Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Balzer & Bray/Harperteen: The Night Is for Darkness by Jonathon Stutzman, illustrated by Joseph Kuefler and Greenwillow Books: Lone Wolf by Sarah Kurpiel

Forge: Lionhearts (Nottingham, 2) by Nathan Makaryk

Zonderkidz: Pugtato Finds a Thing by Sophie Corrigan

Kensington Publishing Corporation: The Suicide House (A Rory Moore/Lane Phillips Novel #2) by Charlie Donlea

Del Rey Books: Malorie: A Bird Box Novel by Josh Malerman

Quotation of the Day

Location, Location, Location Will 'Keep the Physical Book Alive'

"Bedrooms, bathrooms, beaches and buses will keep the physical book alive."--John Edwards, president and CEO of printer Edwards Brothers, in a Detroit Free Press profile. Edwards explained that "people will always want to do some of their reading in places where electronic formats are difficult to use."

[Thanks to Bruce Jacobs of Watermark Books, Wichita, Kan., for the link.]


Atheneum Books: Saucy by Cynthia Kadohata, illustrated by Marianna Raskin


Notes: Book Prices a Draw?; Studs Terkel Memorial

More on recent shopping trends: a report in today's New York Times on November sales held some positive news for the book business. The story noted that during the month "the higher the price [of a product], the more reluctant consumers were to spend." So while sales for electronics, appliances and luxury goods were down around 25%, as measured by SpendingPulse, a part of MasterCard Advisors, sales of other products did not drop so deeply. One measure of this was a comment about ShopperTrak's estimate that sales were up 1.9% this past Saturday and Sunday: "Consumers generally bought lower-priced items . . . like clothing, books and DVDs."


On Sunday, December 7, at 4 p.m. at the Great Hall at Cooper Union in New York City, the New Press, the Nation and the Indypendent are sponsoring a celebration of the life and work of Studs Terkel, who died October 31. Speakers will include Jimmy Breslin, Steve Earle, Allison Moorer, Laura Flanders, Sydney Lewis, Walter Mosley, Victor Navasky, André Schiffrin, Dan Terkell, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Gary Younge and Howard Zinn. The event is open to the public and free. For more information, contact or call 212-629-8811.


eSuperbooks, an online bookstore that services 11 colleges in the Sacramento, Calif., area, has opened a bricks-and-mortar store in Gold River, near Sacramento and one block from Bryan College.

The 900-sq.-ft. store specializes in medical textbooks but also offers business and general textbooks as well as general trade books, graphic novels, children's books and Star Wars miniatures.

eSuperbooks's Lou Menditto wrote that the store will have books shipped from its warehouse. "With the struggling economy it's not feasible to have a large store with lots of inventory sitting on shelf so we scaled down and changed our buying habits. The result of this change has given us the ability to offer better discounts and free shipping to our customers. This way we can compete with the Barnes & Nobles and college bookstores in our area."

The store is located at 2377 Gold Meadow Way, Suite 100, Gold River, Calif. 95670; 916-526-2705.


University of Minnesota Press: Listening: Interviews, 1970-1989 by Jonathon Cott

Holiday Hum: Dogs, Cats and More at Maine Coast Book Shop

Sales on Black Friday and Saturday were up slightly over last year at the Maine Coast Book Shop & Café in Damariscotta, Me. Locals hit the malls, but people visiting relatives and students home from school shopped at the store. "We had two very good days, which was good because November was down," owner Susan Porter said. "It was better than we expected."

Thanksgiving weekend is traditionally a busy time at the Maine Coast Book Shop. "It's not necessarily that we have so many people in the store, it's that the people who come in buy a lot," Porter said. Many of them indicate they "appreciate us because they don't have access to an independent bookstore." Titles in the Twilight series were top sellers. Otherwise sales were across the board with no particular standout books or categories. "We really try to help the customer find just the right book, whether it's an older title or a bestseller," added Porter.

The store typically receives a second wave of out-of-town shoppers, including those with second homes in the area, the week leading up to Christmas. "I think sales will be fairly level with last year, maybe a couple of points down," said Porter.

To appeal to shoppers trimming their holiday budgets, the town's business association is encouraging retailers to promote less expensive gift selections. This week a display is going up in the Maine Coast Book Shop featuring merchandise $25 or less, such as children's puppets and Pomegranate's knowledge cards, which "are fun and fit in a stocking," noted Porter. Also on the display will be paperback editions of The Wheel of Darkness and other novels by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston--the latter of whom lives near the store--and copies of Kevin Kelly's Entertaining Your Indoor Cat. Kelly is slated to appear at the store later this month. He'll be accompanied by cats from a local animal shelter, who likely won't be introduced to the book shop's newest staff member--Porter's Tibetan terrier, Pip.

Books by local authors are popular holiday gift choices. One is The Keepsake by Maine resident Tess Gerritsen, who will be at the Skidompha Public Library in Damariscotta tomorrow signing copies of her new thriller. Another is Douglas Preston's nonfiction book The Monster of Florence. Signed copies and the author's local status make it an appealing option, but more than that, "It's a great story," said Porter. "I couldn't put it down." Regional interest titles rank high on gift lists, like Our Point of View: Fourteen Years at a Maine Lighthouse by Thomas Mark Szelog and Lee Ann Szelog, who appeared at the Maine Coast Book Shop for a Black Friday event.

In the café adjoining the store, modestly priced gift baskets are on display and ready for instant giving. They include Good Friends Are Hard to Find ($9.95) paired with items like an Unemployed Philosophers Guild mug, coffee and chocolate-covered coffee beans.   

December 12-14, the Maine Coast Book Shop will take part in the town's holiday festivities. Talented students provide music, refreshments are handed out free, an art gallery walk takes place and good Samaritans wrap presents at a sidewalk station in exchange for donations to local charities. Porter aims to draw in customers on those days with a 25% off sale on all children's books and toys.

Other special offers include a coupon in conjunction with the New England Independent Booksellers Association holiday catalogue, which Porter had inserted in today's edition of a local paper, the Lincoln County News. The coupon offers 20% off a book featured in the catalogue. Customers can also go to the Maine Coast Book Shop website for a coupon worth 20% off a new release title in the store's December newsletter.

Regardless of how the holiday season unfolds, it has already been a banner year for Porter and her staff: Maine Coast Book Shop was the recipient of the Book Publishers Representatives of New England's 2008 Independent Spirit Award.--Shannon McKenna Schmidt


AuthorBuzz for the Week of 06.01.20

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Katrina Karkazis on Fixing Sex

Today on the Leonard Lopate Show: Katrina Karkazis, author of Fixing Sex: Intersex, Medical Authority, and Lived Experience (Duke University Press, $23.95, 9780822343189/0822343185).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Alec Greven, author of How to Talk to Girls (Collins, $9.99, 9780061709999/0061709999).


Tomorrow morning on Live with Regis & Kelly: George Hamilton, author of Don't Mind If I Do (Touchstone, $26, 9781416545026/1416545026).


Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: Toni Morrison, author of A Mercy (Knopf, $23.95, 9780307264237/0307264238).


Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Jonathan Carroll, author of The Ghost in Love (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $25, 9780374161866/0374161860). As the show put it: "Although he would never want us to say so, Jonathan Carroll's novels are like metaphysical self-help books for the supernaturally inclined. In this conversation, he talks about life, death, and the difference between them--and other much more joyful subjects."


Tomorrow on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Matthew Alexander, author of How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq (Free Press, $26, 9781416573159/1416573151).


Tomorrow evening a Barbara Walters special on ABC called 10 Most Fascinating People of 2008 will feature Michael Phelps, whose new book is No Limits: The Will to Succeed (Free Press, $26, 9781439130728/1439130728).


Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Taras Grescoe, author of Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood (Bloomsbury USA, $24.99, 9781596912250/1596912251).

Also on the Colbert Report: Niall Ferguson, author of The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World (Penguin Press, $29.95, 9781594201929/1594201927).


Disney-Hyperion: The Mirror Broken Wish (Mirror #1) by Julie C. Dao

Books & Authors

Las Comadres' Book Picks for Next Year

Las Comadres, the Association of American Publishers and Borders have picked the 2009 reading list for las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club, which was launched in June. Every month at Borders stores around the country the book club discusses English-language works by Latino authors. (For more information, visit or The reading list for next year:

January: When the Ground Turns in Its Sleep by Sylvia Sellers-Garcia (Riverhead)
February: Houston, We Have a Problema by Gwendolyn Zepeda (Grand Central)
March: Notorious by Michele Martinez (Morrow)
April: Book Fiesta! by Pat Mora (HarperCollins Children's)
May: Hungry Woman in Paris by Josefina Lopez (Grand Central)
June: Rogelia's House of Magic by Jamie Martinez (Delacorte)
July: Sweet Mary by Liz Balmaceda (Atria)
August: Dark Dude by Oscar Hijuelos (Atheneum)
September: Reclaiming Paris by Fabiola Santiago (Washington Square Press)
October: The Arrangement by Sofia Quintero (Random House)
November: Tell Me Something True by Leila Cobo (Grand Central)
December: Lima Nights by Marie Arana (Dial Press)


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Positive Shades of Gray on Black Friday--Part II

It may not have been the best of times for booksellers on Gray Friday, but the good news is that it doesn't seem to have been the worst of times either.

Business at the Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, Vt., "far surpassed" Linda Ramsdell's expectations during what turned out to be the "best Black Friday sales in five years, more than double last year."

Good news was also riding the post-Thanksgiving retail winds for Russ Lawrence of Chapter One Book Store, Hamilton, Mont.: "For the weekend after Thanksgiving, we were up 28% versus last year, which exceeded our expectations by about 33%. We couldn't be more pleased, but we're not going to let up in our efforts to remind people that books make the best gifts and shopping local first builds stronger communities. I think those messages are resonating with people, in spite of Black Friday coverage in the Missoulian (the regional paper with the largest circulation) that focused exclusively on box store sales. In fact, given the news of stampedes and the nature of the comments from box store shoppers, they might not even have needed to mention local independents--the conclusions were there, for thinking people to draw."

Susan Fox of Red Fox Books, Glens Falls, N.Y., said, "Our sales were up about 10% over last year. We're a new store, still growing, so this is about what we expected. We hope that number increases a bit as we get closer to Christmas, but considering all that's going on, we're just happy to be selling books. Foot traffic seemed about the same, but most people were actually shopping rather than browsing. We found that our discounted books are doing better this year than last, and many more people are taking advantage of our frequent buyer program. I think this weekend was a good indication that the Christmas season won't be as difficult as we had feared."

At Sam Wellers Bookstore, Salt Lake City, Utah, "We did better than I thought we would," said Catherine Weller. "Not only did we exceed my expectations, we exceeded our sales projections for the day by a healthy percentage. In fact, we kept the store open an hour later than scheduled to serve the customers who favored us with their patronage. I should note, however, that Black Friday does not hold the significance for Wellers that it seems to have for other stores. In fact, over the years I have begun to view it as a creation of, by, and for the big box/chain retailers. I have heard other independent retailers inside and out of the book industry express similar, though perhaps not as hard-nosed, sentiments. The biggest sales day of the year for us is the Saturday before Christmas. This has been true since at least the 1970s."

Customers buying local helped Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, Va. "We did better than expected, as did our friends at the locally-owned independent music retailer Plan 9," said Kelly Justice. "We are still expecting to be down significantly for the year and have prepared for that probability, but it was a promising start to the holiday season. Looks like we don't have to cut the mistletoe budget just yet."

For Alice Meyer of Beaverdale Books, Des Moines, Iowa, "Black Friday was just about even with last year; Saturday saw about an 80% (yes!) increase; Sunday was a typically slow day (and lousy weather). When you start as modestly as we did, the increases seem exponential, but November as a whole was a great month and I'm beginning to let myself feel that December will continue the trend. Lots of special orders."

A jump in Thanksgiving weekend business at Shaman Drum Bookshop, Ann Arbor, Mich., surprised Karl Pohrt, who observed, "Sales were very slightly up this weekend from the same time last year. This is amazing considering the state of our local economy. I have no explanation."

There was also good news for another Michigan bookstore, McLean & Eakin Booksellers, Petoskey. "Our Friday and Saturday sales were up slightly from last year and we were absolutely delighted," said Julie Norcross. "Sunday sales were down a tiny bit. Remember, we are in a resort area and usually have many visitors at all holidays. A blessing for us."

Joe Foster of Maria's Bookshop, Durango, Colo., reported, "We were slightly up over last year's Black Friday, and neck in neck for the entire weekend."

Mitchell Kaplan observed that the strategy for Books & Books, Miami, Fla., "to emphasize value in our e-mail blasts seemed to work. At our Coral Gables store, which is a freestanding store and where we had the broadest discount offerings, we saw an increase in traffic. Our increases in those areas we gave special discount attention to--used and out of print and art, architecture, photography and design--were sufficient to allow for a sales increase over last Black Friday. We're planning a series of rolling discounts on different sections and will send out e-mail blasts with special value offerings, as well, throughout the week."

"Sales were about usual for us," noted Sheryl Cotleur of Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif., "not like the mall shopping, I'm told (by newspapers and the like), but fine otherwise. Our city store had a signing with Tom Brokaw Friday so they were jammed and packed all day with big crowds and book buying so they had a great weekend. We don't see an unusual bump after Thanksgiving. but we sailed through fine."

Last week, Diane Van Tassell of Bay Books, Concord and San Ramon, Calif., had anticipated "decent sales on Gray Friday, but we know that they head to the mall before they come to our store." Her prediction came true: "Our sales were about even with any other weekend--which are usually very good. We did a 20% discount on all used books and that really didn't do much for at least our more affluent store. Sunday sales at that store were below normal for even a weekday. We don't buy back books from customers on Sunday in that store--and it may have hurt us. And maybe those customers have more money to spend and were at the Best Buys of the world on Sunday. Now our other store in a more urban area (and lower socio-economics) did better than our suburban store for the three-day weekend--which is very unusual. Our expectations for the holiday season are high because we have a lot of great gift books from CIROBE."

Russ Marshalek of Wordsmiths Books, Decatur, Ga., retained his sense of humor over the long holiday weekend: "Sales were decidedly down from last year, but measurably better than expected for this year--owing, in part, to the fantastic release of the long-awaited I Can Has CheezBurger? book. In this economy, the consumer has spoken and what the royal IT wants is a book of funny cat pictures with humorous captions. Take that, Wally Lamb."

Weekend sales at the Bookloft, Great Barrington, Mass., were "exactly where we thought, predictably down a bit, though not as drastically as I might have thought a few months ago," said Eric Wilska. "Black Friday is never, never our big day. It's always the two days immediately before Christmas. We're doing a 'spend $100 dollars and get a gift from the Bookloft' (a customized gift certificate good after January 1) promotion and it's been very successful. Not only do our customers dig it but it's been giving us an opportunity to literally hand them a gift and say, 'No, thank you; without you, we wouldn't be here.' Many are clearly going to use it as a gift. So, in January and February, we'll at least have a few hundred customers coming in."

Sounds like the makings of a perfect greeting card for booksellers: May all your customers keep coming in throughout the holiday season and beyond.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


AuthorBuzz: Revell: An Appalachian Summer by Ann H. Gabhart
AuthorBuzz: Radius Book Group: The 24-Hour Soup Kitchen: Soul-Stirring Lessons in Gastrophilanthropy by Stephen Henderson
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