Borders Closing and Tips from an Agent

If you haven’t heard, Borders will be liquidating and closing all its stores.  The filed for bankruptcy earlier this year and after no bids (…or bailouts *cough* *cough*) they are going under.

This is TERRIBLE, and let me tell you why:
Borders was the 2nd largest book retailer in the U.S. and has left Barnes and Noble with an overwhelming monopoly.  I’ve never been as big a fan of B&N.  They have more limited seating in coffee areas, and their coffee is more expensive.  (At Borders, I earned free coffees too!) Depending on the store, I have also found they often have a more limited selection of certain genres (Their graphic novel section is pathetic–just one skinny bookshelf).  And now the purchasers of books at B&N will control what titles you see on shelves.  You can’t go to another store to see if there is a different selection of books.
This is going to take a huge hit on the publishing industry.  All of a sudden there are 400 stores not selling books.  There are 400 stores not promoting books.  There are 400 fewer stores to do book events and signings.  This is going to HURT.  I don’t even know what the implications could be in the next few years.
There will be 11,000 people losing their jobs.  This is also 11,000 people whose job it was to read books and recommend books.  We are losing a big chunk of the population who promoted book sales.
And while this could be very good business for Barnes and Noble, it could very well be the beginning of their death as well.  People could become frustrated by the lack of availability of books in stores and turn to eBooks and online more so than ever before.  If people see this as the direction things are going anyway, then why fight it anymore.  Borders closing may be the push people needed in hopping on the eBook bandwagon.
The whole thing frustrates me.  I love my Kindle too, but I don’t want to see brick and mortar bookstores disappear.  I still make an effort to buy books in stores, especially my favorites, or books as gifts, or books for my classroom.
If bookstores are going to survive, they are going to have to take a new approach.  If I were in charge of revamping the bookstore industry, here’s what I would do:

-Hire event planners.
-Hold events and workshops. 
(Some free, some not.  I have a plan of attack ideas there, too.)
-Plan events and workshops that pair well with books.
-Sell those books.

Get people back in the stores by doing things that online or eBooks CAN’T DO.  Socialize, food and drink, hands-on opportunities.

If anyone would like to hire me to plan book related events, I am willing and able.  I could plan book events that would rock the industry’s world.
Speaking of the book industry, literary agent Quinlan Lee came to speak to our grad program on Monday night.  Here’s some of what she shared with us:
What an Agent Does:
  1. Support our clients
  2. Help manage your career
  3. Negotiate your rights
  4. Be your advocate
She spoke about how her job is much like that of a real estate agent.  People are hunting for the perfect house.  Publishers are hunting for the perfect book.  People have spent years building, remodeling, living in, and loving their home.  Writers have spent years writing, revising and loving their manuscript.  A real estate agent knows the housing market and matched buyers up with sellers based on what each is looking for.  A literary agent does the same thing.  They know the publishing industry and match up publishers and writers based on what they are looking for.
An agent also makes sure that you are treated fairly by publishers and plays bad cop when necessary.  You want your publisher/editor to love you.  So let the agent do the fighting dirty work for you so that a publisher still wants to buy your books and work with you in the future.
She advised to have confidence because editors need you.  They need people to write great stories.
Her tip for a dream manuscript is the 5 page rule.  You have to make the reader want to know what is going to happen next in the first five pages.  Hooking them in the first page is even better.
What they are looking for in a manuscript:
  • it’s timeless
  • award winner potential
  • timely
  • action driven
  • suspenseful
  • high concept
  • fun
  • page turning
  • thought provoking
  • fresh theme
She also said all the publishers are asking for “Boy Middle Grade.”  Funny, action-packed, pre-teen books.  (Like Wimpy Kid, Percy Jackson, Capt. Underpants)
Overall, I thought she was very encouraging and realistic.
Time to get writing!

One comment on “Borders Closing and Tips from an Agent

  1. Ghost Reader says:

    I totally agree with you on Borders going under. That is a MAJOR bummer. I do love the physical aspect of not only books, but bookstores as well…However, I would like to point a few things out: 1) I don't think we even had a Borders in Birmingham BEFORE they filed for bankruptcy… But we do have Barens and Nobel (which I know you have issues with as stated above) and Books-A-Million, as well as 2nd and Charles (which is I think owned by BAM but is like a gigantic paperback exchange that is just beyond awesome).AND 2) You need to come to MY Barnes and Nobel, we have a very nice graphic novel collection 😉 BUT I do want to make it clear that the closing of any bookstore is a tragedy…

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