The Last Bookstore

LastBookstoreWindow

As our retinas burn in glowing screens and our fingers swipe simulated pages, we often forget that books aren't just media, they're art. Once, book covers grabbed us with their evocative designs, asking us to judge their contents. Formatted text sung its own rhythm. Spines out, the books we've read stared down from our shelves as monuments to the mysteries, adventures, and other worlds we've conquered.

Hundreds of books packed end-to-end in a home library is visually impressive, ten times that number as digital files on a Kindle is not. Sorry.

Though more than half of all books are now purchased online, and digital formats (Kindle, Nook, Kobo) have begun to outsell printed copies, there are still places where paper is king. On a peculiar corner of downtown Los Angeles amidst the chaos of shuffling pedestrians and honking taxis stands The Last Bookstore, a welcome oasis for book-lovers.

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The space has been in operation since 2005 through the dedication of Josh Spencer and offers not only a vast catalogue of new books, but used too as it is one of the last places in LA that still buys used books. So quickly did their inventory overflow the 10,000 sq. ft. location that they had to open an additional 6,000 foot mezzanine level, the Labyrinth Above the Last Bookstore, where there are over 100,000 books for only a dollar each. That staggering figure makes them the largest independent bookstore in California.

Hole

Not only is the bookstore visually stunning with its white column-supported ceiling and cavernous interior, but every wall and walkway sprouts a piece of art celebrating books themselves. Typewriters spitting endless ribbons of typed pages, books formed into living structures, even entire shelves organized solely by color. The Sci-Fi section, blinking lights and tinny radio adorned of course, hides behind a massive vault door reminiscent of being inside a steel submarine. It's like stepping inside 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Words, ironically, just don't do it justice.

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Vault

Just about every night there is a new book signing and Speak Easy: Open Mic Mondays draws undiscovered talent to the stage where authors, poets, and musicians can present their material in a creatively supportive space. Unlike most other bookstores crammed with spine out books to maximize their catalogue, The Last Bookstore faces the majority of their books cover-out. This allows browsers to appreciate a physical book's cover art which is an experience almost entirely missing when reading on an e-reader. Topping all that, the bookstore is equipped with an appended coffee shop and vinyl store. If you ever find yourself in downtown LA, you've got yourself some exploring to do.

With mainstream and independent bookstores closing left and right, the place on the corner of 5th and Spring may truly live up to its name as The Last Bookstore.

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Hemingway on... Not Writing

hemingwayjpg-66e876db9e7211fc In a time when we're all writing hard, battling to bludgeon our drafts into order, remember: sometimes it is important to step out and draw ink away from the well.

In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you have to see, you dull and blunt the instrument you write with. But I would rather have it bent and dulled and know I had to put it on the grindstone again and hammer it into shape and put a whetstone to it, and know that I had something to write about, than to have it bright and shining and nothing to say, or smooth and well oiled in the closet, but unused. - Ernest Hemingway

Lemony Snicket's Pep Talk

I stumbled across this wonderful piece on writing from Lemony Snicket. Perfect for anyone at the beginning, middle or end of writing their book. Or just thinking about giving up entirely. Dear Cohort,

Struggling with your novel? Paralyzed by the fear that it’s nowhere near good enough? Feeling caught in a trap of your own devising? You should probably give up.

For one thing, writing is a dying form. One reads of this every day. Every magazine and newspaper, every hardcover and paperback, every website and most walls near the freeway trumpet the news that nobody reads anymore, and everyone has read these statements and felt their powerful effects. The authors of all those articles and editorials, all those manifestos and essays, all those exclamations and eulogies – what would they say if they knew you were writing something? They would urge you, in bold-faced print, to stop.

Clearly, the future is moving us proudly and zippily away from the written word, so writing a novel is actually interfering with the natural progress of modern society. It is old-fashioned and fuddy-duddy, a relic of a time when people took artistic expression seriously and found solace in a good story told well. We are in the process of disentangling ourselves from that kind of peace of mind, so it is rude for you to hinder the world by insisting on adhering to the beloved paradigms of the past. It is like sitting in a gondola, listening to the water carry you across the water, while everyone else is zooming over you in jetpacks, belching smoke into the sky. Stop it, is what the jet-packers would say to you. Stop it this instant, you in that beautiful craft of intricately-carved wood that is giving you such a pleasant journey.

Besides, there are already plenty of novels. There is no need for a new one. One could devote one’s entire life to reading the work of Henry James, for instance, and never touch another novel by any other author, and never be hungry for anything else, the way one could live on nothing but multivitamin tablets and pureed root vegetables and never find oneself craving wild mushroom soup or linguini with clam sauce or a plain roasted chicken with lemon-zested dandelion greens or strong black coffee or a perfectly ripe peach or chips and salsa or caramel ice cream on top of poppyseed cake or smoked salmon with capers or aged goat cheese or a gin gimlet or some other startling item sprung from the imagination of some unknown cook. In fact, think of the world of literature as an enormous meal, and your novel as some small piddling ingredient – the drawn butter, for example, served next to a large, boiled lobster. Who wants that? If it were brought to the table, surely most people would ask that it be removed post-haste.

Even if you insisted on finishing your novel, what for? Novels sit unpublished, or published but unsold, or sold but unread, or read but unreread, lonely on shelves and in drawers and under the legs of wobbly tables. They are like seashells on the beach. Not enough people marvel over them. They pick them up and put them down. Even your friends and associates will never appreciate your novel the way you want them to. In fact, there are likely just a handful of readers out in the world who are perfect for your book, who will take it to heart and feel its mighty ripples throughout their lives, and you will likely never meet them, at least under the proper circumstances. So who cares? Think of that secret favorite book of yours – not the one you tell people you like best, but that book so good that you refuse to share it with people because they’d never understand it. Perhaps it’s not even a whole book, just a tiny portion that you’ll never forget as long as you live. Nobody knows you feel this way about that tiny portion of literature, so what does it matter? The author of that small bright thing, that treasured whisper deep in your heart, never should have bothered.

Of course, it may well be that you are writing not for some perfect reader someplace, but for yourself, and that is the biggest folly of them all, because it will not work. You will not be happy all of the time. Unlike most things that most people make, your novel will not be perfect. It may well be considerably less than one-fourth perfect, and this will frustrate you and sadden you. This is why you should stop. Most people are not writing novels which is why there is so little frustration and sadness in the world, particularly as we zoom on past the novel in our smoky jet packs soon to be equipped with pureed food. The next time you find yourself in a group of people, stop and think to yourself, probably no one here is writing a novel. This is why everyone is so content, here at this bus stop or in line at the supermarket or standing around this baggage carousel or sitting around in this doctor’s waiting room or in seventh grade or in Johannesburg. Give up your novel, and join the crowd. Think of all the things you could do with your time instead of participating in a noble and storied art form. There are things in your cupboards that likely need to be moved around.

In short, quit. Writing a novel is a tiny candle in a dark, swirling world. It brings light and warmth and hope to the lucky few who, against insufferable odds and despite a juggernaut of irritations, find themselves in the right place to hold it. Blow it out, so our eyes will not be drawn to its power. Extinguish it so we can get some sleep. I plan to quit writing novels myself, sometime in the next hundred years.

– Lemony Snicket

KDP Select - End of Day 2 (Sale Complete)

Last night at midnight, my two day KDP Select experiment came to an end for my book The Success of Suexliegh with much better results than I expected. The second day of the sale was a slower climb up the rankings but saw far more downloads. Overnight it jumped from 17th to 7th place in the Humor section of Amazon (free) which gave it quite a bit of visibility now that it was on the front page next to well known comedy books by Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert. Then it moved to 6th a few hours later.

And finally to #5 where it stuck for the rest of the day while finally breaking into the Top 100 Free.

As a quick overview, it went from 0 free downloads and unranked to 3877 free downloads, #5 ranking in Humor (free) on Amazon, and #81 (no picture) for all Free Books on the Kindle Store. To an unknown author like me that kind of exposure is incredible. There are now almost 4000 people out there with my book whom I hope even 1% of which read, review, blog, or share the book.

Additionally, paid purchases for my short story jumped and when the sale ended it was my best day for purchases ever for the novel. It will take some time before the overall impact of this experiment can be seen, but so far using two out of my five free days through KDP Select has been a huge success and I highly recommend it to authors looking to broaden their exposure for, pun intended, free.

KDP Select - End of Day 1

After setting my book to free on Amazon through KDP Select last night at midnight it has already jumped from no ranking, then to #39 on Humor when I woke up and just a few hours later it went to:

And then a few hours after that to #17:

I'm very curious to see how this KDP experiment goes and will continue to update throughout the final day tomorrow when some of the ads I input on these sites go live:

  • Pixel of Ink
  • Ereader News Today
  • Books On The Knob
  • Freebooksy
  • Bargain eBook Hunter
  • Snickslist
  • Orangeberry Books Tours
  • Free Kindle Fiction
  • Indie Book Of The Day
  • Free Book Dude
  • Digital Book Today
  • Kindle Book Review
  • Awesome Gang
  • Book Goodies
  • Kindle Book Promos

I didn't provide links above because they're all categorized and linked directly to each page's submission form here: Author Marketing Club. The creator of that page deserves a drink.

UPDATE: Just logged in this morning and the book moved up to #9 for all Humor (Free) on Amazon and has been downloaded over 1300 times.

My Book is FREE ON AMAZON!

For the next two days my book, The Success of Suexliegh, will be free on Amazon. This is my first attempt at using KDP Select's five free days to help move a book up the rankings and increase overall exposure. Since midnight last night it has already been downloaded hundreds of times and jumped from relative obscurity up to #42 for all of Humor on Amazon, and from 300,000 up to 1,600 on Free Kindle Books.

If you're at all interested in the story, or helping with this ranking experiment, I would very much appreciate it if you could check out the book. I will also be posting about the outcome in the next few days. Thank you.

Signed Book Giveaway. Anywhere on Earth.

For the month of September, I will be doing a signed book give away for "The Success of Suexliegh". There are ten fresh copies available and I will ship them anywhere in the world. If you're interested in a free copy of my book, please check out the details below or go to goodreads.com.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Success of Suexliegh by Zack Keller

The Success of Suexliegh

by Zack Keller

Giveaway ends October 01, 2012.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

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