At the risk of pissing off a very good friend… I’ve known Margaret Brown, publisher AND founder of Shelf Unbound since 1992, when, just after Second Son, my second novel, was published and I had moved to Houston. I walked into a BookStop store to see if they had my novel. She was clerking there — sort of between jobs — and did the customary, ‘Can I help you?’ thing. I showed her my novel. She read it [said she] loved it, and then hand sold the remaining copies, and tried to get the big corporate daddy to send them more. They could have sent her 100 and she would have sold them all. They wouldn’t send her any, if I recall correctly. Forward thinking. She left there for a job as an ed asst at Southwest Art, and left there as editor in chief. She’s been at another magazine in Dallas for the last eight years and is now all in with SU.
She knows glossy magazines. She’s a complete book lover. She’s incredibly savvy. I think she’s got a terrific vision here with Shelf Unbound, but is completely realistic and will likely be willing to tweak what she’s doing as is necessary to meet the market.
But I think the thing she’s doing with this magazine is totally worth it and necessary. The big trade publishers have their heads so far up their asses they can’t see past their teeth where publishing is going. I was talking with Margaret the other day and she said that since she’s been immersed in nothing but indie books she hasn’t been so happy in years as a reader. This is stuff that is getting covered in some places but not in others, and mostly on line. With so many newspapers folding their book coverage, and so many really good indie presses — and good stuff being self-published — we need people like this to make the drumbeat louder, stronger for the best in literature. I’m pretty much convinced that what (I think it was) Mike Shatzkin said about the next Random House/Knopf is probably currently in its nascence as we speak is right, and that people like Margaret who get that and are committed to making the great books being published by indie presses known — or the great stuff being done by people doing it their way like Seth Harwood (Margaret — talk to him). I don’t know yet if she’s a visionary. But she’s doing good stuff. All out of love for books. And isn’t that what we all do it for?