James McBride on Independent Bookstores
"Indie bookstores are the last line of reason and discourse in this country."
"Indie bookstores are the last line of reason and discourse in this country."
In what Perseus Books Group president and CEO David Steinberger called "the right way to move forward and sustain growth" in the aftermath of the collapsed deal to sell the company to Hachette and Ingram, Perseus is putting in place a new structure that features the promotion of several people to larger areas of responsibility.
Susan Weinberg has been named to new position of senior v-p, group publisher, reporting to Steinberger. The publishers of all of Perseus's publishing imprints and joint ventures, including Avalon, Basic Books, Da Capo, PublicAffairs, Running Press, etc., will report to her. This will provide those publishers, Steinberger said, with "an executive focusing full time on their growth and success." Weinberg has been group publisher for Basic Books, Nation Books and PublicAffairs and earlier was publisher of PublicAffairs. Before joining PublicAffairs, she worked at HarperCollins. Steinberger praised her "leadership skills and her accomplishments."
The most striking move involves Mark Suchomel, who has been appointed to the new position of president, client services, reporting to Steinberger. The presidents of Perseus's client service businesses--Consortium, Legato, Perseus Distribution (including Perseus Academic) and PGW--will report to him. He will provide the client service businesses with "an executive focused solely on their growth and success."
Last year, Suchomel, the longtime president of IPG, joined Perseus, founding the Legato Publishing Group. This past July, he was told he would not make the transition when Ingram took control of Perseus's distribution operations. So, happily, not only did he get his old job back--one that he never technically lost--but he has now been promoted.
Steinberger commented: "Mark's success in building Legato into a growing and successful client service business, as well as his record of accomplishment leading IPG, have prepared him well for this new position."
In a related move, Jeff Tegge has been named president of Legato. Steinberger said, "As Mark's second in command, Jeff has rapidly become a key contributor to the company, working closely with PGW and our sales force to put Legato on a successful path."
In other significant moves, Raymond Floyd is joining Perseus in the new position of senior v-p for operations. He is a veteran operations executive and worked at General Electric for 13 years.
Matty Goldberg has been appointed to the new position of president of publishing, client and sales development, reporting to Steinberger, who described the job as "an enterprise-wide advisory and special projects role that will provide the entire company, including our in-house, joint venture and client publishers with the benefit of Matty's extraordinary expertise and judgment." He also noted that Goldberg has "built from the ground up one of the most respected and effective sales forces in the industry."
Succeeding Goldberg, Sabrina McCarthy has been named senior v-p, group sales. She has been president of Perseus Distribution and worked for eight years in sales. She has, Steinberger said, "a track record of extraordinary growth and success."
McCarthy's successor as president of Perseus Distribution Client Services is Heidi Sachner, who has been McCarthy's second in command for three years.
With the changes, Patrick Kirk, who had been involved in project management, Scott Edinburgh, involved in business development, and Running Press publisher Chris Navratil are leaving the company. Running Press v-p and marketing director Allison Devlin has been named acting publisher of Running Press while Perseus conducts a search for a permanent replacement.
Authors United has released a letter from Daniel (Lemony Snicket) Handler "encouraging writers to take part in Upstream, a new program to support independent bookstores," the Bookseller reported. In a note accompanying the letter, Authors United founder Douglas Preston said he was sharing it "in the interests of encouraging a healthy and diverse publishing ecosystem."
Handler advised fellow authors to contact their local booksellers and sign books for them to sell and promote, "spreading the word not only about an exciting source of signed books to your readers anywhere in the country, but about a program anyone can join.... Will Upstream rescue us all from strife and worry? Of course not. But the hope is that it will remind both authors and booksellers of their local, less monolithic resources, and improve general esprit de corps at a disheartening time."
In a separate letter to independent booksellers, Handler wrote: "As you know, many authors lately feel as if they are engulfed in a rather unpleasant flood--as if the fate of their books is whirling dreadfully out of control, battered by the waters of some enormous South American river, the name of which I cannot remember at the moment. While all this fierce sword fighting rages on around them, independent bookstores continue to struggle with a similar feeling that it's some sort of jungle out there.
"As a tonic, allow me to share news of a program, cooked up by assorted interested parties and named, after some tipsy debate, Upstream. The idea is to connect authors with their local independent booksellers to offer signed books as an alternative to, say, larger and more unnerving corporate machinations.... How does it work? Easily, hopefully. Especially when aligned with the growing Indies First campaign."
The American Booksellers Association and the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association joined forces to urge New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to veto Assembly Bill 1396, "which authorizes customers to file civil suits against any bookstore that discloses customer information in the absence of a court order. A court can impose a fine of up to $1,000," reported Bookselling This Week. The bill was approved by the legislature September 22, and Christie has 45 days to act on it.
In a letter sent to Christie's office last week, ABA CEO Oren Teicher and NAIBA executive director Eileen Dengler stressed that "reader privacy is a core belief of independent booksellers, [and] they have made a concerted effort to educate bookstore staff about the importance of protecting privacy.... It is from this perspective that we urge you to veto A.B. 1396 because it is flawed in its approach and unfair to the very bookstore owners and staff who have led the fight to protect the confidentiality of reader records."
Teicher said independent booksellers "are committed to protecting reader privacy, but legislation should recognize the operational challenges facing small businesses, especially when it comes to the matter of paying fines. Bricks-and-mortar stores depend heavily on young and sometimes inexperienced staff members who may make mistakes. They should not be punished in the same way as large Internet companies that can direct all inquiries to in-house lawyers who have experience with these requests."
|@DWill_: "This is me locked inside a waterstones..."|
Noting that "being locked in a bookshop overnight with thousands of novels at your disposal might sound like a bibliophile’s dream," the Telegraph reported that an American tourist from Dallas seemed less than thrilled about getting locked inside the Trafalgar Square branch of Waterstones in London after closing last night.
David Willis initially shared his dilemma on Twitter, posting that he had been "upstairs for 15 minutes and came down to all the lights out and door locked." More than two hours later, however, he tweeted: "I'm free."
Using the hashtags #FreeTheWaterstonesOne, #freethewaterstones1 and #waterstonestexan, "other Twitter users were quick to offer Mr. Willis help with some telling him to call police, some offering him food and others giving book recommendations to help him pass the time," the Telegraph wrote.
Waterstones eventually tweeted: "We're pleased to announce that @DWill_ is a free man once more. Thanks for your concern and tweets!"
Waterstones Piccadilly couldn't resist the temptation to needle their colleagues: "@DWill_ Glad you're ok! We were about to send ninjas to release you. We'll be mocking Traf Square shop mercilessly tomorrow #waterstonestexan."
Buzzfeed charted the Twitter trail in a post headlined "Everyone's Going to Be Tired Today Because a Man Got Locked in a Central London Waterstones."
From the Facebook page of Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, Mich.: "Last year, Hilary [Lowe], owner and Book Ninja here at Literati, proved she is an actual ninja when she witnessed an unarmed robbery and then aided in the apprehension of the suspect. This morning, she was awarded the Chief's Civilian Award by the Ann Arbor Police Department in recognition of her assistance. That's right, folks. Bookstore people are also badass."
This Sunday, the New York Times Book Review's "By the Book" segment will feature actor Neil Patrick Harris, author of Choose Your Own Autobiography (Crown Archetype). Our favorite exchange:
What kind of reader were you as a child?
I was a voracious reader as a kid. The first job I ever had was in a wonderful small bookshop in Ruidoso, N.M., called the Aspen Tree, run by an extraordinary woman named Jane Deyo. She took me under her wing and showed me the joy and respect of all things literary. I would take inventory, restock, organize, make displays, run the register. I was all of 10 or 11. But I was treated like such an equal, given a healthy amount of adult responsibility, and I'll never be able to thank Jane Deyo enough for that. It also ignited a fire in me to read as much as possible. We used to have contests at the elementary school--who could read the most books in a week or a month. I'd power through 30, 50 books. I was unstoppable. Just loved the feel and the smell of the pages. Loved immersing my brain into uncharted territories. Loved turning that last page and closing the book, a changed man. Still do.
Brazos Bookstore and the American Festival for the Arts are teaming up to develop a new musical/literary work celebrating AFA's 20th anniversary serving kids throughout Southeast Texas. Writers from all backgrounds and working in any genre are invited to submit a short work of no more than 500 words on the theme "Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not."
The winning selection will be used as the basis and/or inspiration for a musical composition by award-winning composer Hugh Lobel that will be premiered at the AFA Collaborations Concert (two performances in May and July). The winning author will be invited to read his/her work at the performances, and will also receive $500. Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, is the contest judge.
"When you refuse to give up on a search, even if the patron asking is long gone." This was just one of "29 moments any librarian knows too well" featured on Buzzfeed.
Does Santa Exist?: A Philosophical Investigation by Eric Kaplan (Dutton), a co-executive producer and writer for The Big Bang Theory. The trailer is the beginning of a philosophical adventure--the viewer's choice at the end leads to the next video.
Today on Fresh Air: Chris Hadfield, author of An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything (Little, Brown, $28, 9780316253017).
Tomorrow morning on Fox & Friends: Jay Sekulow, co-author of Rise of ISIS: A Threat We Can't Ignore (Howard Books, $12.99, 9781501105135).
Sunday on CBS Sunday Morning: Danny Aiello, author of I Only Know Who I Am When I Am Somebody Else: My Life on the Street, on the Stage, and in the Movies (Gallery Books, $26, 9781476751900).
J.K. Rowling, "the little-known author of the Harry Potter series," will write the screenplay for a film version of her spinoff title Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which is being adapted by Warner Bros. as a trilogy, with scheduled releases in 2016, 2018 and 2020, Electric Lit reported.
Announcing her continued creative partnership with the film company in a press release, Rowling noted: "Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world. The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films, but Newt's story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry's gets underway."
The project is being directed by Harry Potter franchise helmer David Yates, while Rowling makes her screenwriting debut and will co-produce.
Naomi Klein won the $60,000 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction, which honors a work that demonstrates literary excellence and "a distinctive voice, as well as a persuasive and compelling command of tone, narrative, style and technique," for This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.
The jury praised Klein's "groundbreaking" book, noting that its "exploration of climate change from the perspective of how capitalism functions produces fresh insights, and its examination of the interconnectedness between our relationship with nature and the creation of better, fairer societies presents a radical proposal. The author's urgency and outrage is balanced by meticulous documentation and passionate argument. Heart and mind go hand in hand in this magisterial response to a present crisis."
Ed Conklin grew up in Detroit with 10 brothers and sisters and has lived in Venice, Calif., with his wife, Cathy, since the early 1980s. His two sons (23 and 19) spent much of their early years in a backpack or the back office at Dutton's Brentwood Books in Los Angeles. Conklin's bookselling life started part-time in 1986 at Dutton's and he served many roles (full-time manager, buyer, accounts payable) until the store expired in April 2008. Chaucer's Books in Santa Barbara became his new bookstore home. Chaucer's celebrates its 40th anniversary this month.
On your nightstand now:
My "nightstand" is a village of books in multiple stacks on the floor on my side of the bedroom. I dip into my obsessions (e.g., Henry Demarest Lloyd, Thorstein Veblen, Gustavus Myers, Lewis Mumford, Benjamin Hunnicutt, Thoreau and Gilded Age history) often for solace and fodder. I recently finished Paul Beatty's The Sellout, a provocative satirical novel with much to say about American society, culture and racial attitudes. It's wildly entertaining and a fine antidote to the prevailing nonsense and noise.
I'm currently reading Lila (Marilynne Robinson), Political Order and Political Decay (Francis Fukuyama), This Changes Everything (Naomi Klein) and Global Capitalism & the Crisis of Humanity (William Robinson). I'm rereading You Can't Go Home Again (Thomas Wolfe), which is a beautiful and wonderfully written book with prescient insight into where America finds itself today.
I'm looking forward to many great books including Laughing Monster (Denis Johnson), Publishing (Gail Godwin) and Lincoln's Political Thought (George Kateb).
Favorite book when you were a child:
My uncle gave me Davy Jones' Haunted Locker by Robert Arthur when I was in fourth grade. It is a wonderful collection of sea stories that fired my imagination, but it was also special because it was chosen for me by my uncle, whom I admired and greatly respected. The gift of a book can be a lifelong and treasured memory.
Your top five eight authors:
Don DeLillo, Richard Powers, Thomas Pynchon, William T. Vollmann, Alice McDermott, Haruki Murakami, Theodore Dreiser and Thomas Wolfe.
Book you've faked reading:
Why bother? I learned a long time ago (shortly after beginning work at Dutton's) that you can't know or read everything. I proudly (and often) display my ignorance--ask anybody who knows me!
Book you're an evangelist for:
All the Living by C.E. Morgan. It is a quietly powerful book by a sensitive and gifted writer and thinker.
Book you've bought for the cover:
I can't really think of one, but I certainly do appreciate good covers and am always sad to see good books with horrid covers (which often causes them to be ignored--that is where our job comes in).
Book that changed your life:
Critique of Dialectical Reason: Volume 1 by Jean-Paul Sartre. I bought this as a British import when I was in college, and it still has the penciled price on the inside cover ("$30.00 net"). The ambitious project of developing a theory tackling the intelligibility and "truth" of history was alluring to me and set me off on an often-frustrating intellectual journey that continues to this day.
Favorite line from a book:
I often read lines that levitate me. One phrase that comes to mind immediately is "agenbite of inwit" from Joyce's Ulysses. I love its playfulness and the ambitious daring with language. Don Gifford in Ulysses Annotated notes that it means "remorse of conscience," which you can get a sense of if you toy with it (your inner wit bites you again).
Which character you most relate to:
A difficult question for me, but I think Tom Sawyer, mainly because of his appreciation for the power of the imagination and the idea of the "eternal boy." I have come to realize that I will never feel "grown up." Some call it arrested development; I prefer to see it as youthful passion.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
The Instructions by Adam Levin, a hilariously funny and fantastic literary work. The book is long but sadly breezes by too quickly as you read and laugh and wonder at it all. An incredible book. It slayed me.
The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries by Otto Penzler, editor (Vintage, $25 trade paper, 9780307743961, October 28, 2014)
This isn't a big book, this is a huge book. Edited by noted mystery anthologist Otto Penzler and boasting more than 900 pages with an old-fashioned, two-column layout, The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries compiles 68 of the best of the best. Many of the stories are classics (and worth reading again), but there are a number of writers here whose stories aren't well known, so there's much to discover.
Penzler organizes his tome in nine themed sections, including stabbing, vanished people, shootings and stolen valuables. One story stands alone in its own section, un-categorizable: Martin Edwards's "Waiting for Godstow," a curious tale about a detective, Godstow, who doesn't even realize he has an impossible crime to solve. Each story is accompanied by a short, informative introduction with an author bio and piquant critical notes: Jacques Futrelle's "The Problem of Cell 13" is a "masterpiece"; Lord Dunsany's "The Two Bottles of Relish" was chosen by Ellery Queen as one of the 10 greatest mystery stories ever.
The classics section opens with the "single most important story in the history of mystery fiction"--Edgar Allan Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." Penzler argues that Poe invented most of the significant elements in the literary genre, including a brilliant detective, his/her dimmer sidekick, misleading clues, and an apparently impossible murder. Other all-time classics in this mystery sub-genre include "A Terribly Strange Bed" by Wilkie Collins and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of the Speckled Band."
The next section--stabbing--leads off with the highly atmospheric and brooding "The Wrong Problem," by John Dickson Carr, the "greatest practitioner of the locked room mystery." Carr's story features his most famous detective creation, Dr. Gideon Fell. Originally published in 1936, it fits right into what Penzler calls the Golden Age of detective fiction and the locked-room mystery, the period between the two World Wars. Some of the greats flourished during this period: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Ellery Queen, Margery Allingham and R. Austin Freeman. All are represented here. Freeman's story "The Aluminium Dagger" features his distinctive "gaslight charm" (as Raymond Chandler called it) and centers on the greatest of all scientific detectives, Dr. John Thorndyke.
Other authors demonstrating their locked-room prowess include Stephen King--with "The Doctor's Case," a Sherlock Holmes pastiche--MacKinlay Kantor, P.G. Wodehouse and Dashiell Hammett. This is the ideal bedside book for mystery fans: packed with short, challenging tales of murder and deduction, easily consumed before the eyes flicker. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher
Shelf Talker: This unparalleled anthology collects the finest stories that delve into solving impossible crimes.
If you don't work in the book trade, it's hard to explain what happens at an event like the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association Fall Discovery Show, which took place last week in Denver. Call it a family reunion. No, better than that--a family gathering, albeit one with more fun (think Literary Trivia night or Books & Brews afternoon) than squabbles, more friendships than rivalries; and, most importantly, a shared mission.
|Nicole Magistro of the Bookworm of Edwards and Eric Boss|
Here's a great example: at the start of Thursday's exhibit hall opening reception, a crowd gathered near the entrance, where a plot was being hatched, drinks poured and anticipation rising. A celebrity appearance, perhaps? When newly retired Penguin Random House sales rep Eric Boss appeared in the doorway, applause echoed throughout the Colorado Ballroom. Anne Holman of the King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, Utah, stepped up to the podium and lauded Boss's passion for, and deep knowledge of, books. She described him as "one of the kindest, funniest men I've ever met.... He cares about all of us so much." It was a family celebration; this just happens to be a really big family.
Boss and I chatted later about our years in the book trade. We'd never met before, but we spoke a common language as we discussed the book community and how difficult it is to adequately explain that concept to people who do not live and work in our world.
MPIBA executive director Laura Ayrey later recalled: "If I had to pick my favorite moment from the show it would be a tie between when Eric Boss walked into the exhibit hall and received such a heartfelt standing ovation from his colleagues and/or when South Dakota won the Literary Trivia Contest and Valerie Koehler [of Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, Tex.] stormed the stage in protest."
This is a business, of course, and plenty of business was being conducted at the Fall Discovery Show--in the exhibit hall, at "Pick of the Lists" sessions, during educational programming (which I'll explore in an upcoming column) and elsewhere.
At the general meeting luncheon, Ayrey noted that in the past year a record-breaking 13 new stores had joined the association. "This year's show attendance was higher than ever in all categories, from booksellers to publishers to authors," she told me this week. "All of our meal events were sold out. In fact, we had a waiting list for the Author Banquet and a number of exhibitors who had purchased tickets for the event graciously gave them up so booksellers could attend. That speaks volumes about the camaraderie we have in the Mountains & Plains region." She also praised "my extraordinary staff and board of directors."
|Valerie Koehler and Dan Cullen|
Dan Cullen, American Booksellers Association senior strategy officer, reported during the general meeting that booksellers at all of the regionals he'd attended this year "have been incredibly upbeat, incredibly energized.... There is a real resurgence of indie bookstores in America.... We are finally seeing the media decouple the word 'beleaguered' from indie bookstore." The MPIBA show certainly reflected that trend, if my numerous conversations with booksellers in Denver were any indication.
One of my favorite moments occurred during the Reading the West Book Awards presentation, when Kevin Fedarko, nonfiction winner for The Emerald Mile: The Epic Story of the Fastest Ride in History Through the Heart of the Grand Canyon (Scribner), chronicled the challenges his book had faced last year, having been published in the midst of a dispute between Barnes & Noble and Simon & Schuster.
"I spent a good portion of the year living like a river guide, driving all over the Intermountain West," he said, noting that his bookstore "compass points" were BookPeople of Moscow, Idaho; Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe & Phoenix, Ariz.; the King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City; and Full Circle Books, Oklahoma City, Okla. During his indie bookstore expedition, Fedarko said he discovered two things: that a book is a "passport and doorway to meeting, and engaging with, a whole community of people; and that there is another side of this business that does not treat a book like dog food or carpet cleaner.... For someone who is in the business of writing, words fail me when I try to express my gratitude for what I owe you."
Author Buzz: (l.-r.) Catherine Weller with Lin Enger, Molly Gloss and Christopher Scotton.
At the Authors of Buzz Books Breakfast Friday, Catherine Weller of Weller Book Works, Salt Lake City, moderated a fine conversation among authors Lin Enger (The High Divide, Algonquin), Molly Gloss (Falling from Horses, HMH) and Christopher Scotton (The Secret Wisdom of the Earth, Grand Central). Gloss's novel is about a 19-year-old ranch hand who moves to Hollywood in 1938 to seek work as a stunt rider in Westerns. "Even kids who grew up on a ranch were influenced by cowboy movies," she said. "Bud wanted to be like the cowboy heroes he saw growing up in the movies."
The book world can play that magic trick, too. At some point early in our reading lives, most of us imagined ourselves as "book people," and our fantasy somehow came true, even if the requisite ballast includes financial sacrifice, long hours and hard work.
As Fedarko put it, "You're thriving because you are part of the glue that holds your communities together. I think you will continue to survive and excel because you offer something that no one else does and it's incredibly important." How do you explain that to an outsider? You just can't. You have to be here. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)
The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by IndieReader.com:
1. Stepbrother Dearest by Penelope Ward
2. The Resolution of Callie and Kayden by Jessica Sorensen
3. Holiday Treasure by Melody Anne
4. Kisses After Dark (McCarthys of Gansett Island Book 12) by Marie Force
5. Sweet Christmas Kisses: Fourteen Sweet Christmas Romances by Various
6. Keep Me by Anna Zaires with Dima Zales
7. Fallen Fourth Down (Fallen Crest Book 4) by Tijan
8. First Class Family: The Complete Collection by A.J. Harmon
9. Risk (Gentry Boys Book 2) by Cora Brent
10. Rhett in Love by J.S. Cooper
[Many thanks to IndieReader.com!]