Words In a Box Weigh Heavy

If you ever have a chance to move a bookstore by yourself, don’t.

I made a number of mistakes during the run of Wordsmiths. A lot of them were up front. One of them was not hiring at least one guy who could lift a box of books without tumbling down a flight of stairs. I don’t know, maybe I’m asking too much at this point. There aren’t a lot of physically gifted book nerds in the world, after all, are there? Regardless, the only reason this point has relevance is because one of my other mistakes was not working harder to get the bookstore in the location I wanted to begin with.

The square in downtown Decatur is a charming place. Home to a number of Atlanta’s finest eateries with an endless supply of drink options, unique shops, coffee shops, a MARTA station, beautiful architecture, and as many events as they can cram into that space over the course of a year. It’s hoppin’ is what I’m saying, in case you drifted a bit and began thinking about your next meal. The Arts Festival, Beer Festival, Wine Festival, Beach Party, July 4th Fireworks, and much more, bring thousands of people right there, on the Square, businesses reaping the benefit. And for a bookstore, there is no greater gold than Labor Day weekend, when the Decatur Book Festival arrives. 75,000 (or more) people fill the Square, with books on the mind, and money in their wallet. It is the weekend we long for, our Christmas crammed into three days. If you, as business, aren’t on the Square, then to those who visit, you just aren’t there. Plain and simple. Not when that many people are vying for space, unwilling to wander too far away.

So…my mistake. We’ll call it Mistake #1 on a list that, at last count, has no end.

In my talks with the city, two main buildings were targeted. The first, the old Sun Trust building on the Square, basically ended the conversation for me. That was it. The place. The main floor still housed the ghost of the old bank, longing for something sight-worthy, memorable, befitting of such an historic place. It had a vault, right there in the open, a haven for the creative mind. There were offices, primed to be culled out as book nooks. There were chandeliers, pillars, and so much character. It needed Wordsmiths. I had grand plans at first, far too grand actually. I scaled them back (which if you visited the store might make you wonder how, or what in the world I might have thought was bigger than what I wound up with), focused on the space, and entered negotiations with the building’s owner.

Now, I’m not here to disparage the man. Allow me to make that clear. But–and this is no secret to those who knew him–he was no genius. In fact, to my misfortune, I was the first individual he managed a continued conversation with about leasing the space. Ever. Most people wandered off after “Hello” and “It will cost you THIS MUCH I WILL NEVER BUDGE.” Then again, this was my first leap into a lease negotiation as well. So, there we were, two people with no experience talking about an offer on a lease with no basis of negotiating comparison. In hindsight (a common refrain you may see here), I should have sought advice. I should have asked for help settling on a deal. But as we hammered away, I let my pride, my vision of the long-term dream of Wordsmiths, get in the way. I allowed us to get hung up on the length of the lease. He wouldn’t budge beyond a one-year lease, I wanted at least two (preferring three). Such a short term left me with an unfavorable possibility: Having to move the store after one year, which I wanted nothing to do with. Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. That’s what I said. Oy vey.

It was full of opportunity, and everything I was looking for.

It was full of opportunity, exactly I was looking for.

Negotiations broke down. He told me he had a number of people lined up, waiting for the space. Not wanting to cave, unwilling to deal with him further, I dropped out, wished him luck finding anyone with a business willing to sign a one-year lease, and moved on. Oh, how I wish I had just taken the lease, proven my worth, and built my store there. I would have saved thousands of dollars. Wordsmiths might still be around. Then again, the economic crush of 2008 might have still done it in. I’ll never know.

The story of our second location is another tale altogether. Though the space was beautiful, and historic, it wasn’t Wordsmiths. It wasn’t what I meant for it to be. And it wasn’t on the Square. Granted, it was only a block plus away, but you’d be amazed how far that is. You’d be amazed how much business you gain being in an impossible-to-miss location. Additionally, it left me with the ultimate choice, as mentioned already, I wanted nothing to do with: I had to move the store a year and half after opening it. And guess what? My Country Bumpkin Owner still hadn’t secured a tenant. So we had a chat. Not the first time we would have a conversation about hindsight. And I signed a one-year lease. Just like I should have done to begin with. I’m not a dumb guy, but I sure seem to do a lot of dumb things.

I didn’t have the resources I needed to convert the space to its original design (one that would have included a small cafe), but it came together nicely. I believe, and tell me I’m wrong if you visited and think otherwise, this is the memory of Wordsmiths Books. This is the image that comes to mind when people tell me they loved the store, when they mention the name to anyone, anywhere. When I think of it, I’m sitting in one of the chairs before the store opens, coffee in hand, taking a long look, staring through the front door, clock ticking steadily above the vault to my rear, smiling at the realization of a dream. I could have lived there forever.

It was everything it should have been in the first place. Or, something like that.

It was everything it should have been in the first place. Um. Yeah. Something like that.

What To Do When Your Face Looks Like a Foot

As I posted nearly a couple weeks ago, I’m a glutton for punishment. Just for the sheer entertainment of it, I watch the Kardashians (all the shows!), Gossip Girl, however minutes of 90210 I can handle, MTV Road Rules, Britney Spears videos, and bad movies like Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter or MegaShark vs. Giant Octopus. I don’t do this because I undervalue quality programming, or because I feel there’s nothing better to do with my time. I do it because these shows and movies are devised by and filled with idiots. Idiocy is fun to watch. Surviving idiocy is a challenge. Before you challenge that, allow me to rest the blame on the retail world. I spent too many years serving idiots and now I have no recourse but to find it elsewhere in my life, lest I get another retail job simply to feed the need. I’m programmed this way by too many pointless and stupid questions by far too many dense and corrupted minds to ever be saved.

Hence this whole “make me watch something I’ll despise and live blog it” thing I’m starting today. Listen, much like sitting down to an episode of Gossip Girl, I’m not looking forward to being exposed to Sex & the City–certainly not for 6 straight hours. Even in watching one hour of any of the programs listed above, I do so yelling at it, calling out the characters and weak writing, and rolling my eyes every 5 minutes. But I value entertainment, and if I can entertain people whilst suffering through shows I, at my core, cannot stand, then it’s not truly for nothing. It’s my version of falling on the sword on your behalf.

Granted, it isn’t as if Sex & the City is a show that most people hate. But it’s a starting point. And no matter the confidence shown by some of you that I, too, will like this show, I’m not hopeful. Maybe in small doses, but not a whole season of it at once. That’s an overdose of idiocy. I’ll be cranky by the time it’s over. And yet, I leave the call open for more. Name something that I can watch for, let’s say, up to 12 hours straight that would be on par with the above. It can be a show, a series of videos, a collection of movies, you name it and I’ll do it. And I’ll live blog the event. This is your chance to annoy me. Make it count. The only caveat–naturally–is that it’s something I have to be able to get my hands on in order to watch.

So, today at 4. It begins. I hope to utilize the live blog function for live events as well. The Oscars, for example. Or the Super Bowl, so that we can pick apart the new commercials and Madonna’s attempt at a halftime show. What other live shows/events should I do?

I wanted to post a video from Family Guy, referencing Sarah Jessica Parker’s face looking like a foot, but I couldn’t find it and I need more coffee. Hopefully, I’ll find it in time to include it today’s live blog. In the meantime, an dead friend of mine–a hacker, obviously–has resurrected his Twitter account. He claims he’s going to use it to tell people the truth about life, but from what I can gather, he just wants to annoy people. One of his opening salvos was this one about Tim Tebow. After that, he went on a mini-rampage about Christianity, then disappeared. Hopefully he comes back, whoever he is.

Jesus is no Broncos fan

The Not Way to the Bye Way

Here’s a little note to all the writers out there who are attempting to get their books–self-published or otherwise–into independent bookstores: While social media may indeed be a useful tool in which to market/promote yourself/your work, it’s also a trap that prohibits you from making real, honest, contact with the booksellers who will sell your work.  Don’t allow yourself to believe that it has usurped the more professional form of contact that bookstores for years have relied upon.  Phones still ring in the store, and if they don’t, well, then you don’t need to worry about that store.  The mail, despite rising costs, is still delivered, and stores also receive a type of mail known as “electronic mail”.  You might even want to utilize the non-social media aspects of the internet, and find that store’s web page.  Even Google would suggest that route, and if it’s good enough for Google, it’s good enough for you.

Now, this all may sound straightforward and obvious, but the volume of writers who abstain from protocol in favor of the easier, less research heavy–and let’s face it–lazier route is staggering.  It’s as if the advent of social media has awakened schools of sleeping bats in caves that have been isolated from the whole of history and time.  They just fly out, screaming their little bat heads off, and drop their query poop all over you.  Case in point:

Don't Let This Happen to You

Usually, snark is to be expected from booksellers who find themselves annoyed by this type of query.  Close the bookstore, and the snark level will rise like the tide before a hurricane.  Combine the above with a “note” that looks as though it were written by a texting high-school student and you may as well curl up in a ball and wait out the assault.  The one thing you can expect is that any bookstore you contact through Facebook in this manner can be crossed off your list.  You will never be taken seriously.  You will never get your book in that store.  Much like agents and editors, a bookseller is swamped by requests on a daily basis.  The crap will be sifted and tossed aside without a second glance.  Take your queries to booksellers every bit as serious as you do to agents and editors.

The Bookstore #8, Publish What?

The latest in the ongoing series of The Bookstore is one that booksellers everywhere will relate to.  With the advent and ease of print-on-demand publishing, bookstores are hit repeatedly by that customer who want to have their book displayed in the store.  These customers are not only persistent, they refuse to understand why booksellers don’t want to stock their title(s).  Usually it has quite a lot more to do with the lack of editing and skill in the work than it does that the majority of these titles are deemed un-returnable, should they not sell in-store.  So, they’re stuck with a crap book with a crap cover that no one will buy for a dollar.  But worse than that customer is the one who has come to believe that booksellers–because they are so entrenched in the industry–have lead-ins to publishers that may be exploited at a moment’s desire.  And that’s where we find Eddie today.  Face to face with a customer who believes himself to be a writer, and is determined to make use of Eddie’s contacts and/or complete and utter understanding of what publishers want.

The Bookstore, Episode 6

Here’s the latest in The Bookstore series. This one is called French Stuff is Hot, and is a step further in the evolution of the characters. I’m just happy that Stacy isn’t bashing Anointed. I don’t know what I’d do if she didn’t like it.  Kill her I suppose, but even for a God that’s a pretty harsh reaction.  Anyway, and stuff, Jericho doesn’t know French.  He just knows it’s pretty hot.