Shelf Awareness for Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dutton Books: A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor (The Carls #2) by Hank Green

HP Piazza: Regain Control of Your Publishing Content - Register Now

Post Hill Press: Personality Wins: Who Will Take the White House and How We Know by Merrick Rosenberg and Richard Ellis

Walrus Publishing: I Will Be Okay by Bill Elenbark

Parson Weems Publisher Services - Click Here!


Tools of Change: E-books, Discoverability and Zombies

While the e-book market continues to grow, in 2011 that growth began to flatten out, becoming incremental rather than exponential. One contributing phenomenon was a slowdown over the last year in getting book buyers to purchase their first e-book; a related issue was that among the 76% of book buyers who still haven't bought their first e-book, 14% own an e-book device... and still haven't bought a book to read on it.

These were among the striking findings presented yesterday morning, during the final day of the O'Reilly Tools of Change conference, when Book Industry Study Group research chair (and R.R. Bowker v-p) Kelly Gallagher and BISG executive director Len Vlahos dug a little deeper into the third edition of the BISG/Bowker "Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading" survey that Gallagher shared at last month's Digital Book World. That survey identified in part the segments of "power buyers" who were buying the majority of books in the print and digital markets.

Once they broke "the e-book market" down into specific sectors, though, fiction was an area that did show significant growth throughout the year, which led to the question: How much room is there left for fiction sales to grow further? And can the effect be duplicated in other segments of the market?

Although their research showed that an individual consumer's e-book purchases initially occur at the expense of print book sales, a sort of leveling effect takes place over time--the longer one continues to buy e-books, the more likely it is that the number of e-books one purchases will dip slightly, and the number of print books, while initially dropping, will experience a slight uptick, until they begin to converge. (That trend toward convergence echoed observations made Tuesday during Jack McKeown's presentation of Verso Digital's research.)

"Discoverability" was another key theme of the day; one of the most talked-about sessions was a presentation by Goodreads CEO Otis Chandler on how that site's users discover the books they choose to read. As one might expect, searches played a major role in discovery, and Chandler described how a recommendation engine launched late last year fed users who rated the books that came up in their searches suggestions for additional reading, leading to a 60% increase in "shelving" titles for future consideration. Lists compiled by readers, bundling like titles together, was also another popular way to find new books. On the other hand, 96% of Goodreads users said they read books by authors they already knew, underscoring the need for publishers to market to authors' fan bases.

Panel lineup: Emily Lyman, Crown Publishing; Miriam Parker, Mulholland Books; Guinevere de la Mare, Chronicle Books; Ryan Chapman, FSG; Henry Copeland, Blogads.

As Tools of Change was drawing to a close, representatives from the online marketing departments of several publishers gathered at the Gershwin Hotel for a Social Media Week panel on "building community around books" moderated by Blogads CEO Henry Copeland. Though all the speakers agreed that it was necessary to keep an eye on all the major social networks, they recognized that it was impossible to be everywhere at once and advocated allocating resources where they do the most good. "I'm not too concerned with having 100,000 Twitter followers," said Farrar, Straus & Giroux's Ryan Chapman. Instead, "I'm concerned with having 10,000 people who will open every literary fiction e-mail I send them."

The panelists also opened up about what hadn't worked for them; Chapman confessed that a YouTube video created by author/musician Mike Edison showing off his "bong guitar" had failed to spur sales of the memoir I Have Fun Everywhere I Go commensurate with the 420,000-plus views it received. Similarly, Emily Lyman of Crown Publishing said that David Rosen's novel I Just Want My Pants Back (now the basis of an MTV sitcom) hadn't gained any traction online, because it simply wasn't a good fit for the female-heavy demographics of many social networks. Well, asked an audience member, how do you attract male readers online? "I can sum that up in one word," Lyman quipped: "Zombies." --Ron Hogan


Disney-Hyperion: The Mirror Broken Wish (Mirror #1) by Julie C. Dao

Awesome: Pittsburgh Store Opens Second Location

Awesome Books, which opened in Pittsburgh, Pa., two years ago this month, has opened a second location, in the downtown area, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The 1,000-sq.-ft. space currently stocks 3,000 new and used books, and plans to expand to about 10,000 books over time.

Awesome Books is owned by Bob Ziller and Laura Jean McLaughlin, both of whom are artists. Not surprisingly they are displaying the works of local artists as well as hosting author readings and selling art and poetry books that they are publishing under the imprint of Lascaux Editions.

The pair have spent $17,000 for "period-style lighting, painting, brick cleaning and other renovations." McLaughin called the location "a beautiful, old, turn-of-the-century building with a great facade and high ceilings."

Awesome Books will stay open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, which the paper called "an experiment based on Mr. Ziller's time living in New York, where he made regular late-night visits to St. Mark's Bookshop on the Lower East Side."

GLOW: Inkyard Press: Come On In: 15 Stories about Immigration and Finding Home edited by Adi Alsaid

Best Buy to Sell Kobo Vox in Stores

Best Buy is beginning to sell Kobo's Vox eReader in its U.S. stores, marking the first time the devices are available in bricks-and-mortar stores here. Best Buy, Target and have sold Kobo e-readers online, and Best Buy has sold other Kobo products in store.

The color device will be sold for $199 and is, the company said, the world's first social e-reader, allowing "readers to start conversations with other readers and discover new books and authors through their social network." Kobo's e-bookstore has more than 2.5 million e-books, a million of which are free, as well as magazines, music, video, apps and games. Kobo says it has more than seven million users in 170 countries.

Kobo evolved from Indigo Books & Music in Canada and was bought late last year by Rakuten, the Japanese Internet services company.


Atheneum Books: Saucy by Cynthia Kadohata, illustrated by Marianna Raskin

Amazon: Emotional Appeal 'Despite Little Physical Interaction'

Calling it "one of the most fascinating aspects of the latest Harris Poll Reputation Quotient study," GeekWire reported that Amazon "continues to bolster its brand, even as most Americans have little physical interaction with the company."

Amazon moved up from eighth place to fourth in the most recent study, which asks Americans to measure the reputations of the 60 most visible companies in the country. Apple finished first.

"Interestingly,, which has no storefront and very limited human interaction, scores highest in the Emotional Appeal dimension--this is the core strength of its reputation. In terms of supportive behavior, customers report considerable confidence in and several other companies," the report noted.

Among the respondents, 71% percent said they would "definitely buy" from Amazon in the future, 64% would recommend Amazon to others and 34% would "definitely invest" in the company's stock (compared to 23% who said they would invest in Microsoft and Coca-Cola).


Happy 10th to Unshelved!

Congratulations to Gene and Bill at Unshelved, which celebrates its 10th anniversary today! We're not sure how to do it, but we hope to catch up to you guys sometime. Thanks for a decade of library laughs, which all started with the strip above.


Image of the Day: Rebel Wife and Loyal Dog

Last Saturday at Fiction Addiction, Greenville, S.C., Taylor Polites made the first stop on the tour for his first novel, The Rebel Wife (Simon & Schuster). Along for the ride was his dog, Clovis.


India's Disappearing Private Libraries

Despite India's "rich library tradition since the late 18th century" and Madurai's "reputation in the promotion of literature, small private libraries here are disappearing," the Hindu reported.

Usha Shenbagaraj, owner of the Dheepam Library, said that "over the course of the last few years, I have seen at least four libraries close down. The reason primarily, I think, is that it is just impossible these days to earn a living and support a family solely out of a library."

While e-books and online retailers have had an impact upon metropolitan city markets, in Madurai, "penetration of technology is still low and people still want to borrow and read books. Still, there are myriad problems with running a library," the Hindu wrote.

Bookmasters Adds Six U.K. Publishers

Bookmasters has added six U.K. publishers to its North American distribution program:

Arcturus Publishing, which emphasizes art instruction, children's, history, true crime, body, mind and spirit, and general reference books. (Bookmasters will also handle POD and global e-book distribution for Arcturus.)
House of Stratus, a publisher of English literary classics. (Also POD.)
Heni Publishing, a publisher of fine art titles.
Salma Editions, also a publisher of fine art titles.
Stripe Publishing, a publisher of popular naming books.
Management Briefs, a publisher of practical books for small business professionals.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Pico Iyer on Tavis Smiley

Tomorrow on Tavis Smiley: Pico Iyer, author of The Man Within My Head (Knopf, $25.95, 9780307267610).


TV: Hannibal; The Viagra Diaries

NBC has picked up 13 episodes of a TV series based on everyone's favorite cannibal/serial killer, Hannibal Lecter. Entertainment Weekly reported that the Hannibal project is directed by Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies; Heroes) and based on the lead characters--FBI agent Will Graham and his mentor Dr. Hannibal Lecter--from Thomas Harris's novel Red Dragon, who will be "re-introduced at the beginning of their budding relationship."


Wendi McLendon-Covey (Bridesmaids) will co-star opposite Goldie Hawn in the pilot episode of HBO's The Viagra Diaries, based on the book by Barbara Rose Brooker, reported. The project, which was created by Sex and the City creator/executive producer Darren Star, is directed Paul Feig (Bridesmaids), and Hawn is one of the producers.

This Weekend on Book TV: Savannah Book Festival

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this week from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Tuesday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, February 18

8 a.m. Steven Hayward presents his book The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents from Wilson to Obama (Regnery, $19.95, 9781596987760). (Re-airs Sunday at 8 p.m., Monday at 9:30 p.m. and Tuesday at 3:45 a.m.)

9:30 a.m. Book TV will offer live coverage of the Savannah Book Festival in Savannah, Ga. Featured authors include Tom Clavin, Karl Marlantes, Scotty Smiley, Greg Myre, Jennifer Griffin, Irshad Manji, Toure and S.C. Gwynne. (Re-airs Sunday at 12 a.m.)

3:30 p.m. Dylan Ratigan discusses his book Greedy Bastards!: How We Can Stop Corporate Communists, Banksters, and Other Vampires from Sucking America Dry (S&S, $25, 9781451642223). (Re-airs Monday at 11:45 p.m.)

7:30 p.m. Charles Murray talks about his book Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 (Crown Forum, $27, 9780307453426). (Re-airs Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and February 26 at 1 a.m.)

8:45 p.m. John Nichols discusses his book Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street (Nation Books, $15.99, 9781568587035). (Re-airs Sunday at 10:45 a.m.)

10 p.m. After Words. U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I.-Vt.) interviews Ira Shapiro, author of The Last Great Senate: Courage and Statesmanship in Times of Crisis (PublicAffairs, $34.99, 9781586489366). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m., Monday at 12 a.m. & 3 a.m., and February 26 at 12 p.m.)

11 p.m. Ann Lee presents her book What the U.S. Can Learn from China: An Open-Minded Guide to Treating Our Greatest Competitor as Our Greatest Teacher (Berrett-Koehler, $27.95, 9781609941246). (Re-airs Sunday at 5 p.m., Monday at 11 a.m. and Tuesday at 2:45 a.m.)

Sunday, February 19

1 p.m. Nancy Sherman discusses her book The Untold War: Inside the Hearts, Minds, and Souls of Our Soldiers (Norton, $16.95, 9780393341003). (Re-airs Sunday at 7:30 p.m. and Monday at 1 a.m.)

2 p.m. Alan Huffman and Michael Rejebian, co-authors of We're With Nobody: Two Insiders Reveal the Dark Side of American Politics (Morrow, $15.99, 9780062015778), explore their careers as political opposition researchers. (Re-airs Sunday at 11 p.m.)

6 p.m. Greg Robinson discusses his book By Order of The President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans (University of California Press, $27.95, 9780520271593).

10 p.m. Elizabeth Dowling Taylor talks about her book A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons (Palgrave Macmillan, $28, 9780230108936). (Re-airs Monday at 7 a.m. & 5 p.m., and February 26 at 5 a.m.)

Books & Authors

Awards: Sami Rohr Winners

When They Come for Us We'll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry by Gal Beckerman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) has won the 2012 Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, sponsored by the Jewish Book Council and recognizing the role of emerging writers in examining the Jewish experience. The prize, which carries an award of $100,000, is given to works of fiction and nonfiction in alternating years.

The runner-up is Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator, Imperial Hero by Abigail Green (Belknap Press of Harvard University) and will receive a $25,000 prize.

Beckerman, an opinion editor at the Forward, and Green, a lecturer at Oxford, will receive their prizes at a ceremony in Jerusalem on April 11.

Family Fictions Lead to Fiction: The Possibility of You

Pamela Redmond talks about The Possibility of You sometimes in the way of a first novelist, but actually she has a long career--under her married name, Pamela Redmond Satran--as a magazine columnist, the author of five novels that she described as "contemporary domestic comedies" and the author and co-author of a range of nonfiction books, many drawn from, the baby-name website she co-founded and co-heads. Another is the very funny How Not to Act Old, which grew out of a blog.

But for many years, she wanted to write "bigger, more ambitious books with deeper themes, more complex characters and structures," and push herself as a writer. In her attempts to write a deeper novel, however, she usually "got to page 100 and stopped," she said.

A breakthrough came when she took a class with author Elizabeth George at Book Passage in Corte Madera, Calif. "I had taken writers workshops before, but never with such a practical approach. She deconstructed the process. It galvanized me." Afterward, Redmond threw out the novel she had been working on for years and started over.

The result is The Possibility of You, which Gallery Books is publishing February 21. It's "a very intricately plotted book," Redmond said, and readers see how family secrets "play out unconsciously from one generation to the next" and how "what was in the past impacts what happens in the future." Adoption is a key element of the tale, one that motivates the contemporary character to delve into her past and slowly uncover family secrets, something Redmond knows about firsthand.

The initial inspiration for The Possibility of You came when Redmond discovered her grandparents' marriage certificate, from which she deduced that at the time she wed, her grandmother was already pregnant. She also saw that her grandmother had misstated her age and her first name.

"I wondered how she could lie about so many things at the altar," Redmond remembered. "I'm sure they thought no one would know or care." But Redmond knew and cared, and speculated about why her grandmother, who never talked about her marriage or husband--he abandoned the family after her mother was born--had taken such steps. "I made inventions around a few facts and imagined what may have really happened," Redmond said. "I was influenced to become a writer by the fact that all I got about my family was fiction. The fact was that there were no facts."

In another bit of inspiration, Redmond learned that her grandmother landed alone at Ellis Island from Ireland at age 23--the same age as Redmond's daughter, who was then living in France on her own. "It helped me imagine how it was for my grandmother, being alone so far away from home."

And so she conceived a novel that grew to focus on three women "at three key moments of the past century dealing with unplanned pregnancies, changing pressures, timeless choices."

Wanting to find the right year for The Possibility of You to begin, Redmond focused on the second decade of the 20th century, about which her knowledge, she readily admitted, was "sketchy." Most of the book is set in New York City, and while researching at the New-York Historical Society, she had another inspiration: on an old map, she noticed a building in the East 40s in Manhattan called the Hospital for Ruptured and Crippled Children. It turned out that the hospital, which closed long ago, treated people from the polio epidemic that broke out in 1916, killing 2,500 and sickening 9,000 children. "The epidemic was a panic," Redmond said. "They closed playgrounds. People who could afford it sent their kids away."

Then she learned several other facts about 1916 that reinforced her decision to start her story then: during that year, when birth control was still illegal, Margaret Sanger opened her first clinic, which was quickly shut down by police. Also, the first female Jungian psychoanalyst began practicing in New York.

The second era of focus for her book was 1976, about which Redmond had more first-hand knowledge: that was the year Redmond moved to New York City. "I was a young woman in New York and knew what relationships were like then," she said. "But it was so long ago, it felt like another historical period."

The third period that the book focuses on is contemporary, when the strands of her multigenerational saga all come together. Michael Cunningham's The Hours provided inspiration for how to structure the book and interweave the periods. "I literally pulled The Hours apart and saw how he structured it," Redmond said. "I read every interview Cunningham had ever done."

Further inspiration--and a kind of cosmic affirmation--came after Redmond had written a rough draft of the book. She was in Little Italy seeking a good location for the apartment of one of her contemporary characters and taking in the atmosphere of the area. "I was tired and my feet hurt, and I was looking for a coffee shop," she said. "There are at least three on every block there, but I kept going by them and wondered why I wasn't stopping.'' Finally she went into a coffee shop and sat down. Several tables away was Michael Cunningham. "At first I thought I had to talk with him, but then I thought this was enough," she said. "It made me feel I was doing the right thing." --John Mutter

Book Review

Review: Beautiful Thing

Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay's Dance Bars by Sonia Faleiro (Grove/Black Cat, $15 paperback, 9780802170927, March 6, 2012)

Beautiful Thing is a portrait that begins in profile: "Leela's face was a perfect heart," Sonia Faleiro writes. "And knowing well the elegance of her little nose, Leela would flaunt it like an engagement ring. On certain evenings at the dance bar, when she needed to increase the padding of hundred rupee notes in her bra, Leela would engage only in silhouette."

Faleiro met 19-year-old Leela while she was researching an article on Bombay's "bar dancers," the thousands of maltreated, disenfranchised, often alarmingly young girls who make their livings performing for men in dark bars, frequently selling sex at the behest of pimps. The article, deemed "un-newsworthy," went unpublished--but Faleiro, captivated by Leela's irrepressible vitality, knew this proud, independent girl had a story that must be told.

Beautiful Thing is Leela's story, but through her, Faleiro unveils a larger narrative of Bombay's bar dancers and sex workers, one colored by love and violence, glamour and squalor, sex and corruption--and one that reveals the dark heart of Bombay itself. The city (glittering with promises but "toxic, no less than an open wound") and its dance bars attract girls like Leela, who are lured into working "on the line" because of the immediate financial independence it promises. Faleiro discovered that essentially all of these young women were fleeing horrifying home lives rife with every kind of abuse; she recounts that "every one of the bar dancers in Leela's building had either been raped by a blood relative or sold by one." But even though life on the line is a landmine of danger and exploitation, Leela relishes the freedom it seems to allow her.

Faleiro follows Leela through a year of her life--into dance bars, into brothels, into tiny flats cramped with beautiful girls and plastic bags stuffed with gifts from their customers. She meets a vibrant, heartbreaking array of dancers, prostitutes and hijras (physiologically male sex workers who dress and act as women), as well as the pimps, madams, gangsters and corrupt police who govern their lives. Customers and lovers come and go; friendships are intense, rivalries brutal.

Never judgmental or condescending, Faleiro delivers Leela's story with a reporter's distance and a novelist's immediacy. She animates journalistic observations with vivid descriptions, and her dialogue sings with slang and dialect. Leela moves through the pages as a remarkable, tragic and inspiring figure--victim, heroine, survivor. --Hannah Calkins

Shelf Talker: Sonia Faleiro's portrait of one Bombay bar dancer tells an undeniably tragic but grittily inspiring story of thousands of girls like her.


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