Yes, Maggie, you were right

I slithered in to Partners & Crime one evening intent on catching up with some criminally minded authors and while I was hanging about I read the shelf talkers. (Shelf talkers are the little cards that 'talk' about the book. Mostly hand written, mostly by store employees, mostly in indie stores.).

I came across Michael Gruber's Tropic of Night. "It went from 'New in Store' to 'Best Reads of the Year'," said the shelf talker. I didn't require more persuasion than that. I bought it. The Maggies were right. It's an amazingly good book. I'm falling all over myself to read more from this guy.

I read a lot of books in a given year. You can see that from the list on the right, and clicking on my Library Thing listing. I think it's up to 40+ now and this is June. I buy MAYBE one in ten of those titles. I use the library, and publishers send me stuff. I pried open my wallet for Tropic of Night, and was glad I did.

What does this mean for you?

Check out the shelf talkers. Read the books bookstore people think are really good. Indie bookstore folks tend to read widely and know a lot about good writing, and about what kind of good writing actually sells books. I'm not suggesting you write "for the market" but I am suggesting reading the books recommended by people who actually sell them is a pretty good idea. I'm glad I followed by own advice on this one for sure!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update on the lingo -- "shelf-talkers." If I hadn't read your blog, I might have referred to them as "the recommendation cards that bookstore employees write," in a conversation with my editor. And then how everyone would have mocked me: "Don't you know the proper term used by NY agents?"

In all seriousness, what a laughable blog. I was referred to it by a fellow writer; I'd hoped it might be a good resource for my students. You're clearly not a high roller in the publishing industry if you spend your days producing these lengthy, sophomoric, poorly written screeds. I haven't found any substantive advice for new writers, beyond the elementary principles of sending a decent query, including a SASE, etc.

What I've found really cringe-worthy are the repeated references to your own sophistication, expertise, etc. You sound like a thousand other wannabes, newly arrived to an urban area, who haven't quite made it and can't figure out why. No, constantly referencing the fact that you live in NY (or read the New Yorker) doesn't impress people -- it makes you sound pathetic.

Try putting some of this energy into developing a career. Or some minimal writing skills.

LauraT said...

annon... don't be silly. I have to do this every now and then. Would other editors and agents have links to Miss Snark's blog, mention her often, and even often quote her directly... all in good ways, if she were, let's say... me? (someone who is cleary not a high roller in the publishing industry)

Elektra said...

I'm just about to finish Amulet of Samarkand (no thanks to Books A Million--they couldn't even order it into their store)--you're right, it's wonderful

Anonymous said...

Hi Anonymous #1 - trying to show off that sense of humour you acquired after removing the stick from your bum?

Rather than "trolling" Miss Snark, why don't you go troll the snarkives a bit before you pass judgement; they contain a wealth of information for new writers. Miss Snark's blog wouldn't be this popular if there wasn't some meat to it.

Aaaand you're clearly not a high roller in the publishing industry either, and have gone some distance toward making yourself sound pathetic here, so perhaps you should lay off Miss Snark a bit? She did recommend that you spend some time getting over yourself; I would suggest that not only was this very good advice, but that you clearly haven't spent enough time at it yet.

Anonymous said...

Oh my god. Is this person serious? What's the purpose of this comment? I realize this idgit has students, but did Miss Snark, or the rest of us, sign up for his/her tutorial? Does s/he refund?

What's that (awful) quote? "Those who can't do, teach?" I think it's unfair to most teachers, but the sour lemons out there who (miserably) join the teaching ranks really make this statement resonate.

Miss Snark a wannabe,"newly arrived" is a joke. Maybe this idgit should quit teaching and become a comedian.

archer said...

You people out in Omaha may be getting our DHS grants but you'd better not diss Miss Snark.

Bernita said...

I finally understand the value of a FOAD.

Jean Bauhaus said...

It always cracks me up when people who clearly have nothing better to do than troll blogs and post insults criticize others for having nothing better to do than writing blog (or forum) entries that they don't like. The pot should examine his own eye before casting stones in glass houses. Or something like that.

Heh. Word varification: "syenv" = Snark/Yap envy?

Anonymous said...

The Book Soup on Sunset Blvd. (in West Hollywood) has excellent shelf-talkers. I love that phrase, sounds all mystical or Dahl-ish.

I have to disagree with anonymous le premiere. I won't dispute each point. Basically everything s/he said, I think the opposite.

Pepper Smith said...

There, anon #1, did that make you feel better? It's amazing how slamming someone else makes you feel so much bigger, isn't it? It's also amazing how full of themselves some people are.

Anonymous said...

So Anon- writing lengthy blog posts is pathetic- but writing lengthy comments (anon of course-coward)on a blog that isn't even yours, is what exactly? Be sure to use small words for simple folk like me. I clearly lack sophistication to hang with people like yourself. I'll do my best not to cry myself to sleep over it.

As to the post- Shelf talkers- I read them all the time. My local store actually encourages patrons to write their own.

Anonymous said...

Gruber is AMAZING!

Google told me that he used to be Robert K. Tannenbaum's ghost writer or writing partner (depending on who is telling the story...), back when the Butch Karp/Marlene Chiampi series was sharp and glorious and I waited for a new one with impatient foot stampings.

When the series becamse unreadably bad and Marlene stopped being Marlene, I googled around and discovered Gruber was no longer affiliated with the series. He'd packed up his many bags of talent and moved on. I moved with him.

Emma Ray Garrett said...

I LOVE this f***ing book! "Valley of Bones" is just as fantastic. There is something about Gruber's style that sucks readers in and won't let go.

And I'm not the gushing type, but this guy is on my auto-buy list.

Another book I thoroughly enjoyed is Jeff Lindsay's "Darkly Dreaming Dexter". It's delightfully demented, LOL.

Emma Ray Garrett said...

ROFL, um, good think I was responding to the acutal post. I didn't even read the other comments.

Anonymous said...

Responding to Anonymous 1--you obviously missed the crap-o-meter. It's got substantive feedback on queries and synopses.

As for recent posts, I disagree that they are sophomoric and without value. I think recommending good books to read is invaluable--writers need to read first. The more good/great books we read, the better our own writing. And posting some laughs about the mundane query insanity every writer faces also helps us keep things in perspective.

Gavrielle said...

This is an enjoyably timely entry given the recent shock horror scandal over publishers paying for shelf talkers in the UK. Miss Snark is of course referring to indies, who can only dream of being bribed by publishers, but still - caveat lector, or something.

Anonymous said...

Tropic of Night -- yes! I checked it out of the library, but as soon as I'd finished it I bought a copy of my own. It's a keeper, and Gruber is now on my "auto-buy list," too.