Thursday, June 21, 2007
I hear Andy Griffiths, much beloved by naughty children around the world, thoroughly entertained booksellers at their dinner at the ABA conference. Having asked them to vote on whether they’d prefer to be a pimple or a boil (I hear it was boils by a nose), he thought they were ready for the kind of ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’-style story seen in his inimitable children’s books. ‘You spot a desperate-looking customer in your self-help section,’ suggested Griffiths. ‘You go up to them and ask if you can help. They start crying and say, “My life is falling apart, I’ve lost my job, my spouse has left me, all my friends hate me, I find it hard to make even the simplest of decisions and I can’t stop eating, drinking, smoking, gambling and loving too much…and somebody keeps moving my [expletive deleted] cheese … can you help me?”’ Those booksellers who chose to recommend professional help to their forlorn customer were dismayed to discover they had made ‘the last in a long line of terrible bookselling decisions.’ Griffiths continued: ‘It is the last straw for your business. Your store goes bankrupt. Your spouse leaves you (even if you don’t have spouse), all your friends start hating you, you find it difficult to make even the simplest of decisions and you can’t stop eating, drinking, smoking, gambling, loving too much and you catch the [further expletive] who keeps moving your cheese and you strangle them to death with a stale cheese stringer. You are caught with the blood-soaked cheese-stringer in your hand, and then charged and sentenced to be hung by the neck until you are dead. You are hung by the neck until you are dead. YOU DIE.’ The majority of diners (perhaps wisely) chose the alternative option: to steer the customer out of the self-help section and give them a copy of Griffiths’ own Zombie Bums from Uranus. Right answer! ‘All they really needed was a good laugh to get everything back into perspective … They come back and buy the entire Andy Griffiths backlist and, furthermore, are so impressed by your ability to put such a great book into their hands with such a vague description that they give you the maximum five-star rating on their very popular RATEYOURLOCALBOOKSELLER.COM website and your business explodes. You have to open a second store to cope with demand, and then a third and a fourth and then countless more until soon you win the Bookseller of the Year award and then find yourself spending your days on board your private yacht drinking martinis and actually reading books instead of selling them. Unfortunately, your yacht hits a reef and you capsize in the middle of the ocean. You cling to the hull of the boat, surrounded by circling sharks which you only manage to keep at bay by hitting them on the head with a soggy copy of The Secret until one day you look up and there’s a helicopter and it airlifts you to safety and your amazing story becomes the subject of a worldwide bidding war and eventually becomes a world wide best-selling book, making you a worldwide bestselling author …You buy a new yacht …and resume your life of leisure.’ Given Griffiths’ winning gifts for both mirth and self-promotion, I’m sure readers will look forward to the publication of his new book, Just Shocking!, in October.
I received a flyer across my desk the other day which offered to explain ‘Why Every Publisher Needs a DAD.’ Of course they do, I thought, goes without saying, even in this digital age. The flyer then went on to explain that some publishers might want more than one DAD. I should have known it wouldn’t be so simple. A DAD isn’t someone you build go-karts with (à la Dangerous Book for Boys) or give birthday socks to with impunity, but rather a Digital Asset Distributor. Illuminatingly, the flyer explained that there was no consensus on what a DAD actually did, but it was something to do with doing what book distributors do now. Now you know. I put the flyer down when it got to the stage of asking whether publishers should become DADs themselves. Not a role I have to worry about. I shall stick to my knitting.
I hear Irishman John Mc Namee of the European Booksellers Federation enjoyed his visit to the Australian Booksellers Association conference. Having scared everyone with prophesies of store closures in the digital future, John admitted there was an area of modern bookselling which he just didn’t understand: manga comics. Fortunately, Diamond Book Distributors’ beatnik-coiffed Scott Hatfill came to his rescue by running a ‘Manga for dummies’ session at the conference. ‘Now I understand why I didn’t get manga,’ Mc Namee was heard to admit afterwards, ‘I was always reading the books from the wrong end!’
I’ve always maintained that the best way to generate goodwill at the ABA conference is to put money behind the bar. This year the good people at Disney did the right thing. I hear any misgivings about accepting free drinks from a Mickey Mouse organisation were soon dispelled.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Talking of circling sharks, it has come to my attention that one of South Australia's leading booksellers—Bruce Macky of Dymocks Adelaide—is getting off the gym treadmill and heading for the open seas. He is off later this month for a year-long clipper race around the world (either business is very good, or diabolically bad!). His yacht will be armed with a global positioning system, so reps who want to try every last thing to boost those Christmas orders can locate him successfully. Bon voyage, Bruce.