Shelf Awareness for Friday, June 5, 2015


Sharjah Publishers Conference: October 27th-29th - Register Now!

Minotaur Books: The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James

Tor Books: The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

DK: Free Pack of The Wonders of Nature Wrapping Paper - Click to Sign Up!

Bloomsbury Publishing: All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews

Other Press: Nvk by Temple Drake

Quotation of the Day

'A Small Business Perspective on $15 Per Hour'

"We can't raise the prices of books the way a restaurant can raise the prices of hamburgers.... The question is how we can raise the minimum wage to meet the cost of living and keep businesses like mine afloat....

"This... part is simple, but key--shop here. If people are making more money, that money needs to be spent locally. Local businesses return more then three times as much money to the local economy than chain stores. And believe me, Amazon doesn't care about replacing the bridge on Kingshighway, and they definitely won't bring your favorite author to town so you can meet them."

--Jarek Steele, co-owner of Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Mo., in a blog post entitled "The Bare Minimum--a Small Business Perspective on $15 Per Hour "

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Firewatching by Russ Thomas


News

Battle Creek Books Opens to 'Help the City'

"The next chapter of Jim Donahue's life involves a bookstore and a desire to help the city he has called home for more than 25 years," Second Wave reported in its profile of 2,000-square-foot Battle Creek Books, which opened May 1 in Battle Creek, Mich.

"I'm originally from Brooklyn, New York and I have always liked books," said Donahue, a retired physician. "I wanted to do something to help Battle Creek and its downtown and not compete with other businesses in any way. I'm not a musician so I couldn't open a jazz store."

After deciding to open a bookstore, he consulted the Downtown Battle Creek Partnership, which recommended a retail incubator program. "It seemed like the planets just aligned," said Donahue, noting he was able to purchase fixtures from a bookstore that was closing in Rutland, Vt., where his wife and co-owner Ginny had been born and raised.

In addition to new titles, Battle Creek Books offers a book exchange program that gives customers the opportunity to trade gently used books for in-store credit. "We also offer $1.49 shipping to anywhere in the United States," he said. "We aren't reinventing the wheel. We are trying to give people what they want."


Arcadia Publishing: Stock Your Shelves!


New Owner for Burry Bookstore, Hartsville, S.C.

Sandi Brown is in the process of acquiring the 43-year-old Burry Bookstore, Hartsville, S.C., which was put up for sale in January. In a letter to customers posted on the store's Facebook page, current owner Emily Burry Phillips wrote that "over the last four months it has been refreshing to discuss and dream with two new friends, Sandi Brown and Shane Gottwals, the way Burry Bookstore can maintain its legacy of service to the community, yet transform and position itself for a viable future in Hartsville's downtown district."

When Brown becomes the owner later this year, she will add the ability to buy and trade used books to the mix of new titles and sidelines, thanks to a deal with Gottwals's Walls of Books franchising operation, which "will be an integral part of the bookstore's business plan," Phillips noted. "Sandi and Shane share my passion for books and are successful, experienced leaders among their professional peers. Sandi's vision for the bookstore's future is innovative and progressive. Not only will customers be able to browse through stacks of books and enjoy a cup of coffee by the fireplace, her goal is for it to become a gathering place for all ages in the community."

Phillips concluded her letter by expressing "mixed emotions" about her decision, observing: "No positive change occurs without the giving up of something. But change has to occur and time refuses to stand still. I will take with me the many happy memories and experiences that you, our loyal customers have provided. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to make a difference in the community I love, and I greatly look forward to what the future holds for what is dear to my heart and the place I have called my second home for almost 43 years."


Grove Press, Black Cat: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo


General Retail Sales in May: Sluggish Growth

Retailers had a sluggish May, though they were able to eke out a small gain and beat expectations. For the month, sales at stores open at least a year increased 0.4% at the eight retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters, compared with analysts' flat final projection and a 4.6% jump a year earlier.

"May was somewhat disappointing, given how lackluster sales were in March and April," Ken Perkins of Retail Metrics told Investor's Business Daily. "We were hoping for a bounce back, which doesn't look as if it materialized."


Berkley Books: Happy and You Know It by Laura Hankin


Obituary Note: Jane Hughes

Jane Hughes, former owner of Pic-A-Book bookstore in Spartanburg, S.C., died Wednesday. She was 94. Her longtime family-owned bookshop "remained one of Spartanburg's premiere local bookstores for nearly 35 years before closing its doors in 2006," GoUpstate.com reported.

"She loved every single customer she had. You could not walk into that store without her greeting you," said Jane Warner, her daughter. "She loved her community. She did everything she could to make Spartanburg a better place."

Mandy Merck, special events coordinator for the city, said the bookstore was "such an icon in the community. Anytime I ever went in there, Mrs. Hughes was always there, always wanting to talk to kids and always telling them to read."


Nimbus Publishing: Making a Life: Twenty-Five Years of Hooking Rugs by Deanne Fitzpatrick


B&N Education: The ABCs

In a S-1 filing with the SEC, Barnes & Noble offered details about its planned spinoff of its college operations, which it had announced in February. The move was a surprise, following years of speculation and indications that B&N would spin off the Nook division, possibly with the college division.

B&N said that its near-term goals for B&N Education include "the expansion of both the scale and the scope of the historic business model and also pursuing growth opportunities more broadly in the education sector, including by enhancing and expanding our digital assets." These goals will "likely require acquisitions or mergers funded, in part, with capital raises and strategic alliances with other companies," which will be easier if the college operations are "separate and distinct" from the rest of B&N.

For B&N, the spin-off will be advantageous because the core part of the company's focus is on "increasing foot traffic in existing locations, adapting offerings to shifting consumer tastes and patterns and harmonizing the in-store, online and digital experiences"--all of which require "a fully engaged board of directors and management team that has a different skill set and experience than those required to execute" B&N Education's objectives.

The spinoff will be accomplished through the distribution of shares in the new company to current holders of B&N stock at a rate yet to be determined. B&N Education doesn't plan on paying any dividends "in the foreseeable future." The company is applying to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange with the symbol BNED.

B&N chairman Len Riggio, who owns 18.9% of B&N, will also own 18.9% of B&N Education after the spinoff. Riggio and his wife, Louise, sold B&N College, then a privately held company, to B&N in 2009.

Max J. Roberts will be CEO of the new company and has a base salary for 2015 of $850,000. Last year, his total compensation, including base pay, stock awards and bonuses, was $4,587,416. Barry Brover, v-p, CFO, has a base salary of $485,000. Last year, his total compensation was $1,416,032. Patrick Maloney, executive v-p, COO, has a base salary of $732,000. Last year, his total compensation was $1,470,288.

In its most recent fiscal year, ended May 3, 2014, B&N Education revenue slipped 0.9%, to $1.747 billion, and net earnings rose 16.3%, to $35.1 million. In the first three months of the current fiscal year, ended January 31, revenues rose 3.6%, to $1.5 billion, and net earnings fell 43.8%, to $19.4 million.

Sales at stores open at least a year fell 0.7%, affected by an increase in textbook rentals, which was partly offset by stronger emblematic apparel sales.

As of the end of January, B&N Education operated 717 stores, which reach 24% of the total number of college students in the U.S.--about five million students. The company has 455 contracts to operate the stores, some of which cover multiple locations, and 158 of the stores are co-branded with the Barnes & Noble name. B&N Education estimates that its 717 stores are 16% of the number of college stores run nationwide.

The company's "largest growth area is sales through the school-branded e-commerce sites we operate for each store, allowing students and faculty to purchase textbooks, course materials and other products online."

The company sees potential in these areas:

  • Some 53% of college stores are operated by their institutions and "have yet to be outsourced." The company plans to continue to bid "aggressively" to operate stores.
  • Because many marketers want to reach college students, who have "a disproportionate impact on trendsetting and early adoption," B&N Education has an opportunity "to further monetize our direct relationship" with students.
  • B&N Education can meet the demand for "non-traditional educational content, including online coursework and supplemental materials."
  • The company has a recognized brand, both in academia and with 7,000 publishers and is expanding its digital capabilities with the Yuzu system.

Most of B&N Education's contracts are for five years with renewal options. In the past three years, 93% of the contracts have been renewed or extended. The "average relationship tenure" is 14 years. Under the contracts, B&N pays the institution a percentage of sales, in some cases with minimum guarantees.

The company's "attractive" business model is flexible with "minimal sensitivity to the economic cycle and ability to typically achieve profitability within the first year of operation." Customer acquisition costs are "relatively modest" and there are "high customer conversion and retention rates, unlike an online-only competitor that typically invests millions of dollars to gain access to its target customers, and then increases its customer retention costs to convert and retain those customers."

In its obligatory section outlining risks to the company, B&N Education said that among other potential problems, "the market for course materials, including textbooks and supplemental materials, is intensely competitive and subject to rapid change. We are experiencing growing competition from alternative media and alternative sources of textbooks and course-related materials, such as websites that sell textbooks, e-books, digital content and other merchandise directly to students; online resources; publishers bypassing the bookstore distribution channel by selling directly to students and educational institutions; print-on-demand textbooks; textbook rental companies; and student-to-student transactions over the Internet." Competitors include Follett, Nebraska Book Co., Amazon.

In addition, while products the company sells "originate from a wide variety of domestic and international vendors," during the last year, its four largest suppliers accounted for approximately 48% of merchandise purchased, and the largest supplier accounted for approximately 19% of merchandise purchased. "While we believe that our relationships with our suppliers are good, suppliers may modify the terms of these relationships due to general economic conditions or otherwise." Its main textbook suppliers are Pearson Education, Cengage Learning, McGraw-Hill, MPS, MBS Textbook Exchange, Inc., and John Wiley & Sons.

B&N Education also has a "long-term supply agreement" with MBS Textbook Exchange, the new and used textbook wholesaler that is majority owned by Leonard Riggio and other members of the Riggio family. Total purchases over the last three years from MBS have declined from $96 million in 2012 to $70.1 million last year. MBS also pays B&N Education commissions that similarly declined from $10.9 million in 2012 to $7.1 million last year.

And business is seasonal, with the most sales occurring when students buy textbooks at the start of semesters.


Flame Tree Publishing: Detective Mysteries Short Stories by Various Authors


Notes

Image of the Day: Hover Rises Near Phoenix

The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Ariz., hosted the launch event for Anne A. Wilson's debut novel, Hover (Tor), which was livestreamed. More than 150 people attended and the store sold more than 100 copies of the book.  Pictured: the author with her husband, Bill, and sons Adam and Isaac.


Type Books Is Magazines Canada's Retailer of the Year

Toronto indie bookseller Type Books was named Magazines Canada's 2014 Retailer of the Year, which recognizes "the vital role retailers play in the Canadian magazine landscape, and is awarded annually to an outstanding client of Magazines Canada's distribution service who cultivates this connection between consumers and their Canadian magazines."

Magazines Canada noted: "A neighborhood bookstore on bustling Queen Street West in Toronto, Type opened in April 2006 at a time when few other bookstores were starting up. The store has been devoted to magazines from a wide array of distributors and publishers, and has been committed to Canadian magazines from the beginning."

Type Books was also the setting for Magazines Canada's short film, Anything Can Happen at a Magazine Stand. "The romance and warmth of the store was the perfect setting for the video's magazine love story," Magazines Canada said.

Book Trailer of the Day: Peter Pan

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie as reimagined by MinaLima (Harper Design), a book that features new illustrations and 10 3-D inserts.



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jesse Goolsby on All Things Considered

Today on Fresh Air: Michael Feinstein, author of The Gershwins and Me: A Personal History in Twelve Songs (Simon & Schuster, $45, 9781451645309).

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Sunday on NPR's All Things Considered: Jesse Goolsby, author of I'd Walk with My Friends If I Could Find Them (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24, 9780544380981).


On Stage: 'A Literary Look at the 69th Annual Tony Awards'

"This Broadway season saw successful novels regarded as unadaptable leap onto the boards," Word & Film noted in featuring a "literary look" at the 69th annual Tony Awards, which will be presented Sunday night.


Books & Authors

Awards: Maxwell E. Perkins; IndieReader Discovery

Halpern

Daniel Halpern, publisher and president of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins, has won the Center for Fiction's Maxwell E. Perkins Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Field of Fiction, which "recognizes an editor, publisher or agent who over the course of his or her career has discovered, nurtured, and championed writers of fiction in the United States." The award will be presented December 8 at the Center's Annual Benefit and Awards Dinner in New York City.

Halpern was born in Syracuse, N.Y., grew up in Los Angeles and Seattle, and has lived in Tangier, Morocco, New York City and Princeton. He is the author of nine collections of poetry, most recently Something Shining. For 25 years, Halpern edited the international literary magazine Antaeus, which he founded in Tangier with Paul Bowles. From 1975 to 1995 he taught in the graduate writing program of Columbia University, which he chaired for many years. He has also taught at The New School for Social Research and Princeton University. And in 1978, with James A. Michener, he founded the National Poetry Series, which oversees the publication of five books of poetry every year.  

Among the authors he has worked with at both Ecco and Antaeus are Cormac McCarthy, Louise Gluck, Richard Ford, Anthony Bourdain, Joyce Carol Oates, Amy Tan, Tom Robbins, Jorie Graham, Philipp Meyer, Leonard Cohen, Lawrence Durrell, John Fowles, Russell Banks, Robert Stone, Patti Smith, Tobias Wolff, Charles Simic, Italo Calvino, Paul Bowles, Pete Dexter, Gay Talese, Erica Jong, Vendela Vida, T.C. Boyle, Jorge Luis Borges, John Ashbery, William Burroughs, William T. Vollmann, Tennessee Williams, Nell Freudenberger, Mark Strand, Natasha Trethewey and many others.

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Winners have been named for the 2015 IndieReader Discovery Awards, sponsored by Indie Reader. To see the first, second and third place winners in the many categories, click here.


Book Brahmin: Lori Roy

Lori Roy was born and raised in the Midwest and graduated from Kansas State University. Before beginning her career as a writer, she worked as a tax accountant. Her debut novel, Bent Road, won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel and was named a New York Times Notable Crime Book. Her second novel, Until She Comes Home, was a finalist for the Edgar Award for Best Novel and a New York Times Editors' Choice. Let Me Die in His Footsteps (Dutton, June 2, 2015) is set in the hills of Kentucky and is loosely inspired by the last lawful public hanging in the United States.

On your nightstand now:

My to-be-read books are actually stacked up near the hammock on our deck. I'm in the middle of reading Toni Morrison's God Help the Child, and because it's research for the book I'm currently writing, I'm also reading A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I loved nonfiction as a child, particularly biographies. I also remember loving all the Beverly Cleary books and, as I got a little older, I began reading Stephen King. But my first favorite book, and the one I read again and again, was The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.

Your top five authors:

I'm loving Southern fiction these days, and I'm sure that has influenced this particular version of my favorites. John Steinbeck is always on my list. I would also add Flannery O'Connor, Toni Morrison, Pat Conroy and Zora Neale Hurston.

Book you've faked reading:

I didn't necessarily fake reading this book, but it took many tries before I finally made my way through it: The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. He had intended this book be color-coded, and I understand such a version has now been published. [Editor's note: true!]

Book you're an evangelist for:

Whenever I'm asked who I like reading, I always include the books by Mary Lawson. She wrote Crow Lake, The Other Side of the Bridge and Road Ends.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Well and the Mine by Gin Phillips.

Book that changed your life:

East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I read it again and again.

Favorite line from a book:

It's actually a few lines, and it comes from East of Eden. This short passage also explains, at least in part, why I chose this as the book that changed my life.

"An unbelieved truth can hurt a man much more than a lie. It takes great courage to back truth unacceptable to our times. There's a punishment for it, and it's usually crucifixion."

Which character you most relate to:

This is a tough one, but I would have to say Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

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

There are a few, but I'll go with The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. I love to sink into that beautiful language.


Book Review

Review: The Truth According to Us

The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows (Dial, $28 hardcover, 9780385342940, June 9, 2015)

Macedonia, W.Va., is the back end of nowhere. At least that's how it seems to Layla Beck, a pampered senator's daughter fresh from the Washington, D.C., society circuit of debutante balls and formal teas. But when Layla's father forces her to take a job with the Federal Writers' Project, researching and writing a history of Macedonia, she quickly learns there's more to this sleepy little town than meets the eye. During the sweltering summer of 1938, Layla uncovers more than a few secrets--and learns a thing or two about truth and history.

In The Truth According to Us, Annie Barrows (author of the Ivy and Bean children's series and co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society) creates a cast of lovably eccentric characters who charm Layla as much as they baffle her. The once-prominent, still-genteel Romeyn family, with whom Layla boards for the summer, prove particularly intriguing, especially Josephine "Jottie" Romeyn, a quiet, proud woman who spends her life caring for her wayward brother's daughters. Willa, at 12 the older of the two girls, is an avid observer of the adults around her, trying desperately to make sense of what she sees and hears. Willa's handsome father, Felix, captures Layla's attention instantly--but Willa's clandestine investigations shed new light on an old incident that could shatter Felix's reputation and change both Layla's and Jottie's lives forever.

As the local hosiery mill (founded by the Romeyn family) deals with labor unrest and the Romeyn household bubbles with barely suppressed secrets, Layla interviews various Macedonians for her book. Her subjects, who include several leading town families and the local librarian, give wildly differing accounts of key figures and events in the town's history. Both Layla and Willa must decide for themselves which version of the truth to believe, and how to act on their new knowledge. Struggling to shape fact and legend into a coherent narrative, Layla learns that "history is the autobiography of the historian." For her part, Willa gains some uncomfortable insight into nearly every one of the adults she loves, finally admitting, "The truth of other people is a ceaseless business. You try to fix your ideas about them, and you choke on the clot you've made." Jottie, too, must decide how to move forward when Willa's discoveries play havoc with her memories and her heart.

Barrows ends her story rather abruptly, and the epilogue doesn't answer all the questions raised by the book's final chapters. But this warmhearted Southern novel, full of charm and sass, still proves a satisfying read. Like Layla, readers will find themselves longing to spend more time in Macedonia. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger atCakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: Annie Barrows details a warmhearted family saga set in Depression-era West Virginia.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The 'Act of Theatre' that Is BEA

"I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged." --Peter Brook, The Empty Space: A Book About the Theatre: Deadly, Holy, Rough, Immediate

Kunal Nayyar, Lee Child, Diana Nyad & Brandon Stanton on the big stage at BEA's Adult Book & Author Breakfast

What does Brook have to do with BookExpo 2015? Good question. Ask bestselling author Lee Child, who invoked the legendary director's 1968 book during the Adult Book and Author Breakfast. Child was speaking from the very big stage in Javits Center's Special Events Hall as he recounted his early career in theater, before he moved on to TV and subsequently took his chances with the writing life.

Is BEA an "act of theatre?" Yes. Are we the audience or the performers? Both, of course. And critics as well. From my first days as a bookseller, I understood that handselling was a performance--sometimes subtle, sometimes overt, always passionate--and that the bookstore sales floor was a stage set. Ever since I attended my first ABA convention in 1993, I've seen the annual gathering as a more lavish version of what we do every day. Call it Broadway-scale handselling.

Child's conjuring of Brook's name sparked in me a more focused consideration of BEA 2015's pageantry and performances; its set designs and stars (not just bestselling authors, but actors-turned-writers like Nathan Lane and Julianne Moore). When I attend BEA, I always stay at a hotel on Broadway; I suppose that's another clue. Before the show opens, sets must be hastily constructed in the Javits Center Exhibits Hall to fill (or at least create the illusion of filling, as seemed to be the case this year) as much of that vast "empty space" as possible.

Tea ceremony at the Chinese pavilion

The most ambitious stage production this year was created by Global Forum Guest of Honor China. The country's "pavilion" (an utterly inadequate word to fully describe China's dominant presence on the floor and even in the atrium) was at once massive and spare, active yet quiet. Business was being conducted, but I also watched performers demonstrate the arts of tea ceremony, calligraphy, painting techniques and more.

BEA is a massive show, but I most clearly remember its smaller theatrical moments:

On the Uptown Stage, I saw Dave Barry, Alan Zweibel and Adam Mansbach turn their "talk about our new books as fast as we can" moment into an improv stand-up act, beginning with an attempt to silence the incessant trade show din ("Hachette, keep it down!").

In the almost hidden corner where the Eastside Stage was located, Soho Press associate publisher Juliet Grimes handsold me (and others in the audience) Fuminori Nakamura's The Gun. Then Michael Reynolds, editor-in-chief at Europa Editions, handsold us the works of Massimo Carlotto, while noting that in many countries, "crime fiction is a way of getting out the truth.... Crime fiction is the real social novel of our times."

Ron Charles, Geraldine Brooks

On the Downtown Stage, I heard author Geraldine Brooks tell the Washington Post's Ron Charles that the story of King David, which she explores in her upcoming novel The Secret Chord, is a precursor to the larger-than-life histories of Henry VIII or even fantasies like Game of Thrones because "it's all in there.... This is the fundamental story that underlies all those stories." Speaking of historical fiction, Brooks said, "This is what we do. We put ourselves in other people's lives."

As fate (and theatricality) would have it, Henry VIII made a return appearance Friday night, just after the curtain had come down on another BEA. At the Winter Garden Theatre, as I waited for the start of Wolf Hall, Part II: Bring Up the Bodies, the Royal Shakespeare Company's brilliant stage adaptation of Hilary Mantel's novels, I marveled at Christopher Oram's spare and monolithic set. New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley had eloquently described it as "a vast gray chamber transected by flame and shadow." And then, suddenly, there was King Henry, a flash of color in the almost empty space.

Now comes the point when I resist the temptation to quote Shakespeare's As You Like It ("All the world's a stage," etc.), but instead will share another connection. In 2013, I saw a Globe Theatre production of Twelfth Night. Olivia was played by Mark Rylance--who shined as Cromwell in the recent BBC/Masterpiece Theater version of Wolf Hall. It is Fabian, however, who says, "If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction."

There are, I confess, times when BEA feels that way to me, and yet I'll return to the stage again next year to walk across its "empty space," in search of those little moments that matter. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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