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Self-Censorship [Dec. 22nd, 2005|10:23 am]
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Well, what exactly can I say about what happened two days ago that I'm not supposed to talk about because we have to "pick our battles" (as one of the parties to the incident put it)?

Since "Rebel Bookseller" is all about disputing the universal self-censorship that pervades the industry, is it appropriate for me to shut up about this?

It all boils down to the question: Why did I decide to utilize the mainstream distribution mechanisms of the industry if I intended to attack the most powerful players?

Wasn't it inevitable that doing so would put me in the position of "not wanting to hurt" one of my new business associates?

Last night I was reading Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipelago" aloud to my son. The issue here is the victim mentality. Abuse of power is met with absolute compliance. Sheepishness. If I am arrested I must be guilty.

Am I guilty? Have I been arrested? Solzhenitsyn describes his own behavior during the course of his own arrest. Since the SMERSH guys who arrested him in 1946 didn't know their way around the town where they arrested him, HE directed THEM.

I have been instructed NOT to go to the Wall Street Journal with this story at this time. But -- even if I did tell the WSJ, would there be a story written? And, if there were, would the world change one bit? The industry?

Haven't I already told a hundred stories in "Rebel Bookseller" about these things? What would it matter if I tell another one now, just because it's happening to me again?

Well -- honestly, however, this constituted my ENTIRE marketing plan. Wait until THIS moment, THIS event, and then blow THIS whistle. Because THIS exemplifies the industry in a PERFECT way.

But I won't discuss this at this time. It's all a "mistake". It will be "taken care of". "No Harm Done."

Bull.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: v1agra
2005-12-22 08:10 pm (UTC)

(Link)

i've just added your blog to my friends list, though i've been reading it for quite a while.

i'm an indie publisher, myself. i co-founded a lit mag called forget - forgetmagazine.com, another one called pine, and i've just started publishing books, mostly fiction (loose teeth press, looseteeth.ca).

i've been thinking about opening a bookstore in my city (vancouver, bc) for quite a while now, and i'm really excited to get your book (ordered off microcosm or last gasp, i can't remember which).

you should set yourself up with a full website besides the blog, so we can see reading tour dates and things like that.


xo.

mike saturday lecky
From: (Anonymous)
2005-12-22 09:42 pm (UTC)

Vancouver Innovation

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I'd think there are good opportunities for new bookstore operators because the Vancouver region has been growing pretty steadily in population. The question in Canada of course is the same as in the States: How to position yourself in the minds of the customers, given the overwhelming presence of chainstores. I do think Rebel Bookseller will help you get your head around this problem. Coming out of publishing, you're energized to attack the distribution problem: now you need to convert your behind-the-scenes professional persona into a more theatrical presence for the general public. You have to develop a strategy for transforming yourself into a Personality Bookseller. If you think of your store as a sort of stage, and yourself as an actor or director or producer, then no-one will compare you directly with chainstores, because obviously you're simply in a totally different category of potential experience for people heading out for a day/night on the town.
[User Picture]From: v1agra
2005-12-22 10:36 pm (UTC)

Re: Vancouver Innovation

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i definately understand what you mean, as far as the Personality Bookseller thing goes. I think that aside from knowing the industry from the other side, this might be one of our (mine and my partners) strongest suits. I'd mention some ideas we have but it's probably best I make sure we can pull them off before I go bragging about them online. ;)

On top of the population boom in Vancouver, we've also had a really strong literature scene here for a long time. UBC has one of the few Masters in Creative Writing programs offered in canada, and Simon Fraser Uni. has the only Masters in Publishing (that I'm aware of, at least). Vancouver is also home to tons of small publishers and lit mags like Geist(.com) and SubTerrain(.com).
[User Picture]From: rebelbookseller
2005-12-22 11:20 pm (UTC)

Re: Vancouver Innovation

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That's so exciting.

If I had one piece of additional advice for you that you might not be fixating on right now, it would be that even though you're certain you can't afford to at this moment, you should seriously make an effort to find ANY way to buy the building in which you launch your bookstore. Over and over I've seen that the booksellers who, after years in business, have ANYTHING left to work with moneywise are ALWAYS the ones who somehow or other, by hook or by crook, succeeded in buying their buildings very early in the lives of their bookstores. Being a bookseller means totally sacrificing yourself to your customers. Do not fool yourself on this. You will lose absolutely everything, and your bookstore will be destroyed. This will happen in any of a thousand ways. BUT -- if you have managed to buy your building -- you'll miraculously find yourself with a real piece of Vancouver to work with, ten or twenty years down the line. (Alternately -- as I talk about in my book, you can walk away with a "Brand" that you use for some totally different project.)

Buying a building when you're just starting out, as I said above, is obviously IMPOSSIBLE because of money. But -- do try to come to grips with this all. It's a helluva lot easier to get loans for real estate, for instance, than it is to start a small business. Many more people will help you on a part of your project that involves buying a piece of real estate.
[User Picture]From: rebelbookseller
2005-12-24 04:41 am (UTC)

Re: Vancouver Innovation

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Well -- maybe I was a little too intense with that last response. Maybe not every new bookstore is destined for destruction! I just like to think that way whenever I start a new project since it provides a sort of immunity against overconfidence, and helps energize me.
[User Picture]From: rebelbookseller
2006-01-10 01:33 am (UTC)

Re: Vancouver Innovation

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Mike,

I've taken your advice and set up a real website! It's now what comes up when you go to www.rebelbookseller.com. Thanks for the hint.

Andy