Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 15, 2013
Quotation of the Day
Finding the Best in Children's Books
"Bringing young people and books together is daunting. It is risky. It is constantly changing. It may not require a Ph.D., but it certainly requires patience, because you will need to sift through 50 mediocre works before you find the one that is worthy of a child. It requires an ability to embrace the downright geeky, nonsensical, absurd and immature (adults, this is not a bad thing!). To forge a lifelong relationship between our younger generations and literature requires the efforts of parents, educators, librarians, publishers, booksellers and every other generation in the community who has even once known that dangerous and exciting leap towards something different."
ABFFE Hires Two New Fundraising Consultants
The American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression has hired two consultants, Kristen Gilligan Vlahos and Philip Turner, to oversee the organization's fundraising efforts, which focus on auctioning original children's book art and an affiliate program in which sideline producers donate portions of revenue made from their sales with indie bookstores.
Vlahos, earlier director of meetings and events for the ABA, is now the ABFFE's auction manager, while Turner, a former bookseller and current producer, editor and blogger, is in charge of the affiliates program.
"Like so many non-profits, ABFFE was short-staffed during the recession, so we are excited about getting the help that we need," said ABFFE president Chris Finan. "We also feel very lucky to have found two people who have so much experience in the publishing industry and know booksellers so well."
ABFFE holds its main children's art auction during BookExpo America. The next auction will be held on Wednesday, May 29, in the Javits Center's River Pavilion, with additional online auctions held the week before BEA and in the fall. Currently three sideline producers, 2020 Visions USA, emotionGallery and Filofax, participate in ABFFE's affiliates program.
Brazos Bookstore Fine Tunes Inu-Chan Program
The Houston Press updates Brazos Bookstore's Inu-Chan, one of the most creative bookstore book subscription programs we've encountered. After a year of running the program, which sends books to members each month based on 5-10-minute interviews with them, the store is making several adjustments.
For one, Brazos manager Jeremy Ellis said, the selections will be more "reading-centric": the store had included a fair number of cookbooks and art books, but readers said they wanted "more reading and fewer pictures." Ellis added it was gratifying to hear from many members that they were happy to be introduced to books they would never have picked on their own.
The program, named after "the magical, cute little dog" in the Brazos logo, Inu-Chan costs $25 a month. There are 50 openings for the next six-month period, which starts in April.
WI8: Kobo Reports
Independent bookstores' e-book customers are different in significant ways from Kobo's "direct" U.S. customers, and the company is working on plans to enhance its website, service and more, said Kobo chief content officer Michael Tamblyn, speaking to booksellers at the Winter Institute about Kobo's experience since indies began selling Kobo devices and e-books in November.
Based on sales so far, the company has noticed that its customers who come through ABA bookstores:
- buy more expensive books than Kobo's U.S. average
- buy fewer self-published titles, less backlist, more frontlist, less fiction but more children's and nonfiction
- buy a wider range of e-books
- buy less mass market fiction and religion and more literature, narrative nonfiction, business and health titles
- buy "a shocking lack of romance" and "a shocking lack of active romance" compared to average readers
- spend slightly less per customer overall than the average customer (mainly because romance buyers buy so many titles and read them quickly)
In addition, the indie customers' e-book bestseller list looks more like a print book bestseller list than the average customers' bestsellers.
Tamblyn recounted Kobo's work with the ABA and indies. The company began, he said, not wanting to replicate the partnership model that the ABA had had with Google. "Google asked you to compete against devices with apps," Tamblyn said, and wanted its ABA partner stores to become online retailers. But the customers who buy e-books that way "become less valuable over time," he said. With the Google model, indies' pitch to customers was, "While I have you in the store, I want you to remember to go somewhere else" to buy e-books. He called this a kind of "Trojan horse model" by which indies sold the e-book and never saw the customer again.
Instead, Tamblyn said, indies needed "to go out fully equipped to compete in the digital space. They couldn't just offer an app. There had to be e-readers, tablets, a cloud library" and more. Indies needed to have something "tangible," he continued. "Customers are most likely to buy when devices are put in their hands."
Acknowledging that the devices don't have big margins (accessories have "decent margins"), Tamblyn said the most important thing was to "keep a relationship with the customer after the device is sold."
Challenges arose in setting up the ABA partnership because Kobo usually partners with a national chain when it opens in a new country. In the U.S. (where Kobo had once worked with Borders), Kobo wound up partnering with Ingram to provide fulfillment and logistical help. And for training, Kobo ran regional sessions and is rolling out a 26-person field team that will "roam the country."
Staff training and enthusiasm has proven very important--and some stores have been "very good at the in-store device experience"--since often customers base decisions to buy on how a person talks about the device with them. "It's all about an emotional connection," Tamblyn said. Device sales remain important because, as Amazon knows, devices "are the single-most important driver of sales." Customers who buy devices "buy more content, read more quickly, buy higher-priced books and stay active readers longer."
Tamblyn also suggested that e-books can be used by indies in ways that haven't been fully explored yet: as a way of filling in for missing titles (whether because of unexpectedly high sales or supply chain gaps) and as a way to handle special orders.
Tamblyn was bullish on dedicated e-reading devices, saying that there are still many serious readers, particularly readers who have continued to read just printed books, who are only recently considering them. "The digital and social media types are already in," he said. "We're trying to keep those print book lovers from going elsewhere."
Kobo is already responding to what it's learned in the past few months by planning changes to its website. Several examples: in the second half of the year, "we're putting more on the front page based on where a customer comes from rather than just what the customer bought," Tamblyn said. And the company is creating new reading experiences for different kinds of content. "People don't read comics the same way they read magazines," he noted.
As for Kobo, the company continues to grow, he said, adding 3,000 new titles a day, and has 2.5 million e-book, magazine and newspaper titles and 14 stores in different languages. "Kobo is the largest e-book company North Americans have never heard of," Tamblyn joked.
Tamblyn also emphasized Kobo's--and his own--roots in independent bookselling. Kobo began as one of the first online book retailers in the world: bookshelf.ca was founded in 1997 by the Bookshelf, an indie in Guelph, Ont. Tamblyn worked at the store and was a co-founder of the site. Two years later, the site was sold to Indigo, which was then a small chain. In 2009, Indigo, which meanwhile had become Canada's largest book retailer, spun off what had become Shortcovers and renamed it Kobo. Last year, Indigo sold Kobo to Rakuten, the large Japanese Internet services company.
Kobo wants to preserve independent diversity around the world. "We absolutely believe that indies are the smart, fast-moving mammals," Tamblyn said. "Indies are more adaptable, have more loyalty and are likely to be around longer than any other retailer. The richness you provide is important.... We want you to maintain that connection with customers and want you to win." --John Mutter
Image of the Day: Good Authors on Good Girls, Bad Boys
Last Saturday, Cover to Cover Books for Young Readers, Columbus, Ohio, held a panel on "Good Girls and Bad Boys in YA," featuring four YA authors. Here, the quartet pose after signing the store's Author Wall of Fame: (from l.) Colleen Clayton, author of What Happens Next (Poppy); Kristina McBride, author of One Moment and The Tension of Opposites (Egmont USA); Tiffany Schmidt, author of Send Me a Sign (Walker); and Katie McGarry, author of Pushing the Limits (Harlequin Teen).
Monterey Bookseller Finds 'Niche the Internet Has Helped'
"There is a need for used bookstores. You don't come in looking for a book, you come in looking. That doesn't happen online," James Bryant--co-owner with wife Mary Hill of Carpe Diem Fine Books, Monterey, Calif.--told Monterey County Weekly, which profiled the store that "survives--even thrives--by taking a different tack."
"We are a niche the Internet has helped. But it has destroyed low-end books," Bryant observed of the shop's focus on more valuable inventory. "We realized competition is much fiercer down at the $5 and $10 level." According to the Weekly, "their shop feels more like a carefully curated museum, with the most valuable works stored in glass cases rather than on shelves, or stashed in a back room with exposed brick walls and low ceilings which they call 'the vault.'" Although fewer customers were browsing during the recession, that trend is reversing.
Book Trailer of the Day: Six Years
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Rachel Allen on Irish Family Food
Tomorrow on Fox & Friends Weekend: Rachel Allen, author of Rachel's Irish Family Food: 120 Classic Recipes from My Home to Yours (Collins, $29.99, 9780007462582).
Tomorrow on CNN's Sanjay Gupta M.D.: John Elder Robison, author of Raising Cubby: A Father and Son's Adventures with Asperger's, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives (Crown, $26, 9780307884848).
Sunday on OWN's Super Soul Sunday: Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (Gotham, $26, 9781592407330).
Sunday on NPR's Weekend Edition: Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being (Viking, $28.95, 9780670026630).
Movies: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Lainie Taylor's YA novel Daughter of Smoke and Bone will be adapted into a movie by Stuart Beattie (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra; Tomorrow When the War Began) for Universal Pictures, the Wrap reported. Joe Roth (Oz: The Great and Powerful) and Palek Patel will produce.
Books & Authors
Award: Asian Man Wins Last Man Asian
Tan Twan Eng has won the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize and is the first Malaysian author to the win the $30,000 award. He won for his novel The Garden of Evening Mists, which was written originally in English and was published here last September by Weinstein Books.
The prize organizers said that the book "revisits the traumatic aftermath of the Japanese occupation of Malaya, and the post-war insurgency against British rule, with stylistic poise and probing intelligence. Taking its aesthetic cues from the artful deceptions of Japanese landscape gardening, it opens up a startling perspective on converging histories, using the feints and twists of fiction to explore its themes of personal and national honour; love and atonement; memory and forgetting; and the disturbing co-existence of cultural refinement and barbarism.
"The layering of historical periods is intricate, the descriptions of highland Malaysia are richly evocative, and the characterisation is both dark and compelling. Guarding its mysteries until the very end, this is a novel of subtle power and redemptive grace."
This is the last year the Man Asian Literary Prize will carry the Man name; the Man Group is no longer sponsoring the award. The Prize organizers say that "negotiations with interested sponsors are currently ongoing," and they expect to announce a new sponsor next month.
Book Brahmin: Ruth Ozeki
|photo: Kris Krug|
Filmmaker-turned-novelist-turned-Zen-Buddhist-priest Ruth Ozeki has always had a hard time choosing. She was born and raised in New Haven, Conn., by an American anthropologist father and a Japanese linguist mother. In college, she decided to major in psychology and then switched to a double major in English Literature and Asian Studies. She moved to Japan to do graduate work in classical Japanese literature, while studying Noh drama and working as a bar hostess. She got a certificate in ikebana flower arrangement and then returned to New York to work as an art director on low-budget horror movies. Eventually she started making her own films, until she ran out of money and started writing novels--My Year of Meats (1998) and All Over Creation (2003)--and then was ordained as a Zen Buddhist priest. Her new novel is A Tale for the Time Being (Viking Penguin, March 12, 2013). A dual U.S. and Canadian citizen, she splits her time between British Columbia and New York City. Questionnaires like this, which require her to make choices, drive her nuts.
On your nightstand now:
I always have a rather large pile. I just finished reading The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall, which I'm not ready to put back on the shelf yet because I enjoyed it so much. I'm rereading Shakespeare's The Tempest because it never fails to inspire me to see the beauty in this storm-tossed isle where I live. Training in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong by Norman Fischer I'm using as a text for a kind of Zen-style lectio divina. The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schultz is the next book on my list, recommended by my husband, who loved it, but in the meantime, I'm reading Mark Haddon's A Spot of Bother.
Favorite book when you were a child:
This is so random, but what pops to mind are Charlotte's Web by E.B. White, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. But now that I think about it, the very first book I remember loving was The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet and illustrated by Kurt Wiese. It's a picture book about, well, five Chinese brothers who looked exactly alike, only each brother had a special power. One brother could swallow the sea, one had an iron neck, one could stretch his legs out really long, one could not be burned by fire and one could hold his breath forever. These superpowers eventually saved the brothers from being executed, when one of them was falsely accused of murder. The book apparently provoked a lot of controversy and was criticized for promoting ethnic stereotypes (slanty eyes, yellow skin, indistinguishable Asians), but I didn't mind. If slanty eyes and yellow skin meant you could swallow the sea or get an iron neck and not be beheaded, that seemed fine to me, and I remember spending a lot of time trying to figure out which superpower I wanted to cultivate.
Your top five authors:
Way too hard. I'm changing the question.
Top five authors born between 966 and 1899:
Murasaki Shikubu, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, William Faulkner, Jorge Luis Borges.
Top five six authors born after 1900 whom I've read in the past year:
David Mitchell, Kurt Vonnegut, Karen Joy Fowler, Steven Hall, Jane Hamilton, Haruki Murakami
Book you've faked reading:
People assume that I've read Proust's In Search of Lost Time, when in fact I've only read Swann's Way. One of these days I will finish all seven volumes and will no longer have to squirm and correct this assumption.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, which will be published in May. This book is utterly amazing, one of those books that I feel pretty sure was written just for me. Of course, I didn't actually know Karen at the time she was writing it just for me, but that doesn't change my conviction.
Book you've bought for the cover:
None that I can recall.
Book that changed your life:
The Riverside Shakespeare.
Favorite line from a book:
"I affirm that the Library is interminable." --From The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Grendel by John Gardner.
Review: The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat
The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore (Knopf, $24.95 hardcover, 9780307959928, March 12, 2013)
A decades-long friendship between three women forms the backbone of Edward Kelsey Moore's funny and tenderhearted debut novel, The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat. For four decades, Odette, Clarice and Barbara Jean have had a standing date every Sunday at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat diner in Plainview, Ind.; as their heartbreaks, marriages and the most eviscerating of tragedies unfold, the neighborhood diner sets the scene for recurring dramas with a cast of unforgettable characters.
The story moves back and forth between past and present, fleshing out the relationship between the three women, nicknamed the Supremes by their 1960s high school classmates, from its unlikely beginnings through the increasingly complex developments of later years. Each of the Supremes faces a challenge that will be the ultimate test of their strength. Emerging as the heart of the novel is Odette--fearless, no-nonsense and immensely loyal. Like her mother, Odette has begun to see ghosts, and they've started hinting that she is next. After decades of marriage to the cheating Richmond, Clarice must decide how she is going to live the rest of her life, while Barbara Jean tries to find a way to reconcile her past mistakes. Along the way, the women will discover that middle age can be a rebirth rather than the end of one's youth.
Moore expertly combines tragedy and comedy in a way that feels fluid and natural, creating a world that is internally consistent and rich. Plainview may be a small town, but it possesses a multitude of layers, incorporating vivid personalities, a distinct set of values and the spectre of racism. Comic interludes, from an absurd wedding to the antics of the town's fake medium, are interwoven with the personal dramas of the Supremes--and because everyone knows everyone in Plainview, all the characters get into the action, often with uproarious results.
Perhaps the most remarkable quality of The Supremes is love--the author's love for his characters, even the most flawed, shines from every page. If Moore's novel is about a rebirth in middle age, it is also about achieving redemption against all odds, even when it seems too late. --Ilana Teitelbaum
Shelf Talker: A funny, tenderhearted debut novel about the enduring friendship of three women through life's great challenges, and the vividly drawn town in which their dramas take place.
Top-Selling Self-Published Titles
The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by IndieReader.com.
1. Life Code by Dr. Phil McGraw
2. Never Too Far by Abbi Glines
3. Wait for Me by Elisabeth Naughton
4. Fallen Too Far by Abbi Glines
5. If You Stay by Courtney Cole
6. Hopeless by Colleen Hoover
7. A Terrible Love by Marata Eros
8. Wait for You by J. Lynn
9. Hard to Resist by Shanora Williams
10. Fate Interrupted 2 by Kaitlyn Cross
[Many thanks to IndieReader.com!]