Shelf Awareness for Friday, February 2, 2018

Algonquin Young Readers: the Beautiful Game by Yamile Saied Méndez

Berkley Books: Books that will sweep you off your feet! Enter Giveaway!

Feiwel & Friends: The Flicker by HE Edgmon

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Pumpkin Princess and the Forever Night by Steven Banbury

St. Martin's Griffin: Murdle: The School of Mystery: 50 Seriously Sinister Logic Puzzles by GT Karber


Celeste Ng Is Author Ambassador for Independent Bookstore Day 2018

Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere, will be the official Author Ambassador for Independent Bookstore Day 2018. Scheduled for Saturday, April 28, the fourth annual Indie Bookstore Day will be celebrated by more than 490 independent bookstores around the country.

Celeste Ng, 2018 Bookstore Day Ambassador

"My favorite thing about independent bookstores is that they all have their own distinct personalities: each reflects not just the tastes but also the ideals of its community," said Ng. "From the second you walk in, you get a sense of what the people who shop there know and enjoy--as well as what's currently on their minds, what they want to learn, and what they value: in short, what kinds of people they want to be. Bookstores are more than just repositories of knowledge, they're living, breathing, evolving representations of our best selves."

Ng made her debut in 2014 with Everything I Never Told You, which went on to win the Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the ALA's Alex Award and more, along with being a bestseller. Her 2017 follow-up, Little Fires Everywhere, is a bestseller that will soon be published in more than 20 countries.

"Indie bookstores continue to occupy a special place in the hearts of anyone passionate about books, ideas, freedom of speech, vibrant neighborhoods, and creating community," said Independent Bookstore Day program director Samantha Schoech."We hear lots about their demise, but more than 40 new indie bookshops opened in 2017. In today's fast-changing world, indie bookstores still offer the delight of discovery, the comfort of community, and the tools for reflection, namely a universe of ideas and stories. We can't wait to celebrate indie bookstores and the readers who love them on Saturday, April 28."

Today, February 2, is the deadline for placing orders online for the exclusive Independent Bookstore Day 2018 items. The complete catalogue can be found here.

Blackstone Publishing: Rogue Community College: A Liberty House Novel by David R Slayton

Amazon 4th Quarter: Net Income Above $1B for First Time

In the fourth quarter ended December 31, net sales at Amazon rose 38%, to $60.5 billion, and net income rose 153.7%, to $1.9 billion. For the full year ended December 31, net sales rose 31%, to $177.9 billion, and net income rose 25%, to $3 billion.

The company predicts that in the first quarter, ending March 31, net sales will grow 34%-42% to a range of $47.75 billion and $50.75 billion.

Among highlights of the company's report--which didn't mention books--is that the fourth quarter marked the first time Amazon had net income higher than $1 billion in a quarter, "reflecting the company's push to exhibit stronger fiscal discipline while simultaneously broadening its ambitions beyond online retailing," the Wall Street Journal wrote. "The company has long plowed most of the money it makes to build products, roll out services and construct warehouses, but it is no longer racking up a string of losses."

In addition, profit was boosted by the new tax law. Fourth quarter figures include "a provisional tax benefit" from the law "of approximately $789 million."

In his personal comments, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos extolled sales of Alexa. The company also highlighted strong sales at AWS, its cloud service, where sales rose 45%; growth in advertising; and high efficiency.

Wall Street reacted positively to Amazon's report, with the stock rising nearly 6%, to $1,476 a share, in after-hours trading yesterday. In the last year, the stock is up 65%.

Kinokuniya to Open Fourth Store in Texas

Kinokuniya in Dubai

Kinokuniya Book Stores of America "has signed up for 4,000 square feet in Katy for its first store in the Houston market," the Chronicle reported. The bookstore will be part of NewQuest Properties' second phase of the Katy Grand retail center at the northeast corner of the Grand Parkway and the Katy Freeway. The new phase, on 6.4 acres, is adding two buildings totaling 36,000 square feet this fall.

Kinokuniya has three other Texas stores, two of which are in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, in Carrollton and Plano. An Austin location is opening this year. With the addition of the Houston bookstore, Kinokuniya will be operating 13 stores in the U.S., all of which offer both Japanese- and English-language books as well as many other products. Founded in Tokyo in 1927, the company has nearly 100 stores worldwide.

Diamond's Kuo-Yu Liang Joining ReedPOP

Kuo-Yu Liang

Congrats, Ku!

Kuo-Yu Liang, former v-p, international sales and business development, at Diamond Comic Distributors, is joining ReedPOP as global director of business development. (ReedPOP is the Reed Exhibitions division with an emphasis on pop culture that puts on BookExpo, BookCon, New York Comic Con and many other shows and comic cons around the world.)

Liang will focus on expanding ReedPOP business, particularly in Asia, which currently has nine shows in China, Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea and India. He will be based in Seattle, Wash., and will split time between seeing customers, fans and ReedPOP teams around the world as well as at ReedPOP headquarters in Norwalk, Conn.

Liang has worked more than 30 years in the business, and while at Diamond Comic Distributors, he created the company's international bookstore division, which led to significant growth in distributing graphic novels, manga, pop culture collectibles and table top games into 75 countries.

"Being able to have someone join our team with the pedigree and experience that Kuo-Yu has is a dream come true," said Lance Fensterman, global head of ReedPOP. "His ability to create communities, connect creators, navigate multiple cultures, see upcoming trends in pop culture and build a business by bringing buyers and sellers together have all prepared him perfectly for his new role with us."

Liang commented: "I want to thank Roger Fletcher, Steve Geppi and all the men and women at Diamond Comic Distributors for the faith and support they have given me all these years. They have helped me grow as a person, and I will be forever grateful. Now, at Reed Pop, I look forward to working closely with Diamond Comic Distributors to build pop culture communities around the globe. I am very excited to be joining a company and culture that is comprised of people who have a true passion for what they do and strong belief in where they are headed."

Maja Thomas Named Chief Innovation Officer at Hachette Livre

At Hachette Livre, Maja Thomas has been appointed chief innovation officer and will be a member of the international executive board. She has been director of the Hachette Innovation Program and has worked "internationally across the company’s divisions to facilitate collaboration with start-ups and established global technological players, and accelerate digital transformation," the company said. In her new position, she will "further support all of Hachette Livre teams as they test, innovate and break new ground, in particular using big data and artificial intelligence."

"This appointment shows that innovation is a top priority for Hachette Livre in the ever-changing world we live in," Hachette Livre CEO Arnaud Nourry said.

Thomas began her career at Time Warner as an audiobook producer and director. She joined Hachette Livre in 2006 as v-p, Hachette Digital and Digital Publishing. In 2007, she added the title of senior v-p, Hachette Digital at Hachette Book Group (USA). After a three-year stint advising start-ups and working as a consultant specializing in digital technology and publishing in Silicon Valley, she returned to Hachette Livre last year.

#WI13: Owning and Operating a Bookmobile

Christen Thompson, co-owner of Itinerant Literate Books in Charleston, S.C., and Grace Wright of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn., shared their experiences owning and operating bookmobiles at a Winter Institute 2018 panel last week. For Thompson, who launched her bookmobile with co-founder Julia Turner on Independent Bookstore Day 2016, the bookmobile has always been a sort of proof of concept for eventually opening a bricks-and-mortar bookstore in Charleston. Wright, meanwhile, is the "captain" of Parnassus on Wheels, a bookmobile created by an established bookstore. Below are some of their insights, lessons learned, and recommendations.

The Itinerant Literate bookmobile is a renovated 1958 Yellowstone trailer that Thompson and her business partner found on Craigslist. The pair raised a bit more than $9,500 through an Indiegogo campaign, and Thompson estimated that the full buildout, including the opening book order, was around $10,000. In terms of day-to-day overhead, Thompson said that the most significant expense was gas, for both the truck towing the bookmobile and to run the bookmobile generator. Since then, they've done a handful of smaller renovations, including putting in better shelves. She advised that anyone who buys something with glass windows should immediately replace them with plexiglass, and emphasized the importance of making sure the bookmobile is watertight. She also warned that summer days in a metal trailer can be very hot; for the first time, this year Itinerant Literate will not operate in the month of August.

Initially, Thompson and Turner did only a few bookmobile events a month. Now, they go to at least one location per week, and Thompson reported having a lot of success partnering with breweries, coffee shops, brunch places with long lines and things like farmers markets and night markets. She suggested setting up shop at places where "somebody is going to be for a while," and reported that so far Itinerant Literate has never been turned down. According to Thompson, people "consistently have higher sales when we park there," and people are now seeking them out. When it came to storing the bookmobile, Thompson said that she currently stores it at a letterpress shop with which she and Turner frequently partner. She also noted that it takes about an hour to set up the bookmobile and advised getting to locations very early.

Wright explained that Parnassus bought its bookmobile from a library in Georgia for about $10,000. Though the 1990 Thomas bus had already been used as a bookmobile, Parnassus still did an extensive amount of interior and exterior renovation, and Wright estimated that the entire process, including buying the bus, designing a new logo for Parnassus on Wheels, and putting in things like new lighting and carpets, cost about $30,000. She reported that the biggest ongoing expense for the bookmobile, aside from books, is maintenance; she recommended that anyone interested in operating a bookmobile form a very good relationship with a mechanic.

In terms of layout for the bookmobile, Wright said that having two doors is "wonderful," and that one bookseller can manage an entire crowd. Given the limited amount of space, in-depth handselling conversations can be difficult; Wright reported that displays and bookseller recommendations are vital. As for parking and setting up, Wright also suggested arriving early, as well as partnering with businesses that have their own parking lots. Noting that a bookmobile can operate as a mobile billboard, she emphasized the importance of getting "your social media links on your bus as big as you can." Wright recalled that while some of the bookmobile's initial partnerships did not work out so well, she's been particularly successful with makers markets, crafts fairs and festivals. She stressed the need to be flexible: "See where the community really needs you, and how you can fit into it." --Alex Mutter

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
A Forty Year Kiss
by Nickolas Butler
GLOW: A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler

A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler is a passionate, emotionally complex love story that probes tender places within the heart and soul. When 60-somethings Charlie and Vivian--married then divorced in their 20s--reunite after four decades, they are swept up by the very best of what their romantic relationship once offered. "Anyone who has ever thought about what might have been will find this book fascinating," says Shana Drehs, senior editorial director at Sourcebooks Landmark. "The story is a brilliant exploration of a second chance at love, always realistic but never saccharine." As Charlie and Vivian build a bridge from past to present, their enduring love paving over potholes, Butler (Shotgun Lovesongs) raises questions about how life changes people--or does it?--and delivers another heartening, unforgettable novel. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

(Sourcebooks Landmark, $27.99 Hardcover, 9781464221248, 
February 4, 2025)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Image of the Day: Local Hero

Author Harlan Coben recently returned to his alma mater, Livingston (N.J.) High School, to lead the first-ever Livingston Community Book Club discussion of his most recent novel, Don’t Let Go (Dutton). The event was sponsored by the Livingston Education Foundation and [words] Bookstore, Maplewood, N.J. Pictured: Coben with members of the Livingston Education Foundation. (Photo:

#WorldReadAloudDay Video: Matt de la Peña Reads LOVE

To help celebrate World Read Aloud Day yesterday, Matt de la Peña, author of LOVE, posted a video on Facebook, noting: "Dear teachers and students, here's a video of me reading LOVE for #WorldReadAloudDay--thanks for helping me and illustrator Loren Long put a little love into the world! #TeachLOVE Penguin Books Penguin Kids."

Frankfurt Book Fair New York Picks Maybe Esther

The Frankfurt Book Fair New York has chosen Maybe Esther: A Family Story by Katja Petrowskaja, translated by Shelley Frisch (Harper, $25.99, 9780062337542), as its January Pick of the Month.

"In a series of tightly connected stories, Petrowskaja charts a remarkable cast of characters. Her grandfather joined the revolutionary underground and split his branch of the family from the rest. Her great-uncle was sentenced to death for shooting a German diplomat. Five generations of her Jewish relatives dedicated their lives to deaf-and-mute children, and her grandmother ran a school for wartime orphans. Her Ukrainian grandfather spent years in a POW camp and disappeared after the war, only to reappear forty years later. And, finally, the most elusive figure, her great-grandmother whose name may have been Esther. She alone remained in Kiev at the outset of the war and was killed by a Nazi guard outside her house in the city center."

Katja Petrowskaja was born in Kiev, Ukraine, and earned a Ph.D. at the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow. She works in Berlin as a journalist and columnist. This is her first book.

Shelley Frisch has translated many German biographies, for which she has earned the Modern Language Association and Helen and Kurt Wolff translation prizes.

Personnel Changes at HarperCollins; Workman; Chronicle

Penny Makras has been promoted to associate director, marketing for Harper Wave and Harper Business at HarperCollins.


Lathea Williams has joined Workman Publishing as publicity manager. Most recently, she was assistant publicity manager at Sourcebooks and earlier worked at Harlequin and Little, Brown.


Madison Killen has joined Chronicle Books as children's marketing manager. She was formerly manager of creative content at Penguin Young Readers.

Media and Movies

Movies: Leonardo da Vinci; Disobedience

Paramount has hired John Logan (Genius, Specter) to adapt Walter Isaacson's book Leonardo da Vinci as a star vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio, Deadline reported. DiCaprio and Jennifer Davisson are producing through their Appian Way banner. This is Logan's second collaboration with DiCaprio; he scripted Martin Scorsese's film The Aviator.

"The da Vinci project is special for DiCaprio, who got his first name because his pregnant mother was looking at a Leonardo da Vinci painting in a museum in Italy when the future star kicked for the first time," Deadline wrote. "It seems like fate that the actor should play the artist who painted The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa."


A new trailer has been released for the Bleecker Street drama Disobedience, based on Naomi Alderman's novel and starring Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams and Alessandro Nivola. Deadline reported that "the English-language debut from Sebastian Lelio had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last year." The script was adapted by Lelio and Rebecca Lenkiewicz.

Books & Authors

Awards: B&N Discover Great New Writers

Barnes & Noble announced the six finalists for the 2017 Discover Great New Writers Awards. Winners in each category will receive a $30,000 prize and a full year of promotion from B&N. Runner-up authors get $15,000, and third-place $7,500. Winners will be announced March 7 in New York City. The finalists are:

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter (Grove/Atlantic)
The Leavers by Lisa Ko (Algonquin)
Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patty Yumi Cottrell (McSweeney's)

The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael Twitty (Amistad Press/HarperCollins)
Down City: A Daughter's Story of Love, Memory, and Murder by Leah Carroll (Grand Central)
Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder (Norton)

Reading with... Paul Goldberg

photo: Alexa Seidl MacKinnon

Paul Goldberg's debut novel, The Yid, was published in 2016 to widespread acclaim and named a finalist for both the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature and the National Jewish Book Award's Goldberg Prize for Debut Fiction. As a reporter, Goldberg has written two books about the Soviet human rights movement and has co-authored (with Otis Brawley) the book How We Do Harm, an expose of the U.S. healthcare system. He is the editor and publisher of The Cancer Letter, a publication focused on the business and politics of cancer. His new novel, The Chateau, will be published by Picador on February 13, 2018. He lives in Washington, D.C.

On your nightstand now:

The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound by Daniel Swift. It's a fascinating account of the life and deranged thinking of Ezra Pound, focused on the 12 years he spent at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington. Whoever said that a Nazi sympathizer and a virulent anti-Semite can't also be an important poet? I am also trying to sit through Pound's poetry, so there is a copy of The Cantos next to The Bughouse. A friend promised to arrange a visit to St. Elizabeths. I think this may feed it into my next novel.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Withot a doubt, Jaroslav Hašek's The Good Soldier Švejk. My mother read that book to me in 1968. I was nine years old and living in Moscow.

When "our" tanks put an end to Prague Spring, we were deep in the book. It felt as though those tanks were passing through our Moscow apartment. Švejk embodies the Czech national character much like Onegin embodies Russia, and Huck Finn embodies America.

Gigantic as this is, Švejk also owns the utter dullness and dimwittedness of war. There are echoes of Švejk in Catch-22, and, I would argue, M*A*S*H.

Your top five authors:

Aleksandr Pushkin
Nikolai Gogol
Jaroslav Hašek
Mark Twain
Mikhail Bulgakov

Book you've faked reading:

The Bible.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita. It's wonderful homage to Gogol, Cervantes, Goethe and Dante. Yet it's set in Moscow at the time of the onset of Stalin's rule. I don't think anyone--anyone--has ever captured the soul of Moscow the way Bulgakov does in this book.

Book you've bought for the cover:

There is a lot of architecture and design in my books and, I suppose, in my life. In architecture as in literature, I am fascinated by modernism, the stripping away of unnecessary detail, bringing things down to their essence. I buy a lot of architecture and design books. My all-time favorite is Case Study Houses by Elizabeth Smith and Peter Gossel.

Book you hid from your parents:

The nicest thing about my parents was that I didn't have to hide books from them. All books were encouraged.

Book that changed your life:

Aleksandr Fadeyev's novella titled in Russian Razgrom, translated into English as The Rout.

It's a story of a band of Red partisans fighting--and largely fleeing--in the Ural woods. The principal character's name is Levinson. He is the brave and wise commander of the band, and though I realized that Razgrom is not great literature, I liked the character enough to incorporate him and his back story into my first novel, The Yid. My Levinsonesque character, whose name is Levinson, gets a second act as an actor at the Moscow State Jewish Theater.

Favorite line from a book:

It's a poem by Osip Mandelstam. He really lets Stalin have it. Alas, Mandelstam was sent off to the camps and died for having written it.

We live without feeling the country beneath us,
our speech at ten paces inaudible,
and where there are enough for half a conversation
the name of the Kremlin mountaineer is dropped.
His thick fingers are fatty like worms,
but his words are as true as pound weights.
His cockroach whiskers laugh,
and the tops of his boots shine.

I read it in Russian. This translation is by David McDuff in Osip Mandelstam: Selected Poems published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1973.

Five books you'll never part with:

1. I still own that copy of Švejk that my mother read to me in 1968.

2. I have two autographed copies of Shmuel Halkin's collected poems. I have the Russian translation. Halkin, a poet and a playwright, translated King Lear into Yiddish.

3. Moskva-Petushki by Venedikt Yerofeyev. This book started in samizdat, which means it was circulated in a typewritten version. I have a version published by Ardis Publishing, which at the time was in Ann Arbor, Mich. It's a brief, surreal story of a drunk taking a train ride from Moscow to a nearby town. The names of railroad stations break the book up into chapters. The thing is brilliant but, alas, untranslatable. Attempts at translation are titled Moscow to the End of the Line, Moscow Stations and Moscow Circles.

4. A poetry book autographed by Aleksandr Galich. I grew up listening to his tape-recorded songs. These were brilliant, complex compositions, sometimes satirical, sometimes meditative. Sometime around 1973, I came to his concert in Washington and he signed a book for me. At the time, I wouldn't have cared about seeing Mick Jagger as much as I cared about Galich. This is still the case.

5. Dal's dictionary of the Russian language. It's an amazing piece of work, a kind of Russian Webster's. I used it several times in writing The Chateau. Alas, in his capacity as a czarist official, Dal perpetuated the canard about Jews using Christian blood in religious rituals. That canard was a part of the inspiration for The Yid.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Exodus by Leon Uris. I read the Russian translation in Moscow. It was circulated through samizdat, and my parents and I had it for one night. We shared loose-leaf pages. Technically, we could have been prosecuted for this, charged with anti-Soviet propaganda. This had to be around 1971. When I re-read the book in the U.S., without a threat of prosecution, I was underwhelmed.

Book Review

Review: Limits of the Known

Limits of the Known by David Roberts (Norton, $26.95 hardcover, 336p., 9780393609868, February 20, 2018)

For more than half a century, mountaineer David Roberts has ventured into the unknown, climbing peaks, running untested waterways and hiking into canyons that haven't been visited by humans for hundreds of years. In Limits of the Known, Roberts wistfully recounts many of his adventures, triumphs and a few unsuccessful attempts, while coming to grips with the fact that he is dying of throat and lung cancer.

He skillfully blends his own narratives with those of the explorers and adventurers who have come before him, and of those who are undertaking expeditions in areas where Roberts is not a master. Readers learn of the trials polar explorers endured in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when being the first to reach the North Pole captured the imagination and spurred those who were willing to push themselves to impossible limits. Many failed in their quest when their wooden ships were crushed by the unrelenting pressure from the polar ice. With no satellite phones or radio contact, the men were left stranded, perishing unless they managed to walk hundreds of miles to safety.

Once the poles were obtained, reaching the highest summits in the world became the next target, which Roberts readily admits became his own passion and obsession. He recalls many of his hikes, especially those in Alaska, with breathtaking descriptions of seemingly impossible logistics for climbing an icy pinnacle that no other person has climbed before. Then Roberts began exploring the canyons of the Southwest, searching out ancient Anasazi dwellings tucked hundreds of feet up in the cliffsides. He ponders how these indigenous people were able to access their sacred sites and granaries without modern climbing equipment and what prompted them to choose these caves in the first place.

Always seeking the next adrenaline rush, Roberts joins several whitewater rafting expeditions where he plunges down unknown rivers, despite his inability to swim. This in turn leads to cave explorations and the scary aspects of cave diving, particularly in the cenotes of the Yucatán Peninsula. The tales of heroism and sacrifice are juxtaposed against Roberts's slow acknowledgement that he will no longer be at the forefront of any of these new explorations, that death is the last great unknown. Limits of the Known can be considered Roberts's swan song, a beautiful treatise on the extremes humans will go to in order to better understand ourselves and the world we live in for such a brief time. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer

Shelf Talker: A veteran mountain climber remembers his own accomplishments and those of other explorers while he confronts the greatest unknown, his own death.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: #Wi13, Camaraderie and... Staff Meetings!

"Camaraderie and staff development are integral to our success at Avid." That's what Janet Geddis, owner of Avid Bookshop in Athens, Ga., posted Monday on Instagram, sharing a behind-the scenes peek into one of her stores, while noting: "We also relish the rare opportunities we have to get the entire team together for monthly staff meetings."

Last week, Janet and I had a brief conversation during the opening reception (aka epic international bookseller staff meeting) for the 2018 ABA Winter Institute in Memphis, Tenn.

(l. to r.) Andrea Avantaggio, Andy Brennan, Jamie Fiocco & Kelsy April

In a way, those two moments nicely bookend a Wi13 education session I attended called "Best Practices for Conducting Staff Meetings." Moderated by Jamie Fiocco of Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, N.C., the panel featured Kelsy April of Savoy Bookshop (Westerly, R.I.) and Bank Square Books (Mystic, Conn.); Andrea Avantaggio of Maria's Bookshop, Durango, Colo.; and Andy Brennan of Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn. 

"Communication is key among our staff," said April, who noted that the bookstores have four different types of staff meetings:

  • Store meeting before opening four or five times per year ("They're basically used as a way to get everyone together in one place. We can look at each other's faces and talk about some big-ticket items.")
  • Ongoing digital meetings using Slack ("Your staff can talk among themselves. They use channels in the same way that Twitter uses hashtags--#Savoy, #BankSquare, #events, #receiving.... It's a fun way to keep up.")
  • One-on-one meetings. "I got this idea from owner Annie Philbrick. She takes the time to sit down with every staff member and says, 'How do you like your job?', 'How's it going?', 'What can we improve on?', 'What do you like?' And that struck me as a very efficient way to talk to booksellers."
  • The "Mini Winnie" ("Essentially Winter Institute in short for our staff.... Now when we send our booksellers to Winter Institute, we say you are responsible for the content of Mini Winnie when you get back, because we're actually going to be doing it again this year."
The need for regular gatherings evolved at Parnassus Books as the store went through its early growing pains. "We knew we needed to have some meetings," said Brennan. "Maybe you've noticed that booksellers aren't fans of meetings. It's not their favorite way to spend their time. So, I think there's some things that you need to keep in mind to make sure that your meetings are effective." He listed three primary rules for staff meetings: deliver information that the booksellers need to do their job properly; provide an opportunity for them to give feedback; and make the meeting concise. For Parnassus, this has evolved into three formats:
  • Annual "informational and motivational" meeting on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
  • Rep breakfasts twice a year, to which the store also invites members of the Nashville literary community (people it partners with on events, public library representatives, etc.). "This is a great opportunity for our staff to interact with that community and build up some relationships with those folks. We think it's really important they have those connections and know who those people are."
  • Twice-daily staff meetings, which "are really essential to get the information to the booksellers that they really need."

Being a smaller bookstore presents its own set of challenges. After experimenting with options at Maria's Bookshop, Avantaggio found the best solution was monthly staff meetings, from 5:15-6:45 p.m., with a relatively loose agenda.

"That's been much more productive," she said. Discovering the most effective solution took some time and adaptation. "I hated meetings when I first started the shop. I would get so nervous. I would write out whatever I had to say. I was so worried that something was going to come up that I wasn't ready for or didn't know how to answer. But what I've realized is that it is such a great place for things to come up and it helps eliminate that kind of snarky sarcasm that can build when somebody does something one way and somebody else does it another way, and nobody's sure what the right way is. It's the perfect forum for that to come out. However you structure it, I think it's important to have an agenda and to give booksellers a chance to talk. It's like smudging your staff, kind of."

I'm thinking about the Avid Books staff, gathering together regularly in the particular quiet that emanates from a bookshop after hours. I'm thinking about the noisy, productive camaraderie of Wi13 in Memphis. And, finally, I'm thinking about something Parnassus' Brennan said:

"When we're competing against discounters and online sources and all the other places that people have where they can go to buy books, we've got to provide something that those people can't. And that's smart, well-informed booksellers who know their stuff, and the only way they can do that is if we're sharing information. Effective staff meetings can provide booksellers with the tools they need to provide the customers the service they need." Let's keep talking.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor (Column archive at Fresh Eyes Now)

Powered by: Xtenit