Shelf Awareness for Friday, February 26, 2021


Del Rey Books: The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig

Tor Books: When the Sparrow Falls by Neil Sharpson

Liveright Publishing Corporation: Mrs. March by Virginia Feito

Simon & Schuster Fall Preview: Pre-register now! Space is limited!

Zest Books: When Dogs Heal: Powerful Stories of People Living with HIV and the Dogs That Saved Them by Jesse Freidin, Robert Garofalo, Zach Stafford, and Christina Garofalo

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Shark Summer by Ira Marcks

St. Martin's Press: Into the Forest: A Holocaust Story of Survival, Triumph, and Love by Rebecca Frankel

News

AAP Sales: 2020 Total Sales Up 0.1%; Trade Up 9.7%

Total net book sales in 2020 rose 0.1%, to $14.75 billion, compared to 2019, representing sales of 1,354 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers. In December, total net book sales fell 8.5%, to $1.12 billion.
 
Total trade sales rose 9.7%, to $8.6 billion. Excluding mass market and physical audiobooks, trade categories had strong sales, particularly e-books and hardcovers. By contrast, some of the categories with major drops in sales during 2020 were K-12 and Higher Ed, both casualties of the pandemic.
 
During the year, hardback revenues rose 12.9%, to $3.4 billion; paperbacks were up 5.6%, to $2.6 billion; mass market fell 2.9%, to $228.3 million; board books climbed 18.2%, to $192.8 million; and e-books rose 15.6%, to $1.1 billion. 
 
Sales by category in 2020 compared to 2019:
 

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Turnout by Megan Abbott


Tattered Cover's Lodo Store to Close March 17

Tattered Cover Book Store's location in lower downtown Denver, Colo., will close on March 17 in advance of a move to McGregor Square, a new multiuse development next to Coors Field, The Know reported. The move had originally been announced last May but without a firm date.

Tattered Cover co-owner Kwame Spearman, who purchased the store last fall along with David Back and an investor group called Bended Page, told The Know that they are eyeing a May opening date for the McGregor Square location. Their neighbors will include a bank, a sports bar and an Italian restaurant.

"We are sad to leave this historic location, but the cost of rent does not make sense for us as a business," Spearman said. "That staff is hopeful that people will stop by to share their memories of the space and help us say goodbye."

Dick Monfort, owner and chairmain of the Colorado Rockies, is a member of Bended Page and is also part of the group leading the development of McGregor Square.


University of Minnesota Press: Yang Warriors by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Billy Thao


Travel Bug in Santa Fe, N.Mex., Adding Brewery and Taproom

Travel Bug Coffee Shop, a bookstore and cafe in Sante Fe, N.Mex., that specializes in maps and books for travellers, will add a brewery to its operations this summer. Travel Bug Bookstore and Brewery will keep the maps, books, coffee and baked goods and also feature a brewery and taproom.

Travel Bug co-owner Eric Moffat, meanwhile, is stepping away from the business, with Greg Ohlsen set to become sole owner. Moffat reported that he is leaving to pursue other endeavors, but will remain for a little while longer to ensure a smooth transition.

The bookstore is undergoing renovations to accommodate the new facet of the business, with book sections being condensed and moved, counters being resurfaced and machines moved.

"Greg is now at the helm," wrote Moffat. "He is persevering, he is committed and he is adept. I have no doubt he will succeed."


GLOW: Simon & Schuster: Smile: The Story of a Face by Sarah Ruhl


Mass.'s Familiar Trees 'Finding a Niche'

Since opening in August, Familiar Trees, a bookstore/gallery space in Pittsfield, Mass., whose new and used book selection focuses on art-related titles such as design, graphic design and photography as well as literature and poetry, "has begun to find a niche," according to co-owner Stephen Rudy, the Berkshire Eagle reported.

"To be honest with you, people are buying somewhat different books these days, I think," Rudy said. "Another thing that we have going for us is, we're specializing in art design, fiction and poetry.... So, we're very good in those areas. Just in four months, we've kind of developed a really good client base throughout the Berkshires, people coming from as far as Boston to visit the store. We're surprised at how well it's gone."

Rudy, who owns Familiar Trees with Susana Gilboe, added that the two had hoped to open in March, but the pandemic made them put their plans on hold. "We really just decided that everything was unknown and realized we couldn't predict the future, so, we really had to just put one foot in front of the other," he said. "One step at a time we just decided to do it and decided not to look back. It was the only thing we could do."

Rudy and Gilboe, who moved from New York City to the town of Washington six years ago, chose Pittsfield as the site for their store and gallery after visiting several times. "We kept coming to Pittsfield and saying, 'This city has really good bones. Why isn't anyone doing something more interesting?' " Rudy said. "We immediately sensed that there was some potential here."

The owners spent $15,000-$20,000 to renovate the store's space, which was formerly home to a sports memorabilia shop, and did most of the work on their own.

Besides books, Familiar Trees sells a variety of artworks, such as paintings and sculptures, and hosts shows for local artists.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Blush by Jamie Brenner


International Update: Global Book Sales for 2020, Scottish Booksellers Seek Clarification

Despite the global omnipresence of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, "some international markets reported strong performances," the Bookseller reported, drawing its figures from various book trade publications.

In Germany, the overall the market in 2020 dropped 2.3% in revenue, with 5.3% fewer copies sold and 3.2% higher prices on average, according to Buchreport.

Austria's reported overall market was up slightly in December, but year on year book sales declined 4.4%.  

Book sales in France were down 4.5% on average compared to 2019, but "small local bookstores (with a drop of just 1.8%) and independent booksellers (down 4.2%) did better," the Bookseller noted.

Sweden's total sales increased by 8.7% in value and 21.5% in units, according to figures from the Swedish Booksellers Association and the Swedish Publishers Association, but physical bookstore sales dropped 19.1% compared to a 19% jump for Internet bookstores and book clubs.

Citing Bunka News, the Bookseller reported that in Japan, demand for print books, magazines and e-books increased to ¥1,616 billion (about $15.2 billion), up 4.8% year-on-year, with the e-book share of the publishing market rising to 24.3%, up 4.4% from 2019. 

In Brazil, Nielsen recorded sales of 41.9 million copies, up 0.87% from 2019 (via PublishNews), though revenue fell 0.5%, without taking into account inflation of 4.23%.

Sales of print books in Australia grew 7.8% in 2020 (via Books + Publishing), with total sales by value coming in at A$1.25 billion (about US$996 million) for the year, compared to A$1.14 billion (about US$908 million) for 2019. Total number of unit sales for the year was 67 million.  

---

Some Scottish booksellers expressed frustration with the uncertainties in First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's announcement earlier this week of an April reopening from Covid-19 restrictions, and are seeking clarification regarding when customers might actually be able to return to bookshops.

Noting that she was "frustrated, disappointed and angry," Sally Pattle of Far from the Madding Crowd in Linlithgow told the Bookseller: "I am unclear about whether we'll be classed as essential going forward and therefore allowed to reopen on April 5. That would of course be fantastic, though without any other shops or services being allowed to reopen for three weeks after that on our high street, it will be bittersweet. We'll have to wait and see what further information is released about the announcement and who knows if that will be done quickly, or if we'll have to wait until mid-March for things to become clearer--the First Minister certainly did not give us the detail we had hoped for in her statement."

Rosamund de la Hey of the Mainstreet Trading Company, St. Boswells, agreed: "I can't see anything that suggests bookshops will be included in an April 5 reopening, but given we were given a specific exemption as regards click and collect, we can only hope. My guess would be the 'some elements of essential retail' might include garden centers first. And if, as seems more likely, we don't reopen until April 26, it will be very frustrating, especially given our low levels of infection in the Borders."

---

(photo: Rebecca Macmillan Photography)

In New Zealand, Vic Books was the official bookseller last weekend at the Garden Party, a new summer festival, organized by VERB Wellington, celebrating author and artist talks, food, music and books.

"The writer line up was fantastic--Elizabeth Knox, Witi Ihimaera, Anna Fifield, Annabel Langbein, local artist Karl Maughan, social media star Tom Sainsbury," said Sarah Rennie, book buyer and events coordinator at Vic Books. "There was also music, food and sunshine and all set amongst the beautiful Botanic Gardens."

Festival director Claire Mabey told Stuff that the Garden Party was a product of last year's Covid-19 restrictions: "We were thinking about the future of what book festivals might be--we always wanted to try an outdoor scenario to bring a music festival together with [literature]." --Robert Gray


Graywolf Press: Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga


Univ. of Illinois Press Launches 3 Fields Books

The University of Illinois Press is launching 3 Fields Books, a regional trade imprint dedicated to titles about Illinois and the Midwest. The press said, "3 Fields Books evokes a landscape of endless vistas that inspire reflection and the three campuses of the University of Illinois. These books explore the culture, place, and people around us while contributing to conversations that connect the campuses, state, and region with the broader world. Those of us who live here experience an amazing wealth of regional history, food, and travel. With 3 Fields Books, we tell the human stories behind the music, arts, natural history, technological experimentation, religious diversity, and progressive thought that define Illinois and the Midwest.

The inaugural title from 3 Fields Books is Exploring the Land of Lincoln: The Essential Guide to Illinois Historic Sites by Charles Titus, published this month. Subsequent titles include Graceland Cemetery: Stories, Symbols and Secrets from the Famous to the Forgotten by Adam Selzer and Destination Heartland: A Guide to Discovering the Midwest's Remarkable Past by Cynthia Clampitt.

Editor-in-chief Daniel Nasset commented: "From our first book in 1918, the University of Illinois Press has been publishing regional titles. With 3 Fields Books, we hope to enhance our regional trade publishing program and provide readers new ways to transcend their knowledge and explore our state and region."


Spiegel & Grau: Fox and I: An Uncommon Friendship by Catherine Raven


Lawrence Ferlinghetti Remembered

Over the past few days, more tributes and memories in honor of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who died on Monday, have poured in. Among a few:

Maria A. Pallante, president and CEO, Association of American Publishers, said, "We join AAP member City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, and publishers everywhere, in mourning the loss of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a true champion of the printed word who leaves an extraordinary legacy personified by his essential poetry, his fabled bookstore, his extraordinary work as a promoter and publisher, and his historic role as a proud defender of First Amendment rights."

---

KQED offered photos from an impromptu memorial for Lawrence Ferlinghetti on Tuesday evening outside City Lights Books that included close friends and people touched by his work.

---

The San Francisco Chronicle's Datebook also discussed the memorial and expanded on how Ferlinghetti touched so many people in San Francisco and around the world. It quoted the late poet Michael McClure, who said last year, "Lawrence Ferlinghetti is the most-read poet of modern times. His own books of poetry and his series for City Lights Press raised and deepened the consciousness of imaginations of many generations, and they continue to do so. City Lights is and was the center of the poetry world."

---

The Guardian offered a range of tributes, including this from Stacey Lewis, City Lights's v-p of publicity, marketing and sales. "I started here 25 years ago, and I was lucky enough to see him every morning when he would come in," she said. In later years he mainly checked mail and wrote postcards. "He answered fan mail in a very intentional way. He was signing books up until a few years ago, when he couldn't physically do it any more." She also recalled a line of his that City Lights staff favor. "I'm pretty sure it's a poem in A Coney Island of the Mind: 'You and me could really exist.' "

---

City Lights posted "The Elegy Arcane," a poem by Jack Hirschman in memory of his dear friend Ferlinghetti.

---

The Nation's John Nichols remembered Ferlinghetti as "a radical who warmly embraced the revolutionary impulses of the many generations for which he was a spokesperson.... To my mind, what made Ferlinghetti so refreshing was his delight with each new generation's readiness to challenge the status quo it had been handed."

---

Bridget Kinsella Tiernan, publicist at Stanford University Press, offered this remembrance:

"I'm embarrassed to admit this, but shortly after gulping back my sadness at the news of Lawrence Ferlinghetti's passing, it dawned on me that I owe him gratitude for helping me overcome one of my own prejudices--a legacy that I think would please him immensely.

"Twenty years ago when I was planning to leave a New York job covering the national book beat to take over as a regional correspondent, a trusted friend asked me point blank if I was going to be able to handle the demotion in status. And even though I was born and raised in New Jersey, my years in New York City had affected my regional biases enough that I had to admit that the thought crossed my mind. Would I be as 'important' a reporter out of the heart of the publishing scene?

"Then, just a couple of months into my stint in California, the city of San Francisco shut down the street in front of City Lights to celebrate the bookstore's designation as a landmark and covering that event permanently changed my regionally biased mind. Of course, I knew who Lawrence Ferlinghetti was, but a few days before I had the chance to interview him for the first time and then I got to record how a veritable who's who of the world of the words turned out on a glorious California day and in great bohemian fashion to pay tribute to the store and its founder.

"Amusingly, a mock-pleading line of poetry from that celebration always popped into my mind whenever I saw or interviewed Lawrence: Bookstore, be my Daddy.

"Even though I treasure those interviews--oft conducted on the sideline of a fabulous book bash in full swing--I keep thinking about the time I spotted Lawrence ahead of me in line at the Oakland airport. That night we'd both be at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books awards ceremony where Lawrence would be receiving an honor and I'd be interviewing him about it. But instead of greeting him (which he would not have minded), I watched in appreciation as this seemingly ordinary elderly gentleman, who happened to change the world in very big ways as well as one book at a time, navigated the routine of travel.

"My other memory is heading over to the store on his 100th birthday, where there was a special reading, that, again the world turned out for. By now, I had enough friends at City Lights to have asked if there were any reserved spots allowed, but I thought it too pushy and just not City Lights-like. And, as I stood outside the packed store with my nose practically pushed up to that storied window among strangers trying to take in what we could, I thought it the perfect way to pay tribute to Lawrence on his centennial.

"I am so glad that others are writing about the many accomplishments and gifts Lawrence Ferlinghetti shared during his long life, but, for me, the piece of his art I value most is a hand-written sign above a chair in the poetry room upstairs in the store that directs: Sit down and read a book.

"Getting a person to read and open their minds was his calling. What my association with his San Francisco landmark has taught me is that with an open mind you know you are important anywhere, and no more or less important than the next open mind that you meet. Lawrence Ferlinghetti knew that the meeting of minds was a thing of beauty and he so loved the world that he created City Lights with the opportunity of discovery as its beating heart. Thank you, Lawrence, for being all of our Daddys."


Notes

The Seminary Co-op Bookstores: 'Holidays by the Numbers'

"With our doors closed to the public over the holiday season, we radically changed the ways that we got books into the hands of our customers," the Seminary Co-op Bookstores, Chicago, Ill., posted on Facebook. "A few numbers will express our joy in fulfilling holiday orders, but our gratitude for your support is unquantifiable. See these numbers in context by browsing Volume 1 Issue 6 [page 9] of our Front Table."


Personnel Changes at Grand Central; Running Press/Black Dog & Leventhal

At Grand Central Publishing:

Andy Dodds has been promoted to publicity director.

Kamrun Nesa has been promoted to senior publicist.

Joseph Benincase has been promoted to assistant director, marketing.

Morgan Swift has been promoted to associate marketing manager.

Estelle Hallick has been promoted to associate director, marketing & publicity, for the Forever imprint.

---

Kara Thornton has been promoted to assistant director of publicity, Running Press and Black Dog & Leventhal.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Colson Whitehead on 60 Minutes

Tomorrow:
MSNBC's American Voices with Alicia Menendez: Naomi Klein, author of How to Change Everything (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $17.99, 9781534474529).

Sunday:
60 Minutes: Colson Whitehead, author of The Nickel Boys (Anchor, $15.95, 9780345804341).


TV: Everything's Trash

Phoebe Robinson, who starred in HBO's 2 Dope Queens, "is bringing her book Everything's Trash But It's Okay to Freeform," Deadline reported. The network is developing an adaptation of the book with Robinson attached to star, write and executive produce. She is teaming up with writer Jonathan Groff (Black-ishHappy Endings), who will also exec produce the series, which will be known as Everything's Trash. ABC Signature is the studio.

The series "follows Phoebe, a 30-something podcast star navigating her messy life, but when her younger brother Jayden emerges as a leading politician, she's forced to grow up, so she relies on her friends and close-knit family to help her figure out adulthood, since she doesn't seem to have a clue," Deadline wrote. Robinson's brother, Phil Robinson, is a member of the Ohio House of Representatives.



Books & Authors

Awards: Plutarch Longlist

The longlist for the 2020 Plutarch Award, sponsored by the Biographers International Organization and the only international literary award for biography judged exclusively by biographers, has been announced. The winner will be announced May 16 during the BIO Conference. The nominees:

These Fevered Days: Ten Pivotal Moments in the Making of Emily Dickinson by Martha Ackmann (Norton)
His Very Best: Jimmy Carter: A Life by Jonathan Alter (Simon & Schuster)
The Planter of Modern Life: Louis Bromfield and the Seeds of a Food Revolution by Steven Heyman (Norton)
The Power of Adrienne Rich: A Biography by Hilary Holladay (Nan A. Talese)
The Dead Are Arising: The Life of Malcolm X by Les Payne and Tamara Payne (Liveright)
Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times by David S. Reynolds (Penguin Press)
Music by Max Steiner: The Epic Life of Hollywood's Most Influential Composer by Steven C. Smith (Oxford University Press)
Hitler: Downfall 1939-1945 by Volker Ullrich, translated from the German by Jefferson Chase (Knopf)
Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington by Ted Widmer (Simon & Schuster)
The Mystery of Charles Dickens by A.N. Wilson (Harper)


Reading with... Tiffany Meuret

photo: Frances Howard

Tiffany Meuret is a writer of monsters and twisted fairy tales. Her publications include Shoreline of Infinity, Luna Station Quarterly, Ellipsis Zine and Rhythm & Bones. She lives in Arizona with her husband, two kids, two chihuahuas, a gecko and a tortoise. The dark fantasy A Flood of Posies is her debut title (Black Spot Books, February 9, 2021).

On your nightstand now:

My TBR pile on the nightstand at this moment is Docile by K.M. Szpara, Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi, The Fortress by S.A. Jones and Queens of Noise by Leigh Harlan. I'm struggling to choose which to read next because each guarantees to be fantastic.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Goosebumps everything. I was perfectly obsessed with R.L. Stine. I also loved the movie Jaws from a young age, so my trajectory to an author of monster stories makes a lot of sense. For the curious, my favorite Goosebumps book was A Night in Terror Tower.

Your top five authors:

This is such a tough question. Just five? Jeff VanderMeer for certain. His writing is so bizarre that I'll never get it out of my head. Giant flying bears and Area X and mutated creatures? Yes, please.

I also love Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. The book is huge and yet I found myself wishing it was longer. Mr. Norrell is an iconic curmudgeon.

I also love just about everything Nnedi Okorafor writes. The Binti Trilogy blew my mind, and I'll never forget the image of the road lifting itself from the Earth to devour people in Lagoon.

C.A. Higgins is another favorite. The Lightless series was so absorbing and gruesome and yet so full of love and hope. It has sentient spaceships, and war, and pining from afar, and espionage, and revenge.

I'd also say Elizabeth Acevedo. I've only yet read The Poet X, but that book was so transformative that it alone should make any and all lists. It was/is/forever will be a triumph of storytelling.

Book you've faked reading:

Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky--required reading for school that made me hate reading. I could go on for days about the dated and terrible required reading syllabi for students. Are any of those books truly so exceptional that there has been nothing to surpass them in terms of teaching our children? We can do better for our kids, and for literature in general.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Jeff VanderMeer et al. I don't expect it to be every reader's cup of tea, but it definitely influences my own writing aesthetic. His writing is so purely enigmatic that I can never predict where the story will land, which is a talent I admire more than I can express in a few sentences.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Wilder Girls by Rory Powers. Lucky for me the book was every bit as stunning as the cover. Also Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey, which is still in my TBR pile.

Book you hid from your parents:

I can't think of any. My mom is an avid reader and she didn't censor much of anything I read, except one R.L. Stine Fear Street book that gave me nightmares. She took the book away, but I'd already finished it.

Book that changed your life:

Chindi by Jack McDevitt. I was thoroughly enthralled by the mythos he created in that book, so much so that I wrote to him to tell him both how much I loved it and how I was an aspiring author myself. He wrote me back encouraging me to keep going. I did, and here I am. I couldn't thank him enough for his kind words if I tried.

Favorite line from a book:

From The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams: "The story so far: In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move."

No one has ever made me laugh more while reading than Douglas Adams.

Five books you'll never part with:

I'll part with most books if it means others will read them, but I'd say I'm most protective over books with beautiful artwork. Monstress by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda is one of my current loves (I actually did loan my collection to my sister and you better believe I won't forget to get them back). Those comics are beautiful through and through.

Also, as far as comics go, I love Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Wonder Woman, The New 52 by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, and Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang. I don't read as many comics as I'd like, but of the few I do, I have an overwhelming urge to keep the collection complete.  

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

The City of Brass and The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty. I devoured both books back to back, a feat almost unheard of for me. I don't read book series linearly almost ever. I get bored being in the same universe for too long and tend to read a few different books in between a series. Those books, though? I could stay in that universe for years. They were so engaging and wonderful and bright and fascinating. I can't wait for The Empire of Gold to release.

Book you expected to hate, but actually liked:

The Divine Comedy (specifically Inferno) by Dante Alighieri. Ironically, a required read in high school. It has influenced my writing in so many odd ways; for example, naming the fictional city in my first, now trunked, book after the city of Dis. To this day I have multiple copies of it in my home library.


Book Review

Review: Who Is Maud Dixon?

Who Is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews (Little, Brown, $28 hardcover, 336p., 9780316500319, March 2, 2021)

Is it really possible to shed one's history "as easily as a coat slips off the back of a chair" and walk away? And if so--what might one walk into? That's the puzzle posed by the cunningly plotted Who Is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews.

Florence Darrow thinks of her past in Florida "as a gangrenous limb that needed to be severed for the greater good." Now that she's landed an editorial assistant position in New York City, she can begin remaking herself. However, she can't quite make out the shape of the new version of herself she's trying to form. "How did one go about building up someone new? She tried on moods and personalities like outfits." Then the opportunity of a lifetime comes along: she is hired as personal assistant to Maud Dixon, pseudonym for the electrifying and mysterious author of the biggest bestseller in recent history. Florence becomes one of just two people to know Maud's true identity. And she finally has a model to guide her own transformation into the bestselling author and confident self-made woman she knows she can be.

Florence sinks with pleasure into her new life: living in the carriage house behind Maud's lovely old stone house in the country, enjoying Maud's cooking and fine wines and opera. This, she thinks repeatedly, is where she belongs, this is the life she'd choose for herself. On Maud's advice, Florence stops returning her mother's increasingly petulant phone calls.

But who, really, is Maud Dixon? Florence knows her name, and the name of the Mississippi town she comes from. But much of her hero's persona remains enigmatic: Maud is unpredictable, thorny, wise and (to the Florida ingenue) perfectly captivating. Florence can't figure out the road map to get from here to there. (Maud says that "here and there are overrated.") Florence is thrilled to travel with her to Morocco on a research trip for Maud's long-awaited second novel, but in the new setting, what Florence doesn't know about her boss quickly turns sinister. Florence may not be the only one with a past she'd like to shed.

Who Is Maud Dixon? is a wickedly fun study in deception, secrets, striving and longing. Andrews's stylish, intricate debut novel showcases deft prose and expert use of tone and atmosphere: the cooing of pigeons "had the aggressively soothing tones of a nursery rhyme in a horror movie." What means might one justify to grasp the life she really wants and (she's tempted to believe) deserves? These memorable pages hold one possible answer. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: This delightfully disquieting novel explores identity, deceit and extreme measures through two women's shape-shifting lives.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Wi16--The Quotable Pandemic-Era Indie Bookseller

Booksellers participating in Wi16 education panels offered occasional word snapshots of what their 2020 felt like from inside the Covid-19 bubble. Here's a sampling from a couple of sessions I virtually sat in on: 

"Customer Experience and Handselling/Upselling in a Hybrid World," moderated by Lane Jacobson, Paulina Springs Books, Sisters, Ore.:

Phil Davies, ABA: "Traffic between March and the end of the year went up 101% and we saw sales increase by 680%, which was just phenomenal. Some stores were completely overcome with the amount of traffic and sales that were taking place."

Michael Barnard, Rakestraw Books, Danville, Calif.: "Remember that business is business, no matter how it comes in.... I don't think I will ever be able to take away curbside pickup, although maybe someday there will not be a huge table in the front of my store, covered in cardboard boxes with paper bags. That would be nice. I will never be able to take away delivery. But that's okay. It serves people in the way that they want to be served."

Rosa Hernandez, Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, Wash.: "When the pandemic hit, social media became really vital for us. I worked from home from March to June, and within that time I got to have a lot of fun with social media because I was literally spending six hours a day just creating content and building our followership and building more communication with our customers.... I feel that my time at home really built our platform."

Cristina Rodriguez, Deep Vellum Books, Dallas, Tex.: "I created a Bookseller Hotline at the start of the pandemic, where people could call in or text and get book recommendations, but it wasn't marketed as that. It was marketed as a number that people could call to start a conversation about whatever they might have on their mind. Or whatever life advice they might want, or even their horoscope for the day."

Sarah Bagby, Watermark Books & Café, Wichita, Kan.: "I've found that during the pandemic people really want to talk on the phone and, like Cristina said, not necessarily about books, but just want to talk, and if you ask questions people will tell you everything you want to know about them. That maybe is something that you do not have time for, but it certainly pays off in the end because you find things out."

Sara Richmond, Edelweiss: "I think the indies are just so creative, and we see this in how they're using e-mail marketing.... It's opened up new ways for indies to handsell. It came out of a need over the pandemic, but I think it's here to stay. It will just be a part of business moving forward."

"Managing Online Sales Growth,"moderated by ABA's Geetha Nathan:

Jamie Thomas, Women & Children First, Chicago, Ill.: "You can turn the website off. You can disable checkout if you need to. We did that in the holidays overnight every night because we're only eight people and there's a capacity. We just decided that people being able to order books at three in the morning was not as important as our ability to sleep.... Ultimately, it's just books and I'm a person. I'm not a machine. I'm not a fulfillment center, even though it does feel that way after a year of this."

Lexi Beach, Astoria Bookshop, Astoria, N.Y.: "90% of our orders come through our website now and our online orders have increased tenfold since the previous year.... Every day is like some new kind of chaos because you just don't know what weird question is going to come up that normally could be taken care of in 30 seconds if the person was right across the desk from you, and instead takes six e-mails and a phone call."  

Warren Lee, 44th and 3rd Bookseller, Norcross, Ga.: "We went live with our first [online] sale April 8 of 2020.... On May 25, the world witnessed the death of George Floyd, which created a wave of interest in social justice and the rights of Black communities and businesses around the country. From less than a dozen online sales in May, June saw orders increase by 1,850% and continue at this level through the balance of the year.... In retrospect, the surge in orders allowed us to mature our business at an accelerated rate and be better for the design and operation of our new storefront, scheduled to open next month."

Cheryl Lee, 44th and 3rd Bookseller: "We've experienced a tremendous amount of gratitude from our customers because we've been able to communicate with them in such a timely manner. We've even had them comment that some of the bigger stores, especially Amazon, have not been able to address their issues as timely as we have.... We think we've had a really good year considering the pandemic and the fact that we had not been online until now."

Luis Correa, Avid Bookshop, Athens, Ga. "The pandemic has really pushed us to do things that we probably should have done a long time ago.... I really want to carry out the idea that we're making it up as we go. So we're figuring things out... we're constantly changing and tweaking things.... I don't expect that by the end of the year we'll be doing things the same as at the beginning of the year because we'll find more and more efficiencies as we go along."

--Robert Gray, editor

Powered by: Xtenit