Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Thank You Booksellers For Making Our Award-Winning Books a Success!

St. Martin's Press: Remain in Love: Talking Heads, Tom Tom Club, Tina by Chris Franz

Walker Books: The Good Hawk (Shadow Skye, Book One) by Joseph Elliott

Tor Books: Deal with the Devil: A Mercenary Librarians Novel by Kit Rocha


Notes: Taste of the Espresso; 'First' First Circle

Lucy Gardner Carson of the Northshire Bookstore, Manchester, Vt., was interviewed by Vermont Public Radio about the bookshop's experience thus far with the Espresso Book Machine.

"Since it was installed, some of the store's customers have been using the machine to produce hard-to-find books from a huge online database of titles in the public domain," VPR reported, adding that "the store has discovered that the machine is most popular with would-be authors who want to turn what they've written into a book."


Robert McDowell, who is vice-president of Massachusetts and Rhode Island Antiquarian Booksellers and runs a rare book business out of his home, talked with WBUR radio about how the Internet has transformed the rare book industry.


Paper Cuts, the New York Times book blog, began its exploration of the logic behind used book pricing at Amazon by looking at Rick Perlstein's Before the Storm, which "was available only through five used booksellers, at prices ranging from $131.09 to $184.02. I could imagine paying that kind of money for an autographed Augie March or a first-edition Faulkner, but a Perlstein paperback? How did the booksellers arrive at these figures, which seemed prohibitively high and oddly precise (would it have been $131.10 had one fewer page been dog-eared by the original owner)? And why wouldn’t at least one seller have tried to undercut the others?"


An uncut edition of Aleksander Solzhenitsyn's classic novel The First Circle, which first appeared in English 40 years ago in a heavily edited version, will be published by Harper Perennial in 2009, according to the Associated Press (via USA Today).    

"The First Circle is one of the most important novels of the 20th century and we are thrilled to be making this masterpiece available in its full glory," said Carrie Kania, senior v-p and publisher of Harper Perennial.


Co-sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, the next Paz & Associates workshop on Opening a Bookstore: The Business Essentials will be held September 8-12 on Amelia Island near Jacksonville, Fla. The program will include an overview of key topics from financial dynamics and opening inventories to store design and computerized management systems. The workshop will answer general questions about the business as well as detailed questions about the start-up process. For more information, visit


Fred Eisenhart has joined Strictly by-the Book, Bridgewater, Mass., the bargain and remainder distributor, Bargain Book News has reported. He is former director of remainder acquisitions at Barnes & Noble, where he worked for 16 years.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle

Olsson's Files to Reorganize, May Relocate Some Stores

Olsson's Books & Records has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to allow it to reorganize the company and continue in business. In the filing made in federal bankruptcy court in Maryland, Olsson's listed $929,428 in assets and $1,951,629 in liabilities.

Last month, saying they were owed $386,000, three publisher-creditors of Olsson's petitioned bankruptcy court to force Olsson's into a Chapter 7 filing, which would have shut down the company (Shelf Awareness, June 29, 2008). And at the end of the month, Olsson's closed its Penn Quarter store, leaving it with five in northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. (Shelf Awareness, June 16, 2008).

In the Chapter 11 filing, Olsson's blamed "a combination of the continuing weak retail economy, rising rents and property taxes, competition from large box stores and the Internet, and an accelerated drop in the music CD business."

In a statement, Olsson's controller Terence McCann said that the company's plan for a turnaround "involves raising working capital, seeking investors, reducing overhead costs, adding new merchandise, refurbishing stores, retaining leases where achievable or relocating to communities that will support the concept of an independent bookstore. We still think that Olsson’s has something to offer and can do business in this market."


Running Press: Thank You! Now on Instagram!

May Bookstore Sales: 2.6% Rise, Up 4.9% for the Year

After a blockbuster April, when bookstore sales rose 8%, bookstore sales in May were up 2.6% to $1.154 billion, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. For the year to date, bookstore sales have risen 4.9% to $6.604 billion.

By comparison, total retail sales in May rose 2% to $364.570 billion. For the year to date, total retail sales were up 3.3% to $1,667.529 billion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, bookstore sales are of new books and do not include "electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct sale" or used book sales.


BINC: Double Your Donation with PRH

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Tobias Wolff on Rewriting His Stories

This morning's Book Report, the weekly AM radio book-related show organized by Windows a bookshop, Monroe, La., features three interviews:

  • Betsy Carter, author of Swim to Me (Algonquin, $23.95, 9781565124929/1565124928)
  • Ted Kerasote, author of Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog (Harvest, $15, 9780156034500/0156034506)
  • Rosemary Poole-Carter, author of Women of Magdalene (Kunati, $24.95, 9781601640147/1601640145)

The show airs at 8 a.m. Central Time and can be heard live at; the archived edition will be posted this afternoon.


Today on CNN Headline News, Glenn Beck interviews Andrew Klavan about his new political thriller, Empire of Lies (Otto Penzler/Harcourt, $25, 9780151012237/0151012237).


Today on Fresh Air: Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, coauthors of Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream (Doubleday, $23.95, 9780385519434/0385519435). 


Tomorrow morning on the Early Show: Chad Ward, author of An Edge in the Kitchen: The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Knives--How to Buy Them, Keep Them Razor Sharp, and Use Them Like a Pro (Morrow Cookbooks, $34.95, 9780061188480/0061188484).


Tomorrow on Hannity & Colmes: Bruce Herschensohn, author of Above Empyrean: A Novel of the Final Days of the War on Islamic Terrorism (Beaufort Books, $24.95, 9780825305160/0825305160). 


Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Tobias Wolff, author of Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories (Knopf, $26.95, 9781400044597/1400044596). As the show put it: "Tobias Wolff has re-written his famous stories many times--even after they've been published. In this conversation, we try to pin-down the qualities Wolff is seeking that allow him to consider a story to 'be finished'--at least for the time being."


G.P. Putnam's Sons: A Tender Thing by Emily Neuberger

Books & Authors

Reps and Booksellers Gang Up for City of Thieves

Like so many booksellers, reps and readers who have read City of Thieves by David Benioff (Viking, $24.95, 9780670018703/0670018708), Rona Brinlee of the Bookmark, Atlantic Beach, Fla., is a big fan of the May title that is set in Leningrad during the Nazi siege in World War II and stars two young men who have less than a week to find a dozen eggs for a secret police colonel or lose their lives. (The colonel's daughter is getting married, and the eggs are needed to make her a wedding cake.)

"I think City of Thieves is the next Water for Elephants," Brinlee told Shelf Awareness. "It's historical fiction with a happy ending. It's great storytelling, gives details about the time and place. It shows all the extremes of war, when humanity can be so terrible and wonderful. It has funny, happy, sad, poignant parts. And some parts may be relevant to today."

The Bookmark has sold more than 30 copies, which is "very good" for the little store, Brinlee said. City of Thieves is on the staff recommendation shelf, displayed in the window and the staff is handselling it to "all kinds of people." Brinlee explained: "It's a marketing delight because it's for any age and any gender. It's a coming-of-age story set in time in a certain generation with historical appeal. It's a perfect storm of a book and will keep selling for years."

Oh, and Brinlee, who appears twice a year on NPR's Morning Edition making summer and holiday recommendations, led off with City of Thieves when she appeared on the show May 23.

Other booksellers rave about the book, too. Towne Center Books, Pleasanton, Calif., has sold more than 90 copies of City of Thieves, which owner Judy Wheeler called "really impressive for us." Every staff member has liked the book and written something about it that's displayed in the store. Towne Center Books offers a money-back guarantee on City of Thieves and staff regularly ask every customer who comes in, "Do you want to see our store's favorite book?" Several book clubs have chosen the book, too.

At Towne Center, the book passed an extensive interest test. Before she read it, Wheeler gave a copy to an employee who took it home and came back saying that her husband had stayed up until two in the morning to finish it--something he "never does." Then the employee read it and liked it. Finally Wheeler sat down with City of Thieves and read it in one sitting. "If I read a book in one piece, that's a pretty big deal," she said.

[Incidentally this reporter picked up the book over the Fourth of July weekend, intending merely to check it out, but wound up reading it in two days. For him, that's a pretty big deal.]

Catherine Weller of Sam Weller's Zion Bookstore, Salt Lake City, Utah, described herself as "crazy crazy crazy crazy crazy" about the book. She made City of Thieves one of her summer picks for Radio West, an NPR radio program in Utah that's also broadcast on XM radio, and intends to do more in-store with it. Weller has an unusual viewpoint that has added to her enthusiasm. "I was a Russian major and studied one summer in the Soviet Union," she said. "I spent some time in Leningrad, where the 900-day siege lives long. [Benioff] did a great job historically and artistically with the topic."

Daniel Goldin of Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, Milwaukee, Wis., liked the book so much that he "made a big fuss about it" at BookExpo America with the Penguin staff. He told them, he said, not to "let the book wait for paperback to break out." Schwartz has touted the book in its e-mail newsletter and plans to do more.

Several major indies, including Vroman's, Pasadena, Calif., and Green Apple Books, San Francisco, Calif., have chosen the book as their pick of the month. In Vroman's case, it's the store's first hardcover to take that prize. Green Apple made a video promoting the book that appears on YouTube. On local radio, Elaine Petrocelli of Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif., recommended the title as her No. 1 fiction pick for the summer.

City of Thieves continues to get media attention. On July 6, the New York Times Book Review gave the book a glowing review. ("The novel tells a refreshingly traditional tale, driven by an often ingenious plot.") On July 4, Alan Cheuse reviewed the book on All Things Considered. ("This all feels psychologically satisfying and historically authentic even as the harrowing events of the starving city and in those dark woods take on mythical proportion.")

Author David Benioff has done some publicity for the book, including appearing at several dinners with booksellers in California and a lot of radio, a little TV, a Wall Street Journal online interview and a featured interview in the current e-mail newsletter and on A screenwriter--he wrote the screenplay for The Kite Runner--and author of The 25th Hour, which became a film directed by Spike Lee, Benioff lives in Los Angeles, is in his 30s and is married to actress Amanda Peet. He's described by booksellers and reps who've met him as modest, accessible and very likable.

Rep Push

From the beginning, Penguin's adult hardcover reps have supported the book City of Thieves with a special intensity. All of the booksellers with whom Shelf Awareness spoke said that their Penguin rep had made sure they read a galley.

The buzz started before sales conference and was striking, Diana Van Vleck, field sales manager, said, because it came spontaneously from many reps. "Every rep who read the book raved about it," she stated. "Sometimes this kind of in-house buzz peters out, but this one has kept going. Every day someone new joins in. The word of mouth is still spreading."

As Wendy Pearl, a Penguin rep in the Bay Area, put it, "This is not a case of the company saying it was putting zillions of dollars behind a book and telling the reps to go and make it happen. This is a groundswell effort." She said, too, that while "every rep has a favorite book on any list and promotes it," they're usually different books, but in the case of City of Thieves, the push is national.

Early on, Pearl sent out galleys with a letter to many of her accounts. At dinners in California with Benioff, she noticed that all the booksellers who attended said they loved the book, which "I've seen only a few times, with The Joy Luck Club, The Kite Runner and The Secret Life of Bees. I knew there was big potential out there."

At sales conference in April, Pearl and other reps brainstormed about promoting City of Thieves. When the book was published in mid-May, the company sent many booksellers signed copies, bookmarks with booksellers' and authors' raves--and chocolate eggs in honor of the protagonist's quest. In addition, just before the Fourth of July, Dick Heffernan, president of sales at Penguin, sent out a note, reviews, "a glowing letter" from Khaled Hosseini and two copies of the book to some 400 independent bookstores, asking recipients to read one copy and give the other to another staff member.

Two months after publication date, City of Thieves has more than 50,000 copies in print and has appeared on local and regional bestseller lists in California. Van Vleck said that "the chains have been supportive" and independents have been phenomenal. Although the book will sell "millions of copies in paperback," as Pearl put it, Viking aims to continue to sell the hardcover through the rest of the year in its many appealing ways: beach read, holiday gift or as Van Vleck said, "a book that will entertain anyone who reads it."--John Mutter


Book Review

Book Review: The Parrot Who Thought She Was a Dog

Parrot Who Thought She Was a Dog by Nancy Ellis-Bell (Harmony, $23.00 Hardcover, 9780307405944, July 2008)

"I had adopted a raptor," Nancy Ellis-Bell admits to herself in this charming journal of unexpected love between a one-legged macaw and a literary agent good with problematic animals. When she first met the caged blue-and-gold bird, she was drawn to its gorgeous plumage and its four-ft. wingspan. The vets and caretakers warned her about the bird's viciousness. A single soulful gaze into the macaw's wise eyes was all it took to hook Ellis-Bell on the bird whom she named Sarah and on every last issue her wildness might present.

Ellis-Bell brought Sarah home in a cage that dominated a 10'-by-12' converted trailer already crowded with two dogs, two cats and a husband. When Ellis-Bell finally decided to let Sarah out of her cage to roam around the house, one thing became very clear: the bird ruled. Everything from furniture to French lingerie became hers. Anyone who has ever loved a "difficult" pet will heartily enjoy the detailed inventory for raptor-proofing a home. Each tale of another ingenious method that wild things devise to get what they want recalls times when all we can do is say, "That's cute."

Ellis-Bell, the one who thought she was in control, learns many lessons from Sarah. First of all, macaws choose one mate, and Sarah chose Ellis-Bell as hers. Before you say, "That's cute," meet harsh mistress Sarah: jealous, possessive and loud enough when miffed to bring in the police. Pats for the dogs and cats had to be delivered out of Sarah's sight. As for sex between lawfully-wedded husband and wife, the operative word was furtive.  Pet-haters will ask, "Why did she put up with this?" Pet-lovers, though, will thrill to every minute of the adventure.

Not to spoil all the fun, I offer only one tidbit. One early spring day, Ellis-Bell ventured out to her garden to plant bulbs. By this time, Sarah had begun behaving like her little dog, following her everywhere (the macaw had also displaced the dogs, developed a taste for their bones and perfected an imitation of their barks. All together now, "That's cute!"). Sarah watched intently as Ellis-Bell dug a hole and planted a bulb. As it so happens, macaws love to dig in dirt. Sarah then proceeded to dig her own hole and wait for a bulb to be put in place so that she could cover it up, too. At moments like that, and there are many, Ellis-Bell persuades her readers to feel and see the unforgettable passion she shared with Sarah.--John McFarland


Powered by: Xtenit