Memo from the Booksquare Mail Room

September 5th, 2008 · 7 Comments
by Bernadette Swizzlestick

[BS: For those who don’t know, we have an intern at BS. She nearly quit (due to the situation noted in paragraph two below), so we had a “negotiation”. She will be allowed, under limited circumstances, to write for this site. She will also take over daily BS cat maintenance responsibilities. You know what that means.]

When I started working in the Booksquare mail room, I mistakenly assumed it was going to be some kind of a dream job. Blogger’s hours, free books, and plenty of wine. What could possibly be better?

Little did I realize the Booksquare wine cellar is NOT for Booksquare employees. Sure, we’re welcome to bring our own from home, but the BS corkage fee makes it cost prohibitive.

And now that I’ve been here a while, I realize that blogger’s hours aren’t so great. Especially when you’re not the blogger.

But there are always those free books. Yep, plenty of free books.

Let me tell you about the free books.

I’m drowning in them. Literally. The Booksquare mail room is inexplicably tiny. And we get a LOT of books. Some of which I would never read in a million years. Sad but true, most of these books aren’t fit for lunch in the servants quarters.

Why are you sending these books to us? What on earth makes you think we will read them, let alone review them?

I thought to ask one day how this all got started. It’s quite an interesting story, actually. Apparently we expressed interest in one or two books over the years. That’s all it takes to get yourself labeled as a “book lover” and once that’s happened they put your name and address into some sort of database.

Eventually mailing labels are printed. And reprinted. And reprinted again.

You people are printing a lot of mailing labels! And stuffing a lot of boxes. Well, they aren’t really boxes. Most of them are the most annoying corrugated cardboard, sealed tightly with some sort of super-glue that makes them nearly impossible to open. I can’t tell you how many nails I’ve broken on your damn book packaging.

How much do you people spend on postage? Seriously?? Not to mention printing. And labor. Someone has to put all this stuff together.

Will someone please assure me that child slave labor is not involved?!

Some of you — mostly thoughtful authors — think to ask before sending your books. That’s nice, but in many cases equally annoying. In addition to handling the Booksquare snail mail, I’m also responsible for fielding all of the unsolicited email inquiries we receive. You wouldn’t believe some of the queries we get.

Like this one, received just yesterday (altered ever so slightly to protect the identity of the author).

Dear Sir,

As a book lover I know that you will want to read and review my new book. It’s a civil war adventure about a time-traveling bishop and the women who love him.

The early reviews have been very flattering. As one critic noted “the story moves along surprisingly briskly for a 1,239 page novel.”

I am currently waiting for a shipment of books to arrive from the printer. I will send you a copy as soon as it is ready. Please reply with your mailing address.

Also, please be kind enough to confirm by email after you have received my book.

[Name withheld to protect clueless but well meaning author]

Clearly [Name Withheld] didn’t bother to read Booksquare before sending this very personal message. Unfortunately we are simply not prepared to send out automated rejection letters. And if we were, it would only depress you.

Believe me when I say that I understand your enthusiasm for book blogs, what with the death of newspaper book reviews and all, but you’ve got to understand how this whole blog thing works. You can’t just go mass mailing every “litblog” in the world willy nilly. In the mail room that’s what we call SPAM.

But enough of my complaining. I do want to see you people succeed (why, I am not entirely sure). So, here are a few helpful tips from the Booksquare mail room intended to provide you with better book coverage, and me with more free time. Time that I can use to read books that I actually want to read.

1) Stop sending physical books. What, are all of you made of money? We have this thing called the Internet. Use it. Trust me, your reviewers know all about the ‘net, as they call it. Find out what formats each reviewer prefers and arrange for digital transfer (if you don’t know what that means, please find someone who does and explain your situation).

For you authors out there, this should be easy. I mean, after all, you wrote the book. I assume you can make a PDF file. Think of the money you’ll save on postage, printing, and packaging.

2) Target your pitch. Send your book to the right publications. And by right publications I mean, a) blogs and websites that actually review books, and b) blogs and websites that actually review the type of book you’ve written and/or published. Booksquare is simply not interested in time-traveling bishops.

3) Think beyond the review. There’s more to promoting your book online than just getting reviews. For example, you may have noticed that authors frequently guest post right here on Booksquare. It’s easy for authors because, well, they’re writers. It’s good for the BS Lady because she’s intrinsically lazy. That’s what we in the mail room call a win-win situation.

4) Get some help. If you are at all baffled by any of the other things you can do to promote your book online (besides mailing physical copies to every blogger and his brother) you might want to get yourself a little education.

I could go on, but saving the publishing industry is not part of my job description. Besides, it’s closing time and I’m late for happy hour.

[BS: I’d like to thank Bernadette for feeling so comfortable in her job that she’s able to speak her mind so openly. She has a few good points. Especially the part about the wine — she’s welcome to hit the $2.00 jug wine whenever she wants. She’s also right about the laziness. Think beyond the review. Most especially, she’s right about the physical versus virtual books. The mail room is not nearly as spacious as the above rant indicates. The Kindle, however, is huge and ready for more books.]

File Under: The Business of Publishing

7 responses so far ↓

  • barefoot jim // Sep 5, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Does the Booksquare mail room share space with the other Oxford Media Works Mail Rooms?

    If so, is it possible for Ms. Swizzlestick to deal with the TBS/TNT screeners that get sent there for me?

  • Teva // Sep 5, 2008 at 11:27 am

    How does one become an intern? Where are you guys located?

  • Clive Warner // Sep 5, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Of course, writers could always send you PDFs of books that don’t really exist … eg
    “Cat Maintenance With A Monkey Wrench”

  • Victor Curran // Sep 6, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Oh, the memories this brings back of my first publishing job, back in the 20th Century. I actually had the impressive title of Production Manager, but in a 5-person office that included such duties running the World’s Oldest Copy Machine and occasionally driving my employer’s kids to school. There was no wine; the only perk was that–workload and weather permitting–I could swim in my employer’s pool (the office was in her house).
    The job description also included sifting through a big pile of unsolicited manuscripts and composing polite letters to accompany them back to their authors (“Your poems are eloquent and moving, but they do not suit our needs at this time . . .”). One night at a party, a man introduced himself to me, adding, “but I write under the name of Peter Capricorn.” I froze, realizing that I was face to face with the author of “Ish and Mish: First Principles of Astro-Psychology,” a manuscript sitting on my desk awaiting the “does not suit our needs” letter. I glanced down and noticed that my drink needed refilling, providing the perfect excuse to cut short my dialogue with Mr. Capricorn.

  • Sarah // Sep 8, 2008 at 11:30 am

    I think we have found the cure!

  • Bernadette Swizzlestick // Sep 8, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    @james: Your screeners are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Please update the address on your netflix accounts. I have no time to manage your personal DVD collection.

    @teva: Maybe you didn’t understand. THIS IS NOT A DREAM JOB.

    @Victor: Unfortunately, I know Mr. Capricorn all too well.

    @Sarah: Thanks a lot. That was my business idea. At this rate I’ll never escape Booksquare.

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