Shelf Awareness for Monday, December 22, 2008

Sharjah International Book Fair: Your Chance to Get Your Book in Front of 1 Million Readers - Oct. 30th - Nov. 9th, 2019 - Learn More!

Other Press: Nvk by Temple Drake

Quirk Books: The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Magination Press: Stand Up!: Be an Upstander and Make a Difference by Wendy L Moss

St. Martin's Press: A Bad Day for Sunshine (Sunshine Vicram #1) by Darynda Jones

Grand Central Publishing: PostScript by Cecelia Ahern


Time for Publishers and Booksellers to Get Back to Basics

David Didriksen, owner of Willow Books & Cafe, Acton, Mass., wrote:

These are hard times for our publishing brethren, and by extension, for booksellers as well. Large publishers have been placing a moratorium on new titles, laying off workers, firing executives and scrambling to downsize. The lay-offs are likely to continue and booksellers are the ones most likely to feel the aftershock.

Part of the problem may be evolutionary--an industry bloated by years of inefficiency, cranking out too many inferior products, while failing to leverage the best assets in its portfolio: backlist titles that continue to be ignored. Meanwhile, some publishers have commoditized themselves into a corner, trying to live solely off of imagined blockbusters, mostly for the benefit of huge mass market chains and Amazon. Over-reliance on bestsellers, which retailers have had to sell at near cost, worked fine as long as the economy was in good shape. Now, however, the world has changed.

It is indeed unfortunate that a number of jobs will be lost in the coming months, but perhaps there is a positive side to an industry undergoing a painful contraction. Just as a "shake out" of the retail sector a few years ago resulted in a stronger set of survivors, publishers could benefit from new efficiencies and creative new initiatives. Publishers might even rediscover the intrinsic value of backlist sales, a once robust segment, recently abandoned in the pursuit of the "big" book. There is still plenty of gold to be found there, if publishers ever decide to mine it. Real bookstores--both independent and chain--can sell backlist all day long. Mass merchants care only about what turns. And Amazon is getting so powerful, it may someday wonder whether it needs publishers at all.

Booksellers and publishers once acted as partners in the book industry, developing authors and promoting backlist titles, before the lure of quick bucks in mass merchandising channels changed the relationship. Now may be a good time to get back to basics and do business together again if we all want to survive. Mass merchants will likely cut back on book sections at the first signs of underperformance (or as soon as the co-op payments dry up). Bookstores will stay the course. As the restructuring goes forward, we can only hope that publishers will return to their roots and work with booksellers to enhance backlist opportunities and develop new authors. If that could happen, it would be the best present our industry could wish for during this challenging holiday season.


Flame Tree Publishing: Detective Mysteries Short Stories by Various Authors


Book Advice: 25 Cents

The first Saturday in December, University Book Store in Seattle, Wash., opened its first "Holiday Advice Booth," the brainchild of Stesha Brandon, the store's events manager. Modeled after Lucy's psychiatrist booth in "Peanuts," book advice was offered for 25 cents, with the money raised going to the store's Scholarship Endowment Fund, which helps financial-aid students purchase course materials and textbooks. It was staffed in one-hour shifts from 10 to 6; advisors included Brad Craft, the store's used-books buyer, Nancy Pearl, the World's Librarian, two sales reps--Dan Christaens from Norton and David Glenn from Random House--and me. Stesha was our runner (and supplier of homemade baked goods). We had a blast.

David had the first shift and said, "I thoroughly enjoyed talking to the customers and trying to help them arrive at suitable gifts. It's a fun challenge to listen to what they have in mind, then trying to come up with a suitable array of titles that might fit the general bill. During my hour it was 'My brother-in-law loves to read about the Founding Fathers,' or 'My book group has their gift exchange this weekend and I need some suggestions about great recent novels, but they have to have won some sort of prize.' I just tried to suggest a handful of titles for each person to check out, and it sure seemed that most of them ended up buying something. For me, being able to speak directly to the buying public was a genuine pleasure. Most important, the experience reminded me how important a bookstore staff really is, how much readers rely on the thoughtful advice of store staffers. And it also reminded me of what a pleasure it is to hit upon just the right book for a customer, how they appreciate that connection."

I took over from David, and my first customer was a snap--she wanted validation of her book club pick, Metzger's Dog by Thomas Perry (Random House). Being a fan of Perry, and of that book in particular, made it too easy. I confidently sipped my espresso. Next up was a couple every bookseller dreams of--they had a list of at least 10 people and could describe each one concisely. Angela is in her 30s, an activist for gay and environmental causes. The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin), of course, and Take This Bread by Sarah Miles (Ballantine). Matthew, in his 20s, likes fantasy and science fiction. Mark Barrowcliffe's memoir, The Elfish Gene (Soho Press). Man, this is simple. Jack, the brother-in-law, who likes nature and reading: The Lost Art of Walking by Geoff Nicholson (Riverhead). I hit a double with Rock On by Dan Kennedy (Algonquin), since they had two music lovers on their list, and they also took The Oxford Book of Great Music Writing (University of Arkansas Press). Then they liked The Warrior by Frances Richey (Viking) for the woman who is a poet and peace activist and Craig Childs's The Animal Dialogues (Little, Brown). Wow. I thought I'd won the customer lottery. This was heady stuff! But I should have remembered my retail days more clearly.

I was brought back to reality by the next woman, who was shopping for a scientist. Fortunately, right by the booth was a display of recent science books. But no, they didn't work. Does he like nature? No. Does he travel? No. Does he like fiction? No, he thinks it's a waste of time. Does he cook? No. I start looking around for help, but everyone's busy. Desperation time. We've all been there. Is he interested in China? I had no idea where I came up with that. Well, perhaps China . . . The last I saw her, she was immersed in The Last Days of Old Beijing by Michael Meyer (Walker). Maybe it wouldn't work for the giftee, but it seemed to work for her. My last customer was teasing me when he described a book by a guy, with a green cover, about so big. Stump-the-clerk time. I countered with Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (Wiley). It all came back to me--the thrill of the hunt, the satisfaction of the match, the pleasure in making a customer happy and, of course, the hopefully infrequent teeth-gnashing frustration. Yes, this book does come in paper . . . let me just tear the hard cover off for you. But really, echoing David Glenn, the delight in making a connection over a book is just the best. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.--Marilyn Dahl

BINC - Double Your Impact

Notes: Bookkeeper Booked; Pre-Xmas Weekend Weathered

A former bookkeeper at Quail Ridge Books & Music, Raleigh, N.C., has been arrested and charged with embezzling $348,975 from the bookstore since 2001, the News & Observer reported. Anna Susan Kosak worked at the store from 1998-2001 and again from 2004 until this past September, though general manager Sarah Goddin said Kosak's departure was unrelated to the charge.

"We're shocked," said co-owner Nancy Olson. "We felt a professional closeness with her. We thought a lot of her." According to Goddin, the theft went undetected because the money disappeared over a long period of time.

Olson told the News & Observer that while the bookshop does about $3.4 million in sales per year, neither the embezzlement nor current economic conditions threaten the business.
"We are in very good shape. I would call our sales flat, which is a good thing these days." Olson said, noting that the bookstore was already striving for increased financial diligence in a tough economy. "We thought we were watching our every dollar. I guess we weren't."


Battling the economic downturn was challenge enough this holiday season, but many retailers have also had to deal with ill-timed weather patterns. The Tacoma, Wash., News Tribune reported that snowstorms had a negative impact on the normally high-volume weekend before Christmas.

"Generally bookstores, and particularly used bookstores . . . aren’t as affected by the economic downturn," said Jerry Culpepper, owner of Culpepper Books, whose business was down 60-70% last week. "November was the best November we’ve ever had. This should be our booming week, and it’s just not. I do think it’s the weather."


Last minute holiday shoppers defied the weather and turned up at Schuler's Books & Music, Lansing, Mich., over the weekend. "It's been very, very, very busy, " store manager Rhoda Wolff told WLNS6 News. "From the moment we opened the door people have been pouring into our store. This has been our busiest day yet."   


While blizzard-induced cabin fever may conjure images of readers curled up under quilts beside roaring fires, Jane Janke Johnson, co-owner of Janke Book Store, Wausau, Wis., told the Daily Herald, "There are summer readers, winter readers and people who read all the time." She conceded, however, that winter readers tend to shy away from outdoor activities. "They're much more comfortable in their winter chairs, reading a book. It also might include the older population, who are perhaps unable to partake in the winter."


The Bookworm, Bernardsville, N.J., was profiled by, which observed that Mary Ann Donaghy, owner of the 23-year-old indie bookshop, "is in increasingly rare company," but succeeds because "what she especially offers her readers is service on many levels."


"Bookshop owners usually have such extensive knowledge of an area of interest that should warrant some PhD recognition," noted the Ann Arbor, Mich., Chronicle in its tribute to the pleasures and rewards of shopping used bookshops. "Jay at the West Side Book Shop is extremely knowledgeable on polar exploration. Paul at Motte & Bailey is consumed by medieval history and in particular the Crusades. . . . Ann Arbor has many old bookshops, as have other urban and academic communities such as Chicago, Madison and Chapel Hill. Typically housed in old and quirky buildings, these meeting places are important to a vibrant community lifestyle."

One of the most popular offerings from the Seattle Public Library is "Books for Giving," a series of recommendations for young readers available both in print and online. SPL's David Wright notes, "Most of our lists are aimed at library users, but of course they're also used by book buyers; the gift lists are obviously aimed at buyers, and we find the holiday shoppers sometimes like tips from readers' advisers with nothing to sell."

Wright adds that the library often partners "with local independents such as Secret Garden, University Bookstore and Elliott Bay, and have started to mix it up with booksellers at a quarterly drinking bout started by The Stranger's book editor, Paul Constant, called 'Get Lit.'"


In the Washington Post, Carleen Brice suggested December be considered "National Buy a Book by a Black Author and Give It to Somebody Not Black Month," explaining that "as a black author trying to reach a wider audience, I believe that this guerrilla marketing effort--although sort of a stunt--may be one of the only ways writers like me will be able to find white readers."

Brice challenged "the accepted wisdom of the publishing industry . . . that books by black authors should be marketed to black audiences; after that, hopefully, they will cross over to whites and others."


What did Laura Bush know and when did she know it? Memoirs by former First Ladies are generally hot publishing properties, but this may not be the case with the wife of the current U.S. president. According to the New Yorker, "One question that seems to be weighing on prospective editors is whether a book by Mrs. Bush will provide a candid account of her feelings, and perhaps counter the popular view of her as an opinion-free robot."


Winnie the Pooh grows up in this week's Lit Spirits feature in the New Yorker, which offered a mixologist's formula for "Honeysuckle Rouge," an "original cocktail [that] puts honey in the role of lion tamer (the lions being the tequila and the red-wine reduction)."


After a year defined by "an extraordinary groundswell of hope (yes, that unavoidable word) as well as lie-awake-at-night dread (nothing quite like bracing yourself for the Great Depression 2, or, if you prefer, the snappier GD2)," the San Francisco Chronicle offered its best 50 fiction and 50 nonfiction picks for 2008, noting that many of these titles "also remind us, in these challenging times, of what is most valuable in life: family, friends, community."


"The 12 Books of Christmas" are being showcased by the Los Angeles Times because "this year, it seems as though we have more gorgeous travel books than ever."


Effective January 1, the Hachette Book Group in the U.S. will directly handle all fulfillment, customer service and credit operations for Phaidon Press's Canadian customers. Canadian sales representation will continue to be handled by Jacqueline Gross & Associates and by James Whittaker, Phaidon Press's Canadian national accounts representative. Canadian customers will have the same discount terms as when Phaidon Press was serviced by HB Fenn. Canadian returns may be made to HB Fenn until April 1.


G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers: The Best of Iggy by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sam Ricks

Media and Movies

Media Heat: American Buffalo

This morning on Good Morning America: Les Stroud, host of Discovery Channel's Survivorman and author of Survive!: Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere--Alive (Collins, $19.95, 9780061373510/0061373516).


This morning on the Today Show: Jennifer Skiff, author of God Stories: Inspiring Encounters with the Divine (Harmony, $21.95, 9780307382689/0307382680).


Today on NPR's On Point: Jay Parini, author of Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America (Doubleday, $24.95, 9780385522762/0385522762).


Today on the Diane Rehm Show: Forrest Church, author of Love & Death: My Journey through the Valley of the Shadow (Beacon Press, $22, 9780807072936/0807072931).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Ellie Kay, author of Living Rich for Less: Create the Lifestyle You Want by Giving, Saving, and Spending Smart (WaterBrook Press, $16.99, 9780307446015/0307446018).


Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: Steven Rinella, author of American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon (Spiegel & Grau, $24.95, 9780385521680/0385521685).


Tomorrow on Tavis Smiley, in a repeat: Thomas L. Friedman, author of Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.95, 9780374166854/0374166854).


Tomorrow night on Charlie Rose: Bernhard Schlink, author of The Reader (Vintage, $13.95, 9780307454898/0307454894), the basis for the movie of the same name that was released on December 10.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Love Story of Missy Carmichael by Beth Morrey

Movies: Four for Christmas and Boxing Day

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, opens December 25. Brad Pitt is the voice of Benjamin Button, a man who ages in reverse. The movie tie-in edition is from Scribner ($9.95, 9781416556053/1416556052).

Marley & Me, based on the book by John Grogan, opens December 25. A couple (Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson) learn life lessons from a lovable yet rambunctious dog. The movie tie-in edition is available from HarperEntertainment ($6.99, 9780061686085/0061686085). The stars are making talk-show rounds this week.

The Spirit, based on the comic book series by Will Eisner, opens December 25. Frank Miller adapted and directed this tale of a cop (Gabriel Macht) who returns from the dead to fight crime. The movie tie-in edition is available from Titan Books ($30, 9781845768324/1845768329).

Revolutionary Road
, based on the novel by Richard Yates, opens December 26. A couple (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) struggle to overcome their personal problems while raising children in a 1950s Connecticut suburb. The movie tie-in edition is from Vintage ($14.95, 9780307454621/0307454622).


Books & Authors

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next picks:


The Glass of Time by Michael Cox (Norton, $24.95, 9780393067736/0393067734). "In the spirit of Dickens, this breathless historical suspense novel set in 1870s Britain follows an orphaned young woman on a mission: She's been sent as a maid to infiltrate the grand country house of Evenwood, uncover its venerable family's buried secrets, and put right the injustices that have clouded her life."--Mark David Bradshaw, Watermark Books, Wichita, Kan.

American Buffalo: In Search of a Lost Icon by Steven Rinella (Spiegel & Grau, $24.95, 9780385521680/0385521685). "American Buffalo is a fascinating, panoramic account of buffalo, their evolution, and the long history of their relationship with humans. Rinella's enthusiasm for his subject is evident as he skillfully juxtaposes his personal experience as a proficient and dedicated hunter with sections on archaeology and history, all accessibly and engagingly written."--Lynne Almeida, Spellbinder Books, Bishop, Calif.


Another Mother's Life by Rowan Coleman (Pocket, $15, 9781416583028/1416583025). "Larger-than-life characters and a warm study in true friendship made this story of the effects of a broken friendship hard to put down. I will gladly recommend this book to my book club."--Andra Tracy, Out Word Bound, Indianapolis, Ind.

For Teen Readers

Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi (Dutton, $16.99, 9780525479956/0525479953). "After her parents' divorce, a move away from her friends in Boston, and a horrific first day at her new school, Maddy seeks refuge in her manga and the game world of Fields of Fantasy, where she can be powerful, beautiful, and beat back the bullies with her spells. Mancusi handles the ups and downs of high school, family, and virtual reality with zest, uniting books and the online world in a fun-tastic novel."--Jenn Northington, The King's English, Salt Lake City, Utah

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Shelf Starters: The Error World

Opening lines of books we want to read:

The Error World: An Affair with Stamps by Simon Garfield (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24, 9780151013968/0151013969, January 20, 2009

The Perfect Stamp

Little do wives know how much men spend on their hobbies. But my wife is about to find out.

It is almost one o'clock on 22 November 2006, a Wednesday. I'm standing just inside the door of my marriage guidance counsellor's house in north London. I have a stamp album under my arm and I am in all kinds of trouble--emotional, financial, philatelic--a situation I couldn't have imagined two years before.

My marriage is over, but the reasons are still unravelling.

We have drifted apart over the years. I have fallen in love and I'm having an affair. I have developed a passion for someone I loved when I was young, and for something I loved when I was a child. I am forty-seven, and I can't concentrate on anything for very long.

I have built up a stamp collection I can barely afford, and it has brought me to the brink of ruin. The affair and my stamps, the two secrets that have brought me here to a small room in the shadow of Alexandra Palace, are not unconnected, for both are quests for meaning, the classic mid-life dilemma. For my marriage guidance counsellor the affair is a commonplace: a lack of intimacy and honesty with my wife, a beautiful woman who has rejuvenated my days and made me feel attractive, hotel rooms. But the stamps are something unusual.-–Selected by Marilyn Dahl


Excerpted from The Error World by Simon Garfield, copyright © 2008. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


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