How Did That Signed Book Get Into My Local Bookstore?

An entertaining YouTube video shows a breathless girl who happened to find a signed John Green book on a bookstore remainder table (in 2008, so don’t hold your breath). Did John Green stroll into this bookstore to sign that book, she wondered?

I work for a bookstore, and this can happen after an author has a signing at a bookstore, when the author will sign a few extra copies at the end of their event to stay in the store’s stock. If the signed extra copies don’t sell over the next few months (because it’s his first novel, and nobody realizes this random author is going to turn into THE John Green), the bookstore returns the books back to their distributor (aka wholesaler) for credit. Those books sit at the book distributor’s warehouse until the next bookstore orders them. Looking for Alaska HC 1st ed

If that doesn’t happen, the book distributor will eventually return the unsold books back up the chain to the publisher.

Publishers periodically clear their shelves of old stock, selling batches of outdated, overstocked editions to bookstores. Bookstores buy these “obsolete” editions for pennies on the dollar and price them accordingly for their remainder tables. (Often these will be hardcover copies, shortly after the paperback has been released and the buying public wants the cheaper paperback edition.)

That why you’ll sometimes see a hardcover for $7.98 on a bookstore sale table, shortly after the $15 paperback edition has been released; the publisher sold off the old hardcovers to bookstores at a discount. If those hardcover copies happened to be sent back to the publisher from an author signing in another bookstore, far far away, they may eventually end up on a bookstore remainder table near you.

And that’s how, with a combination of persistence and luck, you may find a legitimately signed copy on your local bookstore’s remainder tables. If you do, congratulations, and may you squeal with joy like YouTube’s lunalovegoodismyhero.


Amazon hides “all reviewers” has changed how shoppers see product reviews written by other customers. It now shows “verified purchase only” reviews written by customers who bought their item directly from Amazon. Reviews from “all reviewers,” on the other hand, are now visible only if you can navigate to a page that lets you sort and filter reviews.

The new policy is Amazon’s attempt to shut down the paid “review mills” that churn out boilerplate 5-star reviews. But the policy also affects long-time reviewers such as myself; I still want my reviews to be visible on Amazon — because everybody relies on Amazon’s reviews — even when I didn’t send my local dollars away to an online vendor.

Amazon is also limiting customers to 5 reviews a week for items purchased elsewhere. The new restrictions will no doubt reduce the number of fake reviews, but they also benefit Amazon by prioritizing purchases made directly from their website, and hiding all the thoughtful, detailed, honest reviews from people who just want to share their experience of the same product purchased elsewhere.

To display the hidden reviews, start at a product’s main page. Click the number that follows the “star” rating;  on the next display page, click that number again, then under “Filter by,” click “All reviewers.” See what I mean about “hidden” reviews?


And, oddly, the review limitation doesn’t apply to books, music, or video, or reviews from Amazon’s own Vine reviewer program, wherein merchants send free products to a select group of reviewers, but under Amazon’s control.

More info from Geekwire here:

Malcolm Cowley – “ernest”


Go forth and do what you must do!

Dry Season - ernest panorama
“Ernest” by Malcolm Cowley, from “The Dry Season”



Safe is the man with blunderbuss
who stalks the hippopotamus
on Niger’s bank or scours the veldt
to rape the lion of its pelt;

but deep in peril he who sits
at home to rack his lonely wits
and there do battle , grim and blind,
against the jackals of the mind.

Haruki Murakami as Koan

What I’ve found is that people like their first Murakami novel the best. It’s the entry into the Zenderland of the Murakami mind. Strange and sometimes violent things happen in these worlds, and, like a more-benevolent Philip K. Dick novel, afterwards we jump on the floor a little to see if the world is just a big trampoline.

My sister Sandra wouldn’t read Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility because there are only six Jane Austen novels, and she didn’t want to be finished. I nagged her so much about the dire possibility that she could die without ever having read Sense and Sensibility that she finally broke down and finished the Austen oeuvre. But this must run in the family — both the book stinginess, and the sense that we will never die — because even though I’m superstitious to the point that I vote in the mornings before work so my vote will count if I get hit by a bus, I’ve managed to successfully ration my Murakamis to about one a year, as if I will never die, because he’s a mind trip, and I need to continue to hit that reset button periodically.

So, you could start with the biggie, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. This is the book that brought Murakami to the notice of English language readers in 1998. (I don’t read Japanese and probably you don’t either, so these are all English publication dates.) It’s said that Murakami, who at the time owned an American-music jazz nightclub in Tokyo, had the revelation that, if one was allowed to do this with fiction, he would be a writer. This novel follows a contemporary young Japanese man whose wife has disappeared. If you liked “Twin Peaks” or “Lost,” you’ll feel at home in this world.


Or, my favorite, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1985), a mystical novel concerning a young man embroiled with a mysterious woman and her strange son, which inexplicably alternates with chapters set in a rustic island community straight out of the local Renaissance Faire. This book is like a koan, one of those Zen questions that make no sense until you get it, but when you finally do, there’s a sense of seeing with almost too much clarity into human sorrow and exquisite beauty.

Murakami himself was influenced by the English detective novels he read as a boy in Kobo, Japan — detective stylists like Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald — going on to read Vonnegut, Kafka, and Brautigan. He said once that his goal would be to have elements of both Dostoevsky and Chandler in his books, and he achieves this to a degree in most of his work.

Just don’t start with 1Q84. While I’ve met a woman who read this one first and couldn’t wait to continue, I found that one, which was released in Japan as a trilogy, too bloated to have the effect of even the short, Brautigan-like A Wild Sheep Chase (1989). And unless you want to read Murakami’s challenge to himself to write a “realistic” novel, don’t start with Norwegian Wood (2000) either – that was the only book of his that I was relieved to finish.

Murakami WILD SHEEP CHASE Murakami 1Q84 Murakami NORWEGIAN WOOD

One of my friends started with Kafka on the Shore, and despite reading others, this plunge into the deep end of the Murakami pool remains her own personal favorite. So here’s what you do. Go into a larger independent bookstore, and do like my friend did. Read the back covers of the books and see which keywords grab you. One of them will sound irresistible. Start there.


When you put down a Murakami book, either in the middle somewhere for a break, or at the end while waiting for the full effect to wash back over you like a sleeper wave, or shake you like an aftershock even bigger than the original earthquake, the leaves on the tree will look distinct. You’ll be looking into alley-ends for ladders, and for magical manhole covers. Life will look both more serious and ridiculously collapsed into something bigger. Put on a Tom Waits album and have a cup of tea. You may get used to it, but you’ll never get over it.

{“I’m entering Book Riot’s START HERE, Vol. 2 Write-In Giveaway”}

Should I pay for the distributor package for my self-published book?

Question posted to a LinkedIn forum:

My publisher is trying to convince me to go with a distributor package to sell my self published book – through Baker & Taylor and Ingram; is this a smart move? I am not doing any marketing now.

My reply, posted January 19, 2012:

Yes, with a couple of important caveats. I’m the Consignment Buyer for an independent bookstore with six stores (I’m the Consignment / Local Author contact at two of those stores).

Consignments are tedious, time consuming, and 95% of them are not profitable for us (I would love tips on how to make consignments profitable), so we take them only from local authors as a community service. For other titles, we order only from our established accounts. Using the big distributors fits your book easily into our existing, automated ordering, return, and payment processes. (We also happen to order from Partners West, a regional distributor.)

If Ingram or B&T carry your book, we can order a copy or two from them, and then return them 6 months down the road if they haven’t sold. BUT your publisher may not tell you that WE DO NOT “BACKORDER” FROM B&T, which is how most self-published books are available from B&T. “Backorder” is NOT the same distribution that established publishers get with B&T, so it won’t make it any easier for an indie to take a chance on your book if that’s the only way we can get it from them.

And, if you go with Ingram, make sure the books are “returnable,” which I believe costs you a couple hundred dollars more. If your books are available through the print-on-demand service from Ingram Tennessee but are not returnable, we wouldn’t carry the title in our open store stock, because we can’t return the title for credit if it doesn’t sell. We’ll order non-returnable Ingram Tennessee POD books on request for specific customers, but we require prepayment, the customer can’t return it if they don’t like it, and it takes a couple of weeks to get it.

You’re going to need to do your own marketing, though. Ingram and B&T are distributors, not marketers. They make your (or your publisher’s) marketing efforts pay off more, but you may still find yourself calling indie bookstores and asking if we can try out your books. Just make sure they’re not B&T “backorder,” and that the bookstore can return them to the distributor for full credit if they don’t sell.