Friday, April 22, 2016

Independent Bookstore Day April 30

Independent Bookstore Day is Saturday, April 30. Show up. Buy books! You know you've been keeping a list. It's in your head; it's on all those scraps you've torn out from the New York Time Book Review or Entertainment Weekly; it's your mental list of titles rejected by your book club. And—oh yes!—it's those Upper Hand books you keep planning to order and pre-order. Do it on April 30 at your local independent bookstore.

It's the treat your children love, to pick out books of their own to keep and to read aloud to you. Do they have birthday parties coming up? Help them pick the "gifts that keep on giving." 

You'll find the recommendations of your well-read book sellers posted in the stacks to give you stimulating ideas for good books to read. Those people are there to share their informed enthusiasm. They sincerely want to get to know you and your tastes. They want you to keep coming back to buy books, but they also seek you out to be an active member of a community engaged by ideas and discussion.

The people who own and operate independent bookstores have bucked the tide. It wasn't long ago that small, local, independently-owned stores were closing apace, being replaced by enormous chain stores. That trend meant—and means—much less variety for readers as mega-stores choose to deal with mega-publishers offering a simplified selection of books and more of fewer authors. 

The resurgence of independents run by inspiring people determined to make the difference in their communities is a boon for readers and for writers. 

If independent bookstores were only to offer you the books available in Barnes and Noble, though, wouldn't we think something were missing? The link between chain bookstores and the conglomerate book publishers is established. Small publishers aren't welcome. We look to the support of the independent stores to help introduce the voices of our authors—the authors we publish because they have distinctive, unusual, and independent outlooks.

When you visit and celebrate your excellent independent bookstore, look for our books on the shelves. If you don't find them, ask for them: Order them for yourself, and help create demand for Upper Hand titles with the individually-run stores that need your business too.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Love Triangle: You, Your Library, and Upper Hand Press

If you are reading this, I hope you count yourself among the lovers of the indie  movement, supporters of this independent press and, we hope, the taste-making independent book stores that serve you.

"Independent" usually means "small." In the publishing world, there are degrees of small. My one-person press is called "micro-"…for a reason!

An adjective that is too often unthinkingly attached to "small," though, is "struggling," as in "a small, struggling, independent press." It sounds so sad and ill-fated. Sorry, folks: This press is anything but.

I hope that any going concern continues to struggle. There needs to be a continual urgency to the effort to make publishing work for the authors I've signed and for the whom readers I want to meet those writers. It's not a matter only of making splashy debuts, but of keeping the shoulder to the grindstone for the long run—keeping Upper Hand books in print and promoting them continually.

Still, we have to sell books on a steady, regular basis if we will be able to stick to our mission. One of the greatest buyers of books is libraries. And the best ways to get books into libraries is to have library patrons request them.

Clyde Doesn't Go Outside has already been collected by many children's departments. It's a great story-time book. Our novels—One Hundred Years of Marriage, The Naming of Girl, Saving Phoebe Murrow, and Cadillac, Oklahomaare fascinating reads for both individuals and book clubs.

Libraries can pre-order books that have not yet been published (as you can too). Library orders can be made through the Upper Hand Press website or through the library's favorite distributor. 

If you get in the habit of requesting Upper Hand Press books at your library, you can keep the "struggling" away from our name and give us the Upper Hand more quickly.

Thanks for making the effort!

—Ann Starr

Monday, April 11, 2016

Consumer Education: BUY OUR BOOKS—But please, DON'T BUY THEM ON AMAZON

Upper Hand Press's 2016 is a big year for a small press: We have already published Zach Snyder's unique, quirky, and spectacularly beautiful picture book, Clyde Doesn't Go Outside. 

We expect Rhonda J. Williams' debut novel, The Naming of Girl, to make a splash with adults and young adults both. We may have just lost Harper Lee, but the themes of To Kill a Mockingbird reappear in Williams' book, where a young, rural southern girl learns through tough experience about racial conflict and human nature. Girl Brown presents charged issues to us in a way that is challenging, often funny, and recognizably contemporary. The books is conversation-starter for our moment in America.

During the summer and fall we will release three books, including a second edition of Louise Farmer Smith's classic One Hundred Years of Marriage, which will be expanded by book club notes and an interview with the author. Smith's new novel, Cadillac, Oklahoma, will come out in November, introducing readers to the kind, colorful, shocking, risible, and always whole-hearted folks of this Great Plains town—one that might remind you a little bit of Winesburg, Ohio.

We are proud to debut another novelist, Herta B. Feely, with Saving Phoebe Murrow. Feely's fiction, set in Washington D.C., mixes a sympathetic study of stresses within a socially well-placed family with the suspense of a crime story. We follow a case of teen cyber-bullying that has extreme consequences for parents, children, and community structure.

Now that you know what lies ahead, BUY OUR BOOKS! Be the first to own them by ordering them right now. They will be shipped directly to you upon publication (see Upper Hand Press and be directed to ordering information.)

Many readers order and pre-order books from Amazon as a matter of course. Please, order ours from us or from an independent bookstore! This matters.

Let me explain. When you order a book directly from a small press (which will fulfill your order immediately, just like Amazon) the press receives
one hundred per cent of the cover price. We sell One Hundred Years of Marriage for $18.00; we collect $18.00 to plow back into the Press. The author gets a twenty-percent royalty on the sale.

When you order the book through an independent book store, the bookstore keeps forty percent of the cover price to pay their rent, to pay their employees in their rewarding jobs, to contribute to their communities with their book clubs, story times, author visits and programming related to their communities. Those stores are citizens of their localities, and enrich them. When Upper Hand Press and our authors receive sixty percent of the cover price, we participate in communities of book lovers.  

Amazon, on the other hand, keeps a whopping fifty-five percent of the cover price of any book they sell. If they sell our $18.00 book, Upper Hand Press receives less than half, only $8.10. It's a rule of thumb in any business that in order to make a profit, you must at least double the cost of a product. The only one to profit from Amazon is Amazon.

Amazon is a bad habit you may not know you have, but it's one that cheats all the authors and publishers whose books you buy. The "great deals" you get don't come from the massive corporation's pockets: They come from the pockets of writers and publishers like Upper Hand. This press is trying to make enough money to keep going, to grow and to bring you more great authors who don't fit the Big Box mold. Please, be sure to buy them outside the Box too.