Shelf Awareness for Monday, May 22, 2006

Viking: The Bookshop: A History of the American Bookstore by Evan Friss

Pixel+ink: Missy and Mason 1: Missy Wants a Mammoth

Bramble: The Stars Are Dying: Special Edition (Nytefall Trilogy #1) by Chloe C Peñaranda

Blue Box Press: A Soul of Ash and Blood: A Blood and Ash Novel by Jennifer L Armentrout

Charlesbridge Publishing: The Perilous Performance at Milkweed Meadow by Elaine Dimopoulos, Illustrated by Doug Salati

Minotaur Books: The Dark Wives: A Vera Stanhope Novel (Vera Stanhope #11) by Ann Cleeves

Editors' Note

Welcome Back from BEA

Welcome back! We hope those of you who were at BookExpo America had as productive and great if tiring a time as we did. It was wonderful to see so many of you, catch up with longtime friends, finally meet people with whom we've corresponded and spoken, and make new friends.

We'll have selective coverage of the show this week, beginning with an account of some of the ABA's town meeting and annual meeting. We also have a few news bits about things that happened far from the Washington convention center!

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!


Notes from BEA: Rhett Jackson's Hefner Hug; Not-Books Debut

Who knew that new BEA event director Lance Fensterman would also provide comic relief? Speaking at the ABA town meeting on Friday, he said:

"After I closed Elm Street Books and Bound to Be Read Bookstore, Oren [Teicher, ABA COO] called and asked me to get out of independent bookselling. I thought I could tear down Reed from the inside. After six rich weeks on the job, this is by far the best trade show I've ever run."


Rhett Jackson, former co-owner of the Happy Bookseller in Columbia, S.C., was the happy recipient of a Playboy Foundation Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award earlier this month. (He and his wife, Betty, also won the ABA Lifetime Achievement Award this year.) Smiling broadly, he told the ABA town meeting that the award was "presented by Christie Hefner, who hugged me around the neck and gave me a check for $5,000."


Sadly we heard from Jessica Stockton, bookseller at McNally Robinson bookstore in New York City and the Written Nerd blogger, that Robert Gray, who founded Fresh Eyes Now and with whom we had spoken on Thursday, had a minor seizure on Friday. He was released from the hospital and is recuperating but could not moderate a Saturday panel on frontline booksellers' summer picks or lead another panel on "luring the Web-addicted book buyer." We wish him a speedy recovery!


As part of a campaign to celebrate its 10th anniversary next month, is launching several "Not Books," as COO Boris Wertz put it. With the tag line "if you can't find it here, it doesn't exist," the blank books include Whoops: I Was Wrong by G.W. Bush, Chicken or Beef?: The World's Best Loved Airline Recipes, Making Marriage Work by Henry VIII and Everything You Wanted to Know About North Korea But Were Afraid to Ask by Kim Jong Il. It is the online bookselling marketplace's first publishing effort, one that hasn't caused quite as much consternation as Amazon's.

GLOW: Milkweed Editions: Becoming Little Shell: Returning Home to the Landless Indians of Montana by Chris La Tray

Notes: Third Place Broadsides; VNU's New Owners

Cool idea of the day: Several times a year, Third Place Books in Seattle, Wash., commissions a letterpress piece of book art to commemorate the appearance of an author, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported. The broadsides are given to the author and people who buy copies of the author's book.

"I really have never heard of anything even remotely like it," Jynne Martin, assistant director of publicity at Random House, told the paper. "A few stores give the author a small gift, but what makes this so special is the collaborative aspect with a local artist."

Managing partner Robert Sindelar had the idea for the broadsides.


Graphic novel publisher Central Park Media will be distributed in the U.S. and Canada by Consortium Book Sales & Distribution, effective June 1. Central Park Media's imprints include CPM Manga, for works originating in Japan; CPM Manwa, for Korean work; and Be Beautiful, for the yaoi genre.

In a statement, Consortium CEO Don Linn commented: "We've been looking for a strong participant in this growing market and are delighted to have found just the one in CPM."


Valcon Acquisition, the group of six private equity firms seeking to buy VNU, has won control of the Dutch company, which owns, among other properties, Nielsen BookScan, the Book Standard, Kirkus Reviews, the Bookseller and Watson-Guptill. The new bosses are Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, the Blackstone Group, the Carlyle Group, AlpInvest Partners, Hellman & Friedman and Thomas H. Lee Partners.


Although the critical word has been negative, over the weekend The Da Vinci Code took in $77 million at the box office in the U.S. and another $147 million overseas, making it the second biggest global debut of a Hollywood movie since Star Wars: Episode III, the Wall Street Journal reported.

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Four Weekends and a Funeral by Ellie Palmer

ABA Meetings: Debating Dues, Salaries, Transparency

The ABA town meeting and annual meeting on Friday were marked by tense and heartfelt comments and proposals about association dues, executive salaries and transparency of information. Near the end of the discussion, which ran on and off through both events, Miriam Sontz, CEO of Powell's Books in Portland, Ore., provided what many considered the best perspective on the controversy, saying that sometimes feedback and criticism arrives in forms that would not be described as "good packages. It's our job to go past the bad wrapping," she said, and understand that some of the members were making "an eminently reasonable request for more transparency." Speaking to the board, she said, "I earnestly request you to look at this issue."

The contretemps began when Susan Novotny of the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, N.Y., said that Cody's Books owner Andy Ross, who just announced the closing of his flagship store in Berkeley, Calif., was not coming to the meeting because he couldn't afford his dues. Saying that she "historically has been a cheerleader for ABA and still am," in an effort to reduce costs, she had found alternatives to some ABA and Book Sense benefits that were cheaper and more effective (such as changing shippers). Novotny stated that the board "needs to apply ABACUS fundamentals to its own books" and suggested a "moratorium on dues for everyone."

For her part, Betsy Burton of the King's English, Salt Lake City, Utah, praised the ABA and Book Sense, saying, "I feel like they've saved my life and my store. Half the people in this room wouldn't be here without Book Sense. I'm so grateful for what has been done by the staff and board. I want to applaud ABA and thank them."

Elaine Petrocelli, co-owner of Book Passage, with stores in Corte Madera and San Francisco, Calif., thanked the board for its support during the store's recent struggle concerning the arrival nearby of a Barnes & Noble and for a trip by COO Oren Teicher to an important town meeting in Corte Madera, but added, "I need to say that for us, too, it was very hard to pay our ABA dues. It took a lot to write that check." She then listed and questioned the salaries and benefits of CEO Avin Domnitz, Teicher and CFO Eleanor Chang, which combined amounted to at least $1.5 million a year. She said that few booksellers didn't work as hard as them and it "hurts that there's such a huge disparity" between the compensation of top association executives and most booksellers.

In response, incoming president Russ Lawrence of Chapter One Bookstore, Hamilton, Mont., said that some of Petrocelli's figures were inaccurate. For example, he stated, Domnitz's annual salary under his current contract is $375,000 and any other salary is deferred compensation from a previous contract. The information is available at, he continued.

Lawrence went on to praise Domnitz, who, he said, "brings an amazing skill set to this job," among them his legal and financial abilities. "Running a trade association headquartered in New York is a very different job from anything we do," he continued, and Domnitz's salary is "within guidelines for an association in New York." Moreover, "our dues are within the norms for an organization like ours" and may be on the low end while management expenses are "at or below norms."

In reaction, Petrocelli suggested that such standards might be different for a booksellers association.

Former ABA president Ann Christophersen of Women & Children First, Chicago, Ill., noted during her term, the board "negotiated the most recent contract with Avin," which she described as a "painstaking, meticulous, well-reasoned, carefully thought out undertaking." The board, she continued, "wanted him to lead the organization and its amazing staff" and wanted to do this "at a reasonable cost." She noted that Domnitz made concessions in contract negotiations.

While she initially had "sticker shock when I got on the board and learned about salaries for Avin and his predecessor," Bernie Rath, Christophersen said, "I learned what a hard job it is to run a national organization. I'm in the camp that says this man is remarkable." She added that without ABA and Book Sense, "I think we wouldn't have a store either."

Another former ABA president, Chuck Robinson of Village Books, Bellingham, Wash., pointed out that it is important for the ABA "to have a strong leader--someone who can sit with others" in other parts of the business and other businesses.

Liz Houghton, owner of Big Hat Books, Indianapolis, Ind., said she could not have opened her 17-month old store without ABA. For example, with help from the association, she was able to make a presentation to her bank, and "in one very long morning, I got my loan." With a smile, she noted that "I made $350,000 once, and I made $35,000 last year." But she wanted "all to be in line between what I believe and what I do all day, and I do that in my bookstore." She continued, "I know we're all overworked and underpaid, but there are big penthouses in the future for us."

Then yet another former ABA president, Ed Morrow of the Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt., recalled that "we all gulped when we saw what Bernie [Rath] was asking for," but Domnitz's predecessor bolstered his case with statistics from the American Society of Association Executives. Particularly because Rath was "entrepreneurial," Morrow supported his compensation package. Now he believes, he said, that ABA executive compensation is "egregiously out of whack"--as much as "two-thirds out of whack."

As the town meeting drew to a close, Lawrence noted that in the past six to eight years, the ABA has "developed great momentum in independent bookselling," particularly from legal actions and education and helped keep market share stable for three years.

For his part, outgoing president Mitchell Kaplan of Books & Books, Coral Gables, Fla., said that the compensation committee "proudly put Domnitz's contract to the board, and the board proudly ratified that because we wanted this leader."

At the annual meeting, which immediately followed the town meeting, Kaplan continued to praise the three top executives of the association, saying, "from where I sit, you're worth every nickel we pay you. The costs of having others do what you do would be way more expensive." He added that "with this association behind us, none of us are going to go quietly into the night."

During his official report, Domnitz noted, among other things, that members for several years have wanted the association to make education its highest priority and that the Winter Institute had fulfilled this need. "We have never had a reaction like it to anything we've done," he said. The ABA set up the Winter Institute to be highly affordable to members, with no fees, low hotel rates and in a place that offered many low fares.

Domnitz concluded by saying that "I don't know if we're paid the right or wrong amount of money, but I know 42 people come to work every day and work 14 to 16 hours a day every day." That staff helps to make sure that "the world will be a little safer, the world will be a little easier and the world will be a little better place for independents to do the most important thing in the world--disseminate ideas through books. Hopefully we are a support for that." He went on to say that the staff puts out "a work product five times their number" and will continue doing so because they think that "everything you do every day is important and they know how hard it is." He added, "I promise that for as long as I'm CEO, every member will deliver the best products and services they are humanly able to do."

In the new business part of the agenda, Ed Morrow complained about a lack of financial information and transparency and "serious gaps" in information. He also stated that there is "no effective monitoring of investments," said audits should be independent and that the sale of the Tarrytown property last year is "barely visible in the financials." Also he wondered about the 10-year contract ABA had signed in 1996 to be a sponsor of BookExpo America, which would be ending this year.

Mitchell Kaplan responded by saying that many of Morrow's assertions were wrong, in part because some things had changed since the ABA's new strategic plan had been put into effect and other practices had changed since Morrow had been on the board. Among Kaplan's points: that three years ago, the 10-year contract with BEA had been renewed for 10 more years; that the board hires an independent auditor; that the association has had an investment policy for years, which is reviewed at every board meeting.

Morrow added that he took the step of a public discussion of these issues because he had tried to get information from the board since last fall and felt frustrated. Kaplan responded that the board had provided every bit of information Morrow had asked for. He asked what Morrow hadn't received; Morrow said the details were in a report he had made, at which point he distributed copies of the report to each of the board members.

Bill Petrocelli of Book Passage then commented that it is "very important to have transparency with executive salaries no matter how difficult and embarrassing it can be. Whether they're technically available, information about the salaries wasn't really available," leading to "rumors and inaccuracies." The board, he continued, needs to "look at other nonprofits" to compare salaries and stated that the board had never recruited executives from other industries, making comparisons to those in other fields less relevant.

"I really do think the nature and economic health of members is important" in determining executive compensation, Petrocelli added. "We need to feel we are all in this together." Petrocelli recalled that while working as an attorney 20 years ago for the Northern California Booksellers Association in its suit against Avon, he debated whether to charge a regular rate or a rate that "made me feel good with people who were my friends"--he chose the latter course. In the same vein, he said, "We should all feel good about what we do." He added that in examining at the issue of executive compensation, the board should "put behind any ill will" about past pay and "look to the future."

Kaplan ended the meeting by stating that "we have literally zero to hide. We're all booksellers, working our tails off and no one deserves questions of motive. We are all hardworking, well meaning and controlled by no one but our consciences. Please approach us that way."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Profiles in Courage

Profiled on the Today Show and the Early Show this morning: Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy (Perennial, $13.95, 0060854936), which was originally published 50 years ago this year. Today Caroline Kennedy and Senator Edward Kennedy are giving the 2006 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award to Rep. John P. Murtha (D.-Pa.).


This morning on CNN American Morning: June Cross, whose new book is Secret Daughter: A Mixed-Race Daughter and the Mother Who Gave Her Away (Viking, $24.95, 067088555X).


This morning on Imus in the Morning: Patricia Cornwell, author of At Risk (Putnam, $21.95, 0399153624).


Today on Oprah: the well-behaved Cesar Millan, star of the National Geographic Channel's Dog Whisperer show and author of Cesar's Way: The Natural, Everyday Guide to Understanding and Correcting Common Dog Problems (Crown, $24.95, 0307337332).


Today the View takes a look at Jenny Jones, whose new book is Look Good, Feel Great Cookbook: How Eating Superfoods Can Help You Turn Back the Clock with Over 80 Comfort Food Recipes (Wiley, $24.95, 0764599585).


Tonight on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Willie Nelson, whose new book, written with Turk Pipkin, is The Tao of Willie: A Guide to the Happiness in Your Heart (Gotham, $20, 159240197X).

Books & Authors

Book Sense: May We Recommend

From last week's Book Sense bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Book Sense Picks:


Any Bitter Thing by Monica Wood (Ballantine, $13.95, 0345477685). "This is an absolutely haunting novel that even contains a few laughs. The story of a young woman searching for her life's meaning after having been wrenched from her priest uncle and guardian at age nine encompasses a full range of emotions. What a great novel. I'm begging my friends to read it."--Sheryl Cotleur, A Clean Well-Lighted Place, San Francisco, Calif.


Emma Brown: A Novel From the Unfinished Manuscript by Charlotte Bronte by Clare Boylan (Viking, $25.95, 0670032972). "Charlotte Bronte's fans will be delighted with Clare Boylan's Emma Brown, a work developed from 20 pages of an unfinished Bronte manuscript. Boylan has captured Bronte's voice and creates wonderful characters and an intriguing mystery."--Betty Wooten, Bohannons' Books With a Past, Georgetown, Ky.

The Geese of Beaver Bog by Bernd Heinrich (Ecco, $24.95, 0060197455). "Heinrich has the most amazing powers of nature observation. His newest book had me falling in love with some very personable geese, taking sides in their courtship and nesting battles, rooting for the success of their eggs, and, once again, coming away in awe of nature's places and denizens as seen through the eyes of an engaged and engaging observer."--Donna Urey, White Birch Books, North Conway, N.H.

For Young Children

While Angels Watch by Marni McGee and Tina Macnaughton (Good Books, $16, 1561485136). "This is a magnificent story of springtime. Every page is dappled with the silvery dust of angel wings as the angels teach dolphins to swim, spiders to spin, roosters to crow, and owls to fly. What a beautiful way to teach children that they will be protected!"--Diane Van Tassell, Bay Books, San Ramon, Calif.

[Many thanks to Book Sense and the ABA!]

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