Shelf Awareness for Friday, May 22, 2009
Memorial Day Weekend
In honor of Memorial Day, we will be stepping away from the computers on Monday. We'll see you again Tuesday morning.
Quotation of the Day
Becoming a 'Neighborhood Institution in Greenpoint'
"I hope to see the bookstore community continue to expand, and hopefully become somewhat profitable! Someone told me years ago that no one opens a bookstore to become a millionaire, but I'd like to think that with continued support and growth, we'll be able to sustain ourselves and become a neighborhood institution in Greenpoint like other successful indies have done in their communities, like Book Court in Cobble Hill or Book Revue in Long Island. I think if we continue on the path we've started, offering excellent customer service, a great selection, and being the go-to place for literary events in North Brooklyn, we will be OK. At least I hope so."--Christine Onorati, owner of WORD bookshop, Brooklyn, N.Y., in an interview with Bookslut.
Books-A-Million First Quarter: Sales Up 2%
At Books-A-Million, net sales in the first quarter ended May 2 rose 2% to $118.2 million, and net income rose to $2.1 million from $900,000 in the same period last year. Sales at stores open at least a year dropped 1.1%.
Results included an "expense reduction of $764,000 for forfeitures of stock grants and other compensation for an employee who resigned in the first quarter and a net reduction in severance costs of $228,000 for employees that were terminated in the 13-week periods ended May 2, 2009 or May 3, 2008," the company said.
The employee was likely Sandra B. Cochran, former president, CEO and director, who resigned to become executive v-p and CFO of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store (Shelf Awareness, March 15, 2009).
In a statement, BAM chairman and CEO Clyde B. Anderson commented: "Given the difficult economic environment, we're pleased with our results for the quarter. While comparable sales numbers were down slightly, they represented an improvement over recent quarters, and our continued focus on cost control, gross margin and inventory management delivered improved earnings."
The BAM board approved a quarterly dividend of five cents a share.
Notes: B&N's Traffic Woes; Visionary, Innovator Elaine Petrocelli
More on Barnes & Noble's first quarter results, reported here yesterday.
B&N's CFO Joseph Lombardi attributed much of the 5.7% drop in comp-store sales to "a significant decline in traffic to retail locations," as quoted by the Wall Street Journal. The trend dates back to mid-September.
In a conference call, B&N CEO Steve Riggio said the company expects "an impressive slate" of blockbusters this fall, some from authors who haven't published a book in a while, most notably, Dan Brown.
Congratulations to Elaine Petrocelli, owner and president of Book Passage bookstores in Corte Madera and San Francisco, Calif., who was recently honored with the North Bay Business Journal's Women In Business Award for outstanding female leader, innovator and visionary in the entrepreneurship category.
Here's one of the more unusual reasons for moving a bookstore we've heard.
Grassroots Books, Reno, Nev., is owned by Zoe and Randy Miller, who started selling online in Seattle, then in 2006 moved their used store to a warehouse in Reno, "to be closer to the Amazon.com warehouse," the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.
In April, the pair opened a bricks-and-mortar store, where they sell books, DVDs, audiobooks, games, journals and more.
IndieCommerce Nears Total Fulfillment
The IndieCommerce solution, formerly known as BookSense.com, is adding wholesaler fulfillment and e-book functionality, "the last two functionalities we are moving over to the new system," IndieCommerce director Ricky Leung said in Bookselling This Week.
The wholesaler functionality, which is now available, allows a store to have a wholesaler automatically fulfill an order directly to a customer with IndieCommerce processing the payment. Next month, e-book functionality in Adobe, Microsoft and Palm Reader formats will be available.
Booksellers now will be able to "do everything with the new Drupal system that they did before with the old system, and, importantly, also much more," Leung said. "IndieCommerce's open-source platform is practical, intuitive, and adaptable, and it provides our members with more robust administrative tools. IndieCommerce allows users to have much greater control over the look and feel of their websites, and allows ABA staff to roll out new features more quickly."
At BEA, ABA staffers will offer training sessions, demos, a Q&A session and a users group meeting on IndieCommerce.
By the way, check out the websites of some stores already using the new system (below). The stores' sites are strikingly different from the rather uniform BookSense.com sites.
Publish or Perish: The New Agency
Earlier this month, after leaving Peterson's Publishing Group, Roger Williams stated that he didn't have any talent to be an author, "so the only things I haven't done in this industry are librarian or agent" (Shelf Awareness, May 7, 2009). Well, librarian is now the only thing he hasn't done.
Williams has set up the Publish or Perish Agency, which has an unusual aspect: an affiliate program under which booksellers, librarians and sales reps who refer writers to the agency share in the revenue of their placed works.
"I remember from when I was a bookseller--and any bookseller will tell you--people come into the store all the time" with manuscripts and questions about writing, Williams said. "There's talent out there, and this program brings booksellers, librarians and sales reps into the process."
Gayle Shanks, ABA president and co-owner of Changing Hands bookstore, Tempe, Ariz., praised the idea, writing to Shelf Awareness: "I am regularly asked by customers who have written books how to find an agent. Or they ask me if they should self publish or pay a vanity press to publish their book. I think Roger's model is the perfect answer to these queries. As one so knowledgeable about our industry, knowing it from so many perspectives, he will have a good idea what might or might not be marketable and the idea that he would share a percentage of the revenue with booksellers for sending authors his way makes his model even more interesting."
Williams has worked as a sales director, sales rep, a bookseller, owned a bookstore, Wit & Wisdom, which he operated from 1989 to 1995 in Lawrenceville, N.J. (His agency's logo is the logo of Wit & Wisdom.) He also worked on Bookwire.com in the earliest days of the Internet. In addition, his wife, Gina Cascone, is a writer and he has agented her books and helped her sisters negotiate contracts.
Williams is also proud of the submission form on the agency's website, which aims to "take the place" of the pitch letter to publishers, which he says should be done by him rather than by the author, as is often the case.
Williams is also offering a range of services for publishers and booksellers, including, for publishers, channel management, marketing, supply chain management, e-book planning and more. For booksellers, he can provide help in coop management, marketing and publicity, merchandising, buying, staff training and development and publisher/wholesaler relations.
He may be reached at Roger.Williams@PublishOrPerishAgency.com or 609-865-0982.
Image of the Day: The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire
Speaking earlier this month in the Music Room of the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C.: C.M. Mayo, author of the debut novel The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire (Unbridled Books, $26.95, 9781932961645/193296164X). More than 150 attended, and all books--and book plates--sold out.
BEA: Picks of the Panels, Part 5
The Independent Book Publishers Association is hosting its annual Publishing University Tuesday-Thursday, May 26-28, 7 a.m-5:30 a.m., at the Roosevelt Hotel at 45th St. and Madison. The curriculum includes more than 50 classes in marketing, sales, publicity, general publishing, finance, legal, editorial, printing, design and advanced publishing. Registration is online or call 1-800-286-0222.
Books to Film, a panel sponsored by the Independent Book Publishers Association, presented by Rocky Lang of BookstoFilm.TV, takes place on the show floor in the 2300 aisle at African American/Independent Press Pavilion on Friday, May 29, 10 a.m.-noon. Panelists include Dr. Uwe Stender of Triada U.S. Literary Agency, Lucy Stille of Paradigm Talent and Literary Agency, Diane Nabatoff of Tiara Blu Films and Linda Berman of Media Nation PMC.
On Saturday May 30, at 11:30, at the Uptown Stage on the show floor, a session focuses on Taking Woodstock: the Book and the Movie. This event features Elliot Tiber, author of the book, publisher Rudy Shur of Square One Publishers and representatives from the Independent Book Publishers Association, which is sponsoring the session.
Tiber's family ran an inn in Bethel, N.Y., and helped organizers of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969 find a site for the concert, which took place 40 years ago this summer. The movie based on the Tiber's memoir, Taking Woodstock, is directed by Ang Lee and made its debut at Cannes this month. It will be released in the U.S. August 14.
The trailer for the movie will be shown and Shur will discuss how Square One acquired the book and made the deal with Focus Features and Ang Lee.
Fodor's on BEA: Chelsea Galleries
Sometimes you need a break from the Javits Center. Exploring the nearby galleries of Chelsea is a great way to get some fresh air and check out the New York art scene. Good art, bad art, edgy art, downright disturbing art--it's all here, waiting to please and provoke in the contemporary art capital of the world. For the uninitiated, the concentration of nearly 300 galleries within a seven-block radius can be overwhelming, and the sometimes cool receptions upon entering can be intimidating. Art galleries are not exactly famous for their customer service skills, but they're free and you don't need a degree in art history to stare at a canvas.
Walking there: To reach the galleries from Javits, take a 15-minute walk south on 11th Ave. 26th Street is the northern edge of the gallery zone, and 19th Street the southern; 9th Ave. is the eastern edge and 11th Ave. the western.
Etiquette: There's no required code of conduct, although most galleries are library-quiet and cell phones are seriously frowned upon. Don't worry, you won't be pressured to buy anything; staff will probably be doing their best to ignore you.
Hours: Galleries are generally open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Gallery-hop on Saturday afternoon--the highest traffic day--if you want company.
More Resources: You can't see everything in one afternoon, so if you have specific interests, plan ahead. Find gallery information and current exhibit details at wwww.galleryguide.org. (You can pick up a free hard copy of this at "Interview Art in America's" monthly Chelsea brochure at any gallery desk.)
Highlights of the Chelsea Galleries
David Zwirner. Proving his finger is on the pulse of contemporary art, Zwirner shows works in all media by such emerging artists as Luc Tuymans, Stan Douglas, Thomas Ruff, Diana Thater and Yutaka Sone. 525 W. 19th St., between 10th and 11th Aves.
Gagosian. This enterprising modern gallery has two large Chelsea branches and a third on the Upper East Side, one in Beverly Hills and one in London. All present works by heavy hitters like sculptor Richard Serra, the late pop-art icon Roy Lichtenstein and Willem de Kooning. 555 W. 24th St., at 11th Ave.
Matthew Marks. A white-hot venue for both the New York and international art crowd, openings at any of the three Matthew Marks galleries are always an interesting scene. Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone made his U.S. debut here, as did Andreas Gursky. Nan Goldin, Ellsworth Kelly, Brice Marden, Katharina Fritsch and a cast of illustrious others also show here. 523 W. 24th St., between 10th and 11th Aves.
Robert Miller. Miller, a titan of the New York art world, represents some of the biggest names in modern painting and photography, including Diane Arbus and the estates of Lee Krasner and Alice Neel. 524 W. 26th St., between 10th and 11th Aves.
Chelsea Art Museum. In a former Christmas ornament factory, this contemporary art museum was created to display a collection of postwar European art and to host traveling exhibitions from European museums. Exhibitions focus on relatively unexplored dimensions of 20th- and 21st-century art as well as display the work of French abstract painter Jean Miotte. 556 W. 22nd St., at 11th Ave. Thurs. noon–8. Fri., and Sat. noon–6.
For more New York City recommendations, check out Fodor's New York City 2009, the guide The New York Times calls "the can't-go-wrong choice," or visit fodors.com.
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Horse Soldiers
Sunday on Weekend All Things Considered: Jeff Guinn, author of Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781416557067/1416557067).
Monday morning on the Today Show: Doug Stanton, author of Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan (Scribner, $28, 9781416580515/1416580514).
Also on Today on a picnic basket makeover segment: Ellie Krieger, author of The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life (Taunton, $28, 9781600850219/1600850219).
Books & Authors
Awards: Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Winner
Paul Melko has won the 2009 Compton Crook Award, also known as the Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Award, for his novel, Singularity's Ring (Tor). Voted by the membership of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, the award honors the best novel of the year by a first-time novelist and carries a $1,000 prize.
Melko receives the award this evening at the opening ceremony of Balticon, aka the Maryland Regional Science Fiction Convention, sponsored by the Society.
The award honors SF author Compton Crook who used the nom de plume Stephen Tall, who died in 1981.
Book Brahmin: Simon Majumdar
Simon Majumdar is a full-time foodie, blogger and expeditionist living in London. He also has a popular food blog, eatmyglobe.blogspot.com, which earns him a thousand readers a week and a spot on the Evening Standard's list of London's most influential people. When he left his stable job in the publishing industry to go everywhere and eat everything, the result was Eat My Globe: One Year to Go Everywhere and Eat Everything, published by Free Press on May 19, a chronicle of jetting to 30 countries in just over 12 months and diving headfirst into local cultures and cuisines as diametrically different as those of Brazil and Iceland. Majumdar stopped noshing long enough to answer a few questions:
On your nightstand now:
Am I allowed more than one? Well, I will anyway. For an evening read, Rubicon by Tom Holland, an impeccably researched and engaging history of the end of the Roman Republic. When I am traveling, which I seem to be almost constantly, American crime novels, which currently include Swan Peak by James Lee Burke and The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly. Oh, in the bathroom, I also have a biography of Monty Python, which seems grimly appropriate.
Favorite book when you were a child:
As a child, I loved stories of derring-do where I, a fat, bullied half Indian kid, could imagine myself in worlds of great adventure. I loved the Biggles books by W.E. Johns and adventure stories like Treasure Island and Kidnapped. I was also obsessed with Hollywood biographies and devoured the two David Niven autobiographies, The Moon's a Balloon and Bring on the Empty Horses. Perhaps my favourite of all was Harpo Speaks by Harpo Marx.
Your top five authors (in no particular order):
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Re-reading the Sherlock Holmes stories has been a regular pleasure in my life.
Robertson Davies. Not only my favourite author of all, but his Old Testament prophet beard made him look like a proper writer.
George Plimpton. His books of participatory sports journalism like Paper Lions and Shadowbox are funny and affectionate.
Thomas Mann. I first read The Magic Mountain when I was recovering from glandular fever (mono) and the disciplined prose made a lasting impression on my teenaged mind.
Wilkie Collins. Not least because the character of Count Fosco in The Woman in White remains, with Parlabane in Robertson Davies's The Cornish Trilogy, my favourite villain in literature.
Book you've faked reading:
Unlike many, I never claim to have completed anything by James Joyce and am quite willing to defend my position that they are all unutterable tosh. In fact, the only book I have ever faked reading was Captain Correlli's Mandolin because a woman I fancied said it was her favourite book. I had/have no intention of reading it and even begrudge the few minutes we spent talking about it on our first date. Unsurprisingly we didn't have a second one.
Book you're an evangelist for:
The Collected Poems of Rabindranath Tagore. Sensual, beautiful and lyrical. One poem in particular, "Unending Love," reduces me to a blubbering wreck every time I read it.
Book you've bought for the cover:
The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. It had the word MEAT embossed on the cover in large letters and lots of pictures of meat inside. I have been known to cuddle it as I fall asleep.
Book that changed your life:
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde marked the first time I realized that words could be on the page for their beauty and not only to drive forward a narrative or drive home a factual point.
Favorite line from a book:
It's more a line about books, but whenever I start getting too serious about what I do for a living I remind myself of the words of J.M Barrie, the author of Peter Pan:
"It is all very well to be able to write books, but can you waggle your ears?"
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I envy anyone who is at the beginning of the adventures that are Shakespeare and Dickens. I pity them too as they are both grueling marathons, but once they have done it they will be pleased they made the effort. Personally, I am sorry I read The Cornish Trilogy by Robertson Davies because it means I can never read it again for the first time.
Graphic Lit: Book Clubs, Not Just for Prose Anymore
As most of us booksellers do, I have a couple of customer-friends who share my taste in books, so when they come in, we get to gab excitedly about the stuff we're reading and loving. The excitement is extreme when we speak about graphic novels, and especially with my friend Evan, a professional pop culture critic and long-time comics geek. Every time he stops by, the two of us get to talking a mile a minute about Brian K. Vaughan, Scott Pilgrim, the newest X-Men development, Mat Johnson and Kyle Baker and Grant Morrison and on and on. What's surprising is how long it took one of us (I think it was Evan) to say, "Hey, we should really start a graphic novel book club."
Party this was an excuse to indulge our own interest in discussing and dissecting our favorites; partly it was prompted by the fever around the Watchmen movie, which brought many new fans to a classic of the medium. We sensed that many readers were interested in exploring graphic novels for the first time, and also that many of the die-hard comics fans were coming to bookstores as well as comics stores for their fix. In the interest of bringing them together, the McNally Jackson Graphic Novel Book Club was born this past March.
In speaking to other booksellers, I've found that while some traditional book clubs may be willing to explore certain graphic novels, it's much more successful to have one group devoted exclusively to the medium, just as we have a separate section in the bookstore (see the recent PW profile of our section). The intersection of art and dialogue, and the interplay of a writer and artist (or multiple artists), make for a different kind of conversation and attract a different group of fans.
One challenge of a graphic novel book club is the serialized nature of many comics: we could devote years to reading the 12-volume Sandman series alone, for example. In our group, we tend to pick one representative book from a great series to discuss and let attendees choose to read the rest on their own if it strikes their fancy. But it might be wonderful to have a book club devoted to a long series like Y: The Last Man (Brian K. Vaughan, 10 volumes) or Buddha (Osamu Tezuka, 8 volumes); there are plenty of themes that develop over time that would be great for in-depth discussion.
We had our third book club meeting in early May. Already it's one of the more successful discussion groups in the store, drawing 8 to 20 attendees to each monthly meeting. And it's definitely not just for overgrown teen boys: our group is incredibly diverse in terms of age, gender, ethnicity and exposure to comics. Some are awkward teenagers; some were alive during the Golden Age of Comics. Some are reading comics for the first time ever; some can debate arcane points of the Avengers mythology or the retcon decisions of the DC Universe. As with any group discussion, this multitude of viewpoints makes the discussion interesting. We promote our group with signage in the graphic novels section, in our bi-monthly events e-mails and (a first for us) through a Facebook group, where membership continues to increase.
If you're interested in starting a graphic novel discussion group at your bookstore (or proposing the idea to a bookstore you frequent), there are a million conversation-worthy books to choose from. I've organized my sections here by loose themes, which you might choose based on your own interests or the makeup of your group. (I've refrained from my usual editorializing to leave room for more great book ideas, but you can click through to the IndieBound page for more information about each title.) An asterisk indicates a title in a series.
History/Development of the Medium
Some foundational texts and keys to understanding graphic novels' unique language.
- Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud (Harper Perennial, $22.99, 9780060976255/006097625X, paperback, 224 pp.)
- The Contract With God Trilogy by Will Eisner (Norton, $16.95, 9780393328042/039332804X, paperback, 182 pp.)
- Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman (Pantheon, $35, 9780679748403/0679406417, boxed set)
Contemporary Literary Classics
Critically acclaimed and accessible to readers of prose literature
- Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (Mariner, $13.95, 9780618871711/0618871713, paperback, 232 pp.)
- The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon, $24.95, 9780375714832/0375714839, paperback, 341 pp.)
- Black Hole by Charles Burns (Pantheon, $18.95, 9780375714726/0375714723, paperback, 368 pp.)
The Best of the Superheroes
Nuanced, self-contained takes on classic superhero characters
- Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (DC Comics, $19.99 , 9780930289232/0930289234, paperback, 416 pp.)
- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller (DC Comics, $14.99, 9781563893421/1563893428, paperback, 224 pp.)
- DC: The New Frontier by Darwyn Cooke (DC Comics, $19.99, 9781401203504/1401204619, paperback, 208 pp.)
Creators of Color
Great comics by African American and Latino writers and artists
- Incognegro by Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece (Vertigo, $14.99, 9781401210984/1401210988, paperback, 136 pp.)
- Nat Turner by Kyle Baker (HNA Books, $12.95, 9780810972278/0810972271, paperback, 207 pp.)
- Love & Rockets, No. 1: New Stories by Los Bros Hernandez (Fantagraphics Books, $14.99, 9781560979517/1560979518, paperback, 100 pp.)
Sometimes rated "guidance suggested," with themes that adults and teens will find engrossing
- * Runaways 1: Pride & Joy by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona (Marvel Comics, $7.99, 9780785113799/0785113797, paperback, 144 pp.)
- Blankets by Craig Thompson (Top Shelf Productions, $29.95, 9781891830433/1891830430, paperback, 592 pp.)
- * Sandman 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman , Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg and Malcolm Jones III (Vertigo, $19.99, 9781563890116/1563890119, paperback, 240 pp.)
Pushing the boundaries of comics narrative. And often funny.
- * Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O'Malley (Oni Press, $11.95, 9781932664089/1932664084, paperback, 168 pp.)
- Pop Gun War by Farel Dalrymple (Dark Horse Comics, $13.95, 9781569719343/1569719349, paperback, 136 pp.)
- Castle Waiting by Linda Medley (Fantagraphics Books, $29.95, 9781560977476/1560977477, hardcover, 457 pp.)
Once you get started with comics and graphic novels, one discovery leads to another, and there's no shortage of great books with discussion potential on the comics shelves. I'd love to hear your ideas for great graphic novels for book clubs, and how your own conversation is going!--Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, events and publicity coordinator, McNally Jackson bookstore, New York City, and future co-owner, Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y.