The independent bookstore the Golden Notebook in Woodstock, N.Y. will launch a new publishing division next year that will exclusively publish books with topical ties to the region. To be distributed by Publishers Group West, the first release from the Golden Notebook Press will be a memoir by regionally acclaimed author Abigail Thomas titled Still Life at 80: The Next Interesting Thing out January 2023.
Some of the industry’s largest book publishers have handled Thomas’ award-winning works of fiction and several memoirs, including A Three Dog Life and What Comes Next and How to Like It. For her latest memoir—which focuses on isolation and aging at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic—Golden Notebook co-owner James Conrad said he believes Thomas wanted a more intimate publishing experience with her new book.
“Staffing is always challenged with the amount of projects those publishing houses have to deal with,” said Conrad. As a small regionally-focused press, Conrad says the Golden Notebook has a greater opportunity to work with authors like Thomas to build a local following around books that can organically grow from there.
“I think the local thing can be more powerful because we know the customers in our store, and we know the customers in this area,” he said. “That gives us a glance into what would sell.” In turn, booksellers across the country will know to come to the Golden Notebook Press for all things Hudson Valley-related, said Conrad.
The Golden Notebook has been operating as an independent bookstore since 1978. Conrad is a second generation, co-proprietor at the store with Jacqueline Kellachan. The average Golden Notebook customer is "someone with a good sense of humor" and a knack for the different, said Conrad. “They really embrace diverse authors and subjects,” he said. “As much as I am saying we want to reflect our surroundings and communities, they also want to be something that ‘s a little outside of their normal life.”
In addition to Thomas' memoir, Conrad said the Golden Notebook Press is gearing up to publish another memoir, a book on the region's musical influence, and a new mystery series later next year. As technology makes it easier for bookstores to print books, Conrad believes more bookstores will add publishing operations, which will further democratize the publishing process and enable more stories to be shared.
"I think so many bookstores have very strong personalities and a strong presence where they could develop the actual books that they are selling," he said. “I think it does put a real tight focus on working with the author and the subject matter to have it relate to its area and what its mission is."