Market-Fresh Fiction

Not dead, just on vacation(s). So glad you missed us!

Anyway, amidst the scores of dull and irrelevant press releases that I sorted through upon my return, one stood out: an announcement about Papernick the Book Peddler, who will make appearances in Portland on First Friday (September 3) as well as at the Farmers' Markets on Saturday, September 4 and Wednesday, September 6.

The Book Peddler is Jon Papernick, a New England author whose in-laws live in Scarborough (he resides outside of Boston and is writer-in-residence at Emerson College). The shopping-cart sales pitch -- a sticker on the side of his green pushcart reads "Bringing Market-Fresh Fiction Directly to the People" -- is promoting his latest collection of short stories, There Is No Other (Exile), which came out last month.

Papernick is selling his book for $15, but he'll throw in one of his two other titles (The Ascent of Eli Israel, which came out in 2002 to positive reviews, or Who by Fire, Who by Blood, his 2007 novel) for an extra $5. He calls his marketing method "old-school," and says "people really seemed to get a kick out of purchasing a book directly from the author." 

This is him:

At a market in Waltham, Massachusetts last week, Papernick sold 25 copies of his book in just a few hours -- and bartered one more. "I got 2 pounds of ground beef and two blocks of cheese for a book," he reports. "Man cannot live on books alone."

It's more than a nostalgic gimmick, though. Papernick's peddling is a larger statement about the publishing industry.

"I first got the idea to peddle my own books...when I realized that even if my books end up broadly in bookstores, they will disappear within 3 to 6 months only to be available via," he tells me in an email. "It seems only bestsellers have long shelf lives in bookstores. I became tired of waiting around for someone to discover my book among thousands of other books, and decided to take my book directly to the people. I sold 25 books in four and a half hours last week at the Waltham Farmers Market --- it could take weeks to sell that many books on, and who knows how long it would take stores to sell 25 copies of my books. I definitely think that the distribution system for books is awful -- in fact, a number of bookstores that are trying to carry the book may not in fact be carrying it because they cannot get the discount they want from the distributor. I'm cutting out the middleman and all that ugliness and bringing my books to hungry readers who don't want to go through the hassle of special ordering books or waiting for them to arrive in the mail."

The Book Peddler's tour will culminate in New York City on October 2, with a "Peddler's Procession" from Brooklyn to the Upper West Side, complete with a klezmer band and an 8 pm reading at Sip Coffeebar and Lounge (which, incidentally, looks like a cool place).

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