Our book, The Recipe Club: A Tale of Food and Friendship
, has been a wild and thrilling adventure in co-writing, designing, and publishing. But we couldn't have known we were in for the ride of our lives eight years ago when it all began.
After showing the manuscript to some traditional publishers, we realized it would be a cold day in hell before it would become what we dreamed of: a hardcover, four-color, and super-designed book (with gorgeous paper and tons of luxurious white space.)
Throwing caution to the wind, we decided to publish the book ourselves. We started by naming our publishing company. We called it Polhemus Press, for the street on which we met. (Okay, we're sentimental.)
Then we made our next biggest decision: determining exactly how we would print and sell the book. Should we go down-and-dirty indie, and do print on demand? Should we just do a small run, stick them in the trunk of the car, and try to sell them to defenseless people with cash in their hands — like tourists buying hot dogs on the street, or shoppers at the farmer's market? Or should we keep the whole enterprise virtual, relying solely on Amazon and other online stores?
No, no, and no.
First of all, POD couldn't really support four-color. Second, if we actually drove our cars we'd lose our parking spots — not the thing to do in Brooklyn. And finally — truth be told — we had a dream, and it was not just about making a book. It was about having our book sold on the shelves of bookstores.
We confess: we wanted to walk down the street and see it in the front window. We imagined going inside, getting a cup of tea, and knowing that the people around us had — just maybe — browsed its pages.
Maybe it's because we're not Gen Xers or Gen Yers; in fact, we're Boomers, solidly in middle age, so the printed word is closer to our DNA than a screen and pixels. (And think about it: how do you autograph a Kindle??)
Maybe it's because we're also writers and readers, so bookstores are where we've spent more time and money than we care to count.
Maybe it's just that we're both vain and anachronistic, blinded by the bookstore glory of yesteryear!
But maybe it's because bookstores (and yes, libraries, where we also wanted our book to live) still have a little bit of magic.
Oh... and not that magic isn't really motivating, but here was the other thing: we didn't have ourselves just a book... we had 20,000 of them. And every day they were finding their way closer to us from a printer across the South China Sea. Now that's motivating.
So we got ourselves a distribution and sales team (Consortium Book Sales and Distribution — the pride of the indie publishing world, and with good reason: they're fantastic). Through them our books found their way into stores across North America. And before we knew it, the traditional publishers got wind of our little experiment... and Cinderella got into the horse-drawn coach with the Prince! Which is to say: HarperCollins picked up our reprint rights. And bless their hearts, they've beautifully reprinted our book almost exactly as we did it ourselves.
So what else was left for two dreamers to dream? A BOOK TOUR!!
We know, we know: blogging reaches millions more people at no cost whatsoever. And not even Stephen King goes on book tours the way people once did.
But remember: we're sentimental. And we have strong fantasy lives. So we packed up the wheelies and set off on a tour, hitting Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Boulder, and Minneapolis. We did local TV, radio, and print. We ran Recipe Club meetings (you can read about them on our website). And yes, we went to bookstores! In big cities and in small towns. To large corporate chains and to tiny indies in the boondocks. Wherever there was a bookstore that carried our book, we stopped in to say hello.
And we're writing this to say: you should go say hello, too.
Not only to buy our book (which of course you should!) but to buy lots of other books as well. Yes, it's true, ordering books online is in some ways easier. And yes, obviously we like e-commerce, or you wouldn't be reading this. But here's the bottom line: brick and mortar bookstores offer real, face-to-face community. They're sanctuaries in which all of us can take occasional refuge from the craziness of our lives and in the process, connect with other like-minded thinkers, shoppers, and actual booksellers — that rare breed of people who loves books as much as writers and devoted readers do.
In five words or less, bookstores are comforting, non-judgmental, surprising, relaxing, and pleasurable. And face it — where else can you spend your hard-earned money and still leave feeling proud and virtuous?