Sunday, July 25, 2021

Time versus discount.

I just ordered 10 x more books from Ingrams than Penguin Random House, even though my discount is 13 points better with the latter. Usually I order about 2 to 1. 

PRH is taking two and half weeks to deliver, which is crazy. Especially when they are supposed to deliver within the week.

Ingrams delivers in two days. There's only 5 weeks left in the summer! I've lost a good number of sales waiting for that extra 13%, at the busiest time of year.

From now on, I guess, I'll be ordering from PRH when they have it and no one else does, or if don't think there is any urgency, but it's pretty hard to run Just-In-Time bookstore when it takes 16 days to show up! My entire strategy is to carry one copy of most books, sometimes two, very rarely three copies; because I can (or should) be able to get another copy pretty readily. 

PRH could probably care less about a little guy like me, but they're out thousands of dollars this week alone. I can't be the only one. 

It does worry me about how they are going to handle Marvel comics...

We're selling so many books that I have to spend a few hours every other night just ordering them. I have to spend an extra two or three afternoons a week in the store putting them away.

First world problems, I guess.

Finished "150 Glimpses of the Beatles," which was compulsively readable. Binging on Beatles stuff, for some reason. Came away feeling that John Lennon was a more damaged individual than I recognized and Yoko Ono was pretty toxic to the Beatles mix--I'm not saying she is toxic, just that her personality didn't mesh real well. A better appreciation Ringo, pretty much already what I thought of Paul and George.

Started a biography of Charles Fort, who I always assumed was a nutcase, but he turns out to be much more interesting than I expected. 

Linda was gone for four days to church camp. Didn't turn on the TV once. The cat and I were lonely. 

Went through my digital files and found a whole bunch of starts to stories. Some of them are pretty good. Now that I realize that not every idea has to be a book, I may try to finish a few of them off. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

I'm a Winnie the Pooh snob.

I'm a Winnie the Pooh snob. I got it from my mother, who loved Winnie the Pooh with all her heart and very much disapproved of the Disney version(s).

Got a call from a lady asking if we had Winnie the Pooh. 

"Why, yes, we do," I say proudly.  "We have all four of the original volumes in their original format with their original illustrations."

"I'll be right in."

She shows up and I show her the books, which are hardcover at $14.99.

"Um, this isn't what I expected."

"Well, this is the real thing. Not the Disney spinoffs."

"I'll look around," she says, and leaves. 

"Oh, bother," I mutter to myself.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

This roommate of mine,

I'm not sure he really likes me

I might as well not be there,

until he insists.


In the morning,

he looks up blinking,

only stirs when the 

can is opened. 

When he deigns

to know his name

he looks up

then looks away in disdain.


He wants my lap,

so purry and friendly.

An hour later...

"Who the hell are you talking to?"


Scratch me, rub me,

there, there, there!

Enough already!

His claws draw blood. 

He might as well be a statue,

most of the day,

but at night he rips

scrabbling across the floor.

Let me out!

Let me in!

Let me out!

Let me in!


"Hey, Buddy!

I wrote a poem for you!"

he sleeps on,

with a twitch of the tail.

This roommate of mine,

he takes and takes,

and in return I get only





The Publishing and Promoting Complex.

I keep running into well-reviewed and award winning novels that I simply don't like. Worse, some of them are just badly written. 

So have I changed or has the market changed?

A bit of both, I suspect, but that really doesn't explain some of the clunkers which I think I always would have found wanting. 

One thing's for sure--blurbs by famous or favorite authors don't mean a damn thing. The worst book I read recently was adorned with five very well known authors' blurbs.

So much of what people think is great writing is pretentious and belaboring. Give me a straightforward action book any day. 

I was explaining the plots to some of my books to some customers the other day and said, "I started realizing that my books were like 70s disaster movies. A bunch of characters (types, if you will), thrown into the maelstrom of a disaster. And that's exactly what I was looking for."

Not the kind of thing that is going to win awards. 

I have to ignore all this when I make orders for the store. Except for making sure that I carry my favorite books, I'm ordering what the market has decided are the "best" books. The fact that I read the descriptions and think, "Oh, another book about (one of several social problems). Ugh," doesn't matter.

There is a publishing and promoting "complex" that has its own reasons for pushing certain books and I have to go along with it. 

I still probably concentrate on backlist books more than most bookstores, because there a lots of books that have stood the test of time, unlike some of these "bestsellers" which I suspect will be just as ignored as my own books in another ten years time. Heh.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Comics are the most original art form.

 Finally watching "Loki." I prefer to wait until series are over before I watch them. 

What's great about these Marvel TV shows is how experimental and daring they are. Unlike most of the DC shows which seem interminable and tweeny, Marvel is telling self-contained stories that push boundaries. 

In a way, it reminds me of the comic form itself. What I've always believed about comics is that there is more experimental and daring material published there than just about anywhere else. My feeling is that this is a culture that grew while being ignored and belittled, so comic creators had little to lose. This culture still seems to be intact, probably because it has been rewarded with Hollywood success. For a few thousand bucks, a comic series can be created; and if they work, they can be turned into something bigger.

I'm constantly amazed by the choices Hollywood makes. The Preacher, Sweet Tooth, The Boys--none of these looked like material they would want to tackle. But I think the directors and writers and actors see comics as a way to try something new.

Even the big Marvel movies, as formulaic as they are, I think are more willing to try things than most big blockbuster movies--that is, until recently. I think the comic movies have had a beneficial effect on all big budget movies, which are constantly pushing the boundaries. 

I'm done with self-serious "dramas," the same way I'm done with self-serious "literary" books. Life is too short. Contra to everyone else's opinions, I believe these literary books are the stories that have fallen into a rut, retreading the same storylines, subjects. You especially notice it in the titles and cover art which begin to sound and look the same. Any big success is immediately copied until it's dead.  

Young adult books are even worse. It seems no accident to me that YA graphic novels are having such success, because they are more likely to be original, and not some copy of Harry Potter or the Hunger Games. 

Go Comics!

Friday, July 9, 2021

New bookstores are back, baby.

Popularity for Pegasus Books comes and goes... I've come to expect it. There are a lot of elements in a fully functioning store: employees, product, surrounding stores, my attitude. Sometimes the mix is a work in progress and sometimes it just comes together.

But I'll say this: at least a half dozen times a day, and probably much more, we have someone say a variation of "This is a great store!"

I'm betting that Barnes and Noble never gets that. I mean, I suppose people are surprised our store is so good and take B & N for granted, but still...

The excitement over the very existence of a bookstore is something that is gratifying to hear. 

When I first tried to carry new books 30 years ago--as a sideline--the only option was to order through the local distributors. The one in Bend wouldn't give me the time of day. The one in Eugene took me on as an account but was so unreliable, I gave up.

A decade later I tried to get an account with Ingrams. They basically said, "Go away, boy, you bother me." They didn't like the starting numbers of my account and they really didn't like that I was a "comic" store. 

I don't remember how I hooked up with B & T, but they treated me pretty well for a number of years though new books were still a sideline instead of a main focus. I only went back to Ingrams because B & T looked not long for this world, and indeed, they did stop distributing. 

By then, graphic novels were a major force in publishing, so Ingrams took me on. However, they've never changed my discount level no matter how many books I order.

A couple of years ago, I got an account with Penguin/Random House and Scholastic--and their discounts are a full 10 points better, but they are a little slow on the shipping. Pretty soon, PRH is swallowing Simon and Shuster--meaning what used to be the Big Five will become the Big Four--and that will probably account for more than half the books I want.

Anyway, after taking my 8 year break for writing, I came back to the store and decided to focus on New Books for a few years. 

Sure enough, books have really taken off for us. I finally have enough options to order books and keep the store stocked and it's paying off. Instead of trying to attract minuscule percentages of the population who read comics, collect the kind of toys we carry, or who know about European Board Games but aren't already buying somewhere else, I suddenly have access to a much bigger percentage of the population.

What about B & N and Amazon? What about ebooks?

B & N was always a threat because they had more books. But guess who has even more books? Amazon. So if B & N's main attraction was volume, they're being snowed under.

I do believe the "Shop Local" and "Support your Indie Bookstore" campaigns have finally had an effect. The worm has turned. It is now cooler to buy from an Indie than from a big box store.

Downtown Bend has a lot to do with that. Tourists don't come to Bend to buy from Costco--they come to Bend to check out the unique stores downtown, and bookstores are a comfortable niche there. Both Dudleys and Pegasus Books have shifted to new books to accommodate the demand.  

As I often say, most locals don't recognize us as a bookstore, but enough newcomers and tourists have found us--and see our selection--to make the bookstore element work. Because of that mix of customers, I cater to the backlist more than the frontlist more than most bookstores--though that is changing as I get a foothold in the market. Bestsellers at the very least pay for themselves, and the occasional right fit for Pegasus Books can sell a ton of books. 

Amazon is just a fact of life. It doesn't affect my store as much because I'm set up for "impulse" buying by drop-ins. 


Well, the common wisdom when I first started carrying new books was that ebooks would put the indies bookstores out of business. Instead, B & N chasing ebooks probably put another nail in their coffin.

I never bought into that. I have no inclination myself to read ebooks--and I figured I wasn't alone. And indeed, the ebook threat seems to have receded. Ironically, I believe it's used books that are threatened more by ebooks. If all you're looking for is price, than ebooks are even cheaper. 

Dropping used books at my store hasn't hurt us a bit--in fact, turning that space over to graphic novels and new non-fiction books is one of the reasons we finally hit a level of sales that I can keep the machinery turning. 

New bookstores are back, baby. I mean, much of that is because so many people want to own a bookstore--which doesn't necessarily mean that they'll succeed, but there seems to be a constant number of people willing to take the chance.

I don't see that changing. I don't see B & N regaining their prominence--even by trying to mimic (oh, the irony!) of indie bookstores. I don't see ebooks growing any faster than they have. I think even Amazon has more or less hit a ceiling in the sense that they aren't new and they seem to be focused on other things.

People still read, and I firmly believe that they want to find unique titles. That's where Pegasus Books can find a sweet spot.


Saturday, July 3, 2021

Question the common wisdom of the bookstore/coffee shop.

I check the industry website, "Shelf Awareness," every day, and it seems as if there is always one or two new bookstore/coffee and or whatever else is thrown into the mix. But mostly coffee. It is commonly accepted wisdom. It is rare anymore that anyone just opens a "bookstore." 

Much like my opinion on street closures (that the common wisdom that it helps downtown businesses is wrong but too strong a bias to overcome), I believe that having a coffee shop and a bookstore is the worst of both worlds.

In most cases. (I guess I have to point out that I am generalizing and there are of course many exceptions.) 

Simply put, I think the more books you have, the more you sell. Anything that takes space away from displaying and stocking of new books is probably a negative. 

Coffee shops are a double whammy. You have to have space for the catering side, as well as seating for the consumers. You probably have to have an employee whose sole job is to serve the customers...and perhaps ring up sales. But it probably means your employee isn't out on the floor talking books as much. It's a time and space and money suck. 

Again, I would get push back from almost everyone who actually does this. But I always wonder--yes, you've made it work, but maybe you'd be doing even better if you were just doing books?

Side products, by the way, I have no problem with. Obviously, if you've ever been in my store. I sell toys and games and card games and collector cards and comics. This is simple diversification of a retail store.

A coffee shop or restaurant is a completely different kettle of fish.

I venture my opinion on downtown businesses fairly often--probably too much--but I always opt out of offering an opinion on restaurants because their business models is completely different than selling dry goods. 

Nothing I say will change this dynamic. I've made my choice and I'm happy with the results. I guess I would only point out that maybe, just maybe, the bookstore/coffee shop isn't always the best solution to things.

I guess all I'm saying is--question the common wisdom and don't complicate things.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Working full-time at the store for four days. Did I once do this as a normal routine? Either I've gotten a lot older or it's gotten a lot busier. Well, both, actually.

I go to work thinking I'll try not to engage in too many conversations, but people pretty much drag me in and it's rude not to respond.

"People are hungry for conversation," Linda says.

"They're even more hungry for Nerd conversation!" I answer. "They've been trapped with their normal family members for a year!"