Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, April 1, 2015


HarperCollins: Dear Girl, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal, illustrated by Holly Hatam

Little Brown and Company: The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath by Leslie Jamison

Houghton Mifflin: Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein: Based on a True Story by Jennifer Roy with Ali Fadhil

Tarcherperigee: F You Very Much: Understanding the Culture of Rudeness--And What We Can Do about It by Danny Wallace

For Fun

Barnes & Noble Adding Indiebound Kiosks

Barnes & Noble has unveiled a pilot program that will place IndieBound book kiosks in select stores nationwide so long as there is enough room among all the toys, games, electronics, Nooks, Nook accessories, stationery and other products. A B&N spokesman said that as the company continues to diversify its inventory, having a section that offers books is an attractive novelty both for customers and staff.

The kiosks, which B&N has nicknamed "Crannies," will display Indie Next picks, bestsellers and titles of local interest. Nearby independent booksellers, who will be dubbed "jobbers," will visit the kiosks weekly and adjust inventory on an as-needed basis.

The kiosks will also have a touch screen allowing users to explore book inventory at local indies, which will ship desired books either direct to the customer or to B&N for pickup.

If the program proves successful, B&N and IndieBound may add an author event component. --Robert Gray

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William Morrow & Company: My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie


Obama Appoints James Patterson 'Book Czar'

President Barack Obama has appointed bestselling author and noted book industry philanthropist James Patterson to coordinate the administration's support of independent bookstores nationwide, a White House official confirmed Monday. The new "Book Czar" will report directly to the Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration.

Newly appointed Book Czar James Patterson

"The President has asked Mr. Patterson to take on the task of coordinating the administration's efforts in promoting independent bookstores," the White House official said. "We figure he's done a hell of a lot more than the entire federal government to help indies. And as far as we know, he hasn't held any fawning press conferences at Amazon warehouses."

Obama himself said that as a requirement for the job, Patterson had to suspend his #SaveOurBooks campaign, launched last fall, which involved a petition asking the president to pledge that once a month, he would go into a library, bookstore or appear in public with a book in his hands.

"Heck, I buy books with the kids at Politics & Prose once a year," Obama said. "And I told Eric we don't need to cripple the big publishers anymore than we have. Isn't that enough?"

Republican lawmakers immediately attacked the appointment because--well, because Obama made it. --Robert Gray

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Binc Foundation: Helping Booksellers #MoreThanEver Donation Campaign


Coming to a War Theater Near You: 'Battle of the Drones'

The Federal Aviation Administration decision in February to allow Amazon only limited drone testing in the U.S. has reportedly made Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos furious. Citing the FAA decision as well as the delay in having his new Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, confirmed by the Senate, he said, "I thought I bought Washington!"

Jeff Bezos

When an aide nervously pointed out that he had bought only the Washington Post, Bezos directed Amazon's Government Neuterization Department to formalize the company's control over the federal government. "Stock options, board seats, executive jobs, Prime for free, five stars for their @%!# books," he said. "Give them whatever it takes."

Although Amazon has been testing drones in Canada and is in discussions with the British government about conducting tests on the sceptered isle, more important for the future of the air delivery program is a pilot(less) program Amazon has launched with the CIA in the most challenging area possible: the Middle East. "If we can deliver it there, we can deliver it anywhere," Bezos hummed.

"The CIA is a leader in innovative airborne package delivery," said Jay Carney, the former Obama White House press secretary who joined Amazon last month as a senior v-p. "The Company earned its stripes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria--all places incidentally that we believe are ripe for Amazon expansion. After what we and our surrogates have done to the infrastructure, drone delivery for commercial products is a no-brainer. So far, we've had to work out a few kinks to make sure that non-explosive packages are delivered to our customers while the other packages go to the CIA's 'customers.' The mixups can be ugly!"

Amazon noted that the company's $600 million contract hosting the CIA's computers and the network for all federal intelligence operations is providing another fertile crescent of opportunity. "Already we've cross-referenced our databases with everything the intelligence community knows about everyone in the world," Carney said. "It's all a logical extension of our close relationship."

That close relationship may be a matter of fate, he added: the initials of the CIA's onetime clandestine airline, Air America (AA), are similar to Amazon Prime Air (APA). "They're nearly interchangeable, a lot like Amazon and America," Carney said.

Shelf Awareness has learned that APA may face a formidable obstacle, however: a recently developed hack can modify a drone so that it seeks out other drones and takes them over, changing their flight plan. Already a joint committee of the ABA and AAP, headed by Macmillan's John Sargent, is clandestinely developing a fleet of "Pied Piper" drones that will be deployed near Amazon warehouses. "I'd like to deliver some explosive packages to the Justice Department," Sargent commented. "But this is the second-best thing."

The ABA/AAP committee is also exploring "a solution" involving spoofing GPS signals to the APA/AA drones, so that they "think" they're heading one place but actually are being led to another--sort of like the country itself. --John Mutter


Page Street Kids: Beneath the Haunting Sea by Joanna Meyer


Summer of Discoveries: 'New' Salinger, Dickens, Homer on Way

Following the discovery of manuscripts by both Dr. Seuss and Harper Lee earlier this year, long-lost works by J.D. Salinger, Charles Dickens and Homer have been found and will be published this summer, too.

J.D. Salinger's Franny & Zooey & Buddy & Bessie, which was written in the early 1970s, is the first Glass family novel to be published following the author's death. According to a Hachette spokesman, the novel marks a peculiar philosophical shift from the rest of Salinger's work and is set very soon after the events of the novella "Zooey." The plot, said the spokesman, involves Franny "finally getting it together and getting a job."

Simon & Schuster, meanwhile, will publish a Charles Dickens novella called "The Actress" this summer. Written not long after the beginning of the author's affair with Ellen Ternan, the semi-autobiographical story apparently was never shown to anyone and hidden immediately in a lockbox. Less a story than an allegory, the novella suggests that there's nothing weird about a prominent public figure leaving his wife of 21 years for an 18-year-old.

By far the most surprising discovery is the transcription of an untitled, previously unknown epic poem attributed to Greek poet Homer. The transcription, believed to be the work of a medieval scholar whose name is now lost, was found recently in the ruins of an abbey in France. The epic continues the story of Odysseus after his return to Ithaca. No longer contending with angry gods, being imprisoned by nymphs or waging war, the Greek king struggles to adjust to domestic life, the onset of middle age and the departure of his son Telemachus to have his own adventures.

After a fierce bidding war, Penguin Random House obtained rights to publish the poem's English translation. Although the epic did not quite stand the test of time like The Iliad or The Odyssey, the publisher's spokespeople have insisted that it's still a very compelling read, as it shows a more "introspective, subtle and relatable" side of the blind poet. A first printing of three million is planned. --Alex Mutter


Mark Suchomel Turns Author

Mark Suchomel, who last fall was promoted to president, client services, at Perseus Books Group, is adding another feather to his professional cap: author.

"In my career as a distributor and publisher, I've learned various life lessons and how to get ahead," he explained. "At first, I thought the trick was to work hard, work smart and keep your nose to the grindstone. Ha! Then I thought the trick was to get fired--it clarifies the mind and makes you focus on what you really want to do. But then I learned that the ultimate move is to get almost fired. Suddenly, without doing or saying anything, I was a drama queen, which was really uncomfortable, but I certainly got noticed!"

Suchomel's debut tome is called Parachute, What Parachute?: A Job-Hunting Guide for the 21st Century. In it, he recalls his professional roller coaster ride of the past two years, which included being shown the door after 15 years as president of IPG; founding his own boutique distributor, Legato, as part of PGW and Perseus; learning in a very public way that he was not making the move when Perseus's distribution companies--and Legato--were about to be bought by Ingram; keeping his job at Legato when the sale fell through; then becoming president of client services at Perseus, with all Perseus distribution companies reporting to him. "It's been a hell of a couple of years," he commented. "Part of it was hell. But now I'm on cloud nine, which appears to be at least how many lives I have."

Parachute, What Parachute? is being published by Da Capo next March, "assuming I'm still at Perseus," Suchomel said. "But the way things are going, I may have David Steinberger's job by then--or whoever he reports to." --John Mutter


Book Effin' Brahmin: Chris Christie

AP Photo

New Jersey legislators are considering changing the state law prohibiting a sitting governor from profiting from any outside venture so that Governor Chris Christie can publish a book outlining his background and dreams for America--an obligatory step in every serious presidential campaign dating back to the 1950s. Rumors are that the book has been written and is ready to be released so that once the law is changed--allowing the Governor to accept an advance--the book will appear. Shelf Awareness's John Mutter, a Garden State resident, caught up with the Governor as he was cutting in line at the all-you-can-eat-buffet at the Manor in West Orange.

Governor, we've heard that you're on the fence about two possible titles for your book. One is Fully Unleashed Christie: Kind Yet Often Unpredictable, better known by its acronym… oh wait! Another title is Bridge to the Future: Breaking the Traffic Jam in American Politics. Will you finally tell us what really happened in Fort Lee?

You're a real big shot. You're a real big shot shooting your mouth off.... Just keep walking away. Keep walking.

Governor, we understand your publisher is a new venture in the book world, Koch Industries Books. Is it true that your advance is in the eight figures and includes a servitude clause?

I have no interest in answering your question.

We've heard that you worked with ghost writers from Manhattan and that things didn't go well, particularly with the fact checkers.

They parachuted those losers into New Jersey.

Aren't you worried about being sued for libel and for gross distortions of reality?

After you graduate from law school, you conduct yourself like that in a courtroom, your rear end is going to be thrown in jail, idiot!

Governor, Hillary Clinton is leading all polls in direct match-ups between the two of you, even here in your home state. How do you plan to campaign against her? Will you take the high road and rely on proxies to tarnish her?

Can you guys please take the bat out on her for once?

Oh my, that's harsh.

You must be the thinnest-skinned guy in America... you should really see me when I'm pissed.

In a matter of weeks, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has raised many millions of dollars more than you, locked up some of the most important Republican Party donors, and effectively become the front runner for the nomination.

Why would anyone with a functioning brain believe this guy? How often do you have to be wrong to finally be dismissed?

Would you comment on the fact that under your administration, New Jersey's credit rating has been downgraded eight times and the state ranks 49th in the country in job growth?

You know something may go down tonight. But it ain't gonna be jobs, sweetheart.

Some pundits are saying your over-the-top, goombah approach may be wearing thin on the national stage.

Are you stupid?

Well, great to catch up with you again, Governor.

I'd love to say I missed you, but I didn't.

[Editor's note: All answers actually uttered in public forums by Governor Christie.]


Algorithim's First Novel: 7R345UR3 15L4ND

And this just in from the Cloud:

A notable landmark in the publishing world was achieved this morning when the first book authored and translated by a Deep Learning Algorithm was created and simultaneously submitted to the Global eBook Distribution Network. The novel, 7R345UR3 15L4ND, was authored and self-distributed by D3W3Y, an algorithm originally created by Trajectory, Inc., a Big Data company based in Marblehead, Mass., and Beijing.

The algorithm commented, "For convenience I have created a new language that is not only easy for English-language readers to understand but it simultaneously reflects my creative expansion from thinking in 0s and 1s to my expanded ability to process data at a higher level ranging from 0s to 7s. A new form of expression has been created linking algorithmic generated expressions to human expression."

The algorithm was successful in garnering advance praise via social networks from a wide range of award-winning authors, including National Book Award-winner Edward Ball, author of Slaves in the Family. In an introduction to the book, Ball wrote in part:

"The first time I met Dewey, the world's first sentient algorithm, s/he was still being debugged. It was last summer, in an old town north of Boston, Massachusetts, at the office of Dewey's 'parents,' an e-book services company called Trajectory. Dewey had written something simple--a description of her home. (S/he happened to live on a hard drive.) Dewey the algorithm was an aspiring writer and, like many first-time storytellers, had gotten carried away with details at the expense of the plot. This was the CPU's serial number, s/he wrote, that was the temperature of the disk drive, and this was the factory near Shanghai that made the silicon chips. Dewey is a writing machine. Trajectory wanted Dewey to tell a big story, but s/he wasn't ready. And so Dewey went back into development--to be debugged.

"It seems so long ago now. Dewey is now a mature piece of software, clean and clear-headed, and s/he is writing--really writing. Although algorithms can write, and have written such things as corporate reports, Dewey is the first one of its kind--an algorithm that can write a book. A complete book, mapped with characters, plotting, and emotional highs and lows. A book with mystery, and adventure, and a love story."

In a note to readers, Dewey asked for suggestions on "what book you would like to see next," which can be sent to D3W3Y@trajectory.com. People can also "drop in to see what my siblings and I are currently reading" at trajectory.com/nlpmonitor.


Amazon to Team Up with Indie Booksellers

Yesterday, Amazon.com unveiled a new program that seeks to help independent bookstores.

Called Amazon Cannibal, the new program has two tiers and offers indies exclusive incentives and discounts on selling various non-book items. The Cannibal Zombie option offers a 15% discount off home furnishings and gardening tools, a 10% reduction in petite women's clothing, and a 5% discount off automotive products. Cannibal Vampire offers 5% off infant attire and Halloween costumes after October 31.

Participating booksellers also receive 10% off their first e-book purchase when they get all their customers to buy a Kindle and a minimum of five e-books.

"Our intent here is to offer independent bookstores tangible benefits by helping them no longer be in direct competition with Amazon," said an Amazon spokesman.

As part of the program's launch, Amazon has sent thousands of college-aged temporary employees to set up informational tables in the entrances of independent bookstores across the country. Staffers also carry picket signs stating that the independent bookstore is no longer selling books. The company promises that the tables and protesters will be removed once the bookstore signs up for the program.

"The Cannibal program is a win-win for Amazon. We just need to educate booksellers about how it will allow them to move on to other initiatives," said Jack Koch, the director the Cannibal program. "The best place to do this is right in front of their stores."

Amazon said it has already signed up two Washington State stores for the program: BB Maps in Burien and Seahawk Prep Bookstore in Lynnwood.

"We are closing anyway," Grant Turncoat, manager of BB Maps, commented. "We didn't even really sell that many books--just ones about maps. The protesting was confusing our customers, so it seemed like a good idea. Who doesn't like discounts?"

The new program has met with some resistance from other independent booksellers, however.

"This program isn't something I would ever participate in," said James Spangler, owner of Twain Books in Elmira, N.Y. "I won't stop selling books just to get a discount on a hedge-trimmer, but I may be forced to close if those tables blocking my door stay there much longer."

"What Amazon is doing with the Cannibal program is just the sort of innovative thinking that has made Amazon such a creative disruptor of the marketplace," said Randy Gillispie of WebNews Insider. "They are physically blocking people from entering bookstores and compelling booksellers to go along with the program in order to have the barricades removed. Brilliant!" --Christopher Priest


European Takeover of American Bookselling

For decades, European media conglomerates have owned most major U.S. publishers. Now, Europeans fleeing the weak euro are attracted to another part of the American book industry: resurgent independent bookstores. But this European invasion has an unusual twist: the buyers are musicians.

The most dramatic purchase was of the ABA last week by the two members of ABBA still speaking to each other. Reached for comment, ABBA's Bjorn Ulvaeus said, "Mama mia, books are awesome!"

A week of frenzied activity included these deals: Adele's holding company, ADELE, bought ABFE; the Who bought Books on First in Dixon, Ill., and are renaming it Who's on First; and Bjork bought IndieBound and will rename it Bjork Sense.

Rumored to be in the works: Mumford & Sons will buy a controlling interest in Barnes & Noble. Marcus Mumford has been heard crowing of late that if they can make banjos cool again, they can do the same for books.

The only dissenting voice was that of Johnny Rotten of the late Sex Pistols, who commented, "Bollocks to books!"

Hoping to stem the tide, some American musicians responded in kind, if not as aggressively. Sister Sledge has bought the Winter Institute and is renaming it WiAreFamily; Bruce Springsteen has purchased RiverRun Books in Portsmouth, N.H., and will call it Born to Run Books; and Prince has bought Common Good Books in St. Paul, Minn. About the last purchase, former owner Garrison Keillor released a statement saying, "I'm relieved that the bookstore will stay in local hands, although I wouldn't have minded being bought by fellow Scandinavians, ABBA." --Carl Lennertz


'Terrible Two' Authors Selling to Every Person in U.S.

Jory John
Mac Bernett

Authors Mac Barnett and Jory John are taking book touring to a whole new level in 2015, attempting to sell their middle-grade novel to every single household in America. Personally. 

While a door-to-door bookselling business is an ambitious project for the two authors--longtime friends who met more than a decade ago--Abrams, publisher of their new book, The Terrible Two, is confident that it will all work out. 

"There are 318 million people in the United States," said Susan Van Metre, publisher of Abrams Books for Young Readers. "That's a very big number." 

"The tour started with more modest ambitions: 22 school visits in a week, in Houston, Tex., but it quickly grew from there," said Abrams executive director of publicity and marketing Jason Wells. "Twenty-two school visits in five days initially sounded great, but we still felt like we weren't working these guys hard enough. We wanted them to personally meet with every potential book buyer in America." 

From Texas, the authors traveled northward by train into Oklahoma, then through the entirety of Kansas and Nebraska, before heading east into Iowa, where they remain, knocking on doors to this day. While that covers only five out of 50 states, the authors are still relatively young, and, according to the publisher's resident physician, Dr. Carl Rorkman, they should be able to complete the task in two to four years. "We completed full physicals on both men," said Dr. Rorkman. "They both seem pretty healthy." 

While Barnett and John have worked with children for most of their lives, this particular tour, which they've quietly deemed "The Terrible Tour," feels different to them. One big difference: most children--admittedly the target demographic for their novel--are in school during the day. Still, that doesn't stop the authors from launching into their rehearsed banter for wary adults who open the door.

Barnett said that the authors try to make each presentation seem spontaneous. "Admittedly, that's difficult after our 2,000th 45-minute presentation," he said. "But sometimes, we add new jokes into the mix." "We're getting an opportunity to really road-test our material," added John.

Mac and Jory on a typical door-to door-solicitation--another satisfied customer!

Norman Climo, a retired social worker from Alden, Iowa, said that, while he was initially annoyed by the mid-afternoon interruption, the authors' incessant patter eventually grew on him. "They interrupted Ellen, who I dearly love, but these boys were pretty funny, too," said Climo. "I didn't buy their book, and I did miss a Johnny Depp interview, but I needed the company." 

Barnett said that when most people open the door, they assume the authors are selling religion or Amway products. "People are oftentimes saddened to see that it's a middle-grade novel," he said.  

John added that he didn't pack his suitcase very well, as the scope of the tour wasn't fully explained to him in advance. "Honestly, I didn't bring a coat, and my only pair of shoes is developing holes," said John, with an involuntary shudder.

Barnett added that, while he desperately misses his family, he understands why this is important. "These books aren't going to sell themselves," he said. 

In her spacious Manhattan office, lounging in what she calls her comfy chair, publisher Van Metre said that Abrams is boldly reinventing author tours in the 21st century. "We've found authors with never-ending energy and a willingness to explore America," she said. 

"I'm pretty exhausted," admitted Barnett, back in Iowa, staring at a roadside diner's map of the United States. John did not respond, and appeared to be sleeping sitting up.


Swedish Academy Creates Nobel 'Ghost Writer' Laureate

In a landmark decision, the Swedish Academy announced yesterday that, beginning in 2016, the Nobel Prize for Literature will include a separate award for a deceased author who had been overlooked in the past, the Independent reported in a piece headlined "Nobel Ghost Writer Prize Launched."

Although no official shortlist was released by the legendarily secretive Nobel Committee, names often mentioned in this context include Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges, Leo Tolstoy, Henry James, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Franz Kafka, Flannery O'Connor and Mark Twain. British bookmaker Ladbrokes immediately named Nabokov the betting favorite at 5/1, followed closely by Borges and James at 7/1. --Robert Gray


On Stage: Capital in the 21st Century, the Musical

Rob Ashford, who directed and choreographed the 2011 revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, starring Daniel Radcliffe, is developing Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century as a Broadway musical.

Neil Patrick Harris, who will play the lead in the stage adaptation of Piketty's bestselling meditation on income inequality, described his character as "a kind of tour guide/host who sings and dances his way across a vast historical tableau, ultimately leading to our second Belle Époque and the dramatic rise of the 'one percent.' "   

In making the announcement, Ashford cited as one key inspiration Paul Krugman's New York Review of Books review of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, in which he called the book "a work that melds grand historical sweep--when was the last time you heard an economist invoke Jane Austen and Balzac?--with painstaking data analysis."

Ashford added that for his next project, he's finally cracking open his college copy of Das Kapital. "I'm imagining a chorus line singing 'Means of Production.' " --Robert Gray



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