A book in the time of no bookstores.

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When my first book came out, I hand-sold a lot of copies. I used to keep a stack of four or five in my bag, and if anybody showed the slightest interest in it, I accepted PayPal, Venmo, cash, check, and bitcoin. I played fast and loose with the price, accepting a ten if that’s what somebody had, trying to discourage people from looking it up on Amazon to pay me exactly what they would have when ordering through Prime.

Hand-selling is intimate and excruciating. I wanted to warn people: it’s my first book. It’s terribly violent. It’s one of a series. Are you sure you want it? But I also got to sign my name on a title page, over and over, balancing the book against mailboxes and convention hall tables and trash cans to do the honors.

When I saw my book in bookstores and libraries, it felt like ascension. When I started to get fan mail from people I didn’t meet on an airplane (or in junior high), it felt like another one. Doing events and signings in bookstores was godhood, as far as I was concerned. One of the best moments of my life happened when I was having coffee with a friend at the Borderlands cafe (RIP to the cafe, may the bookstore live forever) and Jude (who runs the place) came over and very quietly and politely laid a stack of my books beside me to sign them for stock. It was a gallant gesture, and I adored the sideways glances from the other patrons who wondered who could be so famous that the bookstore owner just brought them a stack to sign over their latte.

Bookstores have been everything to me since before I earned my living there. I was the kid who never had any pocket money who parked herself in an aisle at Powell’s and Lady of the Lake and Barnes and Noble to read a book, then made a note to come back and buy it when baysitting and dishwashing paid off. To be confronted in this year of plague with not only the shuttered doors and boarded windows of many of my favorite places, but also the knowledge that every part of the industry that brings books into being is in serious peril is soul-sickening.

So as my publishers and my editors and my friends and my temples scrabble for survival, I am back to handselling my books.

I want all of us to make it, so I’ve been finding ways to support indie bookstores and publishers and authors like me. So here’s me:

My short story collection, Big Girl (PM Press) is slated for publication in May, smack dab in the middle of the ongoing shelter-in-place order for California and much of the nation. I can’t meet you in bookstores, and the conventions that booked me to talk about it aren’t even happening anymore. Tumbleweeds run through my calendar. But the book exists, somehow, even still.

It exists, in fact in an unexpected form. PM Press is issuing a limited-edition hardback version of the book. The jacket you see at the top includes a painting by Pol Morton, based on and executed after my story, Big Girl, orignally published in F&SF in 2017. I’m so excited to include their work with mine, and to have this bizarre gift of a book to show you.

There will be 200 of these hardbacks (my first ever!). They will be picked up from the printer in my own little black car, signed and numbered by me, and sent to you. The price (in the drop-down menu) is $25, but I have my own coupon code: BIGGIRL will get you 20% off list price. The books will ship in May or June, so close to when the book should have been in those dusty temples of paper that I miss so much. If you want one, please order here.

You can also order the paperback, and get the ebook if you enter your email address. All preorders will help my publisher, PM Press. They’ll help me get through this strange and uncertain time. They might help future authors in the Outspoken Author series, which I wanted to be part of more than anything. This book allows me to say I’m published in the same series as Sam Delaney. As Ursula K. LeGuin. As Elizabeth Hand and Cory Doctorow and Nalo Hopkinson. The same series as the editor and one of my personal author-heroes, Terry Bisson.

Ordering this book from PM will mean as much to me as all those folks who bought my hand-sold, indie-published debut novel. The one that won me the Dick and changed my life.

Life is always changing. I will try to be a big girl about it.

3 thoughts on “A book in the time of no bookstores.

  1. Thanks for this post. I’ve been agonizing over the closing of bookstores. Our books were in hundreds of stores across the country, and right before the launch of my first novel, BAM. Closed.

    I don’t want to turn my back on them by pushing Amazon, but I’m not sure I have a lot of options. I am trying virtual shows with bookstores. We’ll see if those get attendance.

    Anyway, I’m glad to see you’re adapting and surviving. Thanks again.

  2. Just in case some part of you doesn’t believe or didn’t deign to imagine that things like this happen and they happen to you and because of you, I am commenting.

    To note that I was gifted your book, by my fierce otherworldly gender fluid friend who has joined me in a “trade favorite trilogies” book club for two. That they haven’t read your other two books yet seems immaterial. That I sent them a trilogy of pop pulp fantasy with none of the nuance of your first novel seems notable, but accessory.

    What did happen is I finished TBOTUM about twenty minutes ago. I apologize for not spelling it all out, but I’m going with immediacy and my thumbs and I’d rather use these words to share than to refer.

    I discovered whilst reading your book that it was set amidst a global pandemic. I knew nothing more than its title before I started reading. What a gift. I did not know where it would meet me around gender identity and performance, around considerations of those populations and individuals marginalized by our everyday narratives. I didn’t know that I would get a reflection of a world that hasn’t been but is so much closer to ever having been and still isn’t necessarily in so many ways not going to happen.

    I loved reading it so keenly and easily that I put it down for two weeks this month, because I knew it would be so easy to read all at once. Once I picked it back up I could ration—but only so much—and today was the day that I could relish most that there were two other books for me to still discover in this world.

    Upon closing the book, I did the natural thing and stared at the cover and subsequently googled you, and found out you had written two other books and went down the garden path of discovering them, and your own words about them. And then right there in the middle of this post with the hyperlink I clicked straight on through without pausing to finish the paragraph. Maybe a copy was still available. I didn’t even get to the sentence that explained that it was also coming out in softcover.

    I live out of a van and am currently consensually squatting in an office space and living on two hundred dollars a week. The part of me that does this because it’s what allows me to get closer to the people I care about and love with the most space and reality I can and doesn’t give a fuck about the optics or the performance of it but just sees it as the best tool to live in real life sees kinship in you. And wants you to have all the $25 in the world and also wholly appreciates the coupon code and will pay it forward in my experience ya did it right thank you so much.

    And so it’s a solid and quiet yes to getting a copy of your hardcover and reading your words about your life, and maybe also sharing them?

    It’s some quirk of fate that this cis-male gender queer human has been reading books out loud on Facebook for the last 31 days straight and that I’ve gone through 17 days of Untamed by Glennon Doyle (and am grateful for her refreshing honesty in all her trappings of privilege and normative cis white womanhood,) and then Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed, my up-to-today favorite most human book to recommend to feel closer to ourselves and one another. Both are full of snippets, so easy to give as a daily gift. It sounds like your book might be that, too. I hope the reading start conversations, rather than finish them.

    It seems important that a perceived male voice says these out loud. Says these books aren’t only for womxn to understand and embody.

    It seems like it maybe was important to let you know this with the immediacy with which I’ve lived it. It’s so often that we don’t know our impacts on another, no? That each of our words and choices keeps reverberating, and come to life with breath again and again?

    Thank you so much for joining me today in all these ways. With the words you left of the life you’ve lived and the world you dreamed.

    I am so grateful.

    1. Thank you so much! This is very kind of you, and I deeply appreciate that you took the time to reach out. It means a lot to me to hear from all my readers, but especially the ones I never imagined. You’ve made my day.

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