If you have plot bunnies coming out of your plot holes, it’s time for a writing break.
Hello again, writers. Today I’m offering 5 last-minute gift ideas for writers. So the idea is that you’ll be able to share the list with your friends and family in one of two ways: you can share the link in the show notes that contains the list in the form of a Medium article, or you can go to radiopublic.com and share an audio clip of the episode from the moment the list begins. I’m not sure if there are other streaming apps that let you do that, but I know radiopublic lets you for free and without having to sign up for anything.
And the list is evergreen, so you can share it any time of the year. I hope this way you get what you really need this holiday season and on any other occasion. It’ll be subtle, it’ll be friendly, it’ll be great.
But first, let’s head into the Writing Break cafe for a snack and some publishing news.
In episode 41, I told you about Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle’s reaction to hearing that the US Department of Justice blocked Penguin’s merger with Simon & Schuster. In that episode, I said, “Have I read too many books, or does Dohle sound like a captain ready to abandon ship?”
Well, Dohle resigned last Friday. From the statements made by executives, the decision was Dohle’s. It’s a big loss for Penguin Random House. Under Dohle’s leadership, Penguin Random House doubled its revenues and quintupled its profit.
I’m predicting Dohle’s next stop will be Amazon. What do you think?
Meanwhile, Bob Bakish, CEO of Paramount Global, which is Simon & Schuster’s parent company, said they are still looking to divest Simon & Schuster. I told you that was going to happen as well, but that wasn’t a prediction. All of publishing has known for years that Paramount Global has been looking to sell Simon & Schuster. Even though Simon & Schuster’s profits have gone up recently, Bakish said that Simon & Schuster “is not a core asset, because it is not a video asset. Our company is a video company.”
Explaining how a video company ended up with a non-video asset it wants to chuck like a hot potato requires a boring explanation of CBS and Viacom splitting and re-merging, and you might already be familiar with it.
Good news for Draft2Digital authors. You can now sell your titles in the Smashwords store. All you need to do is login to your Draft2Digital account and opt to add your books to the Smashwords store. Pretty simple.
Links to these articles can be found in the show notes of this episode and on writingbreak.com. Now, join me on the Overthinking Couch to deliberate on the following question: When does a bookstore stop being a bookstore?
I was recently reading an article regarding Indigo, Canada’s biggest bookstore chain. But is it? Ken Whyte, writing for SHuSH, the official newsletter of The Sutherland House Inc. reports that general merchandise, including home decor and gifts, now makes up 40 percent of sales at Indigo. Some of the stores look like a home goods store with a small amount of floor space reserved for books. Whyte offers a good analysis of what’s going on at Indigo (link in the show notes for those who are interested).
But it got me thinking about when we should stop calling a bookstore a bookstore. It has been years since I felt like I was walking into a bookstore when I visited a Barnes & Noble store, and they don’t even have a bed on display in the middle of the store like Indigo does. Big or small, bookstore owners do what it takes to survive, but at what point do you think, this is a store that sells books, but it’s not a bookstore?
I thought about this for a good long while. I asked myself questions like, What item would have to be present or missing? How much square footage should the books take up? Then it finally hit me.
For me, it’s about the employees. No matter what a bookstore sells besides books, if the employees still presume that you walked in because you love books, you’re in a bookstore. That feels like a broad answer, but it feels like the right answer.
I’ve been to cafe slash bookstores that were definitely just coffee shops that happened to have books. And I’ve been to some that were bookstores that happened to have coffee.
I’ve been to used bookstores filled with incredible first editions and rare books where the owner treated people like potential book burners. Yes, I’m thinking of one place in particular. No, it did not feel like a bookstore no matter how many times I visited. Yes, I bought books there. No, the store is no longer in business.
I don’t care if you work at a bookstore that sells shirts, socks, and smoothies. If you look at every customer as a likely book lover, you are a bookstore employee to me.
What about you? What’s your bookstore criteria? Reach out and let me know.
And now, grab your stuff, we are taking a trip to an independent bookstore that is definitely a bookstore and definitely in trouble.
Welcome to Bookends & Beginnings in Evanston, Illinois. This cozy bookstore is “a "speakeasy for books," hidden away down a gritty alley in an old garage with bad heat, no plumbing and no visibility--but with loads of character.”
With area rugs here and there, mismatched furniture, and a children's section that manages to be both large and tucked away, browsing this nearly windowless bookshop feels like discovering treasure.
But, there’s a problem. Just like a villain in a book, their landlord is raising their rent 125%. Their attempts to negotiate a lower rent have been in vain, and now they have to exit the premises by January 30th. Talk about stealing Christmas.
Like the true protagonist she is, bookstore owner Nina Barrett is up for the challenge. She has found a bright airy space downtown that will have a different feel from the current store, but that will also allow for later hours and more community events. While she will be able to afford the rent, she cannot afford the move.
If you’d like to help Bookends & Beginnings move locations and start the next chapter in their story, check the show notes for their GoFundMe campaign. Whether or not you can donate, please share their story with others. Time is running out.
Now, let’s check out an independent author.
Today we’re looking at “The ForestGirls, with the World Always” written by Sissel Waage and illustrated by Ana-Maria Cosma. This book took first place in fiction at this year's Indie Book Awards.
“A story of girls - from around the world - and the trees that they befriend, climb, and plant. As they grow, the children restore forests across Latin America, North America, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Australia. Beautifully illustrated with original watercolor paintings, this book offers a hopeful message. It will inspire young people to make a difference for themselves and our natural world.”
It is a lovely book, and I think it would make a great gift for a child in your life.
What about you, the writer? What would make a great gift for you? Let’s find out.
Here is a list of 5 free things you can get the writers in your life. No matter the occasion, these are things writers always need.
Writers need time to write. Give writers time to write without a guilt trip and without making them feel like they’re missing out on something (even if they are).
Also, give the writer you care about some of your own time during which you listen as they describe their latest plot bunny, character arc, whatever.
Okay, so maybe you don’t actually get why they insist on working for hours on a book or screenplay that seems to be making them monumentally miserable, but you can at least let them know that you understand it is something they want to do. Maybe they even feel it’s something they have to do. We’ve all felt this way about something, haven’t we?
Writers often feel misunderstood, so this is a great gift, trust me.
This might be the hardest one on the list to pull off. You might think, Enthusiasm? They’ve talked to me about the same scene for days! How about I just get them another notebook instead? Maybe with a nice pen this time?
I’m not asking you to show interest in their story because what they’re working on might not be your cup of tea, and that is something you should be honest about. (Do not offer advice on their sci-fi novel if you do not read science fiction.)
Instead, I’m asking for enthusiasm for the overall writing process, such as when they send off their 300th query letter.
Yes, they are oscillating between talking your ear off and slinking off to their writing spot without you. It’s hard on you, which is why this is a big gift and better than anything you can buy them.
If you want to make a writer feel good, do your best to express enthusiasm for their work. Mainline caffeine if it helps.
This one is for extroverts only.
A writer might be able to write 60,000+ words for their novel, yet they will crumble when it comes time to talk about or write about themselves. Tell others about them. Introduce them as a writer at parties. Share their news on social media (unless they’ve asked you not to).
Tell them their writing is good (if it is), note improvements, and let them know you admire their dedication. Even if you’ve already told them before, tell them again.
And, of course, leave 5-star reviews all over the internet.
Thank you so much for listening. Until next week, remember, you deserved this break.
If you would like us to visit your favorite independent bookstore, feature your favorite independent author (even if it’s you), or discuss something you’re overthinking about, please email me at email@example.com.
Thank you for making space in your mind for The Muse today.
Writing Break is hosted by America’s Editor and produced by Allon Media with technical direction by Gus Aviles. Visit us at writingbreak.com or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.