Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Gallery Books: The Lion Women of Tehran by Marjan Kamali

Other Press (NY): Deliver Me by Malin Persson Giolito, translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles

Two Trees: Among Friends: An Illustrated Oral History of American Book Publishing and Bookselling in the 20th Century edited by Buz Teacher and Janet Bukovinsky Teacher

Atlantic Monthly Press: I Cheerfully Refuse by Leif Enger


Notes: Cyber Monday; Campbell Dies; New Store; Joint Event

Although the numbers are "a fraction of retail sales in stores," online sales yesterday, Cyber Monday, were by all accounts greater than in past years, today's Wall Street Journal reported.

Among the "facts":

  • ComScore Networks expects online sales yesterday to be $599 million, up 24% from Cyber Monday 2005.
  • Some retailers began seeing a boost in holiday online sales earlier than last year, in part because of online sales and promotions.
  •, the eBay shopping-comparison Web site, said yesterday was its biggest sales day ever, and it was sending 40% more traffic to retail partners than in the same period last year.
  • Some of the biggest gainers in online sales are bricks-and-mortar companies that have "boosted their online efforts."
  • The costs of buying search-engine advertising have grown as more traditional companies try advertising this way.


Bebe Moore Campbell, journalist and author of a range of adult and children's books that explored racial and social issues, died yesterday in Los Angeles of brain cancer. She was 56. Her husband, Ellis Gordon Jr., was quoted by the New York Times as saying, "My wife was a phenomenal woman who did it her way. She loved her family and her career as a writer."


James Gunn, who started writing science fiction in 1948 and is the author of 26 books and editor of 10, will be honored as the next Grand Master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association at the Nebula Award Weekend May 11-13 in New York City. For more information, go to SFWA's Web site.


We copy the following from today's New York Times: "In a literary imbroglio Ian McEwan, one of Britain's best known and most lauded authors, has been accused in newspaper articles of copying phrases and sentences for his best-selling novel Atonement in 2001 from a memoir published in 1977 by Lucilla Andrews, a former nurse and an acclaimed writer of romantic novels."

Andrews died last month, and McEwan "briefly acknowledged" her book and said he has "never sought to disguise the fact that he had used her book for research."


The Lavender Inkwell Bookshoppe opened on October 28 in Syracuse, N.Y., in the same location that until three years ago was home to the feminist bookstore My Sisters' Words. Lavender Inkwell sells books and gifts and will mainly serve the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community. The store is located at 304 N. McBride St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13203; 315-424-7191.

[Many thanks to Don O'Connor of Parson Weems' Publisher Services for the tip!]


Congratulations to Fountain Bookstore, Narnia Children's Books and Creatures 'n Crooks Bookshoppe, three Richmond, Va., bookstores that have teamed up to host an event that features China Mieville, winner of two Arthur C. Clarke Awards and the British Fantasy Award--and holder of a Ph.D. in international relations from the London School of Economics. His works include King Rat, Perdido Street Station and The Scar.

The event takes place Wednesday, February 21, at the Richmond Public Library's main branch. Tickets are $18.85 each and include a copy of Un Lun Dun (Del Rey, $17.95, 9780345495167), the author's first YA novel, which will be published February 13.

A very happy Kelly Justice, Fountain Bookstore's manager, said she had heard that Mieville, "an anti-Tolkien who has done for fantasy what William Gibson did for science fiction," would be going to five cities in the U.S. for Un Lun Dun and made her case for an appearance in Richmond. "Any one of the three of our stores couldn't do it alone," she added.


Effective December 1, Chip Mercer, a wholesale account manager for BookLink, is forming Southeastern Book Travelers with Jim Barkley, Joel Carmel and Stewart Koontz, according to NAIPR's Call Report. Southeastern Book Travelers will have its headquarters in Birmingham, Ala., and be managed by Mercer, principal of the group.

The group will call on Southeastern wholesalers, bookstores, museums, botanical gardens, university supply stores and tourist and gift retailers.


Liza Algar has been promoted to executive director of marketing at Chronicle Books. She joined the company this past summer as director of marketing for the adult trade and gift divisions. For 15 years, she worked in marketing and publicity at such publishers as IDG and Douglas & McIntyre. She has also worked as a TV producer and a travel writer.

Sarah Williams has been promoted to executive director, new business development, at Chronicle Books. She joined the company in 1997 as subsidiary rights manager, then became director of international sales, subsidiary rights and specialty sales.

Neal Porter Books: Angela's Glacier by Jordan Scott, illustrated by Diana Sudyka

Hastings on Christmas: A 'Positive Retail Environment'

Sales at Hastings Entertainment in the quarter ended October 31 rose 4.4% to $119.6 million while the net loss was $2.2 million compared to a net loss of $2.7 million in the same period a year ago.

Sales of books at stores open at least a year rose 2.1%, a result, the company said, "of increased sales of new release hardbacks and new and used paperbacks." In the same period last year, comp-store sales of books had dropped 2.7% compared to the third quarter of 2004.

In a statement, chairman and CEO John Marmaduke said, "Our decision to increase Boutique and Electronic merchandise markdowns in the second quarter let us accelerate a new merchandising plan which contributed to improved comp sales during the third quarter. Many of our product categories posted quarterly comp sales which exceeded industry averages and I feel we have positioned the company for continued revenue and income growth in the fourth quarter."

Since late August, Hastings remodeled two more stores, in Lawrence, Kan., and Boise, Idaho, and moved a store in its headquarters city of Amarillo, Tex. The company has 154 superstores.

Hastings also increased its guidance for net income in the fourth quarter, based both on results earlier this year that beat internal forecasts and because "we are anticipating a positive retail environment for the holiday season," Dan Crow, v-p and CFO, said in a statement.

GLOW: Avid Reader Press: The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley

Happy Birthday, to and from Candlewick Press

To commemorate its 15th birthday in 2007, Candlewick Press plans to roll out special offers and promotions throughout the year with an emphasis on reflecting "the breadth of the publishing program," said Jennifer Roberts, director of marketing, publicity, and events. In addition to picture and board books, Candlewick publishes books for middle grade and young adult readers.

The first of Candlewick's special offers is a limited edition of the picture book Guess How Much I Love You by Sam Mcbratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram, which is packaged with a free DVD featuring an animated version of the classic story. The book and DVD set is on sale December 26. Guess How Much I Love You was a natural choice for the company's inaugural birthday promotion, Roberts said. "People continue to recognize it as one of the first Candlewick titles."

In the first quarter of 2007, Candlewick plans to launch a promotion called "First Drafts." This series of free DVDs, intended primarily for teachers and librarians, features readings and interviews with authors of middle grade fiction. One participating author is Newbery Award-winner Kate DiCamillo, whose titles include Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Along with an interview with DiCamillo, the First Drafts DVD includes footage from a signing she did at the Brookline Public Library. Other participants in the First Drafts program include Megan McDonald, author of the Judy Moody series, and Michael Winerip, author of Adam Canfield of the Slash.

In November, to kick off its birthday celebration, Candlewick donated 155,000 new children's books to First Book, which promotes literacy in low-income communities. The donation coincided with Children's Book Week.

Candlewick will announce future offers and promotions at trade, library and academic conferences, as well as on the company's Web site. Ultimately the goal of the birthday promotions, said Roberts, is "to honor the different markets that have been so supportive of Candlewick, and the various titles and authors they've championed through these 15 years."--Shannon McKenna

Soho Crime: Ash Dark as Night (A Harry Ingram Mystery) by Gary Phillips

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Crichton, Carter and McCourt

Today on the Early Show: the prolific Jimmy Carter, whose new book is Palestine Peace Not Apartheid (S&S, $27, 0743285026). He also appears today on WAMU's Diane Rehm Show and tonight on the Charlie Rose Show.


This morning on the Today Show: Christine Schwab, author of The Grown-Up Girl's Guide to Style: A Maintenance Bible for Fashion, Beauty and More . . . (ReganBooks, $34.95, 006078458X).


Today on Good Morning America: Michael Crichton, whose latest is Next (HarperCollins, $27.95, 0060872985).


Today on Oprah: the cast of the film Charlotte's Web, which opens Friday, December 15.


Today on the Martha Stewart Show: Whoopi Goldberg, actress and author of the children's book Whoopi's Big Book of Manners, illustrated by Olo (Jump at the Sun, $15.99, 078685295X).

Also on the Martha Stewart Show: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt, whose Teacher Man: A Memoir (Scribner, $15, 0743243781) is now available in paperback.

Book Review

Mandahla: Washed Up Scoped Out

Washed Up: The Curious Journeys of Flotsam and Jetsam by Skye Kathleen Moody (Sasquatch Books, $16.95 Paperback, 9781570614637, September 2006)

Skye Moody is obsessed by oceanic debris; she seems to comb beaches incessantly and imagines the stories of pink plastic propellers and mysterious bones the way other people see shapes in clouds. Like wandering flotsam, she goes with the tide of her inquiring mind--a piece of driftwood occasions an Icelandic history lesson featuring Siberian wood and sapling-munching sheep. She writes about ambergris, which at the turn of the nineteenth century was valued more highly than gold; amber found along Baltic seashores; cargo cults, candles and the Sargasso Sea. She takes a few side trips to Leonard Bernstein's swimming pool and a vodka-fueled Finnish wake held to mourn summer's departure. She profiles other flotsamists, like performance artist and activist Jay Critchley, who specializes in creating art from Cape Cod beach whistles (you'll have to look that one up in the book yourself), or John Anderson, whose collection has been featured in Smithsonian magazine. She celebrates the lowly barnacle: "A barnacle's life is not necessarily boring. True, if you were stuck to a boulder that never moved from its position on the tide line, life might prove a yawn. But imagine being attached to a cargo vessel, traveling across the oceans to exotic ports where you mix and mingle with other barnacles stuck to other cargo vessels . . . I know humans with duller lives."
This is a fine book for beachcombers and for the land-bound with a fondness for fascinating facts. Try inserting this into the next conversational lull at dinner: In 1990, a container vessel lost 80,000 Nike athletic shoes in a storm in the North Pacific. Six months later, they started washing up on beaches from Oregon to Canada's Queen Charlotte Sound. The interesting thing is why some Nikes headed into northbound currents while others went south--the slight toe curvature in left- and right-footed shoes caused the lefties to tack northeastward, while the others turned south. If that doesn't float your boat, there is more, much more, to choose from in this engaging book.--Marilyn Dahl

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Black Friday 'Based on a True Story'

Take a deep breath. Black Friday weekend is over and now the plot thickens. You already know the story because it doesn't really change much from year to year: consumer mob scenes, absurd discounts on "limited quantities," stock shortages, crashing superstore Web sites and 24/7 coverage of this peculiar cross between the Oklahoma Land Rush and shark attacks.

For the 15th straight year, I worked the sales floor at Northshire Bookstore during this extremely busy (though seldom busiest, despite the media hype) shopping day.

On a national scale, Black Friday is always what it pretends to be, influencing consumer behavior the way The Da Vinci Code manipulates religious prejudice by suggesting that it's all "based on a true story." That this happens only a day after the annual debut of Santa Claus in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade should be a clue that we love to have our myths shaken and stirred.

Civilization in decline? Full contact consumerism in ascendance?

What's a poor bookseller to do?

Sell books.

What was it like at the last three feet for this bookseller on Black Friday? It was something like this:

  • Busy. Not at first, though gradually the crowds thickened. Had they attacked the malls first? They weren't saying. If you've never faced, from the business end of a cash register, onrushing waves of book/toy/CD/DVD/tchotchke-laden customers, I can say only that it is an amazing sight to behold.
  • Relatively civilized. Both customers and staff behaved themselves admirably under pressure. Even at its busiest, the bookstore retains its status as a peaceable refuge, especially when compared to the dozens of amateur films now posted on Google Video that document retail mayhem nationwide. In the press, my favorite headlines this year included "Attention, Early Holiday Shoppers: We Have a Fisticuffs Special in Aisle 2" (New York Times), "Teens Charged with Setting off acid bombs in Wal-Mart" ( and "Crime-wise, 'Black Friday' was quieter than most" (Flint [Mich.] Journal).
  • Twice during the day I rang out customers who paid for their substantial purchases with "enemy" credit cards (one from Borders and one from Amazon). I don't know why I find this both amusing and worrisome, but I do.
  • The buzziest book of the day was the one that didn't get published (O.J. Simpson's If I Did It, heretofore known as If We'd Sold It). I had more conversations with customers about this non-starter than about any other title.  
  • A conservative estimate of cell phone use as part of gift buying strategy would now approach the 90th percentile. Patrons were on their cells relentlessly, contacting one another in town or in the store (it's a big bookstore). I've noticed that cells have revolutionized one classic challenge for booksellers. Many customers used to begin a conversation with me by asking a variation of the question, "My [insert relative's name here] sent me to get a book that was reviewed by [insert NPR, New York Times, etc. here], but I can't remember the title." Now a quick phone call home often pre-empts the thrill of the chase for frontline booksellers.  
  • One predictable aspect of Black Friday's litany that never changes at the bookstore is the number of times someone says, "I can't believe I'm shopping today." Black Friday is postmodern consumerism, in that the characters (customers) are not only aware of their role in the plot, but also conveniently provide exegesis.  
  • The art of handselling changes at this time of year. Conversations tend to edge away from "I'm looking for a great read" and move toward "I need a book for my father/mother/brother/uncle, etc." When people buy a book for themselves, they often feel guilty and confess at point of sale. Booksellers conveniently absolve them as part of good customer service.  
  • About gift wrapping, I will say only that books are easy and three-foot-high stuffed penguins are hard.  
  • Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this post-holiday retail holy day is that a bricks-and-mortar bookstore can be part of the action, too, and that books can be quietly handsold in the swarm of bodies and cacophony of voices. While none of this happens at Sony Playstation 3/Nintendo Wii/T.M.X. Elmo levels of hysteria, it is intense enough.
And now all we have to do as an industry is to hold our collective breaths while we wait for the season's happy ending. After all, it's fiction, right?--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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