The luxury of new books.

I can't tell you what a luxury new books are,

First of all, I should say it wouldn't work at all if we didn't have the tourist foot traffic downtown. I'm not sure that locals will ever understand that we've become a real bookstore, along with being a real comic bookstore. But that's all right.

What makes new books different?

They don't become dated--at least, not as quickly as other product. Throughout my history at Pegasus Books we were dependent on product that had a short shelf-life. Comics, sports cards, beanie babies, pokemon, pogs, card games.

It has only been in the last ten or twelve years that we've been able to bring in product that is more evergreen: new books and boardgames.

I probably should add graphic novels, but that status of being perennial sellers grew slowly and was never a sure thing. We now have a twenty year history of graphic novels to draw on, and we can identify which are evergreens, and that's been a huge thing. We could probably survive on comics and graphic novels and card games and toys alone--if we had to.

But we wouldn't thrive. New books and board games have changed the equation for us. When I say that we have a twenty year history of sales on graphic novels to determine evergreen status, that's pretty nice. I'd say we have about a ten year history of sales on board games to draw on, though beyond a few basic games, that's a bit more iffy.

But we have a 400 hundred year history for books! Basically, from Don Quixote on. Millions of books to choose from. I can cherry pick all day long. I have a pretty broad knowledge of books. Once the matrix was in place, everything I learn just slots right in.

Because of that knowledge, for instance, I can scan lists of books--which all look good--and figure out which ones are likely to sell in my store.

Recently I've finally made the jump into ordering the current week's bestsellers. I think it was probably just as well that I waited until now, because I just wouldn't have had enough experience to figure it out. New bestsellers are iffy, without the luxury of a sales history, so I'm dependent on reviews and word of mouth, which like all promotional activities, is unreliable.

Fortunately, even if the new book doesn't have a history, the author usually does, or the new book is part of a series. (Yes, just like movies and TV, sequels are the bread and butter.)

So far, I haven't been returning books. It seems like a huge hassle, but I can foresee a time down the road where I'm might need to do it, if sales keep increasing.

As usual, the biggest problem is lack of space, but I'll just keep trying to be ergonomically clever, because my location is what makes everything else work.

So new books have proven to be beneficial, and I'm having great fun with them.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Forever Chemicals?

Interesting article in the Bulletin about "forever chemicals" found in military sites in Oregon.

I'm probably not understanding the science, but I've always wondered about a couple civilian sites in Bend. Maybe because I've lived here my entire life and I'm relatively old, I remember some places that were pretty darn dirty, and which have become major focal points in modern Bend.

It's amused me a little that the "Old Mill" description has become a selling point for a commercial district. Using the old smoke stacks as flagpoles. Because what I remember about the old mill was that it was dirty, noisy, smelly, and dangerous. I remember walking on the grounds, which were saturated with oils and gas and God knows what else.

I remember the smell.

If you've ever smelled a creasote drenched railroad tie, you know the smell. 

So my question has always been--did they remove this stuff or cover it?

The second location I've always wondered about is where the new four-year college is located (as well as other schools). Close to that area there was the old Bend dump. Now this was the old fashioned kind of dump where people dumped everything--oil cans, paint cans, chemicals, electronics, anything and everything

But whenever it is described in the news they call it a solid waste site. In fact, I think they more or less imply that is was a place where garden debris and branches and such was dumped.

Nope. It was about as dumpy as a dump can be.

So did they dig up all the stuff? Or cover it sufficiently? Is there a time when this stuff becomes safe?

What makes me wonder is the very description of it as being something that it wasn't. That's a bit suspicious.

But who's around the question it?

Like I said, maybe they did the proper thing. Maybe I don't understand the science.

But to pretend those places weren't dirty is just kind of gentrified burying of what once was.
Some heavy dreams last night. Why do I wake up and still fight the dream? Punching an illusion, to no effect. The illusion is stubborn. It swarms and overwhelms me. The mood remains, breathing deep. The fight begins anew.

Why do I awake
still fighting the dream?
Punching an illusion
that always wins?

Stubborn thoughts
swarm and overwhelm me
the mood remains
the fight begins anew

A lesson there
unlearned and repeated
breathing deep,
dragged back to darkness

Suspicion of my worse self
that I am without knowing
a warning, I suppose
if it's true

Still fighting the dream
a fearful fragment
glimmering bright
submerged and waiting

Reality is warm,
a cup of coffee
a rememberance
and a lesson

Monday, September 16, 2019

Mainstreaming the store but keeping it weird.

Yes, I am very much enjoying work again. Way more than I thought I would.

For one thing, I finally have something that young families want. I've tried really hard to carry a good selection of young adult graphic novels, and have also tried really hard to mainstream my store. It's very gratifying to see these young people buying something.

I think it just helps that the store is functional, and that just about anyone who comes in can find something they like --if they're willing. A bunch aren't willing. Saturdays are still hard for me because of the proportion of browsers, but the long break has made me much more patient and cheerful.

New books continue to shine. I've finally gotten to the point where I can put in an order at the beginning of each week, keeping up with the new releases. Very satisfying. Bought two hardcovers each of the new Stephen King book, and the new Margaret Atwood book, and held my breath. Sold one of each, which as far as I'm concerned was worth the gamble. I'm tiptoeing into these big selling hardcovers.

And I'm enjoying talking to the variety of people coming in the door. Dare I say, downtown Bend is getting more cosmopolitan with every year that passes? With all the entails, good and bad.

Sabrina has done a great job with graphic novels. I was always a little at a loss for what Marvel gn's to order, and I'd almost given up on manga. She has revived both.

Probably my biggest weakness right now is games. I loved playing Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and Ticket to Ride. But that's like saying you like vanilla and chocolate in an ice cream store. Not very edifying.

I'm identifying places where the store can be improved. Mostly in small ways. I'm starting to bring in expensive Japanese figures little by little, and I'm going to create a section for journals, which I get asked for a lot, but which the ones I have never sell. I asked Linda to pick out a few dozen covers, because she's always buying journals.

I love walking into the store in the morning and letting it wash over me. This is the store I always wanted.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Luck, timing, and who you know?

Very early in my writing, someone told me that "success" depends on luck, timing, and who you know.

At first, I firmly believed that "luck" was the biggest factor. That writing a good book wasn't enough--you also needed something unusual to happen for people to notice. (Such things as quality being equal.)

As I became more experienced, I started to believe that "who you know" was maybe the most important part.

Now, after many books under my belt, I come to the conclusion that "timing" is the most important factor.

Of course, all three of these things are intrinsically linked.  The luck of timing, the timing of luck, the luck of knowing someone....

I think this is probably true of all the arts.

I know that timing-wise, my forward momentum has stalled several times because of gaps in publishing that were beyond control. On the other hand, just when it seemed that I was near the end of my thread, something would pop up to revive my little career.

I can dream about what might have happened if the momentum could have been maintained and the luck had happened too. It wasn't anyone's fault. I know that a couple of my publishers who reached for the mass market brass ring probably felt it was worth the gamble. Even my first publisher, who went MIA between my second and third books, I can't be too mad about because he was the one who gave me entry, and who gave "Led to the Slaughter" a good start.

So I've had a bit of luck, and a bit of good timing, and I've known a couple authors--but I probably need much more of all three.