Shelf Awareness for Monday, October 19, 2020

Holiday House: Ros Demir Is Not the One by Leyla Brittan

HarperAlley: I Shall Never Fall In Love by Hari Conner

W. W. Norton & Company to Sell and Distribute Yale University Press and Harvard University Press

Clarion Books: The Man Who Didn't Like Animals by Deborah Underwood, Illlustrated by LeUyen Pham

Holiday House: Bye Forever, I Guess by Jodi Meadows and Team Canteen 1: Rocky Road by Amalie Jahn

Wednesday Books: Dust by Alison Stine

Quotation of the Day

Black-owned Bookstores 'Fill Our Intellectual Well'

"Yusef and I talk about this often. We were taking classes where the required reading list were books that were not readily found in bookstore chains. I used to work at Waldenbooks in New York but I shopped at Revolution Books in Harlem and Nkiru Books in Brooklyn because the books we needed for class were on the shelves. Our professor also had booksellers visit our class and he would take orders right then and there. The following week, he would haul boxes of books into the classroom. I absolutely loved that experience. The books felt very special. I still have all those books and, interestingly enough, when I had visited Yusef at his home, he also had those books. We frequented Black-owned bookstores because this is where we went to fill our intellectual well."

--Ibi Zoboi, co-author (with Yusef Salaam) of Punching the Air (Balzer + Bray), a Fall 2020 Kids' Indie Next List pick, in a q&a with Bookselling This Week

 Treasure Books, Inc.: There's Treasure Inside by Jon Collins-Black


Bookstore Sales Down 30.7% in August

In the sixth month of data reflecting public health measures taken to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, including the closure of many bookstores for a time and limited access since then, in August sales at bookstores dropped 30.7%, to $754 million, compared to August 2019, according to preliminary Census Bureau estimates.

The drop reversed the trend of the previous three months of drops that were not as severe as the previous months, with sales slowly climbing. For example, in July, bookstore sales fell 24.7%, in June, bookstore sales were down 35.4%, and in May, bookstores sales were off 59.9%. August sales figures likely reflected big sales drops at college stores at a time when many schools were unsure how and if they would open and many students were opting not to attend the fall semester.

During the first eight months of the year, bookstore sales fell 31.4%, to $3.9 billion.

Total retail sales in August rose 0.3%, to $546.7 billion. During the first eight months of the year, total retail sales fell 1.8%, to $3.99 trillion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books." The Bureau also added this unusual caution: "Due to recent events surrounding COVID-19, many businesses are operating on a limited capacity or have ceased operations completely. The Census Bureau has monitored response and data quality and determined estimates in this release meet publication standards."

Help a Bookseller, Change a Life: Give today to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation!

Paige Allen to Head IngramSpark

Paige Allen has been named director of IngramSpark, the company's self-publishing division that has been led by Robin Cutler, who will become an IngramSpark consultant and mentor to the team before her official retirement in late November.

Allen was formerly chief operating officer of the Horton Group, a web design and digital marketing agency in Nashville, Tenn., where she worked for four years. Before that, she was senior manager of digital content and international communications, customer solutions at Asurion and digital project management lead at Lonely Planet.

Kelly Gallagher, v-p of content acquisition at Ingram, said Allen "brings great experience in content management, platform development and advertising."

Allen added: "After nearly a decade of working in digital marketing agencies, I am eager to help authors and publishers reach their audience through IngramSpark."

At Poets & Writers, Figman Retiring, Gradel to Become Executive Director

Elliot Figman and Melissa Ford Gradel

After 40 years as executive director of Poets & Writers, Elliot Figman is retiring in January and will be succeeded by managing director Melissa Ford Gradel.

Gradel has been with Poets & Writers for 10 years and has more than 25 years of experience in the nonprofit arts sector. As a development director at Poets House from 2003 to 2006, she helped secure a permanent home for the organization in Battery Park City in lower Manhattan. As a consultant, she helped raise millions of dollars for a range of arts and cultural organizations, including the Brooklyn Public Library, the Brooklyn Children's Museum, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Prospect.1 New Orleans. In the last decade, she expanded Poets & Writers' fundraising, worked with colleagues to develop new programs and guide strategic planning efforts, and spearheaded the Poets & Writers Covid-19 Relief Fund, which has provided emergency grants to 150 writers in 33 states.

Amy Berkower, president of the board of directors, said that Gradel's "contributions to Poets & Writers and her commitment to our mission made this a natural choice--and one that will provide continuity in a time of unprecedented change. The board thanks Elliot for his long and successful tenure and welcomes Melissa to her new role."

Gradel commented: "I'm incredibly fortunate to have worked alongside and learned from Elliot for nearly 11 years, and I look forward to building on his considerable successes. I am excited to lead our dedicated staff and to partner with the board to expand and deepen our service to writers. Given the historic challenges facing all of us, there has never been a more important time for our work, which is to inform and inspire writers and strengthen the literary community."

Figman came to Poets & Writers in 1977 as a volunteer and during his 40 years as executive director, he oversaw the creation of Poets & Writers Magazine, the launch of, the expansion of the Readings & Workshops program, and the creation of several awards, including the Jackson Poetry Prize. Figman was a co-founder of the Literary Network (LitNet), which advocates for the field of nonprofit literary organizations. Figman will continue to serve as a member of Poets & Writers' board of directors.

He said: "It's been my honor to work together with such talented and passionate colleagues. While parting is, indeed, sweet sorrow, I'm delighted to pass the baton to Melissa, who has a deep understanding of our mission, vision, and values and is uniquely qualified to take the helm. As I reflect on my time at Poets & Writers, I'm so proud that we've built this organization to be a widely respected and trusted resource for writers. We've had the privilege of touching the lives of a large and diverse group of writers nationwide, and that gives me real satisfaction. I'm extremely gratified to leave the organization in more than capable hands."

Former B&N Buyer Jim Killen Joins Rebellion Publishing

Jim Killen

Jim Killen, one of many longtime buyers laid off by Barnes & Noble in June, has joined Rebellion Publishing as American editor-at-large, Bleeding Cool reported. Killen had been SF/fantasy and graphics novel buyer and had been at B&N 41 years. Rebellion, with headquarters in Oxford, England, is the SFF, horror and crime publishing arm of European games development company Rebellion and includes the Abaddon Books, Solaris Books and Ravenstone Press imprints.

Ben Smith, head of film, TV & publishing at Rebellion, said: "Jim Killen is not only one of the best informed people in the U.S. genre scene, but he has been a strong supporter at Barnes & Noble for Rebellion's books over the last decade. Our respect for his knowledge and insight has meant that I have long wanted to tempt Jim over to fence into publishing. I am delighted he is starting a new chapter in his highly respected career with Rebellion and look forward with great anticipation to the impact he will have on our list and performance. Being based in New York, Jim is perfectly situated to engage with our U.S. agent colleagues, our distributor Simon & Schuster and the wider industry. As Rebellion's publishing lists continue to expand we are thrilled to have Jim join us at such an exciting moment."

How Bookstores Are Coping: Lifted by Customers; Armchair Browsing

Sandra Dear, owner of The Little Boho Bookshop in Bayonne, N.J., reported that her store was closed from the middle of March until June 22. The store is open for browsing now, with restrictions on occupancy and masks required for all. There are sanitizing stations around the store, and customers have to sanitize "the minute you enter the store." Despite those restrictions, Dear added, she's trying to make things at her store feel "as normal as it can possibly get."

Prior to reopening in June, Dear and her team reached out to customers saying they wanted to reopen, but could "only do so if you help us." Customers have been fantastic about both following safety guidelines and supporting the store in general, she said. The Little Boho Bookshop was closed for four months and has yet to receive any kind of assistance. The store is only still open because customers "lifted us up and brought us here."

When asked about how she's approached holiday buying this year, Dear said it has "created a level of anxiety" for her and her team. They quickly realized that the options were either commit to books early and then "work your butt off" to sell them, or wind up having to "chase books" throughout the holidays. They committed to key titles that they feel their customers will want and also stocked up on essential nonbook items.

This month, they've been promoting Christmas in October "in a big way." Online customers have responded well to that message, and to promote things in-store they've been hosting pop-ups each weekend with a variety of small local businesses that sell complementary products. Social media has been a major part of getting the early shopping message out, and in general the store has been leaning on social media heavily throughout the pandemic. Dear added that by October 24, it's "going to look like Christmas" at her store. "We don't have the luxury of waiting."

Over the past few months, The Little Boho Bookshop has been featured on a variety of lists of Black-owned bookstores to support. Dear said she never really identified her store as a Black-owned store, though "my customers knew who I was--you walk in and there's a Black lady." This wave of support for Black-owned businesses, she continued, has taken "a bit of anxiety away" and has been "a bit freeing as well." While she's happy that her store and other Black-owned stores are getting more attention, she said that her customers "are not coming to us because I'm African American, but because of the ambience in store and online." Her message, she pointed out, is "this is our happy place. Come and make it yours."


While Seminary Co-op remains closed to browsers, curbside pick-up is available.

In Chicago, Ill., The Seminary Co-op Bookstores have yet to reopen for browsing. Jeff Deutsch, director of Seminary Co-op and 57th Street Books, reported that their community has been "overwhelmingly supportive" of the decision to remain closed. While there have been some "stray complaints," they've been reasonable and were mostly all assuaged "after a bit of dialogue." 

When the store closed in March, marketing director Clancey D'Isa immediately set to work on developing a tool for "armchair browsing for the socially distant." That led to The Front Table, a digital publication that highlights the titles staff members are particularly passionate about. The Front Table, Deutsch noted, was originally a print publication that mirrored what was being displayed on the co-op's front table. They plan to keep this digital version going "for years to come."

In late May and early June, after protests began around the country in response to the murder of George Floyd, Seminary Co-op put together a reading list that "went beyond the bestseller list." At the same time, there were "profound internal conversations" about the bookstore's responsibilities as an institution. Among other things, Seminary Co-op developed a de-escalation training plan and a statement about police engagement, both of which are now permanent parts of the employee handbook. --Alex Mutter

NZ Bookshop Day: 'Engage Your Senses'

New Zealand's booksellers celebrated the sixth annual NZ Bookshop Day Saturday with a range of events, competitions and activities, and the theme "engage your senses." Here's some highlights of the festivities culled from social media posts:

Dogs at Time Out Bookstore, Auckland: "Kia ora! Don’t forget tomorrow is #nzbookshopday and boy, we've got some goodies for you. The Booksellers NZ Summer Reading Guide, gift bags with giveaways from our wonderful NZ publishers, Katie's cookies and staff costumes. Come and say hi!"

Unity Books, Wellington: "Election Day is NZ Bookshop Day! Visit our store... and vote for your favorite of our bestselling books of the year from Aotearoa. One lucky voter will win all six books!"

Marsden Books, Wellington: "It's NZ Bookshop Day. COME AND VOTE FOR BOOKS. Come and celebrate this special day with us and let the kids exercise their democratic right to vote for their favorite NZ author.... Every kid can vote for their favorite on our special voting form, write their name on the back, and then everyone who votes goes in the draw to win three books of the author they voted for. Yay!"

Mcleods Booksellers, Rotorua: "Books getting wrapped for our Annual Treasure Hunt for all ages... to celebrate NZ Bookshop Day and all our lovely customers! Pop in... to find one of these books wrapped in brown or yellow paper to take home with you for free!"

Schrödinger's Books, Petone: "Woohoo! Bookshop Day is here! Come and join the fun today.... All book purchases put you in the draw to win a box of goodies, too! See you soon."

Twizel Bookshop, Twizel: "It's happening! Come down to @twizelbookshop for lollies and giveaways! Oh and books, of course!"

Poppies, Hamilton: "It's a beautiful day for NZ Bookshop Day! Pop in and say hi, and pick up a copy of the summer reading guide--it's full of great gift ideas (and books that you'll want for yourself)."

Dorothy Butler Books: "Thanks @hachettenz for our #Nzbookshopday card and goodies. Love the RBG face masks! We're having a great day and we think the visiting kids are too!"

University Bookshop, Otago: "Phew! Thanks to all of you who popped in and showed us the love on #nzbookshopday! There was so much going on, we're only just getting around to posting 2 of our Saturday super stars hiding in the crime section (they don't look very guilty). Thanks to @booksellersnz for creating a chance to celebrate all of Aotearoa's wonderful independent book stores, and all the publishers who help us get the best books in the world to you, our supportive customers. Remember folks, shop local!"

Booksellers NZ: "On our #NZBookshopDay we should also take a moment to think about our colleagues in the USA who are having a much tougher time than we are.... In the US, independent booksellers are taking on the might of Amazon with this amazing #BoxedOut campaign. We've never seen anything like it."


Image of the Day: Hachette's Book Brunch

Nearly 400 people across the country attended Hachette's ninth annual Book Club Brunch, which kicked off on Saturday morning with a panel on literary fiction featuring (l.-r., top row) Natasha Lester (The Paris Secret), Emma Donoghue (The Pull of the Stars) and Attica Locke (Heaven My Home), moderated by (bottom row) Bill Goldstein and introduced by Hachette's Karen Torres. The virtual event continued with a session on narrative nonfiction with Ijeoma Oluo (Mediocre), Jennifer Palmieri (She Proclaims) and Leslie Gray Streeter (Black Widow), moderated by Roxanne Coady of R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Conn. (the bookstore partner for the event). The final session featured Michael Farris Smith, author of Nick, in conversation with editor Josh Kendall.

Indie Halloween Update: The Open Book's Skeletal Bookseller

The Open Book, Canyon Country, Calif., shared a video of its skeletal bookseller, noting: "OUR BABY. Seriously, does anyone else just love Steve as much as we do? Look at him, so precious and innocent, like a little angel."

Cool Idea of the Day: Bookstore & Publisher Anniversary Celebration

Canio's Books of Sag Harbor, N.Y., which is marking its 40th anniversary, and Turtle Point Press, Brooklyn, N.Y., marking its 30th anniversary, are celebrating together with a virtual Crowdcast event this Wednesday, October 21, 7-8 p.m. Eastern.

The event will feature:

  • Jeannette Watson, former owner of Books & Co. in New York City
  • Michael Carroll, husband of Edmund White and author of Little Reef, which won the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction from American Academy of Arts and Letters
  • Grace Schulman, doyenne of American letters and the New York poetry community and author of The Marble Bed, her eighth poetry collection
  • Joseph Keckler singer, musician, writer, and artist
  • Diane Glancy, poet, novelist, essayist, playwright
  • Ira Silverberg, independent editor and consultant in the literary arts
  • Ruth Greenstein, Turtle Point's publisher and editorial director

To join the celebration, please register here.

Personnel Changes at Avid Reader; S&S Children's Publishing

Morgan Hoit has been promoted to marketing manager at Avid Reader Press.


At Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing digital marketing:

In the teen category, Emily Ritter has been promoted to senior manager, digital & social marketing.

Also in the teen category, Annika Voss has been promoted to digital & social marketing associate.

In the kids category, Kate Bouchard has been promoted to digital & social marketing associate.

Yasleen Trinidad is joining the digital marketing team in the newly created position of associate content manager, digital marketing.

Saleena Nival is joining as digital & social marketing assistant.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: H.W. Brands on Fresh Air

Good Morning America: Matthew McConaughey, author of Greenlights (Crown, $30, 9780593139134). He will also appear tomorrow on Live with Kelly and Ryan.

Also on GMA: Claire Saffitz, author of Dessert Person: Recipes and Guidance for Baking with Confidence (Clarkson Potter, $35, 9781984826961).

Fresh Air: H.W. Brands, author of The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, and the Struggle for American Freedom (Doubleday, $30, 9780385544009).

Drew Barrymore Show: Marie Kondo, author of Joy at Work: Organizing Your Professional Life (Little, Brown Spark, $24, 9780316423328).

NBC's Access Daily: Hoda Kotb, author of This Just Speaks to Me: Words to Live By Every Day (Putnam, $24, 9780593191088).

The View: Alicia Garza, author of The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart (One World, $27, 9780525509684).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Dolly Parton, co-author of Dolly Parton, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics (Chronicle, $50, 9781797205090).

Tonight Show: Natalie Portman, co-author of Natalie Portman's Fables (Feiwel & Friends, $19.99, 9781250246868).

Bronzeville Books Inks SAG-AFTRA Audiobook Deal

Independent publisher Bronzeville Books has joined the lineup of SAG-AFTRA audiobook publishers after an agreement was facilitated by actor and longtime former SAG-AFTRA national v-p Anne-Marie Johnson. Bronzeville will begin producing covered audio recordings through its sister LLC, Bronzeville Pictures, starting with its most recent book release, Ace Boon Coon: The Tales of Elliot Caprice by Danny Gardner.

Gardner, who is also an actor, director and screenwriter, founded Bronzeville Books to elevate the voices, stories and talent of Black and other underrepresented creatives. Through its expansion into audiobooks, Bronzeville said it will also create new opportunities for narrators of color.

"We are thrilled to be working with Danny and the team at Bronzeville Books," said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. "The audiobook industry has been experiencing explosive growth and with that we've seen the need for greater diversity and authenticity both in terms of narrators and the stories that are chosen to be told in this format. Bronzeville has a unique role to play in cultivating diverse storytellers."

Gardner commented: "As a member of SAG-AFTRA for more than 30 years, I wanted to leverage my role as a publisher to provide opportunities for actors of color in the same way that the union has taken steps to create diversity and inclusion initiatives for its members. I am proud to be involved, both as an actor and a publisher."

Johnson, who will be a co-producer for Bronzeville, added: "Americans today demand the kind of authentic, rich storytelling that can only be achieved when both creatives and decisionmakers are committed to recognizing and honoring diverse experiences and voices. SAG-AFTRA and Bronzeville's partnership has the potential to not only produce compelling entertainment, but also to help cultivate the pipeline of narrators from diverse racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds."

Books & Authors

Awards: Gordon Burn, Polaris Winners

This Is Not Propaganda by Peter Pomerantsev has won the 2020 Gordon Burn Prize, which is open to books from the U.S., U.K., and Ireland and recognizes the year's "boldest, most ambitious and uncompromising work."

Organizers called This Is Not Propaganda, published in the U.S. by PublicAffairs, "a compelling, insightful and disturbing book about our ever-shifting world. Mixing case studies, analysis and family history, Peter Pomerantsev broadens his scope outwards from Moscow and London to a more global canvas, as he looks at the origins and spiralling problems of the disinformation age. Timely and important, it confirms Pomerantsev as one of our most stylish, dexterous and important new non-fiction writers."


Amrou Al-Kadhi has won the 2020 Polari First Book Prize for Life as a Unicorn and Kate Davies has won the Polari Prize for non-debut talent for In at the Deep End. The Polari Prizes are U.K. awards that "celebrate literature that explores the LGBTQ+ experience."

Organizers said Life as a Unicorn is "an honest, heart-breaking and often hilarious account of the author's journey from god-fearing Muslim boy enraptured with their mother, to a vocal, queer drag queen estranged from their family."

Judge Andrew McMillan called In at the Deep End an "open, generous, bold and unashamedly commercial novel that deals quite rarely with lesbian love, lesbian sex and lesbian eroticism."

Book Review

Review: Murder in Old Bombay

Murder in Old Bombay: A Mystery by Nev March (Minotaur Books, $26.99 hardcover, 400p., 9781250269546, November 10, 2020)

Mumbai-born debut novelist Nev March raises the specter of a real unsolved case from then-Bombay in this action-filled and richly detailed historical mystery, set in India 1892, under British colonial rule. 

When two young ladies from a prominent Parsee household fall to their deaths from a university clocktower, an investigation fails to prove whether the tragedy  stemmed from a suicide pact or foul play. Anglo-Indian Captain James Agnihotri of the Fourteenth Light Dragoons, convalescing in a Poona military hospital after Afghan soldiers ambushed his regiment in Kirachi, finds the case as captivating as the new Sherlock Holmes novel, The Sign of the Four.

After Adi Framji, the husband of one victim and brother of the other, publishes an impassioned letter in the Chronicle of India insisting neither woman would have killed herself, Jim offers his services as a novice investigator to the bereaved family to ease "the sharp burn of his grief." He believes that, by using the Holmesian strategies of disguise and deduction, he can ferret out the truth behind the deaths. The orphaned bastard son of a high-caste mother and an unnamed British father, the captain swiftly becomes attached to the kindly Framjis, seeing them as a surrogate family. However, his investigation becomes more dangerous and difficult than anticipated as Jim navigates the labyrinth of high society in British India, faces attackers sent to scare him off the case and falls hard for Adi's beautiful sister Diana, who has "the spirit of a thoroughbred." The hunt will take the former cavalry officer from glittering ballrooms to far-flung, besieged Lahore, and his interference may make Jim and his adored Framji family a set of powerful enemies.

March has created a likable, honorable sleuth whose humble origins and instinctive kindness make spending time with him a pleasure. A strong case of survivor's guilt and residual wartime trauma play counterpoint to his genial personality. The author sets an immersive scene, creating a detailed representation of the vibrant religious and cultural tapestry of Colonial India and the rigidly structured interlocking hierarchy of British rule and the Indian caste system. Jim's status as an Anglo-Indian frequently illustrates the lack of fluidity in the society; the Framji family are also treated as "neither fully English, nor fully Indian." The story's resolution paves the way for further adventures, which March's readers will surely consider a welcome possibility. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Shelf Talker: Nev March's debut introduces an honorable Anglo-Indian British cavalry officer who tries to solve a possible double murder in 1890s Bombay.

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