Random Musings

Back in my writing shed and darn happy to be there

September 28, 2012

Tags: writing life, author, books, memoirs, fall color, writing shed, author events

Not only has the desire to write returned, I've had a sudden boost of courage. I'd avoided the writing shed for so long that I felt like apologizing every time I passed it. Well, I've been forgiven, and am working like crazy to reshape the sequel to the Scent of God. Trouble is, I keep slipping back into my old habit of editing as I go. I've worked on the same 10 pages for three days. I guess this proves I'm not a global thinker. Global thinkers don't get caught up in details but see the whole picture. Wanting to be a Global thinker, I just printed up every chapter I've got and plan to lay it out on the floor and create a map. Some authors tape chapters to the wall. I haven't got much wall space, but then neither do I have a lot of floor space. The writing shed is 10' x 10'.

I'm also now back on my feet and can manage five miles on flat terrain, three miles on hills and hiking trails requires hot baths and Advil. For that matter, hot baths and Advil take the ache out of those 5 mile jaunts as well.

Highway 61 is clogged with visitors heading north to view fall color which is at its peak right now. Our hills are flaming with maples and aspen. An evening drive into the hills as the sun drops toward the horizon demands belief in some greater creative power.

Best Selling Book

August 17, 2012

Tags: writing life, author, books, memoirs, independent bookstores, author events

Never underestimate the power of an enthusiastic bookseller. Yesterday, I learned that The Scent of God had made the best-seller list at Parnassus Bookstore in Nashville, "all because Heidi, one of the women at the store is crazy for your book and makes everyone buy it." The note was signed by Ann Patchett, who opened Parnassus Bookstore with business partner Karen Hayes to fill a gap left when two bookstores closed. What a thrill, especially as some book distributors say they can't get copies to sell even when customers request the book.

Last week, I drove five hours to sign books at Sister Wolf Book Store in Park Rapids. Sister Wolf is a popular independent known for it's exciting author and artist festival every summer that attracts people from all over. I'd had to cancel my appearance at that event due to a severe injury and was delighted when they requested I make a separate appearance when I was finally healed enough to commute a long distance. Again, enthusiastic booksellers directed patrons toward "the author in the store," making the signing, which can sometimes bomb (customers scurrying around the author and avoiding eye contact), a success.

I left Park Rapids later that afternoon and drove down to Little Falls, an hour and a half away for two events to be held the following day at Bookin’It Bookstore : a signing in the morning and an intimate three-course tea at the historic Waller House Inn later that afternoon. A good friend and book fan made arrangements for me to stay at the Franciscan Sisters Little Falls MN in a charming little hermitage where I recaptured the sense of quiet I so love. Bookin'it's cozy store was another wonderful surprise, introducing me to the lively owner Laura and her staff. Laura was everywhere with her camera during the tea at the Inn. We feasted on a delicious three course tea and the writing life and my work with an enthusiastic group of book-lovers at the tea. Then back to the monastery to rest before meeting two of that lively group for supper in town.

Those three great happenings launched me back to my computer where the response to my latest newsletter generated several hundred wonderful responses waiting for my replies, and into the writing shed to pick up the abandoned sequel to The Scent of God for a fresh look prior to an extensive rewrite.

I hope your week has been equally generous with you even though the halcyon days of summer are growing perceptively shorter and there's a definite hint of fall in the air here on Lake Superior.

Tale of Two Books

October 24, 2011

Tags: The Scent of God, A View of the Lake, Beryl Singleton Bissell, books, publishing, bookstores, independent bookstores, Barnes& Noble, Perseus Distribution, Amazon, Baker & Taylor, marketing, book distribution, getting your book into bookstores

For the past few months, I've been skirmishing with several giants. The battles began with the launch of my latest book, A View of the Lake, published by Lake Superior Port Cities Inc. this June. A View of the Lake is the saga of my husband and my impulsive move to the Lake Superior’s North Shore and how it changed us. The primary market for this book is the Twin Cities and greater metropolitan area. It’s also of interest to anyone who loves lake living, or dreams of following a dream. I was surprised, then, when my email box was inundated with people in the Twin Cities asking why they couldn't find the book at Barnes & Noble. The publisher launched an investigation and learned that the regional buyer for B&N’s had ordered only 40 copies, one for each Twin Cities store. Those books were not in the stores but in B&N’s warehouse. Now, I don’t know about you, but I wander bookstore aisles and buy what looks interesting. If a book isn't there, I can’t pick it up and decide to buy it.

Following the Barnes & Noble debacle, Amazon sent notices to all those who’d preordered A View of the Lake claiming the book was not available. “ How can that be?” I asked the publisher. The publisher was as amazed as I was. They been filling Amazon’s orders every week since the book was released in June. A search discovered that Amazon’s website had the book listed on two separate pages. One had the wrong ISBN number. Orders placed there could not be filled.

The good news is that those who have bought and loved A View of the Lake want to buy my first book, The Scent of God (Counterpoint 2006 hardcover, 2007 paperback). The bad news is that independent bookstores where I've been doing readings and signings for the past several months have been unable to get copies of The Scent of God. I knew books were available because I’d just ordered a full case of The Scent of God in soft cover from Counterpoint’s distributor Perseus. I emailed Perseus to ask why bookstores should find it difficult to get copies. Perseus did not understand why, either. They had 800 plus copies in their warehouse. I forwarded these messages to the concerned bookstores. “What distributor do you use?” I asked. The reply was consistent: “Baker & Taylor.” Ah, I thought. I’ll just contact Baker & Taylor.” I went online, found the Baker & Taylor contact for the Midwest, and sent her an email. She wrote back saying she only handled customers (i.e. bookstores and libraries). She’d been kind enough, however, to check on the matter and found that Baker & Taylor had received a delivery of The Scent of God at their regional warehouse in Momence, IL on September 9. If the regional warehouse had received a shipment, why couldn't regional bookstores get copies?

Not knowing what higher up to contact at Barnes & Noble who might work with authors and publishers, I contact Perseus asking if they could help. They were, after all, the primary distributors of Counterpoint books. “Unfortunately, no,” they replied and suggested that the “accounts in need of your title are more than welcome to call in to customer service and create an account with us for direct delivery.” So I fired off another email to the concerned bookstores. By now, the bookstores are probably sick of hearing from me. And what of those other independent bookstores who might want to order? I guess I’ll just have to leave it to their ingenuity.

Here’s a question for all you authors out there. Do you have a similar story? Were you able to resolve the situation to your satisfaction? And, if so, how? There are probably others like you pulling at their hair and wondering what to do next.