Bookstore Confessions

It was late December. I was in Harvard Square, for some reason (possibly a haircut? I don’t remember) and mulling over an offer from John Joseph Adams to acquire The Spaceship Next Door for his Houghton Mifflin Harcourt imprint.

At the time, I was on the fence about the offer. My ebook sales were doing just fine, and my audio sales were spectacular. I had just had another BookBub promo for Spaceship, and the sequel (The Frequency of Aliens) dropped the same week as the BookBub and was doing quite well. I had every reason to think that not only did HMH need me more than I needed them, but that I maybe didn’t need them at all.

Okay, a little arrogant, but in my defense, arrogance is usually a good quality to have in this industry.

I ended up in the Harvard Coop, which (if you don’t know) is a bookstore of some substance, and started walking around. The ground floor of the Coop, near the Mount Auburn entrance, is basically just tables and tables of new books next to walls full of the same, so there was a lot to look at: stacks and stacks of pretty-looking, uniquely designed and packaged objects. Each book felt like an artisanal creation.

It’s never a good idea to go into a negotiation knowing that you’re going to come out of the other side of it with an agreement, but as I stood in the Coop that Saturday afternoon, I thought, this is what I want.

I was going to say yes.

You know those articles that pop up every few months, in defense of print editions? I’ve been making fun of them for a while. They tend to come in three types:

  • Scientific proof!… that reading an ebook isn’t as something something something as reading a physical book
  • Ebooks are dying!… evidenced by these incomplete numbers mainly charting trade publishers who are already overpricing their ebooks
  • Print books are just better!… because, just because. Usually some sort of tactile argument, along with the news that a distressingly large number of us are smelling our books.

These are annoyingly common, and predictable, and I don’t agree with any of them. At the same time, I agree with what they’re trying to say, because I feel the same way. I just like print better.

Admitting this is a little embarrassing, because I’ve made a living off of selling ebooks and audiobooks, while I’ve only made enough for a cup of coffee off of print. But this is what I’ve learned about myself, in the past several months: I leave more books unfinished if I’m reading them on a Kindle than if I’m reading it in print. I also don’t enjoy shopping for books online nearly as much as I do looking through bookstores for them.

When I stood in the Coop and thought this is what I want, I was thinking of books both as an author and as a consumer.

Last night, a box of books arrived at my door, containing twenty copies of the JJA/HMH edition of The Spaceship Next Door.

I know because it’s pretty isn’t a good foundation for an important business decision, any more than I like the smell of books. At the same time…

They are very pretty.

Starting in September, these pretty little objects will be on sale in bookstores, and then you can have a look for yourself.


Here are my confirmed September appearances, to date, as part of the new release. (Note: you can always keep updated on my latest in appearances, interviews and the like, by visiting my News & Events page.)

September 6th, 7 -9 PM

Pandemonium Books & Games, Cambridge MA

September 7th, 6 – 8 PM

Annie’s Book Stop, Worcester MA

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