Shelf Awareness for Monday, September 21, 2015

Hampton Roads Publishing Company: Becoming Baba Yaga: Trickster, Feminist, and Witch of the Woods by Kris Spisak, Foreword by Gennarose Nethercott

Dial Press: Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger

Severn House: A Messy Murder (Main) (The Decluttering Mysteries #4) by Simon Brett

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Chronicle Books: Taste in Music: Eating on Tour with Indie Musicians by Luke Pyenson and Alex Beeker


Davies Retires from U.K.'s Booksellers Association

Syd Davies

Sydney Davies, head of trade and industry for the Booksellers Association, is retiring after 26 years, the Bookseller reported. "This really is the end of an era for us. We will miss Syd hugely, especially his knowledge of literature and the arts and his excellent guided London walks," said BA CEO Tim Godfray. "Syd has spent 26 years of his life helping booksellers and working for the development of the bookselling sector. He has a stunning grasp on what is going on in so many areas. Above all, he is an amazing researcher. How he manages to assimilate all the information he does about, say, market developments, is quite remarkable. We wish him all the very best in the next--very different--stage of his life.”

The BA "has taken the opportunity to review Davies' role and appointed non-practicing barrister Giles Clifton into the newly appointed role of head of corporate affairs," the Bookseller wrote, noting that the move was made following "the increasing importance of lobbying activity."

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Lordy, Lordy, SIBA's 40!

The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance celebrated its 40th birthday in style this past weekend with a bustling and buzzy trade show in Raleigh, N.C., at the Hilton Midtown.

The celebration began on Thursday with an all-day bus tour that took some 30 booksellers and a few publishing folk to visit many of the Triangle area's bookstores: Quail Ridge Books, the Regulator Bookstore, Letters Book Shop, Flyleaf Books. The final stop was Mclntyre's Books, where SIBA attendees joined those on the bus tour for BBQ at the Barn at Fearrington Village.

On Friday, everyone got down to business with a very full day of panels and presentations.

One of the first sessions focused on "The Economics of Publishing and How They Impact Booksellers." Using a P&L statement for a title his house is publishing in June 2016, George Gibson, publishing director of Bloomsbury USA, walked booksellers through the process of how a book goes from acquisition to auction to publication and beyond, candidly describing the financial details and decision-making involved. To make a book happen, he said, "we depend on independent booksellers." Booksellers commented that they found his presentation "enlightening" and "fascinating." The session will be repeated at many of the other regional shows and at Winter Institute, Gibson said.

Schoech, Geddis, Barrett and Goddin talking #IBD.
(photo: David Leone)

Samantha Schoech kicked off the promotion for Independent Bookstore Day 2016--Saturday, April 30, 2016--by asking attendees how many of them had participated in IBD 2015; almost everyone happily raised their hand. Schoech, IBD director, noted that 80% of participating stores across the country reported that sales had been up for the day, some substantially. Independent Bookstore Day 2016 will be even better, she assured the group: there will be fewer exclusive items, and at lower price points and with lower minimums. Janet Geddis, Avid Bookshop, Athens, Ga., Linda-Marie Barrett, Malaprop's, Asheville, N.C., and Sarah Goddin, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, N.C., described their stores' events and shared tips they'd learned from the experience. Information on the IBD merchandise will be released soon, and catalogues will be available in January; the deadline for ordering is February 1, 2016. Much more information is available at

Flossie McNabb of Union Ave. Books in Knoxville, Tenn., found the session on "Human Resources for Small Business" especially valuable.

A speed dating‑style Rep Picks, an author meet-and-greet and the SIBA Supper filled out the rest of the day. And the booksellers still kept going: a late-night Literary Hootenanny had toes tapping.

photo: David Leone

The trade show floor opened on Saturday morning. ABA CEO Oren Teicher, surveying the activity, characterized SIBA as "Southern hospitality at its best." A luncheon that day celebrated the launch of Lee Boudreaux's eponymous new imprint at Little, Brown, and featured authors John Gregory Brown (A Thousand Miles from Nowhere, April 2016) and Sunil Yapa (Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, Jan. 2016), plus a bonus appearance by Catapult author Padgett Powell (Cries for Help, Various), who had been scheduled to appear at supper the night before, but had been "Delta-ed."

Judith Lafitte of Octavia Books in New Orleans commented that SIBA "reminds me of Cheers--a place where everybody knows your name. It's a place where you can really connect."

Are You There, God, It's Me, Margaritas re-fueled the booksellers for Parapalooza!, hilariously hosted by Tim Federle (Gone with the Gin, Running Press, Oct.), at which a dozen authors performed a paragraph from each of their books. 

Sunday gave the booksellers another chance to peruse the trade show floor, before the Moveable Feast closed out SIBA 2015.

Throughout the show, booksellers, authors and publishers praised Wanda Jewell--who is marking her 25th year as the SIBA organizer--and her staff for putting on an exceptional show, and all are looking forward to next year's event in Savannah, Ga. --Robin Lenz

GLOW: Sourcebooks Landmark: A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler

Carolyn Reidy at BISG: 'The Sales Power of Metadata'

The digitization of book metadata--information about everything from a book's title, price and author to reviews, author biographical information and more--is opening up vast new opportunities for selling and marketing, said Carolyn Reidy, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster, in a keynote address on Friday at the Book Industry Study Group's annual meeting.

Caroline Reidy

In a striking case study of the power of metadata, which is a key concern of BISG, Reidy told the story of Galveston, a "noir-ish" first novel by Nic Pizzolatto that Scribner published in 2010. Despite getting good reviews, being selected for the B&N Discover Great New Writers program and being nominated for a best first novel Edgar, the book sold modestly, and by 2013 paperback and e-book sales were under 1,000 copies annually.

Then, in 2014, HBO's True Detective series made its debut--and, it turned out, the wildly popular show's creator and writer was Galveston author Nic Pizzolatto. Scribner's Susan Moldow noticed the connection and noticed that little of the publicity about Pizzolatto and True Detective mentioned Galveston, which was not a tie-in.

In the past, Reidy said, at that point, "there would have been no direct way" for S&S to make the connection, and any efforts "wouldn't get you very far." But the digital transformation of the industry has changed. Scribner quickly rewrote the first line of the book's online description to read "From the creator, writer, and executive producer of the HBO crime series True Detective." Sales began to rise, and a reprint featured a new burst on the cover, which was displayed online. As a result, in 2014, Scribner sold more than 37,000 copies of Galveston in print and e-book editions. Reidy called it "truly a resurrection."

The obvious lesson, Reidy said, is for publishers "to exercise a deep knowledge of our entire catalogue and determine how our books relate to what's happening in the world today," whether that involves an entertainment or media hit or to tie in with a current event. And now it's a part of S&S's weekly marketing meeting, she said, to bring up those and a range of other opportunities, whether a book is listed for a prize or mentioned on a TV show or in a tweet by a celebrity.

Making these connections applies to the full backlist (which is "really frontlist to the consumer who hasn't read it"), and needs to go from monthly and weekly planning to "looking at our lists through a lens of daily opportunities," she continued.

At S&S, key metadata is put together by editors and authors, then passed on to the marketing department, which approves all metadata and makes sure, for example, that it's not too wordy and stays on subject. It then goes online and must be reviewed regularly since some information becomes stale.

Metadata is all the more important, Reidy emphasized, because 60% of S&S's sales in units--print and e-books combined--are online.

As "the digital transition enters middle age," Reidy also commented on trends in publishing, many of which are "at first glance counterintuitive":

  • readers of literary fiction buy e-books at a higher level than expected because readers "respond to review media by pressing the buy button" for the e-book.
  • the enhanced e-book, incorporating audio, video and other interactivity, has, like the CD-ROM, failed to become "a meaningful phenomenon." Reidy said she doesn't know whether readers want e-books to be "a digital replica of what's on the printed page" or whether publishers haven't created "a radical enough reconception of what a book could be."
  • "the vast majority" of sales for S&S's "successful business publishing digitally savvy YouTube personalities and entrepreneurs" is printed books. Reidy explained that it seems that for buyers, who spend 24/7 online, "the book is a kind of keepsake, something more permanent than a YouTube video." She added that the decision to publish these YouTube books simultaneously with S&S's U.K. and Australian companies proved to be important because the "true internationalization of product is happening, particularly among the younger audience, which eventually will mean the whole audience." For many titles, she added, publishers abroad can no longer "wait six months and create a different title" for their editions.
  • although most readers spend an inordinate amount of time online, "it's still very much old media such as TV, radio and certain print outlets that drive sales for new titles, even if a consumer is looking at the online version of that media." Reidy added that word of mouth remains the most important driver of sales. "So the question is: whose mouth?" She said that morning shows sometimes still have a big effect, while Oprah's clout has "diminished almost to nothing." Sometimes an op-ed piece will start a book selling. Planning now combines print, electronic and social media possibilities "because we don't know where it will come from."
  • the plateauing of e-book sales to the range of 25%-30% of revenues at S&S has occurred in part, Reidy speculated, because in early digital days, readers buying a new book from an author would buy their backlist, too, something that's apparently not happening at the same rate. In addition, "the novelty of buying e-books" has worn off, and many readers recognize that "the physical book is a terrific product," which publishers are responding to by improving the quality of many printed books with better endpapers, better paper and more.
  • readers who use subscription services such as Oyster and Scribd are reading a lot of titles--"a very high percentage" of S&S titles on the services have been read, which seems to indicate that "when you remove the question of price from an individual title, the consumer is willing to try new things," Reidy said. As a result, S&S views subscription as both "a revenue stream and a vehicle for discovery and further purchasing." The company had feared subscription might cannibalize sales rather than grow the market. --John Mutter

Tom Clarkson Wins BISG Lifetime Service Award

Congratulations to Tom Clarkson, the distribution standards consultant and former longtime director of supply chain technology at Barnes & Noble until his retirement in 2007, who was honored with the Lifetime Service Award by the Book Industry Study Group at is annual meeting on Friday.

Tom Clarkson

Clarkson has been a member of BISG since its founding in 1975 and was for many years chair of the Manufacturing and Distribution Committee's Machine Readable Coding Working Group. He continues to be an active member of the Manufacturing and Distribution Committee and the Identification Committee. John Bohman, a member of the awards jury and v-p of sales & customer operations at Penguin Random House, commented: "If you've been involved with BISG for any length of time, Tom has mentored you."

In his remarks, Clarkson remembered when longtime BISG director Sandy Paul called and said she and a colleague were forming a new team that wanted to develop a tape format for point of sale. "We developed those and other formats." He recalled working on subject codes. ("We could agree easier on gender differences than subject codes," he said.) He noted that the industry replace magnetic tapes with direct electronic communications and introduced the ISBN. "Since everyone got comfortable with the ISBN, we decided to change it," he said with a smile, referring to the introduction of the 13-digit ISBN in 2007 to replace the 10-digit ISBN.

Today, Clarkson continued he's proud to go to general stores and see hardcovers and mass markets with no stickers over the bar codes being scanned at checkout and going to B&N stores and seeing Legos and educational games and stationery being sold intermixed with books with no overstickers or dummy ISBNs. He spoke proudly of not only being part of the team but being a contributor.

In introducing Clarkson, Barnes & Noble v-p of publisher relations Joe Gonnella said that "like all great mentors, Tom teaches by example" and called him "a true Southern gentleman."

We've known Tom Clarkson for almost 30 years and agree wholeheartedly with Joe Gonnella and John Bohman. He's always been a good friend and patient teacher, able and willing to explain the intricacies of EDI in plain English. For that alone, Tom Clarkson deserves this award, many times over.

Obituary Note: Jackie Collins; C.K. Williams

Bestselling British-born author Jackie Collins, "known for her vibrant novels about the extravagance and glamour of life in Hollywood," died Saturday, the New York Times reported. She was 77. Collins wrote more than 30 books, "many of them filled with explicit, unrestrained sexuality, and sold more than 500 million copies worldwide," the Times noted. Her first book, which appeared in 1968, was The World Is Full of Married Men. She also wrote Hollywood Lives and Lucky. Her most recent novel was The Santangelos.


Poet C.K. Williams, "whose morally impassioned poems addressing war, poverty and climate change, as well as the imponderable mysteries of the psyche, won him a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award," died yesterday, the New York Times reported. He was 78.

"What I think poets tell themselves, either aloud or unconsciously, is that poetry is part of the moral resonance of the world," he told PBS NewsHour in 2003. "Poetry adds to that, that sense that human beings have that we have some moral meaning that is part of the basis of our identity, no matter what our acts are."

Williams won a National Book Critics Circle Award for his collection Flesh and Blood (1987), a Pulitzer for Repair (1999) and a National Book Award for The Singing (2003). At the time of his death, he had completed Falling Ill, a collection of poems about death and dying. Tomorrow, his Selected Later Poems will be released by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.


Image of the Day: Dog Tags for Cats

Robert Crais's 20th novel, The Promise (Putnam, November 10), joins his series characters Elvis Cole and Joe Pike with the heroes of Suspect: LAPD K-9 officer Scott James and his German shepherd, Maggie.

In honor of Maggie, special "dog tags" have been created--and it turns out cats love them, too, as modeled here by Jamal, who belongs to Jessica Dickieson, digital media coordinator at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, Calif. Booksellers are encouraged to post their pix on Crais's Facebook page, website or Instagram (@robertcrais), or e-mail directly to

WORD Jersey City, N.J.: 'Compact, Diverse, Thoughtful'

In yesterday's New York Times, the travel section highlighted the Grove Street area of Jersey City, N.J., and wrote this about WORD, which opened in December 2013:

"This Jersey City outpost of Greenpoint, Brooklyn's WORD bookstore offers a compact, diverse and thoughtfully curated selection of titles, both recent and classic. The year-old store also houses a cafe with coffee, sweets and sandwiches from Roman Nose, the Italian restaurant next door. The comedian Patton Oswalt and the novelist Irvine Welsh are only two recent guests who have participated in store events."

Cool Idea of the Day: 'Shipwrecked' at the Booksmith

KALW public radio showcased the Booksmith's Shipwreck event series, "San Francisco's premiere Erotic Fan Fiction competition--wherein six writers take a revered text from the canon, and turn it into something totally... demented." The goal for co-creators Amy Stephenson and Casey Childers was to free writers to talk back "to revered classics like Salinger's grumpy tale of teen angst or The Great Gatsby or Moby Dick, or Pride and Prejudice... that's what Shipwreck aims to do with the help of a whole lot of smutty comedy. The jokes are largely unrestrained, except for a couple of important ground rules."

"I grew up poor and not in a very educated family, we didn't have a lot of books, and bookstores were really intimidating to me," Stephenson said. "And it's really important to me as the events coordinator at Booksmith [to put on events] that are accessible to everybody, that they can feel like they can engage with the canon and the classics and even contemporary literature in a way that's fun.... This may seem ridiculous to some who consider themselves serious readers. But this is the largest group of people I've ever seen in a bookstore, enjoying themselves raucously. What that says about us? I'm not too sure. And honestly, I don't really want to know."

Donna Fell Wins NAIBA Bookstore Visit Challenge

Donna Fell outside Booktowne in Manasquan, N.J.

Donna Fell, owner of Sparta Books, Sparta, N.J., has won the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association challenge for member booksellers to visit as many other bookstores as possible between March and September 18. Her grand total, which included some stores during a trip in Europe: 14. She wins two guest-room nights at NAIBA's fall conference, October 2-4.

"Traveling around regionally and globally has only strengthened my theory that no matter what the language, who the customer, where the location, booksellers want their customers to leave their store with a book they will love," Fell said. "Each bookstore owner or employee I met was very willing to share information, knowledge and ideas with me, knowing I was a fellow bookstore owner with the same interests."

NAIBA issued the challenge to all staffers at member stores to strengthen "their bond with other booksellers and learn more about the industry through each other's businesses."

Book Trailer of the Day: The Art of Memoir

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr (Harper), a trailer that includes insights from fellow writers Lena Dunham, Amy Tan, Gary Shteyngart, Mary-Louise Parker, Phil Jackson, Rodney Crowell and Nelson George.

Media and Movies

Primetime Bookish Emmy Award Winners

Olive Kitteridge, the HBO film based Elizabeth Strout's novel, won big at last night's primetime Emmy Awards, with five major category Emmys and eight total. Here are some of the major category-winning shows that had book connections:

Olive Kitteridge: Outstanding limited series; Richard Jenkins (actor, limited series or movie); Frances McDormand (lead actress, limited series or movie); Lisa Cholodenko (director, limited series, movie or dramatic special); Bill Murray (supporting actor, limited series or movie), Jane Anderson (writing, limited series, movie or dramatic special)

Game of Thrones, based on the novels by George R.R. Martin: Outstanding drama series; Peter Dinklage (supporting actor, drama series), David Benioff & D.B. Weiss (writing, drama series), David Nutter (director, drama series)

Orange Is the New Black, based on Piper Kerman's memoir: Uzo Aduba (supporting actress, drama series)

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, based on Lawrence Wright's book: Outstanding documentary or nonfiction special; Alex Gibney (director, nonfiction programming)

Bessie, based in part on Chris Albertson's biography: Outstanding Television movie

Movies: Steve Jobs

Universal has released a new trailer for Steve Jobs, Danny Boyle's film adaptation of Walter Isaacson's book, Entertainment Weekly reported. The movie stars Michael Fassbender, Seth Rogen, Kate Winslet and Jeff Daniels. It opens October 9.

Media Heat: Donald Trump on Colbert's Late Show

This morning on Morning Joe: David Maraniss, author of Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story (Simon & Schuster, $32.50, 9781476748382). He will also appear today on MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell Show, CNBC's Squawk Box and Bloomberg TV's With All Due Respect.


This morning on NPR's Marketplace Morning Report: David Willey, author of The Promise of Francis: The Man, the Pope, and the Challenge of Change (Gallery, $26, 9781476789057).


Today on Fresh Air: Dale Russakoff, author of The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools? (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27, 9780547840055).


Today on the View: Pamela Anderson, co-author of Raw (BenBella, $29.95, 9781942952077). She will also appear tomorrow on the Meredith Vieira Show.


Today on PBS NewsHour: Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (Simon & Schuster, $16.99, 9781451697391).


Today on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews: Jay Winik, author of 1944: FDR and the Year That Changed History (Simon & Schuster, $35, 9781439114087).


Tonight on Jimmy Kimmel Live: Bill O'Reilly, co-author of Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency (Holt, $30, 9781627792417).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: William Paul Young, author of Eve: A Novel (Howard, $16, 9781501101427).


Tomorrow on Diane Rehm: Martin Walker, author of The Patriarch: A Bruno, Chief of Police Novel (Knopf, $24.95, 9780385354172).


Tomorrow on the Meredith Vieira Show: Kim Goldman, author of Can't Forgive: My 20-Year Battle with O.J. Simpson (BenBella, $14.95, 9781941631485).


Tomorrow on the Talk: Kunal Nayyar, author of Yes, My Accent Is Real: And Some Other Things I Haven't Told You (Atria, $26, 9781476761824).


Tomorrow on Charlie Rose: Dick Cheney and Liz Cheney, authors of Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America (Threshold Editions, $28, 9781501115417).


Tomorrow night on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Donald Trump, author of Time to Get Tough: Make America Great Again! (Regnery, $16.99, 9781621574958).


Tomorrow night on Jimmy Kimmel Live: Lea Michele, author of You First: Journal Your Way to Your Best Life (Crown Archetype, $17.99, 9780553447316).

Books & Authors

Awards: Weston Writers' Trust Nonfiction

The Writers' Trust of Canada has announced finalists for the C$60,000 (about US$45,365) Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction, which honors works published in Canada that "demonstrate a distinctive voice, as well as a persuasive and compelling command of tone, narrative, style and technique." In a twist this year, the literary community was invited to learn who had made the list by piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. The winner will be named October 6. This year's shortlisted titles are:  

Tell It to the World: International Justice & the Secret Campaign to Hide Mass Murder in Kosovo by Eliott Behar  
Kitten Clone: Inside Alcatel-Lucent by Douglas Coupland
Empire of Deception: From Chicago to Nova Scotia--The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City & Captivated the Nation by Dean Jobb
Cease: A Memoir of Love, Loss & Desire by Lynette Loeppky
Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary & Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva by Rosemary Sullivan

Book Review

Review: Erratic Facts

Erratic Facts by Kay Ryan (Grove Press, $24 hardcover, 9780802124050, October 6, 2015)

Two-term United States Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner (The Best of It, 2010), Kay Ryan of Northern California has won nearly every poetry prize existent. She has had a career teaching English at the College of Marin and has leveraged her renown to champion community college education and take a few pokes at the academic poetry universe ("I think there's too much poetry out there. I don't need to add to the waste stream," she told the Paris Review in 2008). Her poems are famously short, and those in her collection Erratic Facts are no exception. Like championship banners hanging from the rafters of storied basketball arenas, they are tight vertical ribbons of two- to four-word lines. They're deceptively easy to scan, but not so easy to digest. A metaphor here, a colloquialism turned on its ear there--they do what poetry does so well: make us see our world a little differently, force us to think.

Ryan likes to lead her poems with epigraphs, and there are many here--including a few from W.G. Sebald (who may be better in epigraph than in book-length). "Monk Style" takes its epigraph from an NPR segment ("It was hard for [Thelonious] Monk to play Monk"), which she bends to conclude:

Monk must
approach himself,
join himself
at the bench
and sit awhile.

Then slip his
hands into his
hands Monk

She also uses common phrases as titles ("Token Loss" or "Shoot the Moon") before twisting them into some fresh meaning. "Fool's Errands" is a good example:

A thing
cannot be
enough times:
this is the
rule of dogs
for whom there
are no fool's
errands. To
loop out and
come back is
good all alone.
It's gravy to
carry a ball
or a bone.

Ryan didn't come to fame until late in her 50s and has earned her wisdom. As one ages, things don't matter so much--or perhaps they matter even more. As she says in "Miser Time":

Miser time grows
profligate near the
end: unpinching
and unplanning,
abandoning the
whole idea of

Erratic Facts reflects a great poet still standing on her peak. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

Shelf Talker: The wise, frisky and concise poems in Pulitzer Prize winner Kay Ryan's Erratic Facts reinforce her already stellar reputation.

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