Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Penguin Press: Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith

Graphix: Dog Man and Cat Kid (Dog Man #4) by Dav Pilkey

Ecco Press: Varina by Charles Frazier

House of Anansi Press: The Break by Katherena Vermette

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Small Walt by Elizabeth Verdick and Marc Rosenthal

News

Notes: E-Piracy; Destination: Idlewild; BAM Adopts Last Child

Publishers tell the New York Times that the problem of illegal digital copies of print books appearing on the Web "has ballooned in recent months as an expanding appetite for e-books has spawned a bumper crop of pirated editions on Web sites like Scribd and Wattpad, and on file-sharing services like RapidShare and MediaFire."

Publishers are taking action, often notifying sites of problems. For his part, the CEO of Scribd estimated that unauthorized editions are only a small fraction of the site's content and that his company is "working very hard" to keep such editions off the site.

Authors have a variety of points of view. Harlan Ellison, who has sued over the issue, said he continues to pursue people who post his work illegally. "If you put your hand in my pocket," he said, "you'll drag back six inches of bloody stump."

At the other, less gruesome end of the spectrum, Cory Doctorow offers free e-versions of his books when they're published, believing that "free versions, even unauthorized ones, entice new readers." He explained: "I really feel like my problem isn't piracy. It's obscurity."

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The AP profiled Idlewild Books, the New York City bookstore that David Del Vecchio opened a year ago that offers 7,000 international literature and travel titles (Shelf Awareness, June 15, 2008).

One of the store's "most popular offerings is the Destination Kit, a selection of books tailored to individuals. . . . Customers simply call with information about the traveler's interests and destination, along with how much they'd like to spend, and the store will pick out books, gift-wrap and mail them.

"For a trip to Berlin, Idlewild fixed up architect Rana Hajjar with TimeOut Berlin, the Knopf MapGuide, Berlin: The Architecture Guide, Christopher Isherwood's The Berlin Stories and Peter Gay's Weimar Culture."

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Books-A-Million has chosen The Last Child by John Hart (Minotaur) as its latest President's Pick and will give customers who buy the book a free copy of either The King of Lies or Down River, previous titles by Hart. Down River won the 2008 Edgar for best novel.

The company called The Last Child Hart's "most significant work to date, an intricate, powerful story of loss, hope, and courage in the face of evil. A year after his sister vanishes, Johnny finds himself isolated and alone, failed by the people he'd been taught since birth to trust. Traveling the wilderness between innocence and hard wisdom and hopelessness and faith, The Last Child leaves all categories behind."

In a statement, Terrance G. Finley, president of the merchandising group, said, "John Hart's ability to speak to the reader through the deep and varying emotions of a 13-year-old boy, Johnny, is second to none."

The Last Child
goes on sale today.

---

Moose on the loose. The Bennington, Vt., Banner featured the artistic musings of bookseller Rick Havlak, co-owner of the Bennington Bookshop, who is co-sponsoring and painting a moose for this year's Moosefest.

The Banner described Ziggy the Hippy-pot-o-moose as "a stylish creature wearing red-white-and-blue-striped trousers, a pink flowered shirt and a green vest covered in peace logos, to be displayed this summer in front of the bookshop."

"He's a pun," Havlak said of the life-size moose sculpture that will be unveiled May 19 along with 49 other new members of Bennington's herd, and then take up residence in front of the bookstore. "We definitely wanted to do a pun of some kind. I painted (a moose) last time; he had a flannel shirt and jeans. When we saw the final blank forms, we knew we couldn't do anything too cartoony, they were too realistic. So we did the only (design) that would fit a realistic one, decided we could make it semi-realistic looking."

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Blood on Paper--the Art of the Book is a new exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum that "aims to show the extraordinary ways in which the book has been treated by leading artists of today and the recent past. . . . The exhibition selects books which reveal both the creative process and the soul of the artist in question." (via @roncharles on Twitter)

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Boing Boing featured a little literary time traveling, with a video clip of a 1968 appearance by Jack Kerouac on William Buckley's Firing Line. From the Digital Beats: Jack Kerouac site hosted by the Jack & Stella Kerouac Center for American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

 

 


Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: The Land Beyond by Leon McCarron


Image of the Day: Bookstore Combines Forces with Civil War Authors

For several years, Courtyard Books, Keokuk, Iowa, has hosted an author signing in its tent at the annual Civil War Reenactment of the Battle of Pea Ridge. This year, a veritable platoon of authors appeared (above), including Michael Banasik, who has edited a series called Unwritten Chapters of the Civil War West of the River; Ken Allers, author of The Fog of Gettysburg; Lee Miller, author of Crocker's Brigade; and Wes Woolson, author of Battle of Pea Ridge: A Civil War Reenactment. In addition, Sid Champion V was on hand to sign copies of My Dear Wife, Letter to Matilda: The Civil War Letters of Sid and Matilda Champion of Champion Hill edited by Margie Bearss and Rebecca Drake.

 


Thomas Nelson: Perennials by Julie Cantrell


Playbill for BEA's Author Stages

Nearly 40 authors will participate in BookExpo America's author stages, which will make their debut at the show and will be on the trade show floors.

Among the events:

  • Literary Lions: John Irving (whose new book is Last Night in Twisted River) and Pat Conroy (South of Broad) will be interviewed by Charles McGrath of the New York Times.
  • Memoirs: Byron Pitts (Step Out on Nothing) and David Small (Stitches: A Memoir) will be interviewed by A.J. Jacobs (The Know-It-All and The Year of Living Biblically and editor-at-large at Esquire).
  • Mystery: James Ellroy (Blood's a Rover) and Colin Harrison (Risk) will be interviewed by Sarah Weinman (Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind).
  • Biography: William Mann (How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood) and Terry Teachout (Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong) will be interviewed by Ben Moser of Harper's.
  • What Really Matters: Living in the Age of Obama: Dr. Cornel West (Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud) will be interviewed by Tavis Smiley.
  • The Chavez-Obama International Book Club: Eduardo Galeano (Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone) will be interviewed by Lewis Lapham.

Other panels and discussion include Ali Velshi on the financial meltdown; a panel called Stage to Page that features Adam Rapp and David Rabe; M.J. Rose interviewing new authors; a social media panel that features Chris Brogan and Erik Qualman; a sci-fi panel starring China Mieville and John Ringo; a children's picture books panel featuring Amy Hest and Nick Bruel; and two "authors of editors' buzz" panels.

Solo author stage appearances include:

  • Elliot Tiber of Taking Woodstock: The Book & The Movie, which will include the showing of a trailer of the Ang Lee movie that features Demetri Martin playing Tiber. (The movie will be released on August 14.)
  • Michael Sandel, the Harvard professor whose Justice course is one of the most popular courses, and whose book, also called Justice, will be an expansion of the course. (WGBH is filming the classes and will broadcast them this fall.)

All interviews and panels will be videotaped by BEA and be available on BEA's website. In addition, Borders.com is building a studio on the show floor where it will interview authors for streaming content; it will broadcast authors stages interviews and other material as well.

As BEA noted recently, the author stage program begins with the opening night keynote on Thursday, May 28, when Steven Tyler and Clarence Clemons will be interviewed by Chuck Klosterman. In addition, US Airways Captain Chesley B. Sullenberger, III will be guest of honor on one author stage on Saturday, May 30.

 


Quirk Books: My Lady's Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Martha Serves Up Takashi's Noodles

Today on the Diane Rehm Show: Reif Larsen, author of The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet (Penguin Press, $27.95, 9781594202179/1594202176).

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Today on the Martha Stewart Show: Takashi Yagihashi, author of Takashi's Noodles (Ten Speed Press, $, 9781580089654/1580089658).

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Tomorrow on NPR's Fresh Air: Gillian Tett, author of Fool's Gold: How the Bold Dream of a Small Tribe at J.P. Morgan Was Corrupted by Wall Street Greed and Unleashed a Catastrophe (Free Press, $26, 9781416598572/141659857X).

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Tomorrow on the View: Cheryl Saban, author of What's Your Self-Worth?: A Woman's Guide to Validation (Hay House, $24.95, 9781401923952/140192395X).

 


Trinity University Press: Arte Kids - Bilingual Board Books


Movies: Angels & Demons

Angels & Demons, based on the novel by Dan Brown (author of The Da Vinci Code), opens this Friday, May 15. Ron Howard directs this story of a symbologist (Tom Hanks) who must stop a secret society's attack on the Vatican. The movie tie-in is from Washington Square Press ($16, 9781416580829/1416580824).

Also available: Angels and Demons: The Illustrated Movie Companion by Linda Sunshine (Newmarket, $19.95, 9781557048332/1557048339), featuring a foreword by Dan Brown and more than 270 illustrations.

 

 


Books & Authors

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Monday and Tuesday, May 18 and 19:

My Remarkable Journey by Larry King (Weinstein Books, $27.95, 9781602860865/1602860866) is an autobiography by the TV talk-show host.

The Increment: A Novel by David Ignatius (Norton, $26.95, 9780393065046/0393065049) follows a CIA agent who starts receiving messages from a scientist claiming to be a part of Iran's nuclear program.

Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood by Michael Lewis (Norton, $23.95, 9780393069013/039306901X) chronicles the emotional dichotomy of a new father.

Gone Tomorrow by Lee Child (Delacorte, $27, 9780385340571/0385340575) is the 13th thriller starring former army MP Jack Reacher.

The Sign by Raymond Khoury (Dutton, $26.95, 9780525950974/0525950974) explores the worldwide commotion sparked by a massive glowing sphere appearing in the sky on live television.

Lost Boy by Brent W. Jeffs and Maia Szalavitz (Broadway, $24.95, 9780767931779/0767931777) tells the story of the nephew of Warren Jeffs, who escaped his uncle's Mormon fundamentalist cult and filed a sexual-abuse lawsuit.

Ted Kennedy: The Dream That Never Died by Edward Klein (Crown, $26, 9780307451033/0307451038) is a biography of the Senator.

 



Book Review

Book Review: I Am Not Sidney Poitier

I Am Not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett (Graywolf Press, $16.00 Paperback, 9781555975272, May 2009)

How does a name define a person? Does a negative name define a person negatively or simply not-define him? Percival Everett plays the trickster with those questions (among many others) in this exuberant novel charting the tumultuous journey of Not Sidney Poitier from birth to maturity.

Named by a mother considered hysterical by most, Not Sidney Poitier is a classic American innocent: he is kind enough not to dismiss terminally stupid people he encounters but smart enough to know what is really going on. In rural Alabama, he meets several people with the name of Scrunchy. When he, an earnest black man at the mercy of racists, asks if they had lived there long, one replies, "I heard tell we was on the Mayweather."

Everett has so much fun with other people's vanities and foibles that he can't resist making fun of himself (or a fictional version of himself) too. Percival Everett appears as one of Not Sidney's professors, teaching "The Philosophy of Nonsense." What is nonsense? What is learning? What is a class? What is a professor? Not Sidney is so confused by the class that he challenges the teacher. Everett (the character) gleefully admits, "I'm a fraud, a fake, a sham, a charlatan, a deceiver, a pretender, a crook," with one breath and takes it all back in the next.

Not Sidney's college career is only one among many great comic set pieces in this novel. There's also Thanksgiving spent with the family of Not Sidney's light-skinned black girlfriend in upscale Washington, D.C. The mother is a climber; the father is a prosperous attorney; they both vociferously oppose equal-opportunity programs. Neither likes Not Sidney (he's darker than they prefer) until they discover he's very, very, very rich. Added to the delicious Thanksgiving mix are lusty sibling rivalry and a preacher more interested in relishing side dishes than saving souls. A late night call to Professor Everett (the character) is an opportunity for Everett (the author) to opine: "Thanksgiving fell in a third category--one big glorious lie to put a good face on continental theft." In this literary world, you laugh but you're also going to think.

Not Sidney learns more during that Thanksgiving than he did in all of the weeks of "The Philosophy of Nonsense." He also learns that his mother was smarter than people realized (Ted Turner in a fictional cameo knew it from the get-go); her hysteria, some readers may surmise, was probably more along the lines of righteous anger. The world Not Sidney experiences is certainly filled with events to fuel anger; that world is also so ridiculous you could die laughing. How to balance fury and laughter to live a life? How to be fully Not Sidney Poitier? These are the questions that make this comic romp so satisfying.--John McFarland

Shelf Talker: A comic romp that also ponders questions of racism, classism and celebrity in America today: a smart delight.

 


Deeper Understanding

BISG's Making Information Pay, Part 2

More from BISG's Making Information Pay conference, held last Thursday in New York City:

In his presentation, Mike Shatzkin of the IdeaLogical Company discussed the results of an online survey to which 250 publishing executives responded. A group of 15 of them were interviewed at length in followup sessions.

Executives at larger publishers expressed "more gloom" than medium- and smaller-sized publishers. Perhaps not coincidentally, smaller publishers are less dependent on the book trade for sales.

There was "a strong consensus" that "bricks-and-mortar sales and shelf space are reducing," although some difference of opinion on "whether chains or independents are declining faster." Advance orders for big books from big accounts are down. (The only positive aspect of all this: it's good for cutting returns, which many publishers continue to cite as a major concern.)

Publishers with in-house sales forces are looking at having them cover "more than bookstores."

Amazon sales are growing "robustly." One publisher, Shatzkin noted, said that sales at other online bookselling accounts can be grown "if publishers make an effort to work with the account."

Mass merchandising channels are "mixed." Some publishers report growth with these accounts; others bemoan "sky-high returns." One publisher pulled out of this channel because staff cuts at the company's wholesaler "resulted in poorer stock management" in the stores.

The respondents believe that constrained library budgets will lead to cuts in purchases by libraries.

As for how various genres, topics and formats are faring, opinion was "all over the lot." Still, there was some consensus. For one, travel was "most frequently mentioned as down" because so much travel information is available on the Internet and the recession has hurt travel. And children's is "a bright spot all around": sales are rising in all children's segments.

Some publishers are "trimming and refocusing their lists," aiming to "dominate a category or abandon it." One publisher is using BISAC subject codes to bring focus to the house's list.

E-book sales are up "a lot" but still represent probably less than 1% of sales for most large trade publishers. Growth rates are more than 100% annually, but are from a very small base.

Another growth area is custom publishing, which besides premiums and giveaways includes creating books for retail accounts. "One publisher," Shatzkin said, "started a custom publishing department two years ago with one person and now has six because it's been so successful."

Shatzkin reported "the beginnings of publishers selling digital content to websites," which he called "a hard game to play." Publishers need a lot of content about a subject for this to work; "niche publishers are seeing a lot of action here."

Many publishers are interacting directly with consumers via websites and believe they need to do more to connect with readers. Publishers also said they need to do more "to get closer to authors" as well.

Some publishers are cutting travel, trade show and conference expenses.

"Everyone is aware of social networks," Shatzkin noted, even though this is "very labor intensive."

A general problem for book publishers that mirrors--although less dramatically so--the dilemma of newspapers, is that "what is diminishing in sales is much more substantial than what's growing." There is "no certainty about how fast e-book sales will grow, and no certainty about margins. Where digital revenues will come from is not known."

Among other possible "threats to the business in general" are free content on the Net, consolidations of retailer and wholesaler channels, downward pricing pressure for e-books, a reduction of review media for libraries and illiteracy.

---

Dominique Raccah, founder and head of Sourcebooks, described changes that she and others having been making at Sourcebooks in an effort to create "the next iteration of a publishing company," something she began thinking about three years ago.

Sourcebooks has "returned to the value of niche publishing," she continued, which is a major change because she had considered the company an "anti-niche publisher." Among the reasons for this shift: many retailers are cutting back on inventory and "giving customers only the top two or three things" in a category. Perhaps more important, the Internet is "an incredible proselytizer" of the niche market. She emphasized that publishers should go deeper than broad categories in looking at niches. Thus instead of cookbooks, publishers should specialize in, say, vegan cookbooks. Or instead of parenting, consider autism or ADD. "Category leadership is mandatory for success," she said, stressing, too, that this is "not the long tail."

The "new" Sourcebooks is "competing harder in fewer categories" and "organizing internally around categories and category users," Raccah continued. The company is simultaneously aiming to "get to know readers better" and become partners with authors.

In fact, at Sourcebooks, "we publish authors, not books," Raccah said. The company is planning longer term and intends to make authors leaders in their categories. "We have to communicate with authors and not just deal through agents."

To help communicate with its 1,200 authors and help authors in a variety of ways, the company recently launched what it calls the Author Toolkit. Among other things, the site has information about social networking, media training resources and events listings. Sourcebooks offers to host authors' blogs and will help authors create e-cards using their book covers. "Our only job as publishers is to find new approaches to content and new ways for authors to reach readers," Raccah said.

She stressed that in the future, book readers will "tell us how they want to buy something." They won't just take material in the forms in which publishers prefer to offer it. As a result, publishers will have to "unbundle our services" and make material available in a variety of way, something that's been "seen a little with self publishers and e-publishers."

As an example of focusing on a category and expanding the franchise, she pointed to The Complete Book of Baby Names by Lesley Bolton, a Sourcebooks title that now has a mass market form, a "gift package" form with the price of $19.95, an iPhone app and an e-book version. Raccah said that the company wants to continue to grow in the baby name area although it's not sure in what directions. "Perhaps baby name consulting?"

Raccah stressed that for now "digital equals e-books, but I don't think it will stay that way." E-books, she continued, are "just another format," and one issue is the multiplicity of digital platforms.

Enhanced e-books or digital books will become more important. Sourcebooks has had experience with such books, she said, such as with Country Music: The Masters by Marty Stuart, a title that includes 400 photos, audio narration of the photos and music videos.

Considering the debate over e-prices and the prevailing feeling that most digital material should be free, Raccah urged publishers to "communicate what we do." Too many readers believe that "all we're doing is printing a book."

Like other speakers, Raccah said that Sourcebooks has changed major aspects of the publishing process. "The in-person sales conference is gone," she said, replaced by web conferences. Likewise catalogues and ARCs are going online, and the company just took "$200,000 out of the trade show budget." Some marketing money is being devoted to "better support our bookseller partners."

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Marcus Leaver, president of Sterling Publishing, described the kind of fundamental change the house is going through. "We question everything and do things entirely differently," he said. "It's what we have to do in publishing today." One measure of the extent of the change: there are three phrases he no longer accepts during in-house discussions: "'But we promised the author.' 'We've always done that for this kind of book.' And 'We have the budget.' "

Sterling has cut its list 25% across all imprints because like "the whole industry," we were "simply doing too many books." At the same time, the company has increased its "marketing spend title by title by 33% year on year and by 66% over the last two years."

For Sterling, "vertical [publishing] is the way forward. Horizontal is road kill." The company is becoming "more of a category publisher." Like Raccah, he emphasized that publishers need to go beyond broad categories so that "it's not about parenting, but cutting parenting into little sections."

The company has gone even farther than Sourcebooks in trimming some traditional sales and marketing efforts, taking "$1 million out of trade shows, sales conferences and more."

In the past year, the company had one sales conference via webinar and one in person. ("It felt good having the physical sales conference to jazz up the troops a bit.") It is also replacing author tours with "virtual tours through author sites." The company is making its catalogues digital--the fall 2009 edition is Sterling's last printed catalogue. All blads are now digital. And Sterling is cutting back on trade shows. "The trade show is over," he declared.

At the same time, Sterling has "increased the sales team ad budget for going out and seeing accounts." In addition, more editors are visiting salespeople.

Sterling is shifting spending "from print to digital." Sterling gives away more content for free than in the past. Once it was 500 words and a photo; now it's 1,000 words and as many photos as wanted. "It's been good for getting stories in magazines and newspapers," Leaver said.

The company is constantly trying new things. For example, Sterling tried several unusual promotions for I Can Make You Thin by Paul McKenna, including displaying posters for the book at toll booths, which had "fantastic results," and running radio spots in "the most obese cities." (The most obese city, he said: Topeka, Kan.)--John Mutter

 


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