Of Shakespeare, Rayguns, and Independent Bookstores

>> Tuesday, June 24, 2014

In 2007, I learned an important lesson about independent bookstores.

My second novel, Something Rotten, a contemporary young adult mystery based on Shakespeare's Hamlet, came out that year from Penguin. I expected that it, like my first novel, would be carried everywhere—by independents and chains and online. But a few months away from the publication date, my editor e-mailed to tell me the bad news: Barnes & Noble wouldn't be carrying my new book. The one person who chose what books all six hundred-plus Barnes & Noble stores would carry had decided that mine wouldn't be one of them. “We don't do well with Shakespeare adaptations,” Barnes & Noble's book buyer said. And that was it.

My second book was saved by independent bookstores like Malaprop's. With separate book buyers at each bookstore across the country, they each made the decision about whether or not to carry my book. And most did. Independent booksellers made Something Rotten a success, and for that and everything they've done for the five books that followed, I'm eternally grateful. As thanks, and to help make sure that every book and author and reader get a chance to connect, my family and I have committed to buying our books only from independent booksellers like Malaprop's, our local indie.

So when the time came to promote my eighth book, the first in a middle-grade steampunk fantasy trilogy called The League of Seven, I wanted to find a way to not only sell books, but sell books through Malaprop's. I'd seen online retailers offer digital short stories that download free with the purchase of ebooks, and thought, why can't Malaprop's and I do the same thing with my good-old-fashioned print book and a specially-printed short story? So that's just what we're doing.

The League of Seven is the story of seven super-powered kids who use rayguns and airships and steam-powered machine men to battle giant monsters called the Mangleborn. (If your kids like Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan, Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson books, or the Justice League and the Avengers, this is right up their alley.) The trilogy is set in an alternate 1870s America where all contact with Europe was lost in 1770, forcing New England's European population to join the Iroquois League, becoming the seventh “tribe” in what becomes the United Nations of America. One of the architects of that union, Benjamin Franklin, is the star of the prequel short story I've written, called “Join, or Die.” In “Join, or Die,” Franklin battles sea serpents with the help of a young monster expert and a group of Mohawk warriors during a (greatly) re-imagined Boston Tea Party. It's lots of fun.

Malaprop's is printing up “Join, or Die” as a limited-edition chapbook that will be given away for free to anyone who pre-orders The League of Seven from Malaprop's between now and August 19th, the book's publication date. I'm really excited about this chapbook—it's being specially-printed and numbered, the binding is being hand-sewn, and it will be available exclusively through Malaprop's. And the story's pretty great too, if I do say so myself. :-)

I'll also be signing and personalizing all the pre-orders and chapbooks, which can be picked up at the store or shipped to you at home. You can pre-order your copy of The League of Seven in person at Malaprop's, online here, or by calling Malaprop's at 1-800-441-9829. I hope you'll pre-order a copy of The League of Seven and the limited-edition chapbook “Join, or Die” for a young reader in your life, and continue shopping at your local independent bookstore to ensure that every good book has a chance to find its readers!


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