Shelf Awareness for Friday, July 29, 2005
Quotation of the Day
Indigo Sees a Little Less Red Ink
Sales at superstores open at least a year rose 5.5%, but sales at mall and "small-format" stores rose "just under 1%." Sales at Indigo's online branch, chapters.indigo.ca, rose 36%.
The company attributed part of the gain in earnings to "improved supply chain management." Sales rose for a variety of reasons, CEO Heather Reisman said: a refinement of assortment on a store-by-store basis; the relaunch of gifts, with "a more strategic assortment"; and a new experts recommendations program, under which, for example, "leading physicians on major diseases" recommended specific books, which boosted sales of health titles.
Bookselling Notes: New Stores; BAM Boom
Next year Barnes & Noble will open and close stores in Pineville, N.C., a Charlotte suburb. When a new store opens in August 2006 in the Carolina Place Mall, the company will close its store at 10701 Centrum Park.
B&N also plans to open a store in Allen Park, Mich., near Detroit. The store, which opens next March, will be in the Fairlane Green shopping center on I-94.
Books-a-Million, which had several stores heavily damaged by hurricanes last year, can't seem to get a break.
A severe windstorm caused the façade of a BAM store in Fayetteville, N.C., to collapse yesterday, according to the Associated Press. About 30 people were in the store when the crash occurred and power went out. "The first thing we saw was the horizontal rain," assistant manager Andra Hyde said. "Then the wind. Then a big boom."
Media and Movies
Film Reviews: Dogs Day; Balzac; Tony T.
On the other hand, A.O. Scott in the Times called Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress a "tender, touching adaptation. . . . There is very little bitterness in [Dai Sijie's] reconstruction of the Cultural Revolution, but rather a sense of resilience touched with sentimentality, and a suffusing fondness for youth, beauty and literature."
Also in the Times, Manohla Dargis described Tony Takitani as "a delicate wisp of a film with a surprisingly sharp sting." Incidentially the Haruki Murakami short story the movie is based on appeared in the New Yorker three years ago but apparently has not yet been published here in book form.
Books & Authors
A Handful of Handsells
The Preservationist by David Maine (St. Martin's/Griffin, $12.95, 0312328486). Just out in paperback, this is a "wonderful first novel that considers skepticism and doubt, blind faith, loyalty to family," according to Sarah Bagby, managing partner at Watermark Books and Café, Wichita, Kan. "It's a deconstruction of Noah's Ark, a retelling from a practical point of view." When Noah comes home with his vision, "his long-suffering wife says, 'Where are we going to get wood?' " Bagby added that The Preservationist is also a great book club pick with a "wonderful" audio version (Highbridge Audio unabridged cassette, $29.95, 1565118707; abridged CD, $29.95, 1565118715).
The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll: The Search for Dare Wright by Jean Nathan (Picador, $15, 0312424922), also just out in paperback. Bagby calls this a "strange" but "very well done" book that chronicles the haunted life of the children's book author whose The Lonely Doll (Houghton Mifflin/Sandpiper, $6.95, 039590112X) was extremely popular among girls when it came out in 1957. "A lot of people around 50 remember these books," Bagby said. "After her success, Wright couldn't find anything to do and went crazy. She was lonely and living in New York City and died penniless in a public hospital."
Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II by Robert Kurson (Ballantine, $7.50, 0345482476), about two divers who found the wreck of a U-boat off the coast of New Jersey and traveled the world to learn more about it. "Kurson did a great job," Steve Brumfield, owner of Manteo Booksellers, Manteo, N.C., on the Outer Banks, said. The book, which he called a kind of regional title, sells best in summer.
Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays (Miramax, $19.95, 1401359345), a hilarious look, including recipes, at Southern traditions at funerals. Windows: A Bookshop in Monroe, La., has sold more than 400 copies of the book, "huge unbelievable numbers for us," Elisabeth Grant-Gibson said.
Fading Warriors: Twi-light Reminiscences from World War II by Lee Estes (self-published, $29.95, email@example.com), published this year by a local photographer who interviewed 47 veterans about their experiences. Windows has sold more than 150 copies of the book, which, Grant-Gibson said, "serves to remind us that in many ways regional books are our bread and butter, and that we do have something that chains would find it hard to compete with."
[Note to booksellers and librarians: Please tell us about the books you are specially recommending. Thank you!]
A Romantic 10 Years: Turn the Page
Drawing 275 people, Nora Roberts, best-known for her romances but a versatile writer whose titles have about 270 million copies in print, appeared with several other authors and signed copies of her latest title, appearing under her J.D. Robb name, Origin in Death (Putnam, $24.95, 039915289X). She also helped celebrate the 10th birthday of the event host, Turn the Page, the small bookstore in Boonsboro, Md., in the western part of the state where the prolific author usually begins her tours.
Turn the Page? Boonsboro, Md.?
Bruce Wilder, Roberts's husband for 20 years, explained to Shelf Awareness: "A decade ago, I had been doing carpentry, but that got to be too much for me so I was looking around for something else to do. I had done retail before, and a bookstore seemed logical." Besides, he continued with a laugh: "Nora wouldn't let me hang around the house."
He found a spot in a house in "downtown" Boonsboro, a small town 10 miles from home, and started selling books in two rooms. Three years ago, he bought the building next door and broke through the wall, adding two more selling rooms.
At just 1,200 square feet, Turn the Page is still small but remains very focused and sells mostly paperbacks. "We're in a mass market-trade paperback area," Wilder commented. The anti-hardcover tendency is so strong that Turn the Page stocks the New York Times mass market and trade paper bestsellers but not its hardcover lists.
Most nonfiction is related to the Civil War and the Revolutionary War. (Boonsboro is near the site of the battle of Antietam.) Because of Wilder's personal interest in the subject, he carries some photography books, but they tend to be too expensive for the store's clientele. Sidelines include stained glass and pottery done by one of Turn the Page's booksellers. One room is devoted to children's books. Beyond that, the store carries "all the genres," including horror, mysteries, general fiction and romance, but not so much science fiction since, as Wilder put it, "it's so broad and needs a strong client base."
The big specialty, of course, is Nora Roberts, who has a room dedicated to her many works. In fact, "about 80%" of the store's customers are Roberts fans. Here they can find everything of hers that's in print from her three publishers, none of which are used because the store stocks only new titles. Many of her books are autographed. ("I take home tons of books to her every day and she signs them," Wilder says with admiration.) Sales on the Internet are so important that Wilder commented, "Walk-in traffic is picking up, but if it weren't for the Net, I don't think we'd be here."
Events like the one on Harry Potter day are also important. "We do about five big events a year and they always feature Nora," Wilder said. For each of her new books, "we're the kickoff event and sometimes we get the book early since Nora's gone on tour by the time the book is released."
Some events are done in conjunction with the Washington Romance Writers, the regional chapter of the Romance Writers of America, which has a retreat every spring at Harpers Ferry, W.V. As many as 15 WRW writers appear at the store with Roberts, "a madhouse," as Wilder put it.
In addition, a fan group called ADWOFF or A Day Without French Fries (from a line Roberts wrote), have been visiting regularly for nine years. Each summer the group's members from around the country take blocks of room in nearby hotels, mob the store and have a big party.
The events have made Wilder and his staff of one fulltimer and four parttimers veterans at event management. (One tricky aspect is limiting the amount of books people can bring from home to two per person for the first hundred people. "For a time, Nora was signing so many books people were bringing from home that she stayed hours beyond what we'd scheduled," Wilder said.) Events are held in one of the store's four rooms. "We give out 25 tickets at a time, marked A, B, C and so forth," Wilder explained. "This gives us time to check books and let the previous group go through before we let them in." We hardly have any problems because they're fans. They wait and and wait."
Wilder likes to have multiple authors at the events, usually five, because "advertising costs the same" and "it's more people for the attendees to see."
By the way, despite its paperback emphasis and Nora Roberts's presence on Harry Potter day, Turn the Page has sold 49 of the 50 copies of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that it ordered.
Turn the Page is located at 18 N. Main St., Boonsboro, Md. 21713; 301-432-4588; www.ttpbooks.com.