Brick and Mortar versus the Electronic Age


Brick and Mortar versus the Electronic Age

Natalie Bright

 

I wandered into a used bookstore one evening. The atmosphere, sights, and smells were everything you’d expect—glorious. The owner obviously loved his books and had an impressive inventory. He mentioned that he had over 1,000 more books in the back waiting to be shelved. I shook his hand and handed him a few of my bookmarks. While digging in my purse to find a business card, I had meant to say, “My picture book series about rescue animals are eBooks now, but I will have print books sometime this year. Do you host events for authors?”

I never got past the word “eBooks” because he interrupted me with an emotional rant. “I can’t do anything with an eBook. How do I put an eBook in my store? Don’t you love books? I love books. My customers love books. They want something they can hold them in their hands…” and on it went.

My reply was less than professional because I didn’t really think it through. I said, “I want my bookmarks back,” and then I grabbed them and he held tighter and we had a little tug-o-war with a few people staring, wide eyed and aghast. He said, “They’re mine. I’m not giving them back.” It all ended with a few laughs, hugs because this is Texas after all, and then he showed me the Texana section.

Honestly, I am a professional book hoarder. We added a wall of shelves when we moved specifically to hold my dad’s Time Life Series collection. My uncle tells me that he’s leaving me his book collection someday, and I will gladly make space. My heart flutters with joy when I see a pile of used books; stained pages and tattered covers just waiting to be rediscovered. I will never stop buying print books.

Unfortunately, not all the world is as devoted as the bookstore owner and I. The revelation struck me about five years ago. My part-time office help was complaining about her mother who kept insisting she read a Nicholas Spark book. This straight A student confronted mountains of text books and she didn’t want anything else added to her reading list. So her mother said, “Take my eReader. You’ll really love this story.”

My office helper did in fact love the story, and got an eReader of her own. She became a voracious reader, consuming three to four literary novels a week. We had wonderful talks about authors and their stories. There was me lugging my precious book club hardbacks around, stacking them on the floor around my house and office. There was her on the other hand, with her snazzy eReader in a decorative cover, slipping it in a backpack and taking hundreds of books with her wherever she went.

My teenagers have learned to love books because they’re surrounded at home, but their friends tell me they “don’t like books”. Those same kids are ‘reading’ and sharing tons of memes, blogs, poems, clever bits of prose. As writers, we understand words are words, and that someone wrote those words no matter the form. Perhaps a new generation is discovering the joys of reading but on their own terms.

The Future is Now

Way back in 2010, as an Indi Author, I lugged cases of books to events, visited bookstores, and mailed flyers to school librarians trying to get my name out there. In 2016 I launched a new photo-illustrated picture book series about rescue animals, only to have a lot of mom’s tell me, “We want a print version, too.” With limited funds, I’m learning a new software program so that I can duplicate the stories in a format that will be acceptable. Then there’s the money I’ll need to print a high-quality colored book, which I will worry about later. For now, I just want to learn the software.

Apparently, people still love holding picture books, but families are more mobile, too. They live in efficiency apartments or neat homes where they don’t want the clutter of books. The business of books and publishing is topsy-turvy, frustrating, ulcer inducing, and the worst migraine headache you can imagine. The good news about being a writer today is that there is a world out there needing original, quality content.

A World Full of Readers

I truly believe that more people are ‘reading’ now than ever before. Their focus is on a screen.

My eReader is bursting and yet I’ll probably buy two more .99 cent special promotion books before the day is done. I will do everything I can to support brick and mortar stores, too. I will tirelessly volunteer and attend events at libraries because there is no better place to introduce kids to the joys of reading. I will promote other authors and their books. But, I’m not giving up my electronic reader. There is no going back.

The only way is forward.

 

Now is as Good a Time as Any: Writing Your Family


Now is as Good a Time as Any: Writing Your Family

Natalie Bright

I spoke at my hometown library this last week. The Dimmitt Book Club meets at the Rhoades Memorial Library every month. We talked about the changing tide of books for writers and readers, and hopefully, inspired a few people to write their family. I heard several wonderful stories about the people from my hometown.

After a show of hands, about three indicated that they owned eReaders. (As I shared with the group, the two things that sold me on an eReader is that I can make the words bigger and I can read in the dark while my hubby sleeps.)

According to a recent Pew Research Center stats, half of American adults either own a tablet or an e-Reader. In 2014, 12 million devices were sold. It’s no surprise that Amazon Kindle has the largest share of the market, with 75% of all eBooks sold in the US. Other countries are close behind the eBook craze with markets opening up in India, Germany, Indonesia, and Brazil.

For people who love stories, like Book Clubs, this is an amazing time for readers. Original material is in high demand, which makes this an amazing time for writers as well. The irony of our time is that while eBooks continue to gain a solid hold, it’s never been easier for anyone to create a book for print.

Family Stories

Many of you have thought about writing the stories you heard from your childhood, or putting your family genealogy research to paper. I think today, more and more people are interested in family stories and the history of their communities. Family historians and genealogist can bring community and family members to life through the written word, and reveal them as real flesh and blood souls. With the ease of self-publishing options, you can write it and have something in hand you’d be proud to hand out at the next family reunion (or sell it to your cousins to cover your costs).

A Million Ways

Whatever you think a family memoir or collection of stories might be, forget those preconceived notions. Through the ease of self-publishing options, you can create whatever you want. I shared several of my favorite examples of family memoirs and personal reflections that have been turned into published works. I’ve listed them below:

PATCHWORK PRINCIPLES by Jerry and Martha McClenagan. A heartwarming collection of life lessons featuring original quilt designs hand made by Martha. (Infinity Publishing)

TEN SISTERS by Doris Wenzel. Unique POV from ten sisters who each wrote a chapter about the day they were taken from their mother and adopted out to different families. (Mayhaven Press)

TAKE TWO & BUTTER ‘EM WHILE THEY’RE HOT, by Barbara Sewell. Heirloom Recipes & Kitchen wisdom from her grandmother. “If you want some hot bread and free advice, step into my grandmother’s kitchen.” I love this collection of recipes and wisdom.

             GROWING UP IN THE BRADFORD OIL FIELDS by Jim Messer. (Xlibris) Written for his children, Mr. Messer reflects on memories growing up with a father who was an oil field shooter. A fascinating look at how they stored, transported, and ignited nitroglycerin during the completion process of fracing wells in the 1930s.

             A WOMAN TENDERFOOT by Grace Gallatin Seton Thompson. Published in 1900, this Rocky Mountain adventure is written by a Victorian woman who did the unthinkable: she accompanied her husband into the wilderness of U.S. and Canada. What I wouldn’t give to have some of this detail about clothing, food prep, adventure, and life from my own grandmother.

             LETTERS FOR COACH by Libby Cleveland. Author Coop Action Printing, Lubbock Texas. A collection of letters from players to their favorite coach.

SO GREAT A HERITAGE by Kathie Jackson. A collection of letters by her father who was an army Chaplain. She sprinkled this book with details of the war in between letters to home.

OIL PEOPLE by Natalie Bright. Nonfiction targeted to upper middle grades about the varied workforce used in the discovery, production and refining of oil. Lists the many products we use every day. Self-published 2010 based on my husband’s work as a petroleum geologist, and now available on Amazon as an eBook.

           “A Cowboy’s Christmas Blessing” WEST TEXAS CHRISTMAS STORIES. Based on an old ranch hand on a college friend’s ranch, I wrote the story as an exercise for a writing class, and years later it was selected for this anthology published by TCU Press. Never delete those story ideas. You never where they might find a home in the future. This great collection contains both fiction and nonfiction about West Texas.

Writer’s Secrets for Non-Writers: You CAN do This!

  • Your writing is not going to win a Pulitzer Prize. If you’ve ever wanted to record your family history, write it down now. It’s not going to be perfect the first time. Writers call it the vomit draft.
  • On the next pass through your work, narrow the focus: smells, sounds, fear, taste, grit on your face. Add the details that brings the reader into your story.
  • Write to one person in particular. Don’t worry about who will be reading your work. Just write.
  • I’m not talking about literary writing. Write in a Conversational tone. Don’t worry about grammar or complete sentences. Just write. You can go back and fix it later. You can’t fix a blank page.
  • Read your story out loud. Every author I know does this final step before submitting their work for publication. This helps you find awkward sentences, typos, and determine the flow of your story. Again, it’s not a literary piece. It’s you telling a family story.
  • Have someone else read your work for an honest critique.

Libraries of Tomorrow

The library in my hometown continues to thrive. I used to spend every Saturday there while my mother did the weeks laundry around the corner. I’m glad to know that the folks in Dimmitt continue to use the facility.

In addition to several groups using the meeting room and a Tuesday reading program for children, the Dimmitt library features a lighted glass case of collections from local patrons. This month were porcelain tea pots from England. The previous month featured Elvis memorabilia. Librarians are thinking outside the box to keep their facilities vibrant even in today’s eBook revolution.

Now, Take a Deep Breath. Whether you’re a multi-published author or first-time writer, be open to the possibilities of your creation and WRITE. Don’t forget to schedule a talk at your hometown library after you get that book finished.