What I’ve Been Up To

July 22, 2012

Time to blow the dust off this blog, if only to indicate that yes, I am still alive. I just have been posting my thoughts mostly to other places lately.  Here’s a sampling:

Book reviews at Reviewing the Evidence and my Scandinavian Crime Fiction blog (though I have a towering stack of books awaiting reviewing equal to this list)

I interviewed David Weinerger for Library Journal.

I wrote a short feature about the Elsevier boycott for American Libraries.

I wrote a longer piece about the open access movement for Library IssuesAnd another thing for an issue of Anthropologies on Occupy and Open Access.

I’ve been writing weekly for Inside Higher Ed, under the header “Library Babel Fish.” IHE is a great place to mouth off about things. The commenting community there is unusually civil and smart. I also write once a month or so for Library Journal’s Peer to Peer Review. I had been doing it weekly, but writing two columns weekly used up all my ideas and then some.

So this is a lousy excuse for a blog post, but I was feeling both bad about neglecting it and unable to think of anything new to say.

Oh, I am working on some fiction, too, but writing very s l o w l y.  I did get a short story (first one I’ve ever attempted) in Writes of Spring edited by two of the best book people in the world, Pat and Gary of Once Upon a Crime.  They had a lovely party to celebrate the anthology and their store’s anniversary.

So that’s what I’ve been doing in my free time. I’ll be back to blow the dust off again one of these days.

photo courtesy of tavarua




I’m blogging on the inside …

July 22, 2010

… of Inside Higher Ed. With a fish, which some may recognize as the Cod of Ethics.

Library Babel Fish

hello, book!

May 10, 2010

Through the Cracks comes out officially tomorrow. I’m a little nervous. Much as I understand that each person reads a different book, and everyone’s tastes are different, waiting for reviews to appear can offer more nail-biting suspense than any thriller, though it’s not a particularly enjoyable kind of thrill; it feels more like waiting for the results of a medical test. Though people often liken the arrival of a new book to holding a newly-delivered baby, I don’t feel that way. It’s like a very long pregnancy, a birth, a few complications as you work with an editor to clean it up. Then it’s swept away to the hospital nursery for its final check-up and plopped back in your arms a year later.

Hello, baby. Oh, look at those sweet chapter headings. You have your father’s font. Now let’s see if everyone else in the world thinks you’re an ugly baby or not.

Meanwhile, I’ve been giving some thought to the baby’s older sibling. It’s not easy getting people to read a second book in a series unless they read the first (and let me tell you, a lot of people haven’t read the first.) My publisher wasn’t interested in releasing a paperback, and nobody wanted to do an audio version (and why would they? the production costs are enormous, and that makes the end product expensive; you have to have a fairly large guaranteed audience to make it worthwhile). So being a DIY kind of person, I  fiddled around with free software and made my own.

There is now a trade paperback version of In the Wind available through Lulu and selected independent booksellers. It’s not cheap–$14.00, plus a hefty shipping fee if you order from Lulu–but I didn’t want to do any harm to the independent booksellers who have supported me and do so much to promote books and reading. This is the price it takes to provide it to them with the discount that helps them pay their rent and light bill and not lose too much money at my end. I’ll happy if I break even. If I accidentally make a profit, it will go to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Meanwhile, I got to learn a few things about cover and page design and how to make the layers in Paint.net to work.

I also recorded In the Wind in an amateur audio version. No, it’s not as polished as a professional audio book–I used open source software and recorded it in the spare bedroom. The cats were strangely fascinated by the whole thing, so you might hear an occasional meow in the background. But I have several friends who are blind, and wanted them to have a chance to read the book. You can listen online or download the .mp3 files, chapter by chapter. Thanks to my employer for hosting the files.

I really wanted to pull a Cory Doctorow and make a Creative Commons e-version freely available, but the publisher had secured electronic rights, as they do, and didn’t want to give those back. (It took months just to get the paperback rights reverted.) Strangely, though you can get the second book electronically, with a side of DRM, In the Wind is not available for e-reading. Hey, I’m just a librarian. Who am I to question the ways of publishers?

But that gives me an idea: you can always check In the Wind out from your local library.

reading challenges

February 28, 2010

I am challenged when it comes to reading instructions. While trying to include a review at Dorte’s 2010 global reading challenge, I managed to post a link to this blog, rather than to this review of Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s Last Rituals. Sorry, Mr. Linky. I think I have disqualified myself from the challenge.

public service announcements and reps x two

February 3, 2010

First, a funny video riffing off the side effects listed in pharmaceutical television ads. Nice job, Unbridled Books! I especially love the literary references to Tolstoi et al.

Second, reported in Shelf Awareness, NAIBA begs publishers to keep reps employed and connected to independent booksellers. This is a part of the process of bringing books to the public that isn’t much known to readers but has a profound effect on book culture. Reps are the link between the publisher and the bookstore shelves, and they are ethnographers of the communities they serve.

Restricting field reps to large stores will give publishers a skewed view of what is a very diverse world–independent bookselling. Sales reps take the time to know our stores, what our customers like, and what is on our shelves. They are the industry worker-bees, travelling the region, taking ideas and trends and pollinating other stores. We learn about other stores from them, what others are reading and loving; what is selling; marketing tips; event ideas; what the publisher is doing; and what authors have books coming out in the next season. They make fans for authors out of our frontline booksellers. They cut through the catalogs to make sure we carry what we’ll be able to sell, and their endorsements are why we buy what we might have ignored.

These reasons are why cuts in field sales reps devastate us. Have you really thought about what this stricture will mean to you? Fewer book sales. Without a doubt, we are not ordering as much through telemarketing. We are definitely not focusing on your backlist through tele-sales, and we definitely miss titles from the frontlist. We also don’t buy as much direct, which makes independent bookselling a less profitable business. The vicious cycle is that we buy less because we don’t have sales reps, and then you devalue our business because we aren’t buying as much as we used to.

Cory Doctorow has previously praised the sales force. Three cheers for reps (and three extra ones for Tom Leigh.)

Finally – squeeeeee! The first book review for Through the Cracks came out in Publisher’s Weekly. “Sociology professor Jill McKenzie hires PI Anni Koskinen to find the man who raped her in Chicago’s Lincoln Park 23 years earlier in Fister’s strong sequel to In the Wind (2008) . . . Koskinen connects with an array of well-drawn supporting characters, including other rape victims, the lead investigator on the McKenzie case, and the attorney who helped overturn Taylor’s conviction. Thoughtful attention to the complexities of police work and social justice lift this gritty mystery well above the norm. Koskinen’s empathy with both cops and victims as well as her fierce, brittle independence make her easy to root for.”

yo, public librarians (at least those who loan book club kits)

January 22, 2010

I was able to get some copies of In the Wind for cheap from my publisher and – not wanting to do any harm to the independent bookstores who have invested shelf space in my books – I thought I’d give them to libraries. Specifically, I’m having a drawing for libraries who offer book discussion kits. The libraries that win the drawing will get 8 copies with a discussion guide to any librarian who thinks it would fit their program. (It’s hardcover, so I’m thinking 8 is about all that people would want to hoist – ?) It has political themes as well as threads on families coping with mental illness and plot twists that should make it discussable; at least someone told me he hated the ending, which is usually promising for discussion. (His hasn’t been a universal reaction, but it doesn’t totally surprise me. I kind of hated it too, when I realized how it would end.)

If you’re wondering “errr, I don’t know, would we even want this?” – it did get pretty good reviews.  But I realize space and resources for cataloging/promoting this kind of kit are limited. So if it doesn’t seem a good fit for your library, no worries.

Full disclosure: this is part of my Cunning Plan to coax a few more readers out there to sample the first Anni Koskinen book before Through the Cracks, the sequel to In the Wind, comes out this spring. This is the Gateway Drug theory of reading. Also, it’s to give back to public libraries, which have been feeding my habit for decades. (Mrs. Wiebel, it’s all your fault that I’m a book junkie! Bless you.)

If you are interested, send me an e-mail (to bfister @ hickorytech . net – with the spaces removed) with a contact name and your library mailing address. I’ll be pulling a couple of names from a hat by the end of the month. It’s always a good feeling to find books a new home.

UPDATE: I sent individual books to ten libraries and kits to two – map here:

things found on the Internet when I should have been working, no. 4

January 10, 2010

Vintage advertising, by topic and by decade at Vintage Ad Browser (which has an equally tempting  Cover Browser sister site). Here are some book-related ads.