Shelf Awareness for Monday, May 23, 2011

Flatiron Books: White Horse by Erika T. Wurth

Holiday House: Owl and Penguin (I Like to Read Comics) by Vikram Madan; Noodleheads Take it Easy by Tedd Arnold, Martha Hamilton, and Mitch Weiss

Blackstone Publishing: Ezra Exposed by Amy E. Feldman

Clavis: Fall Preview

Amulet Books: Marya Khan and the Incredible Henna Party (Marya Khan #1) by Saadia Faruqi, illustrated by Ani Bushry

Charlesbridge Publishing: Abuelita and I Make Flan by Adriana Hernández Bergstrom; Brand-New Bubbe by Sarah Aronson, illustrated by Ariel Landy

Shadow Mountain: To Capture His Heart (Proper Romance Victorian) by Nancy Campbell Allen


Image of the Day: Novel Pose


Novelists Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters) and Sarah Pekkanen (Skipping a Beat) strike a pose with the staff of Arlington, Virginia's One More Page Bookstore after an evening of reading, signing and socializing. L to r: Eileen McGervey, owner; Jenn Lawrence, book blogger at Jenn's Bookshelves; Eleanor Brown; Sarah Pekkanen; Terry Nebeker; Lisa Chavez; Katie Fransen.

University of California Press: Dictee (Second Edition, Reissue, Restored);  Exilee and Temps Morts: Selected Works (First Edition, Reissue) by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha

Notes: Kirshbaum to Head New Amazon Imprint


Larry Kirshbaum, literary agent and former head of Time Warner book publishing--now Hachette Group--is becoming publisher of Amazon's New York office and will head a new general-interest imprint, according to the Wall Street Journal. He will start in July and likely sell his literary agency, LJK Literary, to employees.

Kirshbaum told the Journal that he will publish both fiction and nonfiction in print and digital editions. "I was trying to find a way to do some publishing as an agent, and I was talking to various people to learn how an agent could best be a publisher as well," he said. "In the end, I realized it was cleaner to do this working for a company totally committed to digital publishing and that has the resources and structure to make this successful."

Amazon has worked with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to distribute print editions of some of its titles to the trade but does not have a standing distribution arrangement with the publisher.

Before the Kirshbaum move, Amazon had five publishing imprints, two of which it launched earlier this month: Montlake Romance, which will publish romantic suspense and contemporary and historic romance novels, as well as fantasy and paranormal, and Thomas & Mercer, which will focus on mysteries and thrillers.

By the way, happy birthday, Larry!


In a story about Liberty Media's $17-a-share bid for Barnes & Noble, the Wall Street Journal reported:

Liberty Media head John Malone "sees the book chain as a bargain and an opportunity to play in what may be a large growth opportunity for e-books" and is "less interested in uniting the bookseller with his disparate array of assets," which include cable networks, satellite TV, home-shopping networks and the Atlanta Braves.

Malone has contacted B&N chairman Len Riggio about the offer, which is contingent on Riggio maintaining his 30% stake in the company and remaining involved in B&N. Riggio has "expressed openness" about working with Liberty Mutual executives.

Liberty Media's offer is the only serious one so far. The process is in the early stages, and the two companies are not yet in exclusive talks.

B&N had originally wanted to sell for at least $20 a share.

B&N first approached Liberty Media about a possible offer last August when the company put itself up for sale. It approached other companies, too.

Dissident shareholder Ron Burkle, who owns 20% of B&N, hasn't communicated with the company since he lost his proxy battle last fall and hasn't commented on the Liberty Media offer.

Malone "built his fortune in the early days of the cable business and is known for his pursuit of complex business deals that often stump investors and help him avoid paying taxes. [He has] acquired, traded and spun assets in myriad media and technology companies over the years, buying them when they're under duress and spinning them off or swapping them as business improved."


The Book Works, Del Mar, Calif., which was founded 35 years ago, is closing this summer. In an e-mail on Saturday entitled "the good fight," Lisa Stefanacci, who has owned the store for the past five years, said, "We're strong in spirit but there's an irritating tangible problem: finances. Sales are not meeting expenses. Why? The answer is in the business section of every newspaper in the country: the recession, Amazon, the digital revolution..."

She called the store "a sacred space in our hearts and in the community," a place that "has always enchanted me and I've had the pleasure of seeing this same effect on thousands of people who have walked through our doors. With its special magic the Book Works stimulates wonder and curiosity, discussion and laughter."

Stefanacci had been a senior staff scientist at the Salk Institute and a regular customer of the store for 16 years, when she bought the Book Works. "I came in as a person with a passion for books who wanted to share that passion with other people, not as a someone with a business to run," she told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "That was a romantic idea, I guess, and too good to be true."

Among efforts to bolster business, the store had remodeled to increase "cross-traffic between the store and the adjoining Pannikin coffee shop"; developed an author series "catering to the region's neuroscience set"; and cut prices.


Sterling Publishing Co. and HarperCollins UK have formed a partnership for Sterling to publish in the U.S. the complete works of Alistair MacLean and Len Deighton, altogether 57 thrillers. Most of the backlist titles of the two authors had been out of print in the U.S.

Early next month, Sterling is releasing 10 MacLean titles, including HMS Ulysses, The Guns of Navarone, Ice Station Zebra, When Eight Bells Toll and The Lonely Sea. In August it will publish a dozen Deighton titles, including The Ipcress File, Horse Under Water, Funeral in Berlin, Billion-Dollar Brain, Bomber and Declarations of War.

The books will be available in trade paperback and e-book editions. Deighton is writing new introductions to each of his titles.

"Many people there will know of the numerous classic films based on these books, but they won't have seen the original books," said HarperCollins UK Group International Publisher Chris Wold. "There's a huge audience in the U.S. who are in for a real treat."


Tonight, 7-8 p.m. at the Housing Works Bookstore, 126 Crosby St., Melville House and Shelf Awareness host the Indie Booksellers Choice Awards. Comedian/cartoonist/man about town David Rees will present the awards. All are welcome to join the finalists and their publishers!


The "Bookstore Clerks Who Write About It" readings earlier this month at the Fleeting Pages pop-up bookstore (Shelf Awareness, May 16, 2011), were "hilarious and insightful, painting a varied picture of bookselling across the U.S. in prose, poetry and fiction," Karen Lillis, aka Karen the Small Press Librarian, said. Hear the reading online.


Nice milestone: Baker & Taylor is forecasting that Blio, the e-reading software with online storefronts that was developed by K-NFB Reading Technology, will be preloaded on more than 25 million devices distributed in the U.S.


Cool event of the day: in preparation for an appearance by Rob Penn, author of It's All About the Bike (Bloomsbury), Rakestraw Books in Danville, Calif., hosted a ride with Penn. Some 20 riders showed up, and the group rode toward Mt. Diablo for an hour before returning to the store for Penn's presentation. Bikers (from l.): Jim Maxwell, Rakestraw owner and general manager Michael Barnard, Penn and Chuck Williams.


Hilarious book trailer of the day: Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart (Random House). The trailer for the hardcover edition starred James Franco; this one, for the paperback, stars Paul Giamatti as Shteyngart's roommate, who goes with the author to a book club meeting in Shteyngart's honor. The meeting is a super sad love story.


"The perils of reading pregnant": Edan Lepucki offered a "list of non-friendly pregnancy books" at the Millions, where she observed that anxious friends "don't want me to read just anything. More than once I've had a person recommend a book to me, and then say, 'Oh, but don't read it now. Not while you're pregnant!' Apparently, people's protective urges extend beyond the body of the mother-to-be, and into her reading life."


"In short, who needs another book about running?" For NPR's Three Books series, Liz Colville suggested that new memoirs by three runners "from starkly different backgrounds answer that question, and prove that there is always something more to say about this odd and entrancing sport."


Flavorwire showcased vintage foreign and American covers of Jack Kerouac's On the Road, noting that they range "from the impressionistic to the flat out ugly, from the sexed-up to the somewhat insensitive (a whiskey bottle for someone who died of cirrhosis? Really, now)."


Larry Bennett has joined Bookmasters as president of the international division, where he will focus on expanding the company's foreign-language book development and distribution in the U.S. and globally. He was formerly a v-p at Baker & Taylor, managing the digital print media program. Before that, he was CEO of several startups, one of which was bought by B&T.


Blair: A Girlhood: Letter to My Transgender Daughter by Carolyn Hays

IPBA's Pub U: The Great Debate

The Independent Book Publishers Association's 27th annual Publishing University opened yesterday afternoon with a "Great Debate" over the following proposition: "Authors and readers are all that matters. Publishers will soon be irrelevant." The session was organized by DailyLit CEO Susan Danziger, who created a similar event for last month's London Book Fair, with Michael Healy, the executive director of the Book Rights Registry, repeating his role as moderator. "We stand on the precipice of big publishing's downfall," declared Smashwords CEO Mark Coker, setting the conversation's epic tone. But publishing's supporters would not go down easy: when CEO Daphne Kis pointed to Amazon's recent announcement that e-books for the Kindle now outnumber hardcover and paperback sales combined as evidence of the erosion of publishers' influence, Square One publisher Rudy Shur countered that "75% to 80%" of those e-books were the same bestsellers dominating the print market, meaning that this was no boon for independent publishers. 

"The business of publishing is more important than it's ever been before," Shur said, emphasizing that few authors had the business sense to succeed at all the aspects of publishing that come after printing a book. Coker, meanwhile, argued that "publishers value books based on perceived commercial potential," but are guided by a "slow-motion business model" that makes accurate assessments of that potential difficult, if not impossible. "Publishers are not the best-qualified arbiters of what's worth reading," he asserted. "Readers are." (The question of how readers would acquire and assert such authority was left unresolved, apart from a suggestion later in the afternoon by Amazon author/publisher relations director Jon Fine that "the market will find the winners and the good books will bubble up.")

Some of the harshest words against the status quo, however, came from one of those arguing for the continued relevance of publishing. "While the Big Six are visible, they're straw horses," Cursor founder Richard Nash said. "I wouldn't even call them publishers. They're in the bookstore supply business." So he wasn't arguing for the survival of that model--after all, as Shur pointed out later, big companies will always be around--but for independent publishers. Riffing off a questioner's characterization of book publishing as a business where a handful of successes underwrite widespread failures, Nash observed, "Independent publishers don't live in the '5% pays for the other 95%' model. They live in the 'every book has to work for itself' model." Rather than strike out on their own, "relying on Brownian motion to connect with readers," he suggested, authors would do well to look for a center of gravity around which readers have aggregated--and smart independent publishers would place themselves within those communities, or build the communities around themselves.

Attendees were polled both before and after the debate; given that the IBPA is an association of independent publishers, it isn't too surprising that the audience rejected the proposition both times. Yet neither vote was unanimous, indicating that many authors, inspired by recent success stories such as Amanda Hocking or J.A. Konrath, are confident in their ability to leverage the same tools as publishers to put their books in front of as large an audience as possible.--Ron Hogan


Graphic Mundi - Psu Press: Hakim's Odyssey by Fabien Toulme and Hanna Chute

DIY Authors Turn Out for Pre-BEA Event


On Saturday, veteran Wiley executive editor Alan Rinzler kicked off the second annual pre-BEA Do-It-Yourself Conference and Market Place by telling the approximately 300 writers in attendance that this is the best time in the history of publishing for authors.

Rinzler, who also works one-on-one with self-publishing authors (many of whom go on to land traditional book deals), tackled a few myths in his keynote. First up: big publishing is over. "The book business is scratching its head and wringing its hands, but it is not dead," Rinzler said, noting that in 2010 overall book sales were up 14%, and Random House had its largest sales increase since 2006. Of course, the rise in e-books, he noted, contributed to increased sales.

Self publishing myth #2: authors who go the DIY route should "forget about" signing with a larger publisher. His response: "If you can sell 4,000-5,000 copies of your book, it proves to publishers that you know your market and you can reach it."

Myth #3: agents will not consider the self-published. To the contrary, he said, agents are increasingly working with their stable of clients to self-publish backlist titles and are looking to sign up authors making it in the DIY world.

Myth #4: it is easy to succeed as a self-published author. The powerful but relatively rare examples of DIY superstars Amanda Hocking, Joe Konrath, Jim Locke and others hover over any discussion of self-publishing, and Saturday was no exception.

Self-publishing, Rinzler emphasized, can be a "device for test marketing your book" or it can be a way to make even more money with higher royalties than a traditional publisher--but only if the book sells. 

Most sessions covered the nuts and bolts of marketing, pricing and choosing the right partner--whether Amazon's CreateSpace, B&N's PubIt!, Lulu, Smashwords or others--to navigate the DIY publishing landscape. 

During lunch, the Book Doctors--Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published (Workman)--told the writer attendees to think of themselves as "authorpreneurs." They explained that within publishing houses, there are editors, copy editors, designers and publicists who all contribute to the success of a book by doing distinctive jobs. "Authorpreneurs," said Sterry, "need to take all these jobs seriously and hire accordingly." 

As for other places to seek help, Eckstut said, "Everyone here needs to make their neighborhood bookstore their best friends and become regular patrons of the bookstore." She borrowed a line from a colleague who called independent bookstores "the last three feet of the publishing business."

In a later session, Richard Nash, co-founder of the publishing portal Cursor and its first community on it, Red Lemonade, emphasized this point, saying, "There is still power in putting books in bookstores."

Throughout the day two themes emerged: no matter who publishes a book, if readers cannot find it, it cannot sell; and in order to sell, it has to be a good book. Sounds like good, "old-fashioned" publishing, doesn't it?--Bridget Kinsella


Ebony Magazine Publishing: Black Hollywood: Reimagining Iconic Movie Moments by Carell Augustus

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Bill Moyers on Bill Moyers Journal

This morning on the Today Show: Kimberly Snyder, author of The Beauty Detox Solution: Eat Your Way to Radiant Skin, Renewed Energy and the Body You've Always Wanted (Harlequin, $16.95, 9780373892327).

Also on Today: Jimmy Fallon, author of Thank You Notes (Grand Central, $12, 9780892967414).


Today on the Nate Berkus Show: Daphne Oz, author of The Dorm Room Diet: The 10-Step Program for Creating a Healthy Lifestyle Plan That Really Works (Newmarket, $16.95, 9781557049155).


Today on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Edna O'Brien, author of Saints and Sinners (Back Bay Books, $13.99, 9780316122726).


Today on NPR's Talk of the Nation: Bill Moyers, author of Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues (New Press, $29.95, 9781595586247).


Today on the View: Frank Bailey, co-author of Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin: A Memoir of Our Tumultuous Years (Howard, $26, 9781451654400).


Today on Tavis Smiley: James B. Stewart, author of Tangled Webs: How False Statements are Undermining America: From Martha Stewart to Bernie Madoff (Penguin Press, $29.95, 9781594202698).

Also on Tavis Smiley: Steve Earle, author of I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive (Houghton Mifflin, $26, 9780618820962).


Tonight on a repeat of the Daily Show: Albert Brooks, author of 2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America (St. Martin's Press, $25.99, 9780312583729).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Chris Licht, author of What I Learned When I Almost Died: How a Maniac TV Producer Put Down His BlackBerry and Started to Live His Life (Simon & Schuster, $23, 9781451627671). He will also appear on MSNBC's Morning Joe.

Also on the Today Show: Frank Bailey, co-author of Blind Allegiance to Sarah Palin: A Memoir of Our Tumultuous Years (Howard, $26, 9781451654400).


Tomorrow on NPR's Fresh Air: Gretchen Morgenson, author of Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon (Times Books, $30, 9780805091205).


Tomorrow on Tavis Smiley: Dick Van Dyke, author of My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business: A Memoir (Crown Archetype, $25, 9780307592231).


Tomorrow on a repeat of the Colbert Report: John Bradshaw, author of Dog Sense: How the New Science of Dog Behavior Can Make You A Better Friend to Your Pet (Basic, $25.99, 9780465019441).


Carrie Remake Gives Stephen King the Creeps

Playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa has been hired by MGM and Screen Gems "to resurrect" Stephen King's Carrie "with a more faithful adaptation" than director Brian De Palma's 1976 version starring Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, but Entertainment Weekly noted that King has expressed uneasiness about the idea:

"I've heard rumblings about a Carrie remake, as I have about The Stand and It," he said. "Who knows if it will happen? The real question is why, when the original was so good? I mean, not Casablanca, or anything, but a really good horror-suspense film, much better than the book. Piper Laurie really got her teeth into the bad-mom thing. Although Lindsay Lohan as Carrie White... hmmm. It would certainly be fun to cast. I guess I could get behind it if they turned the project over to one of the Davids: Lynch or Cronenberg."


HBO Movie: Too Big to Fail

Too Big to Fail, an HBO movie chronicling the 2008 financial meltdown, premieres tonight at 9 p.m. William Hurt stars as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson with Paul Giamatti as Ben Bernanke, James Woods as Dick Fuld, Billy Crudup as Timothy Geithner and Topher Grace as Jim Wilkinson. Based on the book Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System--and Themselves by Andrew Ross Sorkin (Viking, $32.95, 9780670021253).


Books & Authors

Awards: Nebula Winners

The winners of the 2011 Nebula Awards, sponsored by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, are:

Novel: Connie Willis for Blackout/All Clear
Novella: Rachel Swirsky for The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen's Window
Novellette: Eric James Stone for That Leviathan Whom Thou Hast Made
Short Story (tie): Kij Johnson for "Ponies" and Harlan Ellison for "How Interesting: A Tiny Man"
Bradbury: Christopher Nolan for Inception
Norton: Terry Pratchett for I Shall Wear Midnight


Shelf Starter: Trophy

Shelf Starter: Trophy

Trophy by Michael Griffith (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern Univ. Press, $26.95 hardcover, 9780810152182, May 2011)

Opening lines of a book we want to read:

Vada Pickett is a corpse.

Oh, but that's showy... it's more accurate to say that Vada is on the cusp of corpsedom. He is enjoying--or, rather, not enjoying: what kind of man would take pleasure in an end so early and grim and flat-out painful as this one, especially if it's his own early, grim, and flat-out painful end?--his last instant of life. Dear God but that's a mess. Think straight, Vada. Uncomplicate, unravel.

What Vada is doing is dying.

Actually, at this precise sub-instant what he's doing is wondering: Does "cusp" mean what he thinks it does? Seems like it might have to do with the cauliflowery tops of teeth. Or it's a poisonous snake from Bible times. Does a cusp have something to do with Amontillado, whatever Amontillado is? Or it's one of those snapped-together words, one that applies to the wretch who lisps when he cusses. Vada can empathize: The world gigs you again and again, waits till dark and shines a bright light in your eyes and runs you through with a sharp stick, and then even your rightful rage becomes fodder for chuckles. You wriggle; they haw. It's not fair. Up your ath, world. Kith thith.

Vada has no dictionary on hand as he lies here broken, ebbing away, his sternum crushed, the foul beast's breath mingling with his. He finds himself in a place where Webster dares not tread, so "cusp" it is. Who'd begrudge him, in the last flicker of life, a solipsism? Is that the right word?--selected by Marilyn Dahl


Book Review

Book Review: State of Wonder

The State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (Harper, $26.99 hardcover, 9780062049803, June 7, 2011)

Two women form the nucleus of this story: Dr. Annick Swenson and Dr. Marina Singh. They could not be more different--at first glance. Dr. Singh was Dr. Swenson's student in medical school, which Dr. Singh left for a career in pharmacology. She has settled in to a life of research at Vogel, a pharmaceutical company in Minnesota, enjoying a discreet relationship with Mr. Fox, her older boss, and a friendship with Anders Eckman, her colleague.

Anders is sent to the Brazilian jungle, somewhere near Manaus, to check up on Dr. Swenson, the eminence grise who has been there for years, working for Vogel, and bodes to be there for many more. She feels no urge to make timely reports about how Vogel's money is being spent or about how her research is progressing. She just wants to continue studying, unmolested and undistracted, the effects of the bark of a certain tree which, when chewed regularly, gives women the possibility of conceiving indefinitely. Dr. Swenson is 73 and pregnant. What she knows and Vogel doesn't is that this same bark renders women immune to malaria. That would be the real breakthrough. It might be argued that not all women 70-plus are interested in pregnancy, labor, delivery and child-rearing. This bark, once tested and made into a drug, might be the panacea needed to fight malaria--at least among women.

Suddenly, word reaches the company that Anders is dead of fever. Nothing else; no remains, no personal effects shipped home, no real information. His wife, Karen, wants something definitive to tell their three boys. She reaches out to Marina, asking her to go to the research site and find answers. Mr. Fox concurs, and Marina is on her way, filled with misgivings. Her quiet life among the test tubes is on indefinite hiatus.

Patchett's evocation of Manaus and its environs will have the reader dripping sweat and slapping at hard-shelled bugs, biting ants and crawling things with no known names. There is one respite: a trip to Teatro Amazonas, that incongruous relic of the rubber boom. (Isn't that on everyone's bucket list?) After a sojourn in Manaus where she is prevented from going further by a young couple--Dr. Swenson's dragons at the gate--Marina is approved and finally starts down the Rio Negro and on to the real purpose of her trip.

Patchett makes the jungle jump off the page, with all its smells, sounds, rot, green beauty, teeming life--most of it threatening-- and we wonder, along with Marina, why on earth she agreed to this odyssey. The answer is that Mr. Fox and Karen needed her to go, she greatly admired Anders and she is dead curious to see Dr. Swenson again. Will she still evoke the admiration, fear, desire to emulate that she once did? The answer is "yes" on all counts.

What Marina finds there is more than she bargained for, but she is equal to it. She is able to put to rest demons from her past, and gain confidence and a steady moral compass that enables her to make the nearly impossible decision she is confronted with.

This is Patchett's best effort since The Patron Saint of Liars and, yes, that includes Bel Canto, which worked beautifully until she quit the story at the end instead of finishing it.--Valerie Ryan

Shelf Talker: A journey to the jungles of Brazil to learn what happened to a co-worker brings Dr. Marina Singh into contact with an anaconda, cannibals, creatures that bite and sting and, most frightening of all, her former teacher and mentor.


The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Titles in St. Louis

The following were the bestselling books at independent bookstores in and around St. Louis, Mo. During the week ended Sunday, May 15:


1. Stan Musial: An American Life by George Vecsey
2. Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok
3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
5. In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson
6. Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
7. Bossypants by Tina Fey
8. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
9. I'll Never Get Out of This Town Alive by Steve Earle
10. Make, Take, Murder by Joanna Slan

1. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
2. Moon Over Manifest by Claire Vanderpool
3. The Name of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch
4. The Kane Chronicles: The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan
5. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
6. You Are My Little Cupcake by Amy Sklansky
7. Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen
8. The Rainbow Fairies by Daisy Meadows
9. Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman
10. Divergent by Veronica Roth

Reporting bookstores, all of which are members of the St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance: Left Bank Books, Main Street Books, Pudd'nhead Books, Subterranean Books, Sue's News.

[Many thanks to the booksellers!]


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