Golden Notebook goes into book publishing

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Jacqueline Kellachan, James Conrad and Abigail Thomas. (Photo by Dion Ogust)

In the 1950s, poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s bookstore City Lights branched out into publishing groundbreaking books such as Allen Ginsberg Howl and other poems. More recently, McNally Jackson Books in Manhattan has published several literary novels, and now Woodstock’s Golden Notebook joins the ranks of bookseller-publishers.

The first volume of Golden Notebook Press will be Still Life at 80: The Next Interesting Thing, a new memoir by acclaimed local author Abigail Thomas. Publishers Group West is committed to managing the promotion and distribution of the book to stores nationally and internationally. Publication is scheduled for January 2023.

Golden Notebook owners Jackie Kellachan and James Conrad began discussing the idea of ​​entering the publishing world years ago when they feared some of their bestsellers were out of print . Customers buy one to five copies per week of Small town talk, a book about the Woodstock music scene of the 1950s and 1960s. Guidebooks and local history accounts are also perennial sellers. Whenever it has been difficult to obtain copies of books in high demand, the owners have thought of taking on a publishing role.

Conrad is friends with Abigail Thomas, whose work has been produced by major houses such as Houghton Mifflin and Scribner. As she worked on her final memoir, Conrad explained, “she didn’t want to be one of hundreds of writers in a big house. They have so few staff for so many books, and you can get lost in the mess. The Big Five, which emphasizes the hope of the next bestseller, doesn’t necessarily have the pulse of the local market, like a bookstore does. “We know our customers, we know what sells and we can launch a book. It can grow from there.

However, Conrad wondered how he was going to tell every American bookstore to buy the book and ship it to them. This problem was solved with the signing of Publishers Group West, which represents about 50 small publishers and is linked to bookstores in the United States and other countries. “My rep was interested,” Conrad said, “because Abigail’s name has some cachet.”

Although COVID has been a tragedy for many businesses, the enforced isolation has led to more reading and has proven to be a boon for bookstores. Vacations abroad gave way to local trips, and working from home allowed book-loving city dwellers to spend more time in the country. The influx of new residents has expanded Golden Notebook’s customer base, and the store continues to thrive.

During the pandemic, the store’s upstairs room could no longer be used for author readings and book releases. “An entire second floor of retail space was empty,” Conrad said. The upstairs has been transformed into a spacious and colorful children’s reading area, with cushioned benches along the walls and a charming nature mural by local artist Will Lytle. “It makes everyone happy. Adults can stay downstairs and kids are happy upstairs.

Meanwhile, readings have flourished at other sites in the city. “We thought the readings brought people into the store,” Conrad said, “but it’s hard to park here on the weekends. People would say, “I tried to go to your reading, but I couldn’t find a parking space. “We like the atmosphere of the cafe. Even if only five people come, it’s comfortable. Some readings were held at churches, including St. Gregory’s on Route 212, the Reformed Church in the Town of Village Green and the Christian Science Church, west on Tinker Street.

An events coordinator, Drew Broussard, was hired to handle the details, giving Conrad time to focus on the publishing business. He gets to know each step of the book publishing process, and then he can hire an assistant.

Since the pandemic, paper shortages have delayed one in 10 releases, so there is a back-up plan in place should the January release date need to be pushed back for Still life at 80 years old. The memoirs are an assortment of reflections on the realities of aging, portrayed in Thomas’ crisp, ironic style, with flashbacks and startling insights. Praise has already been received from Stephen King, memoirists Ann Lamott and Elizabeth Gilbert, and people magazine, among others.

New Press currently has four more books in development. In the new memoirs of Mary Giuliani How to lose friends and not influence anyone, the caterer to the stars takes stock of his life when work and the world are suspended by the pandemic. Award-winning mystery writer Greg Herron will release the first book in a new mystery series with a unique LGBTQ+ twist. Another title will cover an exciting chapter in the music industry, one of many music-related books the press hopes to publish, given Woodstock’s musical identity. Towards the end of next year, it is planned to produce a gift book focusing on local city dwellers.

“There’s such writing talent here,” Conrad said. “If a client asks for a book that doesn’t exist, we can ask, ‘Who in this field could write it?’, and then we can develop it. And we can go at our own pace.

The Golden Notebook Bookstore is located at 29 Tinker Street in Woodstock. See their website at goldennotebook.com.

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