Shelf Awareness for Monday, March 4, 2013
Quotation of the Day
The 'Slow Books' Movement
"Just as young audiophiles are returning to LPs and culinary types assert the attraction of 'slow food,' we could very well be witnessing a retro-fueled backlash against the digital tide. It could be more than wishful thinking that the rise of e-books has slowed. Let's call the attraction of ink on paper the 'slow books' movement."
Amazon Abroad: Continued Pressure in the U.K., Germany
A petition signed by nearly 100,000 people calling for Amazon to pay more corporation tax in the U.K. is about to be given to the Prime Minister and has the support of the member of parliament who conducted hearings on avoidance of taxes by multinational companies last November, the Bookseller reported.
Bookseller Frances Smith, one of the organizers of the petition, told the Bookseller: "Amazon may be obeying the letter of the law--but they're certainly not being fair. Last year Starbucks announced that they would look at their tax affairs in the U.K. It's time that Amazon did the same."
In the aftermath of ARD's report on Amazon's treatment of temporary immigrant labor and use of a neo-Nazi security firm in at least one of its warehouses in Germany, the company's labor practices remain an issue. The New York Times today surveyed the "escalating battle between ver.di, one of Germany's largest unions, and Amazon," which has 8,000 permanent workers and last year had 10,000 temporary workers.
The paper wrote: "The continuing furor raises the question of whether Amazon will be the latest big American company to run afoul of German labor laws, which provide much broader worker rights than in the United States." The matter of Amazon not negotiating with the union is becoming an issue in the runup to national elections this fall.
Amazon v-p for worldwide operations Dave Clark said the company has learned the lesson of not "delegating to a third party" such things as "the accommodations of those folks"--the temporary workers. He also said that many of Amazon's permanent German workers began as temporary workers and that the company sought out foreign workers because it couldn't find enough local workers.
photo: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
New E-Reader for German Booksellers
German bookstore chains Thalia, Weltbild and Hugendubel are partnering with Bertelsmann and Deutsche Telekom to market a new touchscreen, front-lit e-reader called the Tolino Shine in their 1,500 physical stores as well as online, GigaOM reported. The device, which will be available for sale March 7, costs €99 (US$128) and "is intended to compete against Amazon's Kindle and the Kobo in Germany." An e-bookstore featuring approximately 300,000 German-language titles is accessible from the Tolino Shine, which supports ePub, PDF and .txt files.
Law Firm 'Investigating' Author Solutions
Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart, a New York City law firm that boasts of having "consistently delivered big results for our clients and, in our class actions, for consumers and small businesses injured by deceptive and unlawful conduct," is, it said, "investigating the practices" of Author Solutions and its subsidiaries AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Trafford, Xlibris, Inkubook and Wordclay. The firm said, "Authors using Author Solutions have complained of deceptive practices, including enticing authors to purchase promotional services that are not provided or are worthless, failing to pay royalties, and spamming authors and publishing blogs/sites with promotional material."
The firm is asking writers who have published with Author Solutions and "have been the victim of deceptive practices" to contact it.
As self-publishing has boomed and resulted in some tremendous bestsellers, last July, Penguin bought Author Solutions. In November, Author Solutions and Simon & Schuster launched a joint venture, Archway Publishing, focused on self-publishers. In 2011, Author Solutions had sales of $100 million and has, since its founding in 2007, helped some 150,000 authors publish, market and distribute books. It and its subsidiaries offer a range of packages for authors, a few of which have prices in the five figures.
Common Good's Amateur Love Poem Contest
Garrison Keillor and his bookstore, Common Good Books, St. Paul, Minn., have created the Common Good Amateur Love Poem Contest and are inviting poets who have not yet published a book of poetry to submit "poems of love or praise." The winner will be announced at the store's "afternoon of poetry" Sunday, April 21, in the Weyerhaeuser Chapel at Macalester College. (The store described that event this way: "We'll recite some old favorites and discover some new ones. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll rhyme.") Copies of the winning poem will be published in Common Good's newsletter, and will be printed and made available at the store.
Entries may be up to 14 lines or 200 words long and are due by March 18, with a limit of one entry per person. Poems should be mailed to email@example.com. Finalists will be announced April 1, the start of National Poetry Month, at which point the store will display copies of the poems, and customers can vote for their favorites during the following two weeks.
Obituary Note: Mary Ellen Moore-Richard
Mary Ellen Moore-Richard, "who was a member of the American Indian Movement during its militant actions of the 1970s and who, under the name Mary Crow Dog, later wrote a well-received memoir, Lakota Woman," died February 14, the New York Times reported. She was 58.
25th Annual IBPA Publishing University
The 25th annual IBPA Publishing University will be held April 26-27 in Chicago, Ill., at the Palmer House. The opening keynote will be given by Guy Kawasaki, former chief evangelist at Apple, founder of several tech companies, including Garage.com, and author of 10 books, the most recent of which is APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur/How to Publish a Book. Other keynote speakers are Dominique Raccah, owner of Sourcebooks, and David Houle, futurist and author of Entering the Shift Age. Additional speakers include Allen Lau of Wattpad; Allen Lau of Wattpad; Dan Poynter, author of The Self Publishing Manual; Mark Coker of Smashwords; and Brian Felsen of Bookbaby.
The University offers more than 20 breakout session on hot topics and the opportunity for attendees to "ask the experts" in private consulting sessions. Altogether more than 50 industry experts will present a day and a half of programs designed to provide independent publishers with the hands-on, how-to tools they need to promote, market and sell more books. For more information, go to ibpapublishinguniversity.com.
Wi8: Marketing That Moves the Needle
Organizers of the Winter Institute's "Marketing That Moves the Needle" panel decided to test some of their own best practices with an experiment, Meg Smith, the ABA's membership and marketing officer, said as she opened the Monday session.
First, ABA's Greg Galloway designed a logo for the session that was used to promote it to attendees. Then the ABA placed coupons in welcome bags that promised a free poster for the first 10 people at the session; sent daily e-mail reminders; put flyers on the tables at other WI8 sessions; held a trivia contest on Facebook and Twitter; advertised a contest in Bookselling This Week that offered the bookstore winner a free design consultation with Galloway; and had a table at the Oscar Viewing party.
With the help of Poll Everywhere, Galloway helped Smith track live, via smart phones and laptops, booksellers' answers to questions about what got them to attend the session. By a landslide, most attendees saw the session listed in the printed WI8 program, and the coupon in the bag attracted a few early attendees. But other efforts were not as effective: 83% of booksellers said they would have attended the session without the extra marketing; 59% described the marketing efforts as too much or annoying; 30% asked, "What e-mails?"; 74% likewise weren't aware of a trivia contest. And the panel logo and e-mails made some booksellers suspect they were being marketed to by a third party.
Panelist Julie Wernersbach of BookPeople in Austin, Tex., which has 30,000 square feet of space on two floors, said the store does many giveaways, often using "swag from publishers." Giveaways work best, she said, when she took pictures of the swag and posted them on Facebook and Twitter. Food giveaways are also popular.
The other panelist, Jill Miner, owner of Saturn Booksellers, Gaylord, Mich., with 3,000 square feet, said that the size of the giveaways matters in her store and that the most effective way to draw attention to a particular author and attract customers is offering a chance to win a "basket of backlist" titles. To offset the cost, the store requires a book purchase at the event to participate.
During the long, free-flowing exchange of ideas, Miner said booksellers should use coupons "judiciously" if they do not want to overwhelm consumers. Bruce Delaney, owner of Rediscovered Books, Boise, Idaho, said his store will accept expired coupons. "We try to win the customer and we don't want them to have a bad experience," he said.
Mary Ann Donaghy of the Bookworm in Bernardsville, N.J., added that her store uses specials run on Foursquare, which is a social media platform that connects with users in a store. "It's not applicable everywhere, but it's free," she said. Smith urged booksellers to claim their real estate on social media like Foursquare and Google+.
Although Bookpeople has not found coupons effective at drawing new customers, e-newsletters--five of them--have helped. "In Austin, everybody sends out stuff about what bands are playing where, so it's expected," Wernersbach said. BookPeople has two newsletters tied to events; the others focus on children's books, teens and mystery readers. Miner sends out a "folksy" e-newsletter that suits the nature of her store. "I sign it at the bottom," she said. Both stores found that sending e-newsletters out late in the afternoon on workdays helped increase open rates. Saturn Booksellers also sends co-branded editions of Shelf Awareness for Readers to customers twice a week. (Editor's note: this program is open to all booksellers.)
In-store signage is still very effective, along with the electronic tools in the modern marketing toolkit, Wernersbach said. Miner calls customers who bought a book at past events when there is an upcoming event featuring that author or someone similar. "I pretend that I remember what they bought," she said, but the information is tracked at point of purchase.
At Saturn Booksellers' events, a form on every seat asks customers to share how they heard about the event and their contact info, with a drawing as a reward. The results, Miner said, help her allocate resources to the things that work best. Why spend money on ads that no one sees, she asked, if the number one way people hear of events is from store staff?
And Stephen Colbert--or at least a cut-out of him--helped one store promote Small Business Saturday last year: it took pictures of its Colbert cut-out at other local businesses. Another bookseller got a unexpected promotional boost from the absence of its Colbert cutout: someone stole the faux Colbert, which got the community talking about the store. --Bridget Kinsella
Image of the Day: Coming Full Circle in South Hadley, Mass.
Tomorrow is pub date for How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid (Riverhead), which the author dedicated to his wife, Zahra. In a bit of serendipity, Hamid will make his first appearance for the book tonight at the Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, Mass.--where he met his wife for the first time. That meeting took place in the spring of 2001, when Hamid did a reading for his first novel, Moth Smoke, which drew Zahra, who at the time was a student at Mount Holyoke College. Two years later, they met again in London, and the rest is, as they might say, sweet history. Hamid commented, "It seems somehow miraculous that the first place in the world that I will go to present this novel is the same place our paths first crossed. I could quote Rick from Casablanca: 'Of all the gin joints in all the world....' "
Random House Publisher Services to Distribute Archipelago
Effective June 1, Archipelago Books will be distributed to the trade worldwide by Random House Publisher Services. Consortium has handled Archipelago's distribution.
Founded in 2004, Archipelago Books, Brooklyn, N.Y., publishes contemporary and classical fiction and poetry in translation from around the world. Archipelago's Fall 2013 frontlist with Random House will include Mircea Cărtărescu's tour of Bucharest, Blinding; Wieslaw Myśliwski's novel A Treatise on Shelling Beans, translated by Bill Johnston; and the first major collection of Hugo Claus's body of poetry, Even Now, translated by David Colmer.
Archipelago's founding publisher Jill Schoolman expressed thanks for "all that Consortium has done for our publishing program. Their dedication and energy have been an essential part of our growth over the past nine years; it felt very much like being taken in by a nurturing family. CBSD was key in helping us establish relationships with booksellers. We are immensely excited to be working with Random House and believe that their strength and international footing are precisely what our books need to reach a wider readership, both in North America and abroad."
Book Trailer of the Day: A New New Testament
A New New Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts by Hal Taussig (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Tom Coughlin Kicks Off Publicity Tour
This morning on the Today Show: Jeb Bush and Clint Bolick, authors of Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution (Threshold, $27, 9781476713458). They will also appear today on NBC's Nightly News, Fox's Hannity and ABC Radio's Sean Hannity and tomorrow on Fox & Friends.
Today on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Carole King, author of A Natural Woman: A Memoir (Grand Central, $16.99, 9781455512621).
Today on Tavis Smiley: Michelle Rhee, author of Radical: Fighting to Put Students First (Harper, $27.99, 9780062203984).
Tomorrow on Fox & Friends: G. Bruce Knecht, author of Grand Ambition: An Extraordinary Yacht, the People Who Built It, and the Millionaire Who Can't Really Afford It (Simon & Schuster, $26.99, 9781416576006).
Tomorrow morning on the Today Show:
Tom Coughlin, New York Giants coach and co-author of Earn the Right to Win: How Success in Any Field Starts with Superior Preparation (Portfolio, $25.95, 9781591846123).
Sam Sheridan, author of The Disaster Diaries: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse (Penguin Press, $26.95, 9781594205279).
Rachel Maddow, author of Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power (Broadway, $15, 9780307460998).
Tomorrow morning on MSNBC's Morning Joe: Taiye Selasi, author of Ghana Must Go (Penguin Press, $25.95, 9781594204494).
Tomorrow morning on CBS This Morning: Kim Ghattas, author of The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power (Times, $27, 9780805095111).
Tomorrow on the Dennis Miller Show: Tom Folsom, author of Hopper: A Journey into the American Dream (It, $26.99, 9780062206947).
Tomorrow on NPR's Marketplace: Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781451686579).
Tomorrow on PBS's NewsHour: Mohsin Hamid, author of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia: A Novel (Riverhead, $26.95, 9781594487293).
Tomorrow night on CNN's Piers Morgan: Clive Davis, co-author of The Soundtrack of My Life (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781476714783).
Tomorrow night on the Daily Show: Sandra Day O'Connor, author of Out of Order: Stories from the History of the Supreme Court (Random House, $26, 9780812993929).
Books & Authors
The Theoretical Minimum Upsets a Maxim
Mathematical equations in trade books=low sales.
Like many publishing maxims, this one has been debunked. Late last month, The Theoretical Minimum: What You Need to Know to Start Doing Physics by Leonard Susskind and George Hrabovsky, published by Basic Books on February 1, arrived on the New York Times bestseller list.
"We've published a lot of science books at Basic Books," Perseus Book Group CEO David Steinberger said. "No one can remember a book like that hitting the Times list." The feat is all the more striking because there are mathematical equations on just about every page of the book--and so many equations on some pages that there's no text. At the same time, the book has a simple, pleasing cover and is just 238 pages long, resembling a leisurely, intriguing nonfiction book like Consider the Fork or Cod or Brunelleschi's Dome.
But the authors are no lightweights. A theoretical physicist at Stanford, Susskind is the author of The Black Hole War and The Cosmic Landscape and is known for his development of the string theory as well for his work on black holes, cosmology and the origins of massive particles. Hrabovsky is a "citizen scientist" and president of Madison Area Science and Technology, which is devoted to scientific and technological research and education.
Their joint effort, The Theoretical Minimum, is an introduction to physics and associated math that they developed from Susskind's lectures through Stanford University's Continuing Studies program. The lectures are popular on YouTube and have an accessible, entertaining approach that, shall we say, contrasts the formal style of high school and college textbooks.
Susskind's large following on YouTube helped draw attention to the book, along with tweets and blogging in the science community and positive reviews. Steinberger said the strong social media support showed how important it is for reaching this market--and how the topic, YouTube videos and book are all part of a conversation.
Still, one calculation concerning The Theoretical Minimum was off: the book's first printing sold out so fast that the publisher had to rush it back to print.
Awards: Golden Kite
The winners of the 2013 Golden Kite Awards, presented to children's book authors and artists by their peers and sponsored by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, are:
Fiction: The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook by Joanne Rocklin (Amulet Books/Abrams)
Nonfiction: Noah Webster & His Words by Jeri Chase Ferris (Houghton Mifflin for Children)
Picture book text: Me and Momma and Big John by Mara Rockliff (Candlewick)
Picture book illustration: Lester's Dreadful Sweaters by K.G. Campbell (Kids Can Press)
Fiction: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (Hyperion)
Nonfiction: We've Got a Job by Cynthia Levinson (Peachtree)
Picture book text: A Leaf Can Be... by Laura Purdie Salas (Millbrook)
Picture book illustration: Electric Ben by Robert Byrd (Dial)
Sid Fleischman Award for Humor: Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems (HarperCollins)
The Golden Kite awards, which grant cash prizes of $2,500 to author and illustrator winners in four categories, will be presented August 4 at the Golden Kite Luncheon during SCBWI's Annual Conference on Writing and Illustrating for Children in Los Angeles August 2-5.
Review: The Fun Parts: Stories
The Fun Parts: Stories by Sam Lipsyte (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $24 hardcover, 9780374298906, March 5, 2013)
The Fun Parts is precisely the type of collection one would expect from the author of novels like The Ask, a biting satire about a disgruntled college fundraiser. Together, these 13 acid-tipped stories, many of which appeared in publications like the New Yorker and the Paris Review, paint a grimly funny view of contemporary American life.
Sam Lipsyte's stories often feature wildly improbable premises that seem completely plausible in his sure hands. In "The Wisdom of the Doulas," a hapless Mitchell Malloy, who "just sort of fell into this work while stalking my ex-girlfriend," tries to become the first male birth coach in his city. Another story is constructed on a set of interlocking narratives describing an incident where one man throws another to his death from a high-rise building; another portrays a modern-day prophet named Gunderson who receives the disturbing news that the timetable for the end of days he's predicted will occur a few years hence has been accelerated--what he calls "a revised time frame for the Big Clambake" makes his search for a television contract even more urgent.
Several stories revolve around protagonists in some stage of drug addiction, but that affliction seems relatively benign, more a way station to some other status than a permanent sentence. The narrator of "The Worm in Philly," planning to write a children's book about the middleweight boxer Marvelous Marvin Hagler, announces he "was no longer experimenting with drugs," because he "knew exactly what to do with them." Mandy, the child of a Holocaust survivor who finds herself dating a recovering neo-Nazi in "Deniers," is "three months clean" and "had some fluorescent key-ring tags to prove it."
Lipsyte shows he's adept at capturing the speech rhythms of teenage boys in "The Dungeon Master," the story of a board game that threatens to turn deadly, and at poking fun at the absurdity of trendy names like Ewen, Juanito, Medgar and Shalom, some of the children at a day-care center in "The Climber Room," a sometimes creepy look at a middle-aged man's infatuation with a younger woman.
There isn't a lot in Sam Lipsyte's stories that will make you optimistic about the future of humanity in this "world gone berserk with misery, plague, affinity marketing." But at least he will have you laughing all the way as we stumble toward the apocalypse. --Harvey Freedenberg
Shelf Talker: In this collection of 13 often riotously funny stories, Sam Lipsyte takes a dim view of contemporary life.