Occupy Books & Things

5.4.12 | | 51 comments

B&TContestPerhaps I’ve been too influenced by politics, but I think its time to Occupy Books & Things.

The LDS mailing catalog Books & Things has announced a May “LDS Author/Artist Contest” in which visitors to their Facebook page can “vote” for their favorite author. The favorite author will then win a 1/4 page ad in the Fall issue of their catalog.

What would happen if the winner was someone that they don’t normally carry in their catalog? Someone that they don’t think is “right” for their audience?

Anyone want to play a little mischief?

Here is the text of their facebook post:

LDS AUTHOR/ARTIST CONTEST

May

Who is your favorite LDS Author/Artist? Help them win by “liking” their name in the comments below. Don’t see their name yet? Add it in a comment and then like it. The LDS Author/Artist who has their commented name “liked” most on this post BEFORE JUNE 1 will get a FREE 1/4 page ad in the 2012 Fall Issue of Books & Things, circulation over 150,000! – START LIKING & SHARING!Step 1: Like the LDS Books & Things Facebook Page (Like Button Up Top)
Step 2: Find your favorite Author/Artist’s name in the Comments and “Like” their comment.
Step 3: Tell your friends to vote too!

.

So far the contest has drawn only 42 comments — it should be easy to get enough votes to overwhelm the others. And since the Facebook page only has 255 likes total, they may not attract that many votes in total. The only requirement for this to work is that everyone trying to do this must “like” the same author.

Off the top of my head I suggest Doug Thayer. He’s different enough that Books & Thinks wouldn’t consider him right for their audience, but very acceptable and fairly popular. He is a BYU professor, and probably would fit the “appropriate” criteria of most Mormons.

The contest is located here — https://www.facebook.com/ldsbooksandthings/timeline/story?ut=32&wstart=1335855600&wend=1338533999&hash=166714840122525&pagefilter=3&ustart=1

Of course, you’re welcome to suggest someone else for this honor. We just have to get everyone to agree.

I’d love to see how Books & Things would react if someone like Thayer won! Would they follow through? Would they acquire his books?

Of course, I must admit that this is just a tongue-in-cheek suggestion, a way of poking fun at the traditional, closed part of the LDS market…

…or should it be?

51 comments: “Occupy Books & Things

  1. Jonathan Langford

    I like the idea, and I’d even thought Doug Thayer would be the ideal author to nominate. Sadly, even this isn’t enough to make me willing to sign up for Facebook…

  2. Rob

    Doug Thayer taught my Freshman English class, ‘way back when I was on the BYU Campus. I never forgot him.

  3. Kent Larsen Post author

    Rob, then isn’t it annoying that Books & Things doesn’t include his book in its database? Are they saying that his work somehow isn’t worthy?

  4. Wm

    The Whitney Awards gave Doug Thayer a lifetime achievement award last night.

  5. Th.

    .

    Indeed. As Jessie (from the AML blog) said to me, honoring him and Jack Weyland at the same time demonstrates a kind of inclusivity that I admire about the Whitneys. I mean—maybe Disco Dancer wasn’t nominated, but if Dan Wells can win with his books then they’re not just choosing niceynice sweetness, no matter what anyone says.

  6. H.Bob

    Or you could ask Doug’s publisher(s) to buy ad space in B&T, same as every other publisher that has a title advertised in their circular. But I guess that would go against the occupy MO of wanting something for nothing.

  7. Sarah Dunster

    I wouldn’t call Douglas Thayer’s life work “nothing.”

    THe point, H.Bob… is that LDS literary fiction needs a bigger forum. Ordinary LDS people need to be reading it. And realizing that there is something to mormon fiction other than a “clean” romantic thrill or faith-affirming depiction of their pioneer ancestors (which is basically what I wrote, so I’m allowed to say that :)

  8. H.Bob

    No, I understand what Kent’s getting at here. It’s just that B&T exists as a consolidator of publisher’s ads–every book listed in their ad is there because a publisher paid for ad space for it. If Doug’s books aren’t there, it’s because his publisher didn’t pay for space. There’s a “too cool for school” attitude that far too many of the LDS “literary” authors and publishers take that works against their being read by “ordinary LDS people” (which is pretty condescending in itself, IMO). If publishers like Zarahemla or Signature wanted their products associated with the products in B&T, they’d be there. The sad fact of the matter is, they don’t. They’d rather bemoan the fact that “no one reads the literary stuff” than do the work to get the literary stuff more accessible to the unwashed masses.

    I’ve read Doug’s books; I like them. I’ve read Brady Udall and will buy anything WW Norton publishes of his. But WW Norton actively promotes his stuff, which is why I know about it and why I can find it when it comes out. Expecting that B&T owes Doug a favor because he’s written wonderful prose ignores the salient fact that book publishing is a business, and B&T is in it to make money, just like every publisher that advertises with them.

  9. Sarah Dunster

    a disconnect on both sides then… that we could remedy with “occupy B&T”! Because after all, Doug has no control over where his publisher advertises :) I was surprised to find myself in their catalog, in fact… I have no clue where my book is being sold (but need to become less clueless, pretty fast, apparently.)

    This is a topic worth exploring further, then… do authors of LDS literary fiction turn their noses up at mainstream LDS publishers who would actually like to publish their work, or is the other way around?

  10. Wm

    In my experience, it’s a two-way street and neither side really knows enough about the other — and cares enough to overcome the inevitable friction that occurs when switching between two worlds. Not at all unusual outside of the world of LDS/Mormon fiction either.

  11. Kent Larsen Post author

    H.Bob wrote:

    If publishers like Zarahemla or Signature wanted their products associated with the products in B&T, they’d be there

    Hmmm. Where do you think that Zarahemla and Signature are supposed to get the funds for such advertising? Both have had ALL their books routinely excluded from Deseret Book and Seagull Books and most other stores in the LDS market. As I understand it, after 30 years Signature STILL has not had a year in which it turned a profit — its owner continues to subsidize its operations. Zarahemla is run part-time, and its owner basically doesn’t take any money from running it.

    Are you saying that the owners have to continue to dip into their own pockets when the ‘traditional’ LDS market won’t give them the most basic support or welcome?

    Are you sure, in the case of Signature, that they have never tried to get their books listed in B&T? Most of the “mainstream” LDS market has some idea of what “appropriate” is, and they are pretty uniform in the idea that Signature is NOT it.

    I’m not sure that it is clear here, but Books and Things is owned by Cedar Fort. It isn’t exactly independent.

    I don’t have any illusion that B&T owes Doug anything. I do believe that the LDS market effectively perpetuates a narrow and unhealthy view of what LDS books are and what should be included. The purpose here is NOT to get B&T to do something it doesn’t get paid for. It IS about the LDS market’s continued unjustified bias against anything literary based on the belief that it is “inappropriate.”

  12. Kent Larsen Post author

    I should add that I say this as someone who has actually tried to get the LDS market to carry my “completely appropriate” titles, who purchased a booth at the annual trade show and who sent many mailings and made many calls to LDS bookstores trying to get them to carry my books. Result: DB bought 1 title once, but only AFTER it was mentioned in a Church News article. They never reordered.

  13. Sarah Dunster

    Glad you said that, Kent. Was wondering about whether the independent smaller publishers even had *means* to advertise in the general catalogs. I didn’t know Books and Things was owned by Cedar Fort. That would explain why my books is there, I guess :)

    This conversation has me wondering (something I’ve already pored over a lot)… is there a way to straddle literary and commercial. Without being in that mediocre category of “too commercial for the literati” and “too deep/literary” for those who just want a light fiction read. Would you end up shooting yourself in the foot?

    … its’ what I fear will end up happening to me in the end. I want both. Can I have both?

  14. Jonathan Langford

    I agree that no one “owes” the authors and publishers of literary Mormon fiction anything. But as Kent et al. have said, it’s not attitude keeping publishers like Zarahemla from taking out ads. Rather, it’s a combination of (a) lack of funds, and (b) experience that shows those ads won’t give a return on investment.

    So why the push for this free ad? Partly just to make people know that Doug Thayer is out there and make them wonder, “What about this fellow?” It’s more than just a paid ad; it’s a chance for people to see that a particular writer is beloved of readers, not just of the publisher. The contest isn’t limited to publishers who have paid ads, so I don’t see anything wrong with that.

    In response to Sarah (#12): Zarahemla is now openly advertising themselves as a “publisher of last resort” within the Mormon community. Anyone who can get published elsewhere is urged to do so.

    In my case, I can’t really imagine that any other publisher (Mormon or otherwise) would have taken No Going Back. And yet my experience was that it was well-received by many LDS readers, if they could once be persuaded to try it out.

    Part of the problem is that the Mormon mainstream market has defined itself into a niche. They are the “safe” alternative to national bookstores and publishers. And so even if they’d like to publish something edgier or more realistic that deals with the Mormon experience, they risk alienating part of their base in order to do so.

    The great untapped Mormon market, in my view, is readers who are comfortable with books that are carried in mainstream bookstores, who aren’t even looking for Mormon fiction because they don’t know that powerful fiction dealing with the Mormon experience in a realistic but faithful vein is out there. And at present there is absolutely no way to reach them, other than through word of mouth and individual evangelizing.

  15. William Morris

    Sarah:

    Let me know when you figure that out. Because that’s where I want to be too. Except that I want to straddle literary and commercial in the Mormon market and straddle literary and SF&F in the non-Mormon market.

  16. H.Bob

    You know, it occurs to me that this contest is for both authors and artists–maybe I’ll go cross-post a link on Jon Mcnaughton’s webpage and REALLY hijack this puppy.

  17. Th.

    .

    I took out a fullpage ad in the LDStorymakers’ conference mag. Don’t know yet if anything will come of it. But I hope at least now more people are aware of Fire in the Pasure and Monsters & Mormons than were before.

    Self-promotion: My attempt to straddle that line is coming out from Strange Violin soon (early next year?). A book that Deseret, Covenant and Zarahemla all said was unmarketable. So this should be fun.

  18. Sarah Dunster

    Heh. Don’t you just love when they say that. I had a novel tabled at covenant for about a year before they finally agreed how unmarketable it was…

    OK whining over. Is there LDS performance art? I think that’d be an even better 1/4 page ad for books’n’things. Performance art’s a thing, right? A noun. If it exists.

  19. Kent Larsen Post author

    H. Bob (19): LOL!! That would be great!! Leave us a link. I, at least, would love a chance to poke fun at Mcnaughton and his “art”.

  20. Sarah Dunster

    Wm, you and I are completely on the same page then. I just started Farmer’s “House of the Scorpion”. Have you read that one? I think it does a good job of straddling literary and sci fi. So far, at least. And speaking of which, I have a manuscript (fantasy) that I am completely at sea with. CF said no because of some of the themes in my story (that I am unwilling to scrap). Currently I am doing the submit repeatedly.to general literary agents thing. Any suggestions?

  21. William Morris

    It has had a long, tortured path to publication, but it did somewhat directly lead to Th. joining AMV. So there’s that.

    And I also would like to read it.

  22. Th.

    .

    By my estimate, Thayer’s currently coming in second behind one Hank Smith.

    .

    (In my-book news, since we’re still on the subject, Brother Matsby will be doing the cover. Which is happy indeed.)

  23. Kent Larsen Post author

    “By my estimate, Thayer’s currently coming in second behind one Hank Smith.”

    Well, then, everyone pass on the news! Let’s get the support and send a message!!

    Rah, rah, rah!!

  24. Kay Curtiss

    If Doug Thayer wins the most votes by Different people he will win a free 1/4 page ad in the Fall issue of Books & Things. (Just so you know, your vote will only count once for Doug Thayer no matter how many comments of his name you vote on :O)

    Thanks for the extra attention you are giving Books & Things.

    Just so you understand, Books & Things is a business and is owned by Cedar Fort. It’s purpose is to serve and help the LDS Independent Retailers be more successful – neither Deseret Book Retail or Seagull Books use it.

    The ads are paid for by publishers, distributors or individual authors themselves.

    I am currently working with a couple of Indie authors to try to make it work to advertise their product in B&T, but as one of the comments stated above the problem is the money.

    We are in the process of phasing into a B&T Fulfillment center to help the stores service their customers fast and have a place for stores to order B&T product and save freight to get product to their store by combining small orders into 1 big one.

    So for an indie author to advertise they do have to pay for the ad and provide their product for the fulfillment center at an additional 15% discount – so for books where the wholesale discount is 40% to stores, you would have to sell them to B&T at a 55% discount – now you can do the math and see if it will work for you.

    We then do additional marketing to find new customers for the stores, funneling the sales through http://www.booksandthings.com – sending these new customer’s orders to the participating B&T stores to fulfill–giving them 90% of the sale.

    So if you think the numbers will work for you, and you would like to advertise in Books & Things, send me an email and I’ll send you our rates.

    Thanks again for the additional exposure, we appreciate it.

    Kay Curtiss
    Visionary Manager of Books & Things

  25. Kent Larsen Post author

    Kay, thanks for dropping by.

    First, can you clarify what you mean by “We are in the process of phasing into a B&T Fulfillment center”?

    I assume by B&T you mean Books & Things? The abbreviation is confusing because the 2nd largest book distributor in the U.S. is Baker & Taylor, commonly abbreviated B&T.

    Second, I’m not quite sure that you understand the purpose behind this effort. Its really not aimed at Books & Things directly, but at the entire market as a whole! More literary works and different works are by and large excluded from LDS stores, Books & Things and other catalogs. I spent years manning booths at the LDS Booksellers Convention, trying to get interest in books I distributed and published, and was essentially ignored. To make it personal, no one from Books & Things ever approached me, either at the convention or even by mail or phone.

    For us here the question is simply this: Does Books & Things recognize the problem? And if it does, what is Books & Things doing about it?

  26. William Morris

    Did you approach Books & Things, Kent?

    I don’t want to be insensitive to the plight of the independent publisher or self publisher, but it seems to me that the onus is on them to take the lead in developing relationships and testing out various strategies — and most importantly: to show how their particular works fit into the target market.

  27. Kay Curtiss

    We are just opening a Books & Things Outlet in Springville and are adding onto the warehouse there as well to accommodate our growth. I am in the process of talking to the vendors and trying to get more and more product in – and I do have to start with the current vendors that pay for ads. As we are just starting, we can’t afford to buy large quantities either to necessarily justify the extra discount so I am trying to help people catch the vision of what we are trying to do and help us to it by participating. In addition, I am trying to find new products that will be of value & interest in our market and bring it in – as well as looking for Books & Things Exclusives either in product or pricing.

    Sorry yes I did mean Books & Things when I used B&T not Baker & Taylor.

    We just bought Books & Things last August and while I am excited about our growth since then, we are still a small player in the LDS Market right now and I’m not sure your point will get noticed, though I’m not opposed to trying to help.

    I want desperately for the Independent LDS Retailers to start emphasizing their uniqueness and “break away from the pack” – it’s a slow process as people naturally resist change – Some of them are catching the vision others are slow – I sometimes feel like I’m walking upstream, pulling a lot of them behind me but I am trying.

    Our Christmas issue I opened it up to a few vendors who had never advertised before – and met with some flack from stores – again freight is such a big issue with stores and when they have to order for several small vendors with 1 or just a few products their small margin is eaten up in the freight.

    On the Up side of that decision – customers LOVED the variety and we sold a lot of those new vendors products (especially through our website) – which caught us all off guard – we just didn’t know what to expect.

    The Fulfillment Center unties my hands to go after good product, because
    #1 – if I have the product there, I can help the stores fulfill it and satisfy our end user – the customer – which is KEY to all our success.
    #2 – stores can order from Books & Things and we will combine it with a Cedar Fort order and save them freight.

    So to answer you last question – Books & Things knows there is a lot of good LDS product or non-LDS product that is appropriate for and supports the values of our maket that people don’t know about and I am willing to advertise it and we are building this fulfillment center to do accommodate it – are you willing to pay your share to make it happen?

  28. Greg Bragg

    I’ve been a member of LDS Booksellers for many years, operating Mormonabilia, a “different” LDS bookstore in California, carrying new scholarly works,plus thousands of used, out-of-print, and rare LDS books since 1988. Two years ago, we bought the independent LDS bookstore, Cover to Cover Books, located just two blocks away and have been busy completing the merger of the two stores into one very interesting LDS book store carrying over 4000 used and out of print LDS titles, plus thousands of new titles. Last October, we opened a second location in northern California.

    We have been purchasing over 5000 copies of each issue of Books & Things to mail to our customers, and they love receiving it! Books & Things is helping independent LDS booksellers to be able to afford to have a 50+ page catalog that can be sent to their customers, and handed out to new customers in the stores.

    We also operate a vacation home rental business in Nauvoo and have a gift shop and book store located there. We have taken the opportunity to advertise in Books & Things as it has a large LDS market reach, and we recommend it to any vendors wanting to reach a large LDS audience of book store customers.

    I have also spoken with other independent LDS book store owners who are participating in the program, and the more of us that do, the more success we have. My thanks to Kay Curtiss and Books & Things for the efforts they are making to assist the smaller vendors and bookstores.

    Greg Bragg

    Cover to Cover Books & Mormonabilia
    Roseville & Folsom, California

    Nauvoo Vacation Store
    Nauvoo, Illinois

  29. Kent Larsen Post author

    Wm (37), I did — but that has been at least 5 years ago. I don’t even remember what the prices were, just that it was more than I could afford.

    Kay (38), I love what you describe. I think this is close to something that is missing in the LDS market–a true wholesaler, filling the same role that Baker & Taylor and Ingram fill for the national market. [However, I assume that DB/Covenant aren’t participating? Anyone else not participating? To be a true wholesaler you need nearly everyone’s books in what you have available.]

    Regardless, giving LDS bookstores the opportunity to purchase titles from multiple publishers/vendors from a single source is a great improvement. And operating as kind of a backup online store is also excellent — DB needs real competition online in the LDS market.

    The only concern I have is when you get to the last paragraph of your reply and say “good LDS product or non-LDS product that is appropriate for and supports the values of our market.” I really wish there was some definition of “appropriate” or “the values of our market” that I could look up to understand. Often I wonder if this isn’t code for “books we don’t like” or “books that are too weird.”

    I don’t think anything I’ve published fits the “inappropriate” category. But I don’t know for sure. I don’t live in Utah and don’t have a Wasatch Front mindset. [In fact, I avoid it!!]

    Does “appropriate” mean that if a book advocates socialism or claims that the United Order was socialist that it is “inappropriate?” Is a novel about homosexuality in an LDS context, but which doesn’t advocate homosexulaity, unsupportive of “the values of our market?” These kinds of books have drawn ire from the conservative portion of the LDS market. If you permit them, then what happens when many people complain?

    Of course, there are a host of these kind of issues, but the LDS market seemS to think that words like “appropriate” make it clear! [Please don’t think I’m attacking you personally. I know this is how everyone in Utah talks about this issue. Its a pet peeve of mine.]

    Oh, and do you handle this on the basis of who the publisher is? or on a book by book basis? (i.e., if a publisher has one book that isn’t “appropriate” is everything he publishes out?)

    I think that any publisher would want a clearer idea of this BEFORE they publish a book, not only when they approach you for advertising.

    Again, I do think your approach with Books and Things is the right way to go. I’m hoping that when it comes down to specifics and actions that it works well.

  30. Sarah Dunster

    Hey Gregg! I know your store! I grew up in the Grass Valley area and we came there all the time for our LDS stuff. What a coincidence.

    Hey… sometime when I’m visiting home, I’d love to do a book signing in your store. Glad you commented on this post :)

  31. Kay Curtiss

    I really should also clarify that Cedar Fort doesn’t own Books & Things. Lyle Mortimer & his son, Bryce, own it and they also own Cedar Fort so I don’t know if it is politically correct to say they are “Sister” companies or “Brother” companies, but we are definitely separate companies.

    Also if you are really interested in seeing what we are doing, you can view a pdf of our current Spring Issue – http://www.booksandthingscatalog.com/

  32. Kent Larsen Post author

    Kay (43), does that mean that there is a kind of “Chinese wall” between the companies? For example, if B&T sells a book from an independent publisher, do Cedar Fort’s people know about it? Do they then know if that book is outselling their own?

    Or, what about the retailers? If a retailer is behind in paying Cedar Fort, does that effect whether Books and Things will accept a new order from them (or vice versa?)

  33. Th.

    .

    Hmm. Can’t download the pdf. Cedar Fort’s website is blocked here at school. Have you considered hosting it at your own URL?

  34. Kay Curtiss

    Cedar Fort and Books & Things finances are separate so if a store is behind with Cedar Fort, I don’t know it and Cedar Fort accounting doesn’t know if a store is behind with Books & Things – in that regard we operate independently.

    Cedar Fort knows the publishers I advertise in Books & Things as they advertise in Books & Things as well so they see who is in it.

    I managed 4 Independent LDS Bookstores for over 18 years before switching over last year to try to help all the Independents better – and then I added Books & Things to my plate and I told Lyle & Bryce for me to be successful, I had to be vendor agnostic – because it is in the variety of products and their timely distribution to customers that will make the stores & everyone else more successful – they can’t to it with just one or 2 vendor – and they agreed and have been VERY supportive as I have been going after new product. I’m just the only one doing it at this time – so I go after things as I become aware of it.

    While Books & Things may look a little Cedar Fort heavy right now, it’s because I haven’t found enough vendors yet (whether it’s a publisher, distributor or author) to fill a 52 page catalog – so I go back to Cedar Fort to fill in my space.

  35. Greg Bragg

    th (45) our locations are listed on the Books & Things website as mentioned by Kay (47). We hope you can visit our stores in Folsom & Roseville, California, and if traveling to Nauvoo, Illinois! They have quite a variety of items not found in the average LDS bookstore!

  36. William Morris

    That’s very cool, Kay. I’m pleased to hear that somebody is trying to help the independent LDS bookstores in a very concrete way.

  37. Kay Curtiss

    Kent (41),
    I missed a comment of yours up above and have been so swamped today to check here until now.

    Just so you know, I actually live in Maryland and have my whole life – I’m very much an East Coast Girl & don’t consider myself to have a Wasatch Front mindset either.

    While Deseret Book & Covenant do advertise in Books & Things, I have not approached them yet about our Fulfillment Center. I don’t think they would “play ball” with me right now. After we get it going and it is successful, I intend to approach them.

    My “appropriate” probably isn’t what a lot of people’s is. I realize that not every book is “inspiring” or thought provoking – some are just plain entertainment. When I managed the 4 bookstores, the owner always had me read/scan books for acceptability in our stores. I have always gone by how I felt – I try to use the power of discernment we are all blessed with. I know that probably isn’t very “clear” but that’s how I do it.

    I don’t judge a publisher by one title – I look at books title-by-title. I don’t have a problem with books tackling “sensitive” issues or even “deeper” issues within the Gospel.

    There will always be people that complain and will never be happy unless you totally adopt their point of view. (You should have seen some of the emails I got when we advertised the Twilight series in an email for our stores :O)

    Ultimately, a product has to “earn it’s real estate” to stay on the shelf – so as William (37) mentioned above, if they aren’t in what some would call the “Mormon Mainstream” they have “to show how their particular works fit into the target market.”

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