Shelf Awareness for Friday, June 7, 2013

Dutton Books: When You See Me by Lisa Gardener

St. Martin's Press: Hideaway by Nora Roberts

Other Press: Serenade for Nadia by Zulfu Livaneli, translated by Brendan Freely

Bookshop: A New Online Marketplace - Click to Learn More!

Shadow Mountain:  The Seeking Serum (Potion Masters #3) by Frank L. Cole

Neal Porter Books: Hello, Neighbor!: The Kind and Caring World of Mister Rogers by Matthew Cordell

Ballantine Books: The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate

Sounds True: The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama: Redefining the Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum Journey by Jill Koziol, Liz Tenety, and Diana Spalding


General Retail Sales in May: Growth with Spring Thaw

"After a cold start to the year, retailers began to thaw in May as promotions and warmer temperatures later in the month helped buoy sales," according to the Wall Street Journal. For the month, Thomson Reuters reported that sales at stores open at least a year increased 5.6% for the nine companies that reported, compared with 3.8% a year ago. Analysts had anticipated a 4.7% gain.

The New York Times called May's modest sales gains "the latest sign that Americans are feeling better about the overall economy," citing numbers from the International Council of Shopping Centers that showed a 3.4% rise for the month, according to a preliminary tally of 13 retailers.

"It's good, not great," said Michael Niemira of ICSC. "Some underlying improvement in the U.S. economy along with an improving 'wealth effect' from rising stock and home prices is helping to lift the sales pace."

Quirk Books: Spark and the League of Ursus by Robert Repino

BEA 2013: Shaping the Future of the Book

"Indies are not in great peril at this point," said Steve Bercu, owner of BookPeople in Austin, Tex., during a sprawling panel discussion at Book Expo America entitled "Shaping the Future of the Book: Insight from Leaders Who Are Transforming How We Read." The discussion, led by John R. Ingram, Ingram Content Group CEO and chairman, brought Bercu together with Barbara Marcus, president and publisher of Random House Children's Books; Jane Friedman, CEO and co-founder of Open Road Media; and Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch.

Steve Bercu, Barbara Marcus, Jane Friedman, Michael Pietsch

"I realized many years ago there was no reason for people to come to my store to buy a book," Bercu said, when asked what BookPeople has done to stay relevant. "There has to be some value added to the books." For Bercu, that value comes from joining, as well as creating, a community. Bookstores, he added, are the only places where it is possible to "actually interface with the people who buy books."

Bercu's point that e-books are now up to "almost 1/100th of a percent" of his sales drew some scattered laughs from the crowd and the consternation of Jane Friedman, who pledged that in a year she and Open Road Media could help Bercu increase that number to 15%. Friedman called e-books the "elephant in the room" that indies are ignoring, and stated bluntly: "If there is reluctance on the part of a bookseller to sell books in all formats, your customer will go somewhere else."

Friedman did, however, agree with Bercu that it was "an amazing time for indies," suggesting that the industry has "come full circle."

After Ingram proposed that the publishing world is no longer an "either/or," but an "either/and" world (referring to publishers and booksellers supporting both print and digital), Barbara Marcus recounted Random House's past experiences with creating children's book apps.

"We rushed into creating apps," she said. "We just sort of put our apps out there, and then nobody came.... We should concentrate on being great print publishers. We shouldn't try to dabble."

Marcus also described running into a "whole universe of app developers" who could afford to price their book apps at $2.99 and 99 cents or even make them available for free. With Random House pricing its book apps much higher, there were "not a lot of buyers." Pietsch argued that pricing some e-books, especially backlist titles, at $1.99 can be a very effective way to introduce the first book in a series or a new writer.

On the subject of communicating directly with consumers, Friedman emphasized that Open Road Media is listening to consumers and hearing what they want. Marcus talked about the importance of reps and booksellers having close relationships, while Pietsch pointed out that consumers generally do not care about having relationships with publishers--they want relationships with writers. To which Bercu responded: "You need to eventually get to a bookstore if you ever want an author to reach an actual fan."

During the audience q&a portion of the discussion, two booksellers brought up some of the difficulties associated with selling e-books in stores. One of those booksellers, Emily Pullen of WORD Brooklyn, stated: "If I sold an e-book [rather than a print book] to every customer who came in my store, I'd be out of business in a week." Another bookseller noted that it is technically impossible to handsell e-books, and you can't really display or advertise them in store.

Friedman gave a brusque reminder that not all e-books are 99 cents, and suggested that selling the e-backlist of big authors could generate volume. She also predicted that e-book prices would eventually level out, and at a higher price point than $2.99.

Pietsch seemed a bit more sympathetic: "The cumbersomeness of it will diminish... it will get easier for you to sell e-books to your customers." --Alex Mutter

Soho Crime: That Left Turn at Albuquerque by Scott Phillips

Harper Issues 'BookSmash Challenge' to Digital Developers

HarperCollins has launched the BookSmash Challenge, a four-month-long contest asking developers to create new digital products that "break the binding" and re-imagine the book. In conjunction with ChallengePost, the publisher is inviting participants to "find inspiration in the work of authors who are enthusiastic about exploring unique ways for consumers to interact with their work."

"Developers who wish to innovate around book products often find challenges in gaining access to authors' content, as well as understanding rights, distribution, and legal issues," said Chantal Restivo-Alessi, chief digital officer at HarperCollins. "We hope to bridge this gap by making content and guidance available, and encouraging participants to think outside the box about the reading experience as a whole."

At launch, more than a dozen HarperCollins authors have joined the project as "Author Innovators," making their content available for challenge participants to use in the creation of products. HarperCollins is providing full access to its API for the selected materials, which include copyrighted books, covers and complete metadata.

"As the digital publishing era dawns, it's crucial to attract new audiences, and actively engage with our core readership," said James Rollins, one of the participating authors.

Bookshop: A New Online Marketplace - Click to Learn More!

SLJ's Day of Dialog

On Wednesday, May 29, at Columbia University's Faculty House, a sold-out crowd of librarians gathered for the SLJ Day of Dialog.

Kevin Henkes with Brooklyn Public Library's Judy Zuckerman (center) and his editor, Virginia Duncan.

Kevin Henkes, who delivered the opening keynote speech, said that his latest book, The Year of Billy Miller (Greenwillow), "approximates most closely the shape and shadow of our daily lives." In the book,  second grader Billy Miller is starting the school year with a worry. Henkes shared one of his own: "I worry that I did many things wrong as a parent," but added, "Reading aloud to my children every morning was something I did right." The author-artist aims for spare, elegant prose and clarity, leaving room for silence. He said, "The craft of writing is as mysterious to me today as it was 30 some years ago."

(l. to r.): Jonah Winter, moderator Kathy Isaacs, artist Thomas Gonzalez, Jim Arnosky, Jennifer Berne and Elisha Cooper.

 Author and artist Jim Arnosky (Shimmer & Splash, Sterling) offered up this golden nugget of the Informational Picture Books discussion: "I don't want to put anything in a book that kids will have to unlearn later." Jennifer Berne (On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein, Chronicle) said that she sees her audience as the child, the adult reading with the child, the person she's writing about (e.g., Einstein for On a Beam of Light) and herself. Jonah Winter (You Never Heard of Willie Mays?!, Random House) described picture books as "a form of method acting. Each has a different voice."


Middle School panelists: (l. to r.) Josh Farrar, Holly Sloan, Gordon Korman, Ayun Halliday and Linda Urban.

Middle School Drama and Trauma
When the Ferguson Library's Caroline Ward, moderator for the discussion "Middle School Drama and Trauma," asked why the panelists chose to write for a middle school audience, Gordon Korman (Hypnotize Me, Scholastic) answered, "Twelve is the ideal age--you're in charge of your own opinion." Holly Sloan (Counting by 7s, Penguin) said she likes to write about "characters with no body hair." And Ayun Halliday (Peanut, Random House) confessed that her 12-year-old son got her copy of Peanut, which made the rounds at camp. "They wanted to figure out how girls work," she explained.

Korman admitted that he's always gone for the laugh in any situation: "I did humor on the Titanic, which is a bit of a stretch." Sloan also wisely pointed out that "laughter can be a defense. We hold conflicting emotions at once, all the time." Ward asked the panelists if they ever think about whether they're writing for boys or girls. Linda Urban (The Center of Everything, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), as former bookseller, believes "it's all about the cover." She also shies away from interacting with her readers on social media. "I want a child to connect with my story first," said Urban, "rather than me as storyteller first." In a discussion about voice, Josh Farrar (A Song for Bijou, Bloomsbury) said he prefers third person, which " lets you go in and out of several characters and layer your own experience across them." Halliday's first line of Peanut came to her "fully baked."

Author Holly Black, with SLJ's Luann Toth

Holly Black said that her favorite book as a teen was Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire, which she bought for 25 cents at a garage sale. "I didn't think I'd ever write about vampires--what could I add to the conversation?" she said, adding, "Apparently I have a lot to say about vampires." Her latest novel, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (Little, Brown) is the longest book she's ever written. In a reference that could easily sum up the central dilemma of her book Doll Bones, Black said, "I had my dolls for a looong time. I didn't realize I could keep telling stories without them."

Black showed the audience a picture of the Vampire Barbie that protected her as a child from real vampires. Then, "After much internal debate, I decided to share with you a poem I wrote in 7th grade," said Black. "It is untitled. It's truly terrible. 'Draw back from me my love..." The author is halfway through a book she's calling The Darkest Part of the Forest, a new faery YA.

(l. to r.) Elizabeth Wein, Julie Berry, Elizabeth Scott, Matthew Quick, Adele Griffin and moderator Karyn Silverman.

Moderator Karyn Silverman of New York City's Little Red School House and Elizabeth Irwin High School, moderating the panel "Real-World Horror in YA," asked the panelists "What are you scared of?" Elizabeth Scott (Heartbeat, Harlequin), said, "People who look away when something bad is happening." Matthew Quick (Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock, Little, Brown), who counseled troubled teens, said, "They're dying for people to tell them the truth. In literature you can tell the truth." And Elizabeth Wein gave credit to the books she read as a child--Lord of the Rings, Ursula Le Guin, Alan Garner: "The rhythms of their language shaped what I'd go on to do."

Visual storytellers (l.-r.) Chris Raschka, Lizi Boyd, Oliver Jeffers, Matt Phelan, David Wiesner, with moderator Rita Auerbach.

In an all-star panel on Visual Storytelling, moderated by children's literature specialist and storyteller Rita Auerbach, Oliver Jeffers (The Day the Crayons Quit, Penguin), revealed, "I don't really trouble myself with things like reasons." Matt Phelan said that in his third graphic novel, Bluffton (Candlewick),"I put together everything I learned from the first two books." Weisner asked, if it includes alien language, is his new book Mr. Wuffles! (Clarion/HMH) still a wordless book? Weisner added, "I write in pictures. Whether it has words or not, I begin there." He's at work on a graphic novel. Chris Raschka (Daisy Gets Lost, Random House), held up the little books he uses as dummies or guides, then said, "Wordless books can create a bigger vocabulary than books with words." --Jennifer M. Brown

Kensington Publishing Corporation: 142 Ostriches by April Davila

B&N: Nook Snaps, 'Get London Reading' Lineup

Nook Media has launched Nook Snaps, a bimonthly program featuring original, commissioned short fiction and narrative nonfiction selected by Nook editors. The program offers between three and five new Snaps selections of at least 5,000 words every other month for $1.99 each.


Nook Media and the London Evening Standard unveiled the first of the theatrical elements to be included in the Get London Reading festival to support child literacy. The July 13th festival will feature Rupert Everett reading an Oscar Wilde fairytale; cast members from Billy Elliot: The Musical performing "Electricity"; Niamh Cusack reading from Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time; and an appearance by "Joey," the star of the National Theatre's West End production of War Horse, based on Michael Morpurgo's children's book.

Disney-Hyperion: The Magical Yet by Angela Diterlizzi, Lorena Alvarez

Obituary Note: Tom Sharpe

Tom Sharpe, the author of Porterhouse Blue and the Wilt series of novels "whose savage pen and biting turns of phrase helped to earn him the title of the master of British farce," died yesterday, the Guardian reported. He was 85.


Image of the Day: Local Supporters

photo: Diane Prokop


Ru Freeman read from her new novel, On Sal Mal Lane (Graywolf), Wednesday night at Powell's in Portland, Ore. Local authors Cheryl Strayed (Wild), at left, and Natalie Serber (Shout Her Lovely Name), right, showed up to lend support.


Seta Zink Promoted at Running Press

Seta Zink has been promoted to publicity manager of Running Press Book Publishers. She was formerly senior publicist. 

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Brian Castner on NPR's Fresh Air

Today on NPR's Fresh Air: Brian Castner, author of The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows (Anchor, $15, 9780307950871).


Sunday on CNBC's On the Money: Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781451686579).


Sunday on MSNBC's Ed Show: Jonathan Alter, author of The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781451646078).

Movies: The Rules of Inheritance; Hobbit Desolation of Smaug Pic

Jennifer Lawrence (Hunger Games) will star in The Rules of Inheritance, a film adaptation of Claire Bidwell Smith's memoir directed by Susanne Bier, reported. Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady; Shame) wrote the script.


A new pic from Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which hits theaters December 13, features Tauriel, an elf warrior played by Evangeline Lilly (Lost), entertainment Weekly reported. "She's slightly reckless and totally ruthless and doesn't hesitate to kill," said Lilly of the character that is not found anywhere in Tolkien's work.

Books & Authors

Awards: PubWest Book Design

The Publishers Association of the West announced winners of the PubWest Book Design Awards, recognizing the superior design and outstanding production quality of books in 24 categories, including additional awards this year for e-books and book mobile apps. To see them, go to Winners will be honored at PubWest's national publishing conference November 7-9 in Santa Fe, N.M.

Book Brahmin: Chris Kluwe

photo: David Bowman

"Chris Kluwe grew up in Southern California among a colony of wild chinchillas and didn't learn how to communicate outside of barking and howling until he was 14 years old. He has played football in the NFL, once wrestled a bear for a pot of gold and lies occasionally. He is also the eternal disappointment of his mother, who just can't understand why he hasn't cured cancer yet. Do you know why these bio things are in third person? I have no idea. Please tell me if you figure it out."

Kluwe's first book, the essay collection Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies: On Myths, Morons, Free Speech, Football, and Assorted Absurdities, will be published by Little, Brown on June 25, 2013.

On your nightstand now:

A lamp.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Anything by David Eddings.

Your top five authors:

Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, Iain Banks, Brandon Sanderson, L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Book you've faked reading:

None. I wish I faked reading Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

Book you've bought for the cover:

All of them. The pages get very damaged if the book lacks a cover. Plus, if you swat a fly, you're going to want to protect the words from fly juices.

Book that changed your life:

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.

Favorite line from a book:

"Ia! Ia! Cthulhu Fhtagn!" --"The Call of Cthulhu" by H.P. Lovecraft.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

On Weapons by Iain Banks.

Why do you like sci-fi/fantasy so much?

Because sci-fi/fantasy allows us to take scenarios from what was/is, and imagine what could be. Without that imagination, the sun is just a flaming ball of gas around which boring chunks of rock orbit on a regular basis, and death comes far too quickly.

Book Review

Review: The Rules of Wolfe

Rules of Wolfe by James Carlos Blake (Mysterious Press, $24 hardcover, 9780802121295, July 2, 2013)

The first rule of writing noir is to make a location your own. James Carlos Blake has done just that in The Rules of Wolfe, his second novel (following 2012's Country of the Bad Wolfes) about the multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-criminal Wolfe family. His turf is the 2,000-mile long border between Mexico and the United States, with the Wolfes settled on the Gulf end where Brownsville, Tex., rubs up against Matamoros. When Eddie Gato, the great-grandson of the family's 109-year-old matriarch Catalina, gets crosswise with the Sinaloa cartel in Sonora, his cousins Frank and Rudy Wolfe jump in a family-owned Beechcraft and fly to El Paso to rescue him.

The brash Eddie is in trouble because he wouldn't follow the oldest family rule: "any Wolfe who wants to work in the family 'shade trade' must first get a baccalaureate degree." When the ruling Three Uncles reject his argument that "a college degree was unnecessary to be a competent smuggler," he takes his ambitions to San Luis Potosi, where the Mexican side of the family runs the weapon distribution end of the business. They help get him an entry-level criminal job as a guard at the mountain ranch of cartel boss La Navaja (the knife). But Eddie and the girl of the boss's second-in-command seduce each other at a weekend cartel tequila-and-whore fling. El Segundo discovers them and Eddie kills him. He and Miranda steal the boss's Escalade and take off for the border with every cartel assassin after them for the huge reward on his head.

Once Eddie and Miranda are on the run, Blake's "border noir" turns into a long, volatile bilingual chase scene full of killing, car crashes, drugs, double-crosses and desert storms. Throughout, we are reminded that when society's rules break down, the many rules of family take over--rules like "somebody who pulls a knife in a fistfight warrants no mercy." Eddie learns the value of the family rules the hard way. Blake doesn't just know the territory, the language and the players--he also knows how to tell a great story. --Bruce Jacobs

Shelf Talker: In Blake's second novel featuring the Tex-Mex Wolfe family, a young cousin ignores the family rules and winds up with an army of Mexican cartel assassins chasing him back to the border.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Four Words--Second Location, Location, Location

Imagine attending BookExpo America 10 years ago and seeing this panel listed in the American Booksellers Association's education day programming: "How to Plan for a Second Location." Even five years back, or three, it would have taken a healthy dose of disbelief suspension to conjure the scenario. I choose to interpret this as yet another sign of the fierce will to survive and thrive that the best indies exhibit every damn day. I also have a personal stake in the topic, since I live in an indie-less city (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) that will soon host Northshire Bookstore's second location.

So I thoroughly enjoyed last Wednesday's session at BEA, featuring a quartet of hardy booksellers who shared the ups and downs of their expansion adventures. Moderated by ABA content officer Dan Cullen, the panel included Michael Tucker of Books Inc. (San Francisco Bay Area), Terry Gilman of Mysterious Galaxy (San Diego & Redondo Beach), Christine Onorati of WORD (Brooklyn and soon-to-be Jersey City) and Alzada Knickerbocker of the Avid Reader, Davis, Calif.

"I came about it from a very different direction," said Tucker, explaining that when he and a few colleagues originally inherited Books Inc. in 1996, there were a dozen stores. A period of drastic contraction followed before they gradually began opening new locations again. Tucker recalled that when they first considered expanding, a primary strategy was to look for high traffic neighborhoods with comparable retail around: "If we were in neighborhoods, they couldn't put 20,000 square foot stores in."

Why expand at all? Sometimes a bookstore simply reaches the point where "you know that you've topped out on sales per square foot," he observed, adding that one of the benefits of expansion was the chance to increase your sales staff base, mixing old with new and often increasing the energy level. Growth also creates room for staff to move up in the ranks, since "opening a new location is the time to promote."

Gilman co-founded San Diego's Mysterious Galaxy in 1993 and a second store in Redondo Beach in 2011. Although the initial year in L.A. was challenging, she noted that "things are hugely better this year" and bravely chose to offer what she called a "cautionary tale" for prospective second store owners, hoping they might learn from some of her miscalculations.
"When I thought about the second location, I thought, 'If I build it, they will come,' " she said. "I forgot how long it took us to build a customer base in San Diego." She added that what worked in terms of traffic patterns off the freeway for the first store had the opposite effect in L.A. "Having a building you own is great, unless it's in the wrong location."  

Staffing was also problematic at first. "When I hired my staff, I hired two former Borders managers and gave them full reign. One of the mistakes I made was that I didn't have anyone from an indie store on staff in L.A." Admitting that she could have done a better job training, she said, "I also forgot that two stores would also double my workload.... And the last thing I didn't consider was that I'd be hurting the San Diego store, and I did."

Onorati noted that what she learned from owning WORD "was how important a bookstore's community was." Although she "always swore I would never open another store," relatives in New Jersey who were running a new restaurant campaigned for her to add a second bookshop there.

"Sometimes a location can really make the decision for you," she said. "It couldn't have been better. They just kept at me: 'We just can't let this space go.' It just seemed like an area that was so ready for a store like this." In addition, space limitations in her Brooklyn store sometimes prompted her to think, "Oh, if only I had enough room to do this."

"If we can do what we did in Brooklyn, we'll be fine. If it grows, even better," she said. "I feel like I've worked very hard to build our brand.... With the second store, people know us, people get us. There's a trust level."

For Knickerbocker, the Avid Reader expansion happened "because everything fell into place." There had been a Borders two blocks from her, and after it closed "I was the last indie standing." A 70% increase in her store's sales inspired her to look at the retail environment in downtown Davis, which had lost other retailers selling items like stationery, nature-themed products and toys/games while "we were bursting at the seams."

"So I just put all those together" in a nearby renovated space, half of which now features selected books (cookbooks, travel, game books, home & garden, children's nonfiction) and the other half sidelines. "I did have the resources to do that because of the booming success of my other store."

"I was determined that the stores would have equal stature and their own identity," she said. Although she hired a non-book manager to work with new components, "I made sure the other staff had time in both stores so they could talk about it."

After 26 years in the same space, Knickerbocker said the second location offered a "chance to let the original store breathe," and her "first store is still chugging along. So far, so good."

Right place, right time. And, as Tucker observed, "This is a good time."

Onorati could have been speaking for all of the panelists when she noted: "I think you have to look at this new location as an entity in itself. You have to make sure you're making it a community store, wherever it is." --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now).

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