The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: a memoir, a history
by Lewis Buzbee
Published by Graywolf Press
Where to Purchase
(oh, so much more than just a list of links!)
This also is so much more than just a review or a recommendation of a book and why I am posting about it here on my main blog first before reblogging on Reading Recommendations. If you are an author or have worked in any aspect of the book business, you will want to read this book for a better understanding of how books have generally been sold (both to bookstores and through them) over past decades. It will also give you a concise history of the book trade in general – something I’ve railed on about for years! If you want to write and publish a book and then sell copies to readers, you need to know something about the business in order to be successful.
Recommended Books on the Publishing Business and Book Sales
The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More by Chris Anderson (Hyperion, 2008)
The Perilous Trade: Book Publishing in Canada 1946-2006 by Roy MacSkimming (McClelland & Stewart, 2007)
The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: A Memoir, A History by Lewis Buzbee (Graywolf Press, 2006)
These reasons alone should be enough to read Lewis Buzbee’s book.
But, in case you need more …
Those of you who have read my bio know that before I began writing and publishing my own books, I spent my entire working life in and around selling books written by other authors and published by traditional publishers. I was a bookseller in Calgary (and even ran my own mail order book business for the few years I lived in Elkford, BC). Then I became a publishers’ sales rep for an agency that sold books for more than 30 Canadian-based publishers. Some of those publishers in turn were agents for US and UK-based publishers. That was from 1989-1994 and my territory was Southern Alberta and Southern Saskatchewan. I left that job to move to the Caribbean. In 2008, I was asked to come back and cover the territory of Alberta for the same agency. Among the books left in storage when I took over this job was Lewis’s. (It had been published in 2006 by Graywolf Press, St. Paul, MN, which was distributed at that time by Vancouver-based Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.) I kept the copy, mainly because it’s a beautiful paperback edition with an attractive cover, the US publisher had always published excellent literature, and the topic – a memoir about the book trade and books – was something that was of immense interest to me. I set the book aside and didn’t get around to actually reading it until after I’d quit my job as a sales rep, for the second time. I was still in the book business, but by that time I worked directly with other authors, concentrating on promoting rather than selling their books.
This book was a personal read for me, because as it turned out, Lewis’s experiences, both as a bookseller and as a sales rep, corresponded and intersected with my own. Lewis never mentions the publisher he represented, but at one point in the book he describes a “heated discussion” he’d had with a bookseller about a particular children’s book – and I realized I had also sold that same book for that particular publisher … and I still have the book in my collection! So it seems we were contemporaries, with Lewis representing in California and me in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
I brought my copy of The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop with me to Bequia in October and reread the book a few weeks ago. After that, I contacted with Lewis through social media and told him I would be writing this review. Aside from the professional connection I had with Lewis, I was reminded of how well-written the book is, and how important a book it is for any and all authors to read. I had previously included the title on lists of recommended reading I’d created for authors so they could learn more about the business. Now I’m even more adamant that you seek out and read this book. Here’s the main reason …
When I was a rep and had the opportunity to introduce myself to authors I was representing, they often said, “I didn’t know I had a sales rep.” I always wanted to reply, “How do you think your book has made it onto the shelves of bookstores and libraries?” The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop explains just that, and more. Finally! Sales reps like me had validation after long being the unsung heroes and heroines of the book business! Okay, maybe I’m getting a little carried away here, but you get the picture. Plus, as being in the business of repping has done for me, with this industry knowledge perhaps you’ll also be able to think of new ways to promote and sell your own books and those of other authors as we lose more and more of the traditional brick and mortar bookstores, and publishers’ sales reps go the way of the dinosaurs.
Aside from the personal aspects of this book, I also enjoyed reading it, twice, because it was so well written and interesting. It will appeal to readers in general and, like me, you’ll likely be checking out and reading the other books Lewis Buzbee has written. Here’s a link to his website. Besides, first and foremost, Lewis is a READER and The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop is filled with titles and authors’ names and the complete lifelong delight in reading good books. You’ll find yourself making lists.
Thanks, Lewis, for writing such an important book! (And did you also sell Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine series?)