Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Because of Thanksgiving, this is our last issue until Monday, November 30. Enjoy the holiday and may all booksellers have an excellent Black Friday!
Notes: SIBA's Social Networking Summit; Gaiman in Naperville
The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance is hosting its first Southern Social Networking Summit with a goal of "conquering the world one hashtag at a time!" #SSNS will be held January 6 and 7, 2010, at the Hyatt Regency, Greenville, S.C. Detailed information about the program and schedule is available on SIBA's website.
The summit is a collaborative effort between SIBA and other arts organizations, nonprofits, bookstores and marketing entities, with the objective of using social media more cooperatively and effectively to increase audiences and constituencies and better respond to the changing environment and trends in the communities they serve.
Author Neil Gaiman, who will be the centerpiece for the 2010 Naperville (Ill.) Reads campaign, "just has a different take on the world," said Gail Wetta of Anderson's Bookshop, one of the organizers of the celebration.
This was "exactly what organizers from the bookshop, library and Naperville school districts were looking for when they went hunting for an author to build next year's program around; the kind of writer with widespread appeal who can bring large segments of the community together to discuss his work," the Daily Herald reported. Gaiman will be in Naperville February 23-25 for several appearances.
"We know he has a following here in Naperville. He was certainly high on our wish list," added Candace Purdom of Anderson's. "If you're selected for Naperville Reads, we're going to make good use of you.
Cool Twitter idea of the day. Beginning next Monday, Electric Literature will conduct a "Grassroots Exercise in Participatory ePublishing" as it invites Twitter users to become co-publishers of Rick Moody's new short story, "Some Contemporary Characters," which was written in 153 bursts of 140 characters or less and will be serialized every 10 minutes, 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m., from November 30 through December 2.
Electric Literature's (@ElectricLit) plan: "We're concocting a kind of pyramid scheme: We each tweet the story to our respective followers. We tell our followers to retweet. They tell their followers to retweet the retweet, etc. With enough co-publishers and citizen re-tweeters, together we can drown Twitter in literature (twitterature?) for three days straight."
Book trailer of the day: Participants in International Buy Nothing Day (celebrated on Black Friday) may eventually want to consider reading Raj Patel's The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy (Picador).
Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, Va., has launched two marketing campaigns: "possibly the first-ever independent bookstore jingle" and an IndieBound Hanukkah poster, a collaborative effort with the local Jewish Community Center, Bookselling This Week reported.
The two posters read "Eat Sleep Read Spin" and "Nap. Nosh. Read." and are available for download from IndieBound. Hear a sample of the Fountain jingle at the beginning of this YouTube clip.
A Cappella Books, Atlanta, Ga., celebrates its 20th anniversary December 5 and 6 with a "Weekend of 20 Authors," local authors who will talk about their books and their favorite books by other authors, according to Bookselling This Week.
The 2,000-sq.-ft. store in Little Five Points stocks some 15,000 titles and shares space with a photo gallery. Founder and owner Frank Reiss comes from a family of booksellers that includes his father, Jake Reiss, III, owner of the Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham, Ala.
Unshelved has wheeled in the winners of its annual Pimp My Bookcart contest, sponsored by Smith System. Among the top vote getters: a kind of Good Humor book cart, a barbecue book cart and the Low Rider book cart. Check out the winners here.
This Saturday, November 23, at 2 p.m., Eagle Eye Book Shop, Decatur, Ga., is hosting an event for Red Dog Rising by Jeff Schettler (Alpine Publishing), which will be released next Tuesday, December 1.
Unfortunately Schettler is undergoing treatment for cancer and has put a planned book tour on hold. But his publisher has created a video of him talking about the book; see it here.
Red Dog Rising is Schettler's tale about his life and his relationship with Ronin, his K-9 partner, who were part of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team K9 Assistance Program for more than 11 years.
AuthorBuzz has launched a holiday ad campaign focused on the theme, "Buy books--you can't buy a more entertaining gift for less." Each ad is individually tailored to the two dozen books involved, drawing attention to the lure of its being more thrilling or more magical, etc. The promotion will link to major online retailers, including IndieBound, which is offering stores a PDF of shelf talkers for each book in the program.
Random House has expanded its Books=Gifts program with changes that include a redesigned logo that is generic; a Twitter campaign in which Books=Gifts representatives recommend specific titles each day and on Fridays (promoted as "PSFriday" through online and e-mail messaging); Books=Gifts personal shoppers available to make customized gift recommendations to individual consumers via Twitter and e-mail through email@example.com; and a Facebook "What’s My Type of Book?" quiz application and widget.
Also featured are Personal Shopper Kits for booksellers, which Random House designed to "promote the invaluable service that bookstores can offer customers: the ability to help select gifts, and to match the right book to the right person. The kit includes in-store signage promoting this free service, Personal Shopper buttons for store staff, and ideas for creating in-store 'Personal Shopper' nights to help customers find wonderful gifts at this very busy time of year. The posters and buttons do not include any RH-specific branding, and will be distributed to land immediately after the Thanksgiving holiday."
That first edition copy of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species that was discovered in the bathroom of a British home (Shelf Awareness, November 23, 2009) "fetched £103,250 (US$171,000) at auction on Tuesday, around twice its pre-sale estimate," according to Reuters.
Paul Von Drasek has been named book trade sales manager at Capstone Publishers, a new position.
Before joining the company, Von Drasek was director of field sales at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt trade, where he helped integrate the Houghton Mifflin and Harcourt field sales forces. Earlier he was executive director of sales at Harcourt and held sales management positions at Little, Brown, Houghton Mifflin and Penguin.
Von Drasek is also a longtime board member of Curbstone Press, Willimantic, Conn.
Quarterly Report: Sales Drop at B&N and Borders
Yesterday Barnes & Noble and Borders both reported sales drops in their most recent quarters and cautioned that the holiday season again will be difficult. Wall Street wasn't happy: while the Dow Jones fell 0.16%, B&N closed at $22.25 a share, down 5.4% on twice the usual volume, while Borders closed at $1.74, down 13.4%, on three times the usual volume.
But Frank Badillo of the consulting firm Retail Forward expressed some optimism about book retailing, telling the Wall Street Journal, "We expect [booksellers] to have a modest bounceback because they're selling smaller-ticket items, a category we think will open up a little for the holidays." Also, he said that, as the Journal put it, "a deep array of titles from well-known authors should also spur sales."
At Barnes & Noble in the second quarter ended October 31, total sales fell 4%, to $1.2 billion, and the net loss was $24 million, compared to a net loss of $18.4 million in the same period a year ago. Sales at stores open at least a year fell 3.2%. Sales at Barnes&Noble.com rose 9%, to $120 million.
At B&N College, sales between September 30, when B&N acquired B&N College, and the end of the quarter were $65 million. During that period, sales at college stores open at least a year fell 0.2%.
The company said that bestsellers during the quarter included Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, Jeff Kinney's Dog Days (Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series #4), Mitch Albom's Have a Little Faith, Vince Flynn's Pursuit of Honor, Malcolm Gladwell's What the Dog Saw and Edward Kennedy's True Compass.
Saying that it expects "general retail traffic will remain challenged during the holiday selling season," B&N predicted that sales at stores open at least a year in the third quarter, which ends January 30, will fall in a range of 1%-3%. For college stores, comp-store sales are expected to be between flat and up 2%.
B&N also reduced estimated earnings for the year because of higher production costs for the Nook e-reader as well as high investments in its digital strategy, which includes adding people, technology and in-store marketing support.
Incidentally, during a conference call, B&N CEO Steve Riggio called the price wars that started between Amazon.com and Wal-Mart "overblown," according to the AP. "Bookselling has been for a long time a 'long tail' business," Riggio said. "Bestsellers represent less than 5% of our sales and among these very top best sellers less than 1% of our sales."
At Borders Group in the third quarter ended October 31, sales fell 12.7%, to $595.7 million, and the net loss was $38.5 million compared to a net loss of $172.2 million.
Sales at stores open at least a year fell 12.1% at Borders superstores and 7.2% at Waldenbooks Specialty Retail stores. After closing 106 Walden division stores in the past year, leaving 361, the company will close another 200 Waldens, leaving about 160.
"During the third quarter, we prepared for the upcoming holiday selling season," Borders Group CEO Ron Marshall commented. "We increased core book inventories, experimented with a range of traffic-driving and in-store promotions and invested in store payroll to get books out on the shelves and our stores in top condition to receive customers." The company is instituting an in-stock guarantee: store customers who want a book not available at the store will be sent the title with no shipping charges.
Image of the Day: Glam Kitty
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Black Friday
Friday on the Today Show: Lee Eisenberg, author of Shoptimism: Why the American Consumer Will Keep on Buying No Matter What (Free Press, $26, 9780743296250/0743296257).
Friday on the Diane Rehm Show: Steve Roberts, author of From Every End of This Earth: 13 Families and the New Lives They Made in America (Harper, $25.99, 9780061245619/0061245615).
Friday night on the Jay Leno Show: Laura Bush and Jenna Bush Hager, authors of Read All About It! (HarperCollins, $17.99, 9780061560750/0061560758).
Saturday on NBC's Weekend Today: Glynis McCants, author of Love by the Numbers (Sourcebooks Casablanca, $21.99, 9781402224492/1402224494).
This Weekend on Book TV: Sweet Thunder
Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this week from 8 a.m. Thursday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.
Thursday, November 26
12 p.m. From the Southern Festival of Books, Kira Gale, co-author of The Death of Meriwether Lewis: A Historic Crime Scene Investigation (River Junction Press, $16.95, 9780964931541/0964931540), argues that Lewis did not commit suicide as is widely believed. (Re-airs Friday at 12 a.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and Sunday at 3 a.m.)
Friday, November 27
9:15 a.m. Jane Goodall discusses her book, Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink (Grand Central Publishing, $27.99, 9780446581776/0446581771). (Re-airs Friday at 9:15 p.m.)
12 p.m. After Words. Ezra Klein interviews Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner about their book SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance (Morrow, $29.99, 9780060889579/0060889578). (Re-airs Saturday at 12 a.m., Saturday, December 5 at 10 p.m. and Sunday, December 6, at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.)
Saturday, November 28
8 a.m. Lori Ginzberg, author of Elizabeth Cady Stanton: An American Life (Hill & Wang, $25, 9780809094936/0809094932), recounts the life of the early leader in the women's rights movement. (Re-airs Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 4 a.m.)
6 p.m. Encore Booknotes. For a segment that first aired in 1993, J. Bowyer Bell, author of The Irish Troubles: A Generation of Violence 1967-1992, described how he conducted more than 10,000 hours of interviews for the nearly 1,000 pages of text.
7 p.m. Environmental journalist Amanda Little discusses her book, Power Trip: From Oil Wells to Solar Cells--Our Ride to the Renewable Future (Harper, $25.99, 9780061353253/0061353256). (Re-airs Sunday at 8 a.m.)
10 p.m. After Words. The Nation magazine's sports columnist Dave Zirin interviews Wil Haygood, author of Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson (Knopf, $27.95, 9781400044979/1400044979). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)
Sunday, November 29
3 p.m. Ken Auletta, author of Googled: The End of the World as We Know It (Penguin, $27.95, 9781594202353/1594202354), provides an account of how Google became a new-media giant.
Television: FX Captures Twilight Films
The FX television network "has struck a deal with Summit Entertainment for basic cable rights to the red-hot pics in the Twilight franchise," Variety reported, adding that the acquisition agreement for the big screen adaptations of Stephenie Meyer's bestselling novels includes rights to current hit New Moon, 2008's Twilight as well as the forthcoming third and fourth installments, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn. Variety wrote that the "window for New Moon starts in late 2012, and Eclipse, which is scheduled for a June 30, 2010, theatrical release, will have its basic cable debut in 2013. Showtime has the pay cable rights to the Twilight franchise."
Books & Authors
Awards: Costa Book Awards Shortlist
Hilary Mantel, Colm Tóibín, Clive James and Penelope Lively are among the finalists for this year's Costa Book Awards, which recognize the most enjoyable books in five categories--first novel, novel, biography, poetry and children's book--published during the past year by writers living in the U.K. and Ireland. Category winners will be named January 5, 2010, with the 2009 Costa Book of the Year announced January 26 at an awards ceremony in London. The complete Costa Book Awards shortlist is available here.
Children's Reviews: Gift Books for Children 2009, Part I
Here's the first installment of our annual roundup of children's gift books for the holidays.
14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy, in collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez (Peachtree, $17.95, 9781561454907/1561454907, 40 pp., ages 4-8, August 2009)
As Americans, we are accustomed to helping other countries in need, but this is a story of a small village in Kenya that wanted to help the people of the U.S. heal from the scars of September 11. Kimeli Naiyomah, who collaborated with Deedy (Martina the Beautiful Cockroach), was studying to be a doctor in the U.S. on 9/11. He returns to his village to tell his people the story of what happened that day ("Smoke and dust so thick they can block out the sun"), and asks his elders if he can give his only cow to America: "To the Maasai, the cow is life." Kimeli inspired his fellow villagers to contribute 13 additional cows of their own. Deedy, a gifted oral storyteller herself, creates a narrative with the pacing of spoken poetry. Majestic illustrations translate as effectively to a large audience as they do for a lap reading.
Julie Andrews' Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies, selected by Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton, paintings by James McMullan (Little, Brown, $24.99, 9780316040495/0316040495, 192 pp., ages 4-up, October 2009)
As the renowned artist for the Lincoln Center Theater, James McMullan (I Stink!) makes an inspired match for Andrews and Hamilton's selections. The mother-daughter team selected works from Ogden Nash, Jack Prelutsky, Nikki Grimes and Charlotte Zolotow, among many others, as well as some original poems of their own. A generous sampling of lyrics double as poems (and not all lyrics in the world do), and this is where McMullan's talents add immeasurably to their smooth transition. For "More I Cannot Wish You" by Frank Loesser, the artist pictures a father with his infant child; a crocus blooms in the shadow of a bare tree alongside the lyrics of "You Must Believe in Spring" by Alan and Marilyn Bergman (music by Michel Legrand). The editors organize the works into nine sections. Do not miss the frog that serves as mascot for the "Accentuate the Positive" section. In fact, this whole volume is not to be missed. Andrews and Hamilton read aloud a sampling of the works in a CD affixed to the inside back cover.
Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson by Sharon Robinson, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Scholastic, $16.99, 9780545052511/0545052513, 40 pp., ages 7-10, October 2009)
Sharon Robinson (Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America) recalls an incident in childhood that demonstrated her father's courage: overcoming his fear of water to test the thickness of the ice before he'll allow his children and their friends to ice skate on a nearby lake. She likens this experience to his breaking the color barrier: "No one really knew what would happen. But he felt his way along an untried path." Fans of Nelson's We Are the Ship will find his illustrations here every bit as breathtaking, and family sharing offers the chance to celebrate this extraordinary man's history-altering achievements.
The TOON Treasury of Classic Children's Comics, edited by Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly (ComicArts/Abrams, $40, 9780810957305/0810957302, 352 pp., all ages, September 2009)
Spiegelman and Mouly, who spearheaded RAW, the comics anthology they published from 1980-1991, and who launched TOON books (comics for beginning readers) last year, now collect the best of the golden age of comics from the 1930s to the early 1960s in a beautifully designed, oversize (9¼"x11¼") volume. The board of advisers they assembled reads like a who's who of the comics world, including Jeff Smith (Bone) and Jay Lynch, who dates back to Spiegelman's Wacky Packages days (Shelf Awareness, October 7, 2008). While the introduction puts the comics in context, the editors gather the best aimed at kids: Sheldon Mayer's autobiographical Scribbly about a budding teenage cartoonist; Walt Kelly's "Prince Robin and the Dwarfs" in which kid-size heroes triumph over grown-ups; in an episode starring Carl Barks's Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge, Donald's nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie have the inside scoop on a hypnotizing gadget. Many readers will recognize John Stanley's Little Lulu, Walt Kelly's Pogo, Al Wiseman and Fred Toole's Dennis the Menace, plus P.D. Eastman's homage to Dr. Seuss's Gerald McBoing Boing. The comics, organized into thematic sections, start with a "Hey, Kids!" chapter, a nod to a pre-MAD Harvey Kurtzman (and the volume ends with Kurtzman, too). "Kids of all ages," as Spiegelman and Mouly put it, are in for a treat.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, with full-color artwork by the author (Little, Brown, $16.99, 978036114271/0316114278, 288 pp., ages 9-12, August 2009)
In Grace Lin's first novel, she weaves a tapestry of stories inspired by Chinese folklore into a seamless whole about a girl who wishes to change her family's fortune. Minli, which means "quick thinking," and her parents toil in the rice fields all day with little to show for it. But Minli's father has a wealth of stories about the legend of Fruitless Mountain and the Old Man of the Moon, who possesses all answers to even the most difficult of questions. When Minli spends one of her two coins on a goldfish purported to bring luck, a chain of events commences that leads her far from home to a world where fish can talk and dragons cannot fly. Lin's full-panel, full-color artwork--mountain and village scenes that emulate Chinese silkscreens--is as transporting as her prose.
Yummy: Eight Favorite Fairy Tales by Lucy Cousins (Candlewick, $18.99, 9780763644741/0763644749, 128 pp., ages 3-up, September 2009)
The creator of Maisy knows just how to pace a tale to keep even youngest readers enthralled. Her illustrations tip toward humor more than fright, so that when the wolf devours Little Red Riding Hood's Grandmother, a giant "gulp" appears in painted letters, Grandmother's feet stick out of the villain's mouth, and his tongue hangs out as he holds her bonnet and shawl (which he then uses as a disguise, of course). Cousins amplifies the sound effects ("Trip-trap" go the Billy Goats Gruff's hooves across the bridge), and the enlarged painted text on each page nearly tells the story by itself: "Yummy," exclaims Goldilocks at the porridge; "crash!" goes Baby Bear's chair; and, when they survey the damage in the bedroom, Baby Bear says, "Look, there she is!" This will be a repeat request that parents will be delighted to indulge.--Jennifer M. Brown
Robert Gray: Remembrance of Black Fridays Past
With apologies to Proust (as I imagine myself nibbling turkey-shaped madeleines), I'm in a retrospective mood as Black Friday approaches this year. I guess I'm still not used to the idea that I won't be immersed in the BF handselling hustle after working 15 crazy busy Black Fridays (beginning in 1992) at the Northshire Bookstore, Manchester, Vt. For such a long time, it was part of my holiday DNA.
I was already contemplating this fact when I read a Facebook message posted by author Connie May Fowler yesterday: "Want to avoid Black Friday? Easy! Pre-order How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly for everyone on your holiday list. Send me names and addresses and I'll write them a lovely holiday note, notifying them of Clarissa's April arrival. I'll also send a signed bookplate. And I'll send you, via e-mail, my knock your socks off recipe for baked Parmesan cheese grits. Even my most hardcore beloved Yankee friends ask for seconds."
I liked that, and asked Connie if I could share her offer with my readers. She said yes, adding, "If anyone pre-orders through Northshire, I'll be very happy to send the recipient a note, signed bookplate, and recipe." And your bookstore's customers are invited, too, I'm sure.
Her offer is a small indicator of how social networking is changing the rules, but we already knew that. I mention it because Connie's novels were among my handselling staples through many Black Fridays going back to the mid-1990s, so she is part of my Proustian recollection here.
Adrenaline is the word that comes to mind when I recall those Black Friday experiences--bookseller adrenaline in the preparation and execution of a perfect retail battle plan; and customer adrenaline in the instinctive human drive to shop on the one day of the year when everybody else is in stores. "I can't believe I'm shopping today" is a familiar refrain from the Black Friday choral ensemble.
I wrote my first Black Friday blog post at Fresh Eyes: A Bookseller's Journal in 2004, asking: "Is anybody ever ready for Black Friday. Ready is not the word. It's more a kind of constructive paranoia--generously mixed with terror--that propels us to take every precaution we can think of to insure success. The bean counters upstairs will hold their breath because so much is riding on this day and so many things can go wrong. They can't prepare. They can only add up the damage afterward."
The adrenaline rush began in the weeks leading to BF. We built up key inventory. Work schedules were meticulously gridded to make sure there was adequate floor coverage for every minute of the day. Sections and displays were given the "dress right dress" treatment. A "soup kitchen" was organized so staff wouldn't have to brave the crowded cafes and sandwich shops downtown.
In Vermont, even weather patterns were closely tracked because a bad storm could wipe out everything. The perfect retail weather pattern here was a nice snowstorm on Monday, roads cleared by Tuesday and cold, sunny weather from Wednesday (travel day) through Sunday. This combo drew both the relatives (who have to come) and the more elusive ski/snowboard contingent to Vermont's mountains.
And while that tense half-hour before a Black Friday opening might not have the anticipatory terror of a Wal-Mart door-bashing stampede, it was still a time to take a deep breath and put on your bookish game face.
Dennis Johnson's MobyLives Radio interviewed me on Black Friday, 2005, while I was working the sales floor. "Every now and then you'll see someone who actually has a sane expression on their face," I said, "who has found a quiet corner in fiction and is just thumbing through a book, but for the most part it's engulf and devour. . . . It doesn't feel like the image of a bookshop where the bell rings over the door and the cat wakes up. That's just not happening today."
I wrote my first Black Friday column for Shelf Awareness in 2006, and noted: "Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this post-holiday retail holy day is that a bricks-and-mortar bookstore can be part of the action, too, and that books can be quietly handsold in the swarm of bodies and cacophony of voices."
Because again and again, in the midst of that controlled chaos that was and is Black Friday, someone would say: "Excuse me, I know you're busy, but I was wondering if you'd recommend a book. I just need a great read for the weekend." And that sparked adrenaline of another kind.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)