Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Quotation of the Day
John Green: 'We Built This Together'
"I'm sometimes held up as an example of someone who's changing the publishing paradigm or whatever because I have a lot of Tumblr followers and YouTube subscribers and I can speak directly to my audience and I don't need the value-sucking middlemen of bookstores and publishers. And in the future everyone is going to be like me and no one will stand between author and reader except possibly an e-commerce site that takes just a tiny little percentage of each transaction.
"Yeah, that's bulls**t. I wouldn't have any books to my name without the tireless and committed collaboration not only of my editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel, my agent, Jodi Reamer, my friends, my family, everyone at Penguin, but also the collaboration of thousands of other people--copy editors, warehouse employees, programmers, people who know how to make servers work, librarians and booksellers.
"We must strike down the insidious lie that a book is the creation of an individual soul laboring in isolation. We must strike it down because it threatens the overall quality and breadth of American literature. They hold me up as an example, but I am not an example of publishers or bookstores extracting value because without my editor, my first novel, Looking for Alaska, would have been unreadably self-indulgent. And even after she helped me make it better, it wouldn't have found its audience without unflagging support now more than eight years on from booksellers around the country. I wouldn't have the YouTube subscribers or the Tumblr followers. And even if I did, I wouldn't have any good books to share with them. We need editors and we need publishers and we need booksellers… We built this together and we're going to keep building it together."
Amazon's Wild Pitch to Indies: 'Wanna Sell Kindles?'
Last week, Skylight Books, Los Angeles, Calif., posted an intriguing blog entry about a phone call the shop had received from a supposed representative of Amazon, who apparently "was given the task of reaching out to independent bookstores in order to 'build' a 'relationship' with the indies in order to 'partner' with us in a program to sell Kindles in our store... yeah, really."
Was the call genuine? Immediate online reaction leaned toward the skeptical side, including a post at the Stranger noting "they have no proof that the caller was actually calling from Amazon."
But we now know for sure that Amazon has approached at least one other independent bookseller about selling Kindles. Roger Page, co-owner of Island Books, Mercer Island, Wash., was standing near his wife, Nancy, when she fielded a call like the one made to Skylight Books. "I believe they mentioned the word Kobo and said they could offer competitive prices," he said, adding that he suspected the caller was "somebody low down on the totem pole" and describing Nancy's response as "very firm."
Because Island Books is located near Seattle and many Amazon employees live in the area, he also noted that it is not unusual for the company to sound him out occasionally regarding various issues, so the recent call was not surprising. "I think this is how they test out ideas," he said. "A lot of these guys know me." When he heard about Amazon's telemarketers possibly contacting Skylight and other indies nationwide to discuss the Kindle option, however, he said, "That is a little different."
Yesterday, the Stranger returned with an update. Although, as expected, the online retailer had not responded to a request for more information, other booksellers checked in to say they had also been contacted and one provided an e-mail address they were given over the phone.
Writing to the address generated an auto-reply, which resembled "a number of Kindle-centric 'Field Sales Representative' job listings on their site to promote local retail sales of Kindles. If this really is a new initiative of Amazon's, and it increasingly looks like it is a real thing, I don't expect it to go very well. I've never met an independent bookseller who has even ambivalent feelings about Amazon. They all hate Amazon, with a passion that they never could manage to muster for Barnes & Noble. I almost feel sorry for these Kindle telemarketers," the Stranger wrote.
French Culture Minister: Amazon 'Destroying Bookshops'
"Today, everyone has had enough of Amazon which, through dumping practices, smashes prices to penetrate markets only to then raise prices again once they are in a situation of quasi-monopoly," said Aurélie Filippetti, the French culture minister (and novelist) who is "mulling a ban on free postage offers and a current system allowing 5% discounts on books," the Telegraph reported.
Filippetti, who announced a €9 million (about $11.8 million) joint plan with French publishers to support independent booksellers, said the "book and reading sector is facing competition from certain sites using every possible means to enter the French and European book market... it is destroying bookshops."
She called the new initiative, which is in addition to €9 million the government pledged to the book industry in March, "an unprecedented effort in favor of the book and reading because without independent bookshops there will be fewer publishers and authors, less choice for the reader and fewer social networks in towns."
In other Amazon news, the company has opened an e-commerce marketplace site in India, selling third-party items, AllThingsDigital.com reported.
Amazon India is not selling its own inventory but gives sellers the option of having "Amazon handle packing, delivery, returns and customer service from its fulfillment center located 'on the outskirts of Mumbai.' At launch, the homepage was featuring a mix of Indian and American titles, including, for example, Sheryl Sandberg's book, Lean In."
BEA: APA's Audiobook & Author Tea
|This year's APA Audiobook & Author Tea featured Janis Ian, Brandon Sanderson, Louise Penny and Bill Bryson.
Music legend Janis Ian, emcee for this year's Audio Publishers Association Audiobook & Author Tea, owns an impressive set of audiobookends. In February, she won a Best Spoken Word Album Grammy for the audiobook version of Society's Child: My Autobiography (Audible), and last week she picked up an Audie award in the Narration by the Author category.
If there were a prize for being a great emcee, she would garner that as well. Although Ian opened by admitting "it is a tradition in my own industry to be as unprepared as possible," she was well-versed in the works of guest authors Brandon Sanderson, Louise Penny and Bill Bryson, and her introductions were accompanied by quotations culled from their books.
Sanderson, author most recently of The Rithmatist (Macmillan Audio) and Words of Radiance: The Stormlight Archive, Book Two (Macmillan Audio, November), got things started with an impassioned speech on behalf of fantasy fiction, which he credited with turning him from an extremely reluctant reader as a teenager into someone for whom the genre quickly became an obsession and ultimately a profession. "I didn't read. I actively disliked reading," he said, noting that his goal now and "through my entire career is to produce books for that kid... to write books for me."
After he finished, an enthusiastic round of applause sparked Ian to joke: "I'm so glad I'm not following that." She then introduced Penny, whose next novel is How the Light Gets In (Macmillan Audio, August).
"What Brandon said," quipped Penny, an Audie winner this year in the Mystery category for The Beautiful Mystery (Macmillan Audio). She would not take full credit for the prize, however, claiming it "is actually due to Ralph Cosham, who reads my books."
Bryson, author of One Summer: America, 1927 (Random House Audio, October), carried the joke along by opening with "I can't follow these people." A question from Ian (Since he read the audio versions of his books, would he ever consider recording another author's work?) sparked an interesting exchange.
"The answer, I think, is no," Bryson said. "I really enjoy doing the recordings myself, but it's so hard." When reading his books, he knows where the stresses should be and the story is going, but he imagined that if he tried to read other books, "I'd just do a crummy job."
"I wanted Bill to narrate mine," Penny joked, but quickly added: "Nobody could do a better job than Ralph." She also noted that even when she gives public readings, she sticks to the narrative sections. "I can't do dialogue. It really sounds stupid."
Bryson likes books that are read by their authors. "I'm willing to cut them some slack," he said. With a professional reader, he expects a higher standard and is more disappointed when it doesn't work well. "If it had been an author reading, I'd have been more forgiving."
This year's celebration of audiobooks was perhaps best summed up by Sanderson, when he said, "We're trying to recreate the old storytellers.... The cardinal rule of fantasy is immersion.... You sit and you listen and it gives you this world and it pulls you in." --Robert Gray
BEA: Book Club Speed Dating
Book clubs tend to spark relationships with their book picks that can be as deep, dear and even tumultuous as a romance, so it's fitting that the folks at ReadingGroupGuides.com once again used a speed-dating style setting to let publishers make pitches to BEA attendees.
|Speed-dating book pitchers.|
Last year 12 publishers participated; this year it was 21, said Carol Fitzgerald, president of the Book Report Network, who hosted the event. Liz Kossnar from Teenreads.com joined the presenters to pitch seven YA titles. The 22 pitchers had nine minutes to make the case for their books before Fitzgerald struck a gong signaling it was time to move to the next table for the next speed date. ReadingGroupGuides.com hosted the same event on Friday and Saturday to give attendees access to as many titles as possible in the two 80-minute sessions.
"The audience the first day was booksellers, librarians, bloggers and book group leaders," explained Fitzgerald. "The second day it was some of those attendees, who wanted to repeat the event to see more publishers, plus Power Readers. We had 158 attendees on Friday and about 90 on Saturday."
While some chose to present books that had been featured on buzz panels and roundups, many publishers used the opportunity to bring more offbeat titles, perhaps with an interesting history, that make for good book club reads.
Among the presenters was Lisa Senz, associate publisher at St. Martin's Press, whose subject was The Wedding Gift (Sept.), about a plantation master who gives his daughter a slave, who's also his illegitimate daughter. Author Marlen Suyapa Bodden self-published the novel and sold more than 150,000 copies before St. Martin's picked it up. The Tom Wolfe blurb reads: "If I were you, I wouldn't make any plans for the rest of the day. You have in your hands a story of the tangled motives and self-destructive passions when whites and blacks became this close during the time of slavery--all told at a pell mell pace."
In paperback, Senz presented Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson (Oct.), which, as a self-published book, sold more than 80,000 copies. The editor, Senz explained, does not usually handle fiction but heard about the book from a cousin who was reading the story, which opens at the Chicago opera, with a gunman confronting a wealthy philanthropist named Rosenzweig, accusing him of being a Nazi SS officer who betrayed the gunman's foster family during the war.
On the S&S list, consumer marketing manager Bryony Weiss presented two historical novels: Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen (Sept.), about a complicated triangle involving Edgar Allan Poe, his wife and Frances Osgood, a struggling author (with two children and a philandering husband) who is unimpressed with The Raven yet drawn to the author when they meet among the New York literati in 1845; and Queen's Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle (Aug.), about Catherine Parr, Henry VIII's sixth and last wife, which will appeal to Hilary Mantel fans. Weiss also presented "a little gem of a novel": Snow Hunters by Paul Yoon (Aug.), about a young Korean man who defects from his country at the end of the war and becomes an apprentice to a Japanese tailor in Brazil.
Other Press, Sourcebooks, Algonquin, Europa and Soho were among the independent presses who participated in the speed dating event, along with representatives from imprints of the big five houses.
Image of the Day: Mary Kay Andrews
On Monday, Mary Kay Andrews celebrated the publication of her new novel, Ladies' Night (St. Martin's Press), with a launch party hosted by Fox Tale Book Shoppe, Woodstock, Ga., held at the vintage home store Kudzu and Company in nearby Sandy Springs. Funds raised at the party were donated to the national breast cancer organization Bright Pink. From l.: Andrews's agent Stuart Krichevsky; Andrews; Meg Walker, director of marketing of Tandem Literary; and St. Martin's Jennifer Enderlin, Andrews's editor.
Audiobook Month Video Moment: Bad Kitty Works Out
A Plea to Publishers and Booksellers: 'Send Marketing Stuff'
This just in from World Book Night U.S. executive director Carl Lennertz, who is teaching at the Denver Publishing Institute:
"I'm looking for T-shirts, totes and any fun item I can have on display during my marketing week in late July, which the students get to take them on the last day. Just 1-2 items per 100 or so publishing and bookselling friends who can respond would be great. Publishers: AREs and other tchotchkes welcome, too! Send to Carl Lennertz, c/o AAP, 71 Fifth Ave, 2nd floor, New York, N.Y. 10003 by July 1 and I'll repack and send them on out west. Thanks!!"
Personnel Changes: HarperCollins, Red Wheel/Weiser
Shelby Meizlik has been promoted to v-p, publicity, at HarperCollins. She will continued to act as group publicity director for all of the William Morrow Group, including Morrow hardcover, trade paperback, Avon, Harper Voyager, It Books, Impulse and Cookbooks.
She recently celebrated her 15th anniversary with the company.
At Red Wheel/Weiser, Kat Salazar has been promoted to publicist from associate publicist.
Book Trailer of the Day: The Sexy Vegan's Happy Hour at Home
The Sexy Vegan's Happy Hour at Home: Small Plates, Big Flavors, and Potent Cocktails by Brian L. Patton (New World Library).
Media and Movies
Media Heat: The World Through Arab Eyes
Today on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Colum McCann, author of TransAtlantic: A Novel (Random House, $27, 9781400069590).
Tomorrow on MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes: Jonathan Alter, author of The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781451646078).
Tomorrow on Current's Joy Behar: Joe Muto, author of An Atheist in the FOXhole: A Liberal's Eight-Year Odyssey Inside the Heart of the Right-Wing Media (Dutton, $26.95, 9780525953951).
Tomorrow on NPR's Fresh Air: Shibley Telhami, author of The World Through Arab Eyes: Arab Public Opinion and the Reshaping of the Middle East (Basic, $27.99, 9780465029839).
Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Alice Fulton, author of Cascade Experiment (Norton, $14.95, 9780393327625). As the show put it: "Alice Fulton wants to 'dirty' lyric poetry by making it bear witness to the grievous geo-politics of the present. The poems in her new collection, Barely Composed, are simultaneously consoling and unpeaceful, despairing and retaliatory. She reads selections from her new manuscript and discusses the changing spirit of poetry."
Movies: World War Z
"Lots of new footage" from the film adaptation of Max Brooks's novel World War Z appears in the new music video for Muse's "Isolated System." Indiewire reported that the footage doesn't seem to contain "anything particularly spoilery, just lots of zombie mayhem and destruction and Brad Pitt looking Very Concerned. And while the band weren't able to score the entire film (they were asked, but scheduling kept them out of the game) they have also provided another tune to the movie as well." World War Z opens June 21.
Books & Authors
Baileys to Sponsor Women's Prize for Fiction
The Women's Prize for Fiction has announced that Baileys, makers of the popular cream liqueur, will sponsor the award formerly known as the Orange Prize in a three-year partnership. Beginning in 2014, the £30,000 (about $45,955) prize, which has been privately supported this year, will be called the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.
Kate Mosse, chair of the board, commented: "We were impressed not only by the scale of [Baileys'] ambition, but also their passion for celebrating outstanding fiction by women and willingness to help in bringing the prize to ever wider audiences."
Syl Saller, global innovation director for Baileys parent company Diageo, said: "We are delighted to come together with a partner that shares our passion for celebrating inspirational, modern, spirited women, in a true meeting of minds, and we are very much looking forward to what the future holds."
Book Brahmin: Geoff Herbach
While he was growing up, Geoff Herbach "wanted to play for the Green Bay Packers or join the Three Stooges." That explains the sports comedy mash-up that characterizes Stupid Fast, his first YA novel, and its companion novels, including I'm with Stupid (Sourcebooks, May 7). When he's not writing, Herbach teaches writing at Minnesota State, Mankato.
On your nightstand now:
2010 Best American Short Stories. I've been using this collection for teaching, so I feel like I'm constantly reading it. Bluefish by Pat Schmatz. This is a YA novel I finished a while back. There are two points of view, one of which is in letter form. I keep reading those letters. I think I feel like writing letters. I've got the new George Saunders going on my iPad.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. Yeah, I was one of those kids.
Your top five authors:
Hmmm. This is not a stable list, but right now I'll say: George Saunders, Jennifer Egan, John Green, Junot Diaz, Sherman Alexie.
Book you've faked reading
A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy. I was very busy drinking beer that semester, but wrote the essay exam anyway (unsuccessfully).
Book you bought for the cover
King Dork by Frank Portman. That was lucky, because I don't know if I'd be writing YA without having seen it and read it--there were a few books that caused my interest.
Book that changed your life:
I read Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut in eighth grade. That sort of changed everything. Before that, I'd gone through a couple of years of not reading. After puberty, my fantasy bug died and nothing seemed interesting, until Billy Pilgrim.
Favorite line from a book:
"Just before I doze off, I counsel myself grandiosely: F--k concepts. Don't be afraid to be confused. Try to remain permanently confused. Anything is possible. Stay open, forever, so open it hurts, and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end, amen." --George Saunders from "The New Mecca" in Brain Dead Megaphone
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I'd like to be 19 reading Franny and Zooey by Salinger again.
IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites
From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:
The Carrion Birds: A Novel by Urban Waite (Morrow, $25.99, 9780062216885). "Can you really go home again? Waite tackles this subject with great skill in The Carrion Birds. Ray, a recently unemployed widower, becomes a hired killer for a drug cartel. When Ray attempts to leave the cartel, his father is brutally murdered and Ray vows revenge. His cousin Tom, a former police officer, tracks him down. But can cousins who are as close as brothers really do the right thing? Masterful and unsettling." --Pamela Pride, Kerri's Korner Bookstore, Fairmont, W.Va.
Red Moon: A Novel by Benjamin Percy (Grand Central, $25.99, 9781455501663). "A phenomenal writer at a cellular level, Percy continues to develop into a beastly literary force. In his latest, he tears up the epic horror novel, transforming it into a war novel, a political novel, a novel of judgment and revolution. When werewolves who have lived side by side with humans through history feel oppressed to the point of breaking, a faction rises up against the U.S. government and uses terrorist tactics that force everyone--both lycan and human--to decide on which side they stand and which lines they are willing to cross. Red Moon is terrifyingly good, with sharp claws, sexy rumbles, and plenty of blood and guts." --Stacie M. Williams, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, Wis.
Is This Tomorrow: A Novel by Caroline Leavitt (Algonquin, $14.95, 9781616200541). "Leavitt peels back the neat facade of suburban life in the 1950s to uncover the ways in which the demands of conformity leave a trail of loneliness and pain for those who lie outside its bounds. Ava Lark, the divorced Jewish mother of 12-year-old Lewis, struggles against the judgment of neighbors as she and her son befriend the only other fatherless children around, Jimmy and Rose. Jimmy's sudden, unexplained disappearance taps into every parent's worst nightmare. Blending taut suspense with deeply moving portrayals of fierce parental love, childhood friendships, and first crushes, Leavitt has created a novel with haunting characters and much to say about how we move through tragedy." --Libby Cowles, Maria's Bookshop, Durango, Colo.
For Ages 4 to 8
Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci, illustrated by Sara Varon (First Second, $15.99, 9781596435575). "This is one of those rare books that hits all the right notes. It will entertain kids and earn much sympathy from adults. The art and the writing complement each other perfectly, much like Chad and Theodora's unexpected friendship. You never can predict who will 'get' you. Odd Duck is one of my favorite books of the year." --Emily Pullen, WORD, Brooklyn, N.Y.
[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]
Children's Review: The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp
True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt, illus. by Jennifer Bricking (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, $16.99 hardcover, 336p., ages 8-12, 9781442421059, July 27, 2013)
As with her Newbery Honor book The Underneath, Kathi Appelt sets this captivating web of interconnected stories in the ancient forests of piney trees and integrates the alluring lore of the bayou. But she adopts a lighter voice, a teasing voice for this tale--just right for a storyteller with a Southern drawl to read aloud. In addition to the tasty language, readers will savor the fact that they know more than any one character does. They alone have an aerial view.
Contributing to the drama playing out in the Sugar Man Swamp are Bingo and J'miah, raccoons that serve as Information Officers from the safety of a 1949 DeSoto. Whenever lightning strikes nearby, it triggers "the Voice of Intelligence" (children will quickly realize it's a radio), which never lies and often gives them orders. Chap, the 12-year-old grandson of Audie Brayburn, misses Audie and makes it his mission to locate his grandfather's DeSoto and complete his quest to find the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, or Lord God Bird. Ever since Audie's recent death, Sonny Boy Beaucoup, "the official owner of the entire Sugar Man Swamp," has threatened to run Chap and his mother out of their Paradise Pies Café, where their key ingredient is the muscovado sugar cane that grows in the swamp. Sonny Boy wants to set up a theme park with Jaeger Stitch, World Champion Gator Wrestler of the Northern Hemisphere. Through it all, the announcer on local radio station KBOB signs off with, "This is Coyoteman Jim, telling all you swamp critters to have a good day and a good idea," and each character gets at least one.
In many ways, Appelt's novel shares the big ideas of Carl Hiaasen's Chomp, with nature lovers pitted against those who wish to exploit the beauty of these endangered lands. But along with these themes, Appelt weaves the rich language of legends passed down through generations. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is as legendary as the Sugar Man. The familiar sounds of the swamp, such as the snip-snap-zip-zap of a rattlesnake attacking any creature who attempts to poach the sugar cane, make the mysterious, alien rumble-rumble-rumble-rumble in the distance all the more threatening. Appelt carries weighty themes lightly, and spins a story that reminds us that kin extends beyond the prescribed family tree. By the end of the tale, we understand that family includes "all the swamp critters," raccoons and snakes, gators and Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, humans and the Sugar Man. As Audie told Chap, they are paisanos, fellow countrymen. They come from the same soil. --Jennifer M. Brown
Shelf Talker: Newbery Honor author Appelt returns to the setting of The Underneath with a lighter touch to explore the dangers threatening the Bayou Tourterelle.