Are indie bookstores the future?

Bestselling author Ann Patchett just announced that she and her business partner will open a bookstore in Green Hills, Tennessee. The area needs a bookstore, she says. Some will no doubt wonder if Patchett is nuts. I wonder if Patchett is part of a trend that marks the future for books and bookstores. When BordersBookstores closed earlier this year, citing the advent of e-readers, a changing publishing industry, and bad economy, we were once again left to ponder the future of traditional print books and bricks-and-mortar bookstores.

About the same time Borders shut its doors, I talked with Steven and Michelle Pritchard. They own Pritchard’s Book Cafe, a small bookstore/coffee shop in Southridge Mall in Des Moines.  The Book Cafe is an eclectic blend of sandwiches, coffee named for authors, bookmarks handmade by Michelle, and, oh, books!  It’s a friendly space, unique to its owners.

The Pritchards are moving to larger space this summer where they plan to cut down on the food side of their Cafe as they add more books.  In celebration of their new space, they were lining up authors (myself included) to come in for signings.

Owning a bookstore is a long-time dream for Michelle. So she and Steven are going for it. The Prichards are doing what entrepreneurs do – they follow their dreams and put their own unique stamp on the dream in the process.

Des Moines has other independent bookstores – Beaverdale Books owned by Alice Myers and The Book Storeowned by John Heitzman.  Independent bookstores dot the Iowa landscape. Each unique, each reflecting the personality and taste of its owner.

I applaud each of these Indy bookstores for their dedication to books, service, and the entrepreneurial way of life. May book lovers find you and buy books from you. May you live long and prosper!

Walking for more than a cure

I joined the PurpleStride Iowa pancreatic cancer walk on Saturday, in memory of a friend who died of the disease, and to offer moral support to his wife and children.

There were hundreds of us walking the three-mile Raccoon River Park trail in West Des Moines. We shared space in the park and on the trail with PAWS for a Cause and another group of walkers supporting another disease cure.

Walks have become a popular way to raise money while raising awareness. These walks must be effective; there are more of them every year.

As I walked along with a friend who also spent her working career in marketing, we talked about the many benefits of these walks:

    • Raising money for research


  • Raising awareness of a disease



  • Showing visible support to survivors



  • Remembering a loved one



  • Getting people involved in a healthy activity



  • Enjoying a beautiful fall day



  • Getting involved in community 



Our time on the walk also gave us an opportunity to consider the impact of death and the beauty of life. When we set foot on that trail, we walked for a cure in more ways than we knew.

E-books for low vision

One of the benefits of e-readers is the ability to change font type and size on any book you download. I had not considered the real advantage this could be to anyone with low vision.

My mother had low vision caused by macular degeneration. Perhaps the greatest loss from macular degeneration for her was losing the ability to read. Even large print books had type too small for her to read.  The Department for the Blind with its talking books program was a life saver for her. And I was delighted when they asked me to read my book on tape for their program.

After I published Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl, I heard from many people asking if it was available in large print. Because of my mother’s experience, it pained me to have to tell them no.  It had not occurred to me that I could offer them a large print version of my book by converting it to e-book format.  Recently, I remedied that problem and converted my book to an e-book – it’s available in all e-book formats – from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at

I found a reviewof the Kindle e-reader written by a man with low vision. Click on the link to see what he has to say.  

If you have a friend or relative with low vision who loves to read and hasn’t realized the advantages of an e-book, I hope you’ll share the news.

High Tech – An e-book at last

The smallest things entertain me. But I suppose it can be argued publishing my book in a new format is not really small. So, come celebrate with me!  I just published my memoir: Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girlas an ebook.

I lagged on this for many reasons, but not the least of them because there seems – to me at least – to be something slightly off about offering a book based on the nostalgia of the 1950s in the latest high-tech form.

But when I think about it, my dad adopted the latest technology available – converting our dairy from a stanchion barn to a parlor before anyone else in the county.

Farmers today are at the cutting edge of technology with GPS systems in their tractors and combines. I’m told the equipment virtually operates itself in the field. Farmers could potentially nap as the combine works itself down the row, tells itself when to turn, ostensibly waking the operator when its bins are full. I have a hard time visualizing this!

So in offering my book to e-readers, I may simply be doing what agriculture has done all along – take advantage of the latest technology. 

A believer at last

I enjoyed my first Blizzard this past week.  Yep, that’s right. Twenty-five years after Dairy Queen introduced the candy-laced ice cream treats so thick they can serve them upside down, I finally had one.

Since ice cream is my all-time favorite desert, it’s a little surprising I never gave in to the Blizzard. But even a small Blizzard looked like too much to me. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of these world-favorites, DQ introduced a limited-time mini Blizzard. Finally, finally, I couldn’t resist. I stepped up, puzzled over the long list of flavor options and ordered raspberry truffle.

As I savored it, I had to laugh at myself. As a marketer, I’m well aware of the challenge for companies introducing new products and trying to lure people to use them. They face the Adoption-Diffusion challenge.

The theory of Adoption-Diffusion addresses the speed with which people will adopt innovation. People fall into several general categories: Innovators (think about people who couldn’t wait to get their hands on a Kindle), Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority, Laggards.  Plotted out, people in these categories form a bell curve. Roughly 16% constitute the Laggards – those who will resist an innovation to the bitter end.

Truthfully, I’ve never considered myself a laggard. Certainly not when it comes to ice cream! But there you are. Twenty-five years later, there are still brand new customers out there. Personally, I’m glad DQ didn’t give up on me. Proves the value of persistence in communication, doesn’t it?

My second DQ mini Blizzard was banana cream pie. What’s next?

Making social media work

I’m a real neophyte when it comes to social media. I stumble around to discover paths that others have traversed easily for ages.  So I was surprised that American and former colleague Drew McLellan welcomed me as one of the authors for Age of Conversation 3, the third edition of a book he and Australian Gavin Heaton planned to produce.

Just released, Age of Conversation 3 ( involves 171 marketing blog authors from 15 countries who bring the online marketing conversation to print. The blog-length (only 400 words each) essays in the book address aspects of social media as a staple in the modern marketing toolbox.

My own essay The Social Networking Super Highway joins others in the section on Getting to Work. I draw an analogy between learning to drive and speaking a new language. Social media has been a new language for me. Learning to drive and speaking a new language both require practice. The more practice, the more adapt you become. Much of the social media learning comes from watching what others do and learning from them.

Even those of us who’ve been around the block more than once can learn the language of social media. I would argue that we not only can, we must. Age of Conversation 3 lets you listen in on voices worldwide as we discuss the what, where, and how of social media. I invite you to grab a cup of coffee and join us!

Keep asking

“Failure is the path of least persistence.”

So here we are at the same store, more than a year later. As I picked up my packages, I said, “This store would be the perfect place for my book,’ and I handed the clerk one of my bookmarks. She said, “Tell me more.” I did. I left a copy for her to share with the store owner. By the time I got home, there was an order in my e-mail!

Different day. Different time. Different economy. Woke up on the other side of the bed. I feel like one of my little prairie seeds, given enough time to persist in spite of opposition.

I thank Heart of Iowa Market Place for carrying my book. They’re a great store whether they did or not. I just needed to be persistent.

I geek libraries

I love the new library site that lets you share your passion and lets you see what sends others to their local libraries.

I’m thinking more about libraries because I take to the road again this week – after a summer break – to share stories from and about my memoir. I’ve been fortunate to have so many libraries ask me to do programs for them. As I’ve traveled the state, I’ve seen first hand what vibrant community centers our libraries are.

Libraries are under budget pressure – like everyone else – but they’re a community resource that deserves our support. Libraries offer computers and Internet access when many have had to give up that luxury at home. They provide entertainment for free – books and movies you don’t have to pay to enjoy. They are a community gathering place, a place for social interaction that may be just what someone who’s lost their job needs. All this and more at your local library.

So what do you geek? Log on, have a little fun, share your passion, and find out how you can support your local library.

Great Intel Ad

I spend far more time complaining about TV ads than praising them, but I just saw a new Intel ad I must applaud. The ad spotlights Ajay Bhatt, co-inventor of the USB, and uses the tagline “Your rock stars aren’t like our rock stars.” For once an ad that is intelligent, subtle, funny, and thought provoking. The music doesn’t overwhelm. The visuals pull you in and keep you there. And it made me think about something I use daily but no doubt under appreciate – the USB port. All while reminding me that Intel brought this technology to the party. Great job, Intel! If you haven’t seen it yet, click here to see it on YouTube

One new idea every day

When I published my memoir, Growing Up Country, my goal was to implement one new marketing idea every day.  With marketing I was finally in my comfort zone! After 30 years in marketing, I knew that even the best product in the world wouldn’t sell one unit if no one knew about it.

I was reasonably successful with that lofty goal and book sales showed it.  Now that I’ve had books in hand for over a year, I’ve backed off demanding ‘one new idea every day,’ but the week doesn’t go by that I don’t think about getting in front of people with my book somehow.
My latest marketing approach is to look for opportunities to write about childhood or farm memories. As we Boomers age, nostalgia is a natural and more media are responding to this interest. My book mention comes in the descriptive author tag.  Just last week, I wrote such a piece for the Des Moines Register’s fiftysomething insert.  Titled “Playing in the sky,” my recollection was about Dad and Mom helping us kids build and learn to fly kites. 
Whether this piece will result directly in book sales or not remains to be seen.  But what I do know is that having my name and book title in front of my target market pays off over time.  A gentle reminder.