Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, May 26, 2020


Harper Perennial: The Paris Model by Alexandra Joel

Algonquin Young Readers: Skunk and Badger (Skunk and Badger 1) by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Andrews McMeel Publishing: How to Draw a Reindeer and Other Christmas Creatures with Simple Shapes in 5 Steps by Lulu Mayo

Houghton Mifflin: No Place for Monsters by Kory Merritt

News

Inside an Unprecedented Eight Weeks at Binc

In early March, as businesses around the country were closed in increasing numbers to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, the team at the Book Industry Charitable Foundation began to see a rush of booksellers applying for assistance. 

Many of the requests were related to housing, specifically being able to afford rent for April, recalled Binc executive director Pam French. By about March 13, it became very clear to her that providing assistance to all of these booksellers in need would require "a response like nothing we've ever done before at the foundation."

After looking at all of the foundation's operations, French and her team were able to scale up their operations very quickly. Based on the early requests they received, they decided to focus primarily on housing costs when it came to Covid-19 relief, followed by food and medication. They also decided to structure their grants into bands. In the past, every Binc grant was customized to fit a bookseller's needs. Due to the sheer volume of requests coming in, they created tiers of $500, $750, $1,000 and $1,500 to streamline the application process.

Binc's Kathy Bartson (l.) and Pam French at BookExpo last year.

Going into 2020, French noted, Binc had planned to create a fully online application by the end of the year. In mid-March, with the help of three volunteers who came on board, Binc was able to create that online application in about three days. Other volunteers joined as well, with Binc essentially bringing on anyone who had a skillset French and her team knew they needed. They also relied on a public health emergency policy that Binc had formulated in the past and was "dusted off" by the foundation's program manager in February, as worry about the coronavirus was escalating. Thanks to all that, Binc was able to send the first checks out to individual applicants on March 17. Said French: "I'm incredibly proud of the team for that."

By about March 18 the foundation was receiving a new request for assistance every 15 minutes, all day every day. Before the pandemic, Binc had earmarked around $15,000 for disaster relief, which of course ran out very quickly. As the foundation worked to raise more funds, a huge number of individuals and organizations reached out to donate.

"People were giving what they could," said Kathy Bartson, Binc's director of development. Going into 2020, Binc's fundraising goal for the year was $610,000, which was its most ambitious goal to-date. By the end of March, through the incredible outpouring of support from both within and without the industry, Binc reached $750,000 raised. "Collectively, we were able to move mountains."

In the roughly eight weeks between March 13 and the middle of May, Bartson continued, Binc provided assistance to more individuals than it had in the previous eight years of the foundation's existence combined. And when it comes to bookstores and comic book stores, Binc has helped just over 1,600 during this crisis. Altogether Binc raised and donated $2,576,000 to booksellers and stores.

"It's humbling to know that what we have been working for for the past eight years, all of the advocacy we did and conversations we had, it paid off," said French. "Folks found us when the need was highest."

As more and more places around the country have started to reopen, the volume of requests has tapered off. There is a new normal of about four requests every 24 hours, and while that level would have seemed huge as recently as February, it seems "very, very manageable" now.

Looking ahead, French said, she and the Binc team feel fairly confident that as long as the volume of requests stays below about 10 per day, they can handle it. If the numbers exceed that mark, it will be an early indicator that things are getting worse again and Binc will likely have to scale back up. To that end, many of those volunteers have told Binc to let them know if they're needed again.

For the first time in about two months, the Binc team has had a chance to reflect. Bartson said it feels like they've survived, and French said: "It didn't break us, and I think it made us stronger." Sometimes she goes over her daily notes from late March and early April, she continued, and thinks, "I can't believe we did that." --Alex Mutter


University of California Press: Smoke But No Fire: Convicting the Innocent of Crimes That Never Happened by Jessica S. Henry


International Update: U.K. Bookshops Can Reopen June 15; Booming Sales in N.Z.

Bookshops in the U.K. can reopen on June 15 so long as they meet certain guidelines for fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, the Bookseller reported. Best practices include storing returned items for 72 hours before putting them back on shelves, frequent cleaning of the stores, getting customers to use hand sanitizer, limiting customers and discourging customers from handling products.

Meryl Halls, managing director of the Booksellers Association of the U.K. and Ireland, commented: "Booksellers will understandably each take their own view on when they want to safely reopen their doors, and the BA is ready and able to help members whenever they decide to do so, with our reopening kit, our resource and our third party advice lines. It's important for all booksellers to feel confident that they can calmly make their own decision about reopening, depending on their business context and personal situation."

Following a survey of members that showed one-quarter of members entirely closed and the other 75% doing an average of just 20% of usual sales, the BA is calling on suppliers for "extended returns windows and a flexible approach to returns, free shipping for bookshop orders, grace periods on payment of invoices, extended credit terms and increased discounts on frontlist orders and creative approaches to shared markdowns on old stock, to avoid returns gluts," the Bookseller wrote. "It has also suggested redeployment of reps as a conduit between publishing houses and booksellers, provision of information on best practice and processes for booksellers from distributors and actively prioritising high street retailers in online book promotion by linking to retailers other than Amazon."

Halls added: "Covid-19 represents the biggest existential crisis bookselling has ever faced, and while we are of course grateful for the immediate support the publishing community has provided to high street bookshops, there is more that needs to be done going forward if bookshops are to return to trading successfully. Booksellers have shown incredible resilience and creativity in continuing operations during lockdown, however without significant support and understanding from the wider industry, bookselling may well face an uncertain future, which can only damage the trade as a whole. While the realities of a post-Covid world remain uncertain, by working together and recognising the importance of a varied and diverse retail landscape, the book industry can ensure that it is a world in which both publishing and bookselling can thrive."

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As German booksellers exited lockdown last month, they "reopened to a new reality far different to the relaxed atmosphere before Covid-19," the Bookseller reported. "Each bookshop is navigating the pandemic individually, but all are adhering to state-wide and local guidelines, closely assisted by the trade association Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels," which provides updated information as well as promotional material from its bookshop brand campaign Jetzt ein Buch! (Now a Book!). In addition, seitenreich, the association's benefits program for members, introduced discounts on anti-virus protection like mobile acrylic barriers, "keep-your-distance" stickers, washable face masks and disinfectant dispensers.

Joachim Wrensch of Graff in Braunschweig said reopening has been a steep learning curve, with customers steadily returning, but numbers still down and buying patterns noticeably changed: "Consumers are buying much more purposefully and spend less time browsing."

The Bookseller noted the "collective enthusiasm and resourcefulness with which even the smallest bookshop went about reopening," as well as "the much-increased online business many booksellers saw during the lockdown, and their innovative ways of getting books to customers."

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New Zealand's booksellers are reporting an "extraordinary" sales boom since Covid-19 restrictions were lifted "as Kiwis commit to buying local to resuscitate the economy following seven weeks of lockdown," the Guardian wrote.

"People are really thinking about where they want to spend their money and the businesses they love. They got a taste of what it was like if you weren't there," said Jenna Todd of Time Out Bookstore in Mt. Eden, Auckland. "We're in this space where people are wanting to spend money and support local. A lot of people haven't spent money in a long time. Some people have more money than they usually would from not commuting or going out to dinner."

Renee Rowland of the Twizel Bookshop in Twizel, observed: "I think the experience for many people over lockdown is people would rather spend $40 on a book they can have in their hand and take home and keep forever, rather than spending lots at the pub or something," she said. "There is a sense from the locals and visitors that if you don't use it, you'll lose it. People are coming in and saying 'yah, you survived, I want to buy a book.' "

Jo McColl, owner of Unity Books in Auckland, said she hopes if New Zealand were ever forced to re-enter lockdown, books would be considered an essential service: "People have been just overjoyed to be able to return. For our customers, books are as important as decent food and a good bottle of wine--to them books are essential." Regarding the future of bookselling in New Zealand, she said: "I'm feeling buoyant actually, it's been an extraordinary time and New Zealand has really, really pulled together."

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The novel coronavirus pandemic "is showing just how hardy some of Ireland's smaller operators can be," the Journal reported, adding that "business restrictions might have put a stop to their in-shop retail operations, but a huge demand for reading materials from stuck-at-home bookworms and stressed parents has given shops a lifeline."

"I suppose we were lucky enough," said Sarah Kenny of Kenny's Bookshop, Galway City, which launched its first website in 1994. "We've been online for years so it would have been a huge part of our business anyway. I know a lot of bookshops have been, let's say, setting up a website or putting a lot more of their stock online at the moment so that they can facilitate online orders. But we were already in the position where we had an established presence."

On the other hand, Louisa Earls of Books Upstairs in Dublin described the situation as "a bit mad. We didn't have a website. It's currently in development, which is something that, coincidentally, we had only just started at the time of the lockdown.... Not having a whole inventory on a website meant that we kind of had to think creatively. So very early on, we put out this book bundles idea... in a way to recreate the feeling of when you go into a bookshop, and maybe you don't know what you're looking for in a new book you didn't even know existed and you end up buying it."

Both Earls and Kenny "have been blown away by the demand for online orders, which has kept the cash flowing into their respective businesses during the shutdown," the Journal noted. They also believe "book-buyers have actually become more thoughtful about their shopping habits, a trend they believe has been copper-fastened by the Covid-19 crisis."


GLOW: Houghton Mifflin: How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World's Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs by Guy Raz


Indie Variations on Reopening: A Sampling

At Story on the Square, McDonough, Ga.

As states continue to issue updated Covid-19 guidelines regarding the operation of retail businesses, independent booksellers must calibrate risk vs. reward in their reopening decisions. Here's a sampling of the variety of strategies indies are using to address the challenge:

Broadway Books, Portland, Ore.: "Now that Oregon is starting to ease restrictions somewhat, we are exploring ways to open our doors to customers again while maintaining social distancing and other standards designed to protect the health and well-being of our employees and our customers.... Our plan is to open in a limited fashion in early June."

Solid State Books, Washington, D.C.: "We are pleased to announce that we have plans to resume selling books through curbside pickup! Next Wednesday, May 27th, we will be available to answer your phone calls and e-mails for orders, and will begin to offer contactless pickup at our front door. We have received a waiver from the city to participate in the pilot program to open slowly and gather feedback on how to do so."

From My Shelf Books & Gifts, Wellsboro, Pa.: "[O]pen to the public according to safety guidelines provided by the Governor's office, using the 'yellow' level instructions.... Please, no more than 25 cats at any one time, thank you!"

Story on the Square, McDonough, Ga.: "Our doors are officially open! Come in and shop with us.... You must wear a mask to shop on our premises! Thank you for supporting us during this time! We look forward to seeing you all soon!"

Everyone's Books, Brattleboro, Vt.: "Two months and two days with we three in the shop--the pandemic sisterhood, we called ourselves. We let some things slide a bit at times .... and lost track of time... but we survived and are stronger for it! Day one of our limited opening went well; few folks grumbled about masks or numbers allowed inside."

Downtown Books' new store is open.

Downtown Books, Manteo, N.C.: "It's official... Downtown Books will reopen tomorrow at 11 a.m. in our beautiful new home!! Grab your mask and come see us--we've missed you!!"

Other booksellers have chosen not to reopen to the public yet.

Belmont Books, Belmont, Mass.: "We're eager to see everyone again but want first and foremost to protect the health and well-being of our staff and community. Although Governor Baker has announced that retail businesses may begin offering curbside pickup and delivery as early as today, May 25th, we're taking a little more time to make sure we have all the protocols and equipment necessary to make our operations as safe as possible."

Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington Depot, Conn.: "Governor Lamont is implementing Phase 1 of his reopening plan for the state today. This includes the ability for retail stores to open after they certify that they have met certain conditions. We have decided that we are not ready to be open to the public and have not set a date when we expect to do so but will be reviewing 'current information' as it becomes available. The safety and comfort of both staff and customers are our primary concerns."

SubText: A Bookstore, St. Paul, Minn.: "Hi there everyone, just writing to provide an update to our operations considering the new directions for our stay at home order that began today. We believe that it is in the interest of our staff, and our customers, to remain closed to the public until AT LEAST June 1. At that time we will reassess our options."


Atheneum Books for Young Readers: Tune It Out by Jamie Summer


RWA's Rita Awards Replaced by the Vivian

After a series of controversies, the Romance Writers of America has retired the annual RITA Awards and created a new award, dubbed the Vivian. The RITA was named after Rita Clay Estrada, RWA's first president, and the board thanked her for the past 30 years "as the award's namesake and for her service to RWA and romance authors everywhere."

The Vivian is named after RWA founder Vivian Stephens, "whose trailblazing efforts created a more inclusive publishing landscape and helped bring romance novels to the masses," the board said.

The board emphasized that its contest task force was "guided by the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access" and has aimed to develop a contest that recognizes "excellence in romance writing and showcases author talent and creativity. We celebrate the power of the romance genre with its central message of hope--because happily ever afters are for everyone."

Among other elements, the Vivian will offer "a clear rubric to enhance and streamline scoring guidelines in addition to judge training that will allow for more standardized judging, a sophisticated matching process so that entrants can be sure their books go to judges versed in their subgenre, and a category devoted to recognizing unpublished authors." The task force is presenting details about the Vivian to the full board at its May 30-31 meeting.

In January, the RWA cancelled this year's RITA Awards after months of controversy and mass resignations by members and board members. At issue were charges involving a lack of diversity and inclusion by the RWA.

At the time the RITA Awards were cancelled, the board said it was hiring "a consultant who specializes in awards programs and a DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] consultant" and would seek member involvement in remaking the awards. "Recent RWA Boards have worked hard to make changes to the current contest, striving to make it more diverse and inclusive, relieve judging burdens, and bring in outside voices," but those kinds of changes have been "piecemeal," and the hiatus allowed the RWA, it said, "the opportunity to take a proper amount of time to build an awards program and process--whether it's a revamped RITA contest or something entirely new--that celebrates and elevates the best in our genre."


University Press of Kentucky: The Redshirt (University Press of Kentucky New Poetry & Prose) by Corey Sobel


Obituary Note: Frances Goldin

Frances Goldin

Frances Goldin, a literary agent who represented progressive authors and "a lifelong firebrand who... never stopped fighting to safeguard her beloved Lower East Side from upscale developers," died May 16, the New York Times reported. She was 95. A founder of both the Metropolitan Council on Housing and the Cooper Square Committee, she was also a member of her neighborhood's Community Planning Board and the Joint Planning Council of the Lower East Side, to which she moved 75 years ago.

As an agent, her authors included Susan Brownmiller, Martin Duberman, Juan Gonzalez, Robert Meeropol, Frances Fox Piven and the New York City historian Mike Wallace. Barbara Kingsolver said she chose Goldin because of her advertisement, which read: "I do not represent any material that is sexist, ageist or gratuitously violent."

When she was nearing 90, Goldin said she had had three goals, the Times noted: "One was to preserve and improve Lower East Side housing, which she helped accomplish. The second was to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former radio reporter convicted of murdering a Philadelphia police officer in 1981. A client of her literary agency, he was spared the death penalty but is still serving a life sentence." The third was to publish Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA, which she edited with Debby Smith and Michael Smith and HarperCollins released in 2014.

In a tribute on Facebook, Kingsolver observed that Goldin "represented me for decades, until she retired, and never stopped being my gentle mentor, fierce advocate, grandmother to my children, moral inspiration, fashion advisor, and number one fan. Hers was the most enduring unconditional love I've ever known. She taught me by example how to be fearless. In dark times when strangers' hatred threatened to shut me down, she convinced me the world still needed my words. The one thing she never gave me was permission to quit.

"Her lifelong love and protection of me as a person, and of my convictions, allowed me to become the writer I am, and to reach the readers I have, so it seems right to share this with you now. I'm just one of the millions who have lately lost someone precious without the chance to hold them close at the end, or mourn with the public gathering a human heart seems to crave. But we're finding other ways to come together, grieve, and mend our hearts. This is mine. Thank you."


Notes

Image of the Day: Paretsky & Friend

Following proper safety guidelines, the Seminary Co-op in Chicago, Ill., welcomed local author Sara Paretsky into the store lobby last week to sign copies of her new V.I. Warshawsky novel, Dead Land (Morrow). Paretsky's beloved golden, Chiara, kept an eye out. The Seminary Co-op remains closed to the public, but is filling online orders.


#ReadIndieForward: Werner Books

Posted on Facebook by Werner Books, Erie, Pa.: "Have you heard about #ReadIndieForward? Books connect us all! The idea is that you buy a book from your favorite independent bookstore (us, we hope!) and send it to a loved one. They can then post to social media using the tag above and tagging the bookstore as well as the person they're sending to! It's a great way to give the gift of reading while paying it forward to your favorite indie bookstore. Stop in during our regular store hours, set up a solo shopping time, or contact us to pick out a gift to start reading forward."


Cool Idea of the Day: WORD Association

WORD bookstores, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Jersey City, N.J., have launched WORD Association, an initiative through which the bookseller "is working with a new team of brilliant writers to raise money for the causes that matter to all of us." The project begins this week "with a full slate of outstanding aid organizations serving diverse populations and chosen in partnership with some of the most talented and giving writers we know."

Under the program, WORD will donate 10% of the purchase price of books by participating authors to causes of their choice. The authors and causes will change weekly. This week, for example, WORD will contribute 10% of the proceeds from books by Roxane Gay, Tracy O'Neill, and Lauren Francis-Sharma to the Black Mama's Bailout Fund of the National Bail Out collective and 10% of the proceeds from books by Valeria Luiselli, Molly Crabapple, Francisco Goldman, or Myriam Gurba to Make the Road New York.

WORD will collaborate with many more writers "to address the issues close to our hearts, strengthen our shared communities, and start taking better care of our friends and families, everywhere."

Noting that bookselling is "first and foremost about community, and ours is hurting right now," WORD said: "We're concerned about our friends who have shopped in our stores and attended our reading series, the folks who joined WORD's book groups and brought their children to our storytimes. No one has been untouched by this crisis, and all of us have felt the difficult circumstances it has created for our shared communities.

"It has been our privilege and our sincere pleasure to continue to be your bookstore through all of this. To send you the books you want and the books you didn't know you needed, to supply you with puzzles to pass the time and cards to keep up with your loved ones--the best of what we have to help make this difficult time pass as easily as possible. But we wanted to do more. And with that in mind, we began reaching out to some of our favorite authors to build solidarity with the causes we care about."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Senators Joni Ernst and Martha McSally on CBS This Morning

Today:
CBS This Morning: Senator Joni Ernst, author of Daughter of the Heartland: My Ode to the Country that Raised Me (Threshold Editions, $27.99, 9781982144869).

Kelly Clarkson Show repeat: Grace Byers, author of I Believe I Can (Balzer+Bray, $18.99, 9780062667137).

Late Late Show with James Corden repeat: Neil Patrick Harris, author of The Magic Misfits: The Minor Third (Little, Brown, $7.99, 9780316391887).

Tomorrow:
CBS This Morning: Senator Martha McSally, author of Dare to Fly: Simple Lessons in Never Giving Up (Morrow, $26.99, 9780062996282).


Michael Connelly, Jake Tapper in Conversation

On Thursday, May 28, 7-8 p.m. Eastern, Michael Connelly and CNN's Jake Tapper are teaming up for an online conversation that will benefit independent bookstores. The conversation will cover both authors' new books, the craft of writing, their move from journalism to fiction writing, how journalism informs fiction, and the importance of supporting independent bookstores now and always. Viewers will be encouraged to donate to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc).

For more information about the free event on Crowdcast and to register, click here.


TV: Everything I Never Told You

Annapurna Television "has emerged the winner of a multi-studio bidding war" for the rights to Celeste Ng's debut 2014 novel Everything I Never Told You, Variety reported, adding that the book will be developed as a limited series. Ng's novel Little Fires Everywhere was adapted into the hit series on Hulu by Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington.

Ng and Mary Lee of A-Major Media, "a production company dedicated to championing Asian American voices in film and TV," will serve as executive producers on the adaptation, Variety noted, while Megan Ellison, Sue Naegle, Patrick Chu and Ali Krug will executive produce for Annapurna.



Books & Authors

Awards: CWC Arthur Ellis Winners

Crime Writers of Canada announced winners of the 2020 Arthur Ellis Awards for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing, with Michael Christie taking the best novel prize for Greenwood and Philip Elliott winning the best debut novel category for Nobody Move. The Grand Master Award went to Peter Robinson. This year's awards gala was canceled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Check out a complete list of category winners here.


Book Review

Review: Use the Power You Have: A Brown Woman's Guide to Politics and Political Change

Use the Power You Have: A Brown Woman's Guide to Politics and Political Change by Pramila Jayapal (The New Press, $27.99 hardcover, 240p., 9781620971437, June 30, 2020)

When Pramila Jayapal came to the U.S. at age 16 to attend university, she never imagined she'd one day serve in Congress. But in 2016, Jayapal, a long-time community organizer in the Seattle area and a former Washington State senator, was elected to the House of Representatives just as Donald Trump was elected president. In her second book, Use the Power You Have, Jayapal shares her story as an immigrant, an organizer, a mother and a passionate advocate for equality and political change. "Politics at its best," she says, "has human stories at its heart, and logic and methodology in its bones." Both Jayapal's political career and her book--wise, thoughtful and meticulously well-organized--use that same combination of humanity and logical argument to stunning effect.

Jayapal begins by detailing her journey as a young immigrant and her early career bouncing between investment banking and nonprofit work. She tells the story of founding the advocacy group Hate Free Zone (which later became OneAmerica) in response to racism and hate speech after September 11, 2001. She then recounts the lessons of her first several political campaigns in Washington, and the transition from being on the outside (as an activist and agitator) to working for change from the inside (as a state senator). "I knew I wanted to be a different kind of elected official," she says, citing her constant check-ins with ordinary voters and her mentorship of young women of color.

Throughout her narrative, Jayapal emphasizes the need for Americans of all backgrounds to stay informed, work together for the good of their communities and stand up for what they believe in. She has continued her activism in Congress, participating in protests (including the 2017 Women's March) and even getting arrested several times for peacefully protesting.

The second part of her book lays out her "moral visions" on three key issues: U.S. immigration policy, Medicare for All and a $15 minimum wage. (Jayapal was part of the coalition that helped pass Seattle's $15 minimum wage in 2014.) Jayapal has authored or co-sponsored a number of bills calling for sweeping progressive change in these areas; as a co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, she has had to learn to make compromises. Her book criticizes the hateful policies of the Trump administration while emphasizing clear, well-thought-out, often bipartisan policy solutions to many American problems. It's both an unusual insider's account of Trump-era politics in D.C. (including Jayapal's relationships with other Democratic leaders) and a fierce call for all citizens, no matter their roles in society, to use the power they have. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: U.S. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal recounts her activist career and lays out thoughtful policy proposals in a warm, keen-eyed memoir.


The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by IndieReader.com:

1. False Assurances by Christopher Rosow
2. This Is Not a Fashion Story by Danielle Bernstein with Emily Siegel
3. The Fifth Vital by Mike Majlak and Riley J. Ford
4. May Contain Wine (SWAT Generation 2.0 Book 5) by Lani Lynn Vale
5. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon L. Lechter
6. Threat Bias (Ben Porter Series Book 2) by Christopher Rosow
7. Wylde by Sawyer Bennett
8. Sure Shot by Sarina Bowen
9. Romantically Ever After by Various
10. Dare to Resist by Carly Phillips

[Many thanks to IndieReader.com!]


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