Shelf Awareness for Monday, December 4, 2006
Quotation of the Day
Notes: New Downtown L.A. Store; Werris
Congratulations to Wendy Werris, whose An Alphabetical Life: Living It Up in the Business of Books (Carroll & Graf, $15.95, 078671817X) has hit No. 7 on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list! (Excerpts from the book appeared this fall in Shelf Awareness.)
Last night in New York City, Werris spoke to a gathering of reps in town for sales conference, a group she called "my family" and whose support she said was so important. At the gathering, sponsored by the National Association of Independent Publishers Representatives, Werris said she was in a whirl in part because she had just flown in from Los Angeles. "As my father would say, 'And boy are my arms tired.' " Despite tired arms, she was heartfelt, funny and articulate as ever.
A longtime rep, author escort, photographer and former bookseller, Werris lauded the role of reps in the industry and said she was proud to be able to call herself a writer, too. "I feel I have another book in me," she added to enthusiastic applause from a crowd that is quite capable of casting a jaundiced eye on forthcoming titles.
Inger Forland has joined Globe Pequot
Press as executive director of marketing, publicity and design. Forland
has held senior positions in marketing at several companies and was
director of marketing and publicity for retail and custom publishing at
Time-Life and v-p, marketing and publicity, for Octopus Publishing
In other Globe Pequot appointments, Karen Cure has been named editorial director of travel and will head the company's "new travel initiative." She spent 12 years at Fodor's/Random House, where she was v-p and editorial director.
Jeff Serena has been promoted to associate publisher. He joined Globe Pequot in 2000 as editor of books about outdoor recreation now published under the Falcon imprint. In his new role, he will focus on outdoor recreation, travel, hunting and fishing, local history and the company's line of regional cookbooks.
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Nobel Peace Prize Winner on Oprah
Today on the Martha Stewart Show: Kathy Freston, author of The One: Finding Soul Mate Love and Making It Last (Miramax, $23.95, 140135243X).
Also on Martha Stewart: Lucinda Scala Quinn, author of Lucinda's Authentic Jamaican Kitchen (Wiley, $17.95, 0471749354), offers up recipes and decorating tips for holiday gatherings.
Today on WAMU's Diane Rehm Show: a rebroadcast of the show's interview with Timothy Egan, author of The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dustbowl (Mariner Books, $14.95, 0618773479), winner of the 2006 National Book Award for nonfiction.
Tonight on the Charlie Rose Show: Ben Barnes, the former Lieutenant Governor of Texas and author of Barn Burning, Barn Building: Tales of a Political Life, From LBJ to George W. Bush and Beyond (Bright Sky Press, $24.95, 1931721718).
Books & Authors
Book Sense: May We Recommend
Truck: A Love Story by Michael Perry (HarperCollins, $24.95, 0060571179). "Perry successfully weaves three main stories--restoring a 1950s International Harvester truck with his brother, discovering romance after several failed relationships, and learning the unpredictable art of gardening--into one coherent whole. Humorous without being cynical and heartfelt without being overly sentimental, Perry is my kind of memoir writer."--Kathleen Garfin, Enchanted Forest Books, Forest City, Iowa
Before I Go by Riley Weston (Campfire, $21.95, 0977954323). "Madison is a teenager whose life is ice skating. She is on her way to the Olympics when tragedy strikes and she must learn to live her life without skating. Madison finds out just how much she, her family, and friends have given up for her to pursue her dream of skating in the Olympics. You won't want to put this book down!"--Jennifer Hardacre, The Bookshop, Venice, Fla.
Mountain Man Dance Moves: The McSweeney's Book of Lists by McSweeney's (Vintage, $12.95, 0307277208). "The first page made me laugh out loud, and I was in tears by the fifth. Intelligent, cheddar-sharp wit and topics ranging from 'Witty Quips to Utter After Relieving Your Bladder On the Subway' to 'Other Places Jimmy Buffet Wasted Away' to a preponderance of unicorns. The titles of the lists alone make this read well worth it."--Whitney Spotts, Schuler Books & Music, Lansing, Mich.
For the Youngest Set
The Topsy-Turvy Towel by Julie Goulis, illustrated by John Ferguson (Bubblegum Books, $14.95, 0975462121). "When the sun goes down on Sam, Sally, and Suzy's day at the beach, their ordinary beach towel transforms their evening into an extraordinary adventure! With its rhythmic text and beautiful illustrations, I can't wait to use this new book during storytimes--it's sure to encourage young readers to engage in the vast, beautiful world of their imaginations!"--Becca Jones, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Puppies, Puppies Everywhere! by Cat Urbigkit (Boyds Mills, $12.95, 1590783638). "On the Wyoming sheep ranch the puppies are everywhere. The stunning pictures that make you go ooooh and the text aimed at wee ones combine to make this another adorable book for dog lovers."--Margaret Brennan Neville, The King's English, Salt Lake City, Utah [Editors' note: Considering the subject, the author's first name makes us purr in pleasure.]
[Many thanks to Book Sense and the ABA!]
Oregon Book Awards
- The Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry went to Dorianne Laux for Facts About the Moon (Norton).
- The Ken Kesey Award for the Novel was presented to Justin Tussing for The Best People in the World (HarperCollins)
- The H.L. Davis Award for Short Fiction was presented to Gina Ochsner for People I Wanted to Be (Mariner/Houghton Mifflin)
- The Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction was presented to Andrew Bernstein for Modern Passings: Death Rites, Politics, and Social Change in Imperial Japan (University of Hawaii Press).
- The Sarah Winnemucca Award for Creative Nonfiction was presented to George Aguilar, Sr., for When the River Ran Wild! Indian Traditions on the Mid-Columbia and the Warm Springs Reservation (Oregon Historical Society/University of Washington Press).
- The Eloise Jarvis McGraw Award for Children's Literature was presented to Diane Siebert for Tour America (Chronicle)
- The Leslie Bradshaw Award for Young Adult Literature went to Graham Salisbury for Eyes of the Emperor (Wendy Lamb Books).
- The Angus L. Bowmer Award for Drama was presented to Richard Moeschl for Arthur's Dreams.
The Culture and Commerce of Publishing Statistically Speaking
"It's a nutty business but a great business," Greco said in a conversation with Shelf Awareness. "It's a cultural business that's different. Hollywood talks about culture but couldn't care less, and newspapers have a cultural tradition but they're publicly owned and under major pressure."
One way the business is different from many others: it "adapts quickly and is willing to take risks," Greco said. "If there's a trend, we pick up on it. It's one of the wonders of the business. Editors look at cultural trends, the arts, pop trends, and crank out books in response." And another way the business is different: "most of the product doesn't work." Naturally Greco has statistics to illustrate this point: "Seven out of 10 new trade books lose money," he said. "Two break even. One makes money. The ratio hasn't changed for years, and it explains why we're a hit-driven business."
Several other titles in the past quarter century have looked at the publishing business, he noted. Michael Korda's Making the List: A Cultural History of the American Bestseller, 1900-1999 was "great," Greco said, and Jason Epstein's Book Business: Publishing Past, Present and Future was "very good but as good as it is, the only numbers in it are the page numbers." By contrast, The Culture and Commerce of Publishing in the 21st Century has what Greco called "a heavy emphasis on statistical data and analysis of that data. There are no war stories or someone's impression."
The book is popular among academics but is also intended for people in the book world or entering the book world who need to "make sense of it and understand the growth of the business and the forces that impact that business." He noted that so many book editors are English or history majors and have to learn the economics of book publishing "the hard way." So "to provide a framework for the business's growth after World War II," the book contains all kinds of tables of data going back decades, chronicling bookstore chains' market share; U.S. book title output; annuals changes in the consumer price index, gross national product and population; publishers' sales data; book unit sales; and more. (There's even a table of all of Oprah's book club picks.)
It's been a busy period to cover. Not surprisingly a major change in the book business is "the impact of technology, which is obviously moving the business in a faster way," Greco said. This explains RiverDeep's purchase last week of Houghton Mifflin. "Now RiverDeep has electronic products and textbooks," he said. "That technology will ultimately change el-hi but not trade." (The Sony Reader is not the e-book product that will revolutionize trade book reading, he maintained. "Who's going to buy that?" Greco asked.)
Retail changes loom large in the book. Among Greco's observations about this part of the business:
- Internet sales "seem to have plateaued at about 13%-15% of the total market, which varies from sector to sector and differs for trade versus scholarly books." Online sales have "certainly changed the business but they haven't grown the way some people thought they might."
- The number of independent bookstores has stabilized. "In 2005, the number of stores going out of business matched the number of stores that opened."
- Barnes & Noble and Borders, representing $9 billion of the industry's $16 billion in sales in bookstores, "remain the two key national players." They have become "destination spots. People go there. Even if they don't buy, they sit and have coffee and croissants and read a paper."
- There's been a sharp increase in sales to the channels "most people don't think about," including warehouse clubs, mass merchandisers, supermarkets, convenience stores. Wal-Mart alone is selling at least $1 million a week in books, while Target is "booming" and Hudson has more than 500 stores that "move a lot of books."
- There have been some "innovations and attempts to revitalize the old mall store universe."
Greco expressed great concern about the popularity of reading as a leisure activity. Since the late 1990s, the time spent annually by consumers reading books has been moving "down an hour a year every two or three years" while the hours people spend on "media" in general, including watching TV and movies, reading newspapers, surfing the Internet and playing video games, has risen. "Media usage of books should have gone up," he said. "The vast majority of people in the U.S. can read and write English. There is an 'installed base,' but usage isn't increasing.
"The industry has tried so far not successfully to get people to read more." He stressed that the NEA's 2004 Reading at Risk report "got a lot of press and should continue to get a lot of press."
And while some people think the book business is engaging in price gouging, Greco noted that most mass market titles cost $4.99 or $5.99, and used an unusual statistic to put the price in perspective. A mass market book, he said, costs "the same as breakfast at Denny's."
As for sales statistics about his own book, Greco said that in Amazon.com ratings, the book has "done pretty well. Some days it's 60,000, some days 100,000." But in a major irony, Greco doesn't yet have hard sales data on The Culture and Commerce of Publishing in the 21st Century, saying, "We'll find out once a year."--John Mutter