Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sourcebooks Landmark: Long After We Are Gone by Terah Shelton Harris

Delacorte Press: Last One to Die by Cynthia Murphy

Margaret Ferguson Books: Not a Smiley Guy by Polly Horvath, Illustrated by Boris Kulikov

Indiana University Press: The Grim Reader: A Pharmacist's Guide to Putting Your Characters in Peril by Miffie Seideman

Hell's Hundred: Blood Like Mine by Stuart Neville

Spiegel & Grau: Tiananmen Square by Lai Wen

Tor Books: The Daughters' War (Blacktongue) by Christopher Buehlman


Notes: Tower Files for Chapter 11 Again

Tower Records has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy again and has obtained $85 million in debtor-in-possession financing so that it can continue to fund operations and buy new stock, according to Reuters. Earlier this summer, at least four major record companies had put Tower on hold.

Tower said it intends "to sell the company through a process (Section 363) under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code," a process that would insure a sale within 60 days.


Matt and Marsha Walpole will close their used bookstore, Row by Row Bookshop, in Boone, N.C., in the Blue Ridge Mountains, on October 1. The Walpoles plan to continue to sell used books online. The pair have 24 and 26 years of experience in bookselling, respectively.


Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill has created a Frontline Fellowship that will honor a frontline bookseller with exceptional handselling skills--and reward him or her with a free trip to the ABA's next Winter Institute, to be held in Portland, Ore., Feb. 1-2. For more information, see Bookselling This Week's report.


Cissy Tiernan has joined the Globe Pequot Press as director of national accounts, replacing Michelle Lewy, who was recently promoted to v-p, sales. With more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience, Tiernan has worked for Ballantine and Morrow and was most recently director of sales for Yorkville Press and v-p, sales and publisher services, at Blu Sky Media Group.
Kathryn Mennone was recently promoted to director of strategic partnerships at Globe Pequot. She will work to create "business synergies" with divisions of parent company Morris Communications Corp., which includes 27 daily newspapers, 12 weeklies, 24 magazines and radio stations.


Gary Fisketjon, v-p and editor-at-large at Knopf, has won the 2006 Maxwell E. Perkins Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Field of Fiction, awarded under the auspices of the Mercantile Library Center for Fiction.

Fisketjon was cited for "his impressive work as an editor at Random House and Vintage Books from 1980 to 1986, where he created the Vintage Contemporaries Series," as well as his tenure as editorial director of the Atlantic Monthly Press and at Knopf.

Noreen Tomassi, executive director of the Mercantile Library Center for Fiction, called the creation of the Vintage Contemporaries series "a landmark event in fiction publishing in America" and praised Fisketjon's "incredible track record working with some of the finest American writers. The Maxwell Perkins Award was presented for the first time last year to Nan A. Talese, and we can't imagine a more appropriate recipient for the second award than Gary Fisketjon."

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Roswell Johnson Saves the World! (Roswell Johnson #1) by Chris Colfer

At Hastings, Sales Flat, Earnings Fall

Total revenues at Hastings Entertainment in the second quarter ended July 31 rose 0.3% to $123.1 million, and net income was $179,000 compared to $671,000 in the same period a year ago.

Total sales at stores open at least a year rose 0.5%. Comp-sales for books were down 3.2%, which performed better than most other categories except for video games. The company attributed the decline in book comp sales to "decreased sales of new release hardbacks and paperbacks, which primarily resulted from last year's $1.7 million in sales of the sixth book in the Harry Potter series. This decrease was partially offset by increased sales in all used book categories."

During the quarter, Hastings opened a 17,788-sq.-ft. store in Albuquerque, N.M., and finished remodeling an 18,312-sq.-ft. store in Enid, Okla. The company now has 154 stores, which average 20,000 square feet.

Commenting on results, John Marmaduke, chairman and CEO, said that net income was at levels the company had forecast and that "our total and comparable revenue increase in spite of continued weakness in the music and in-store video rental industries and books having an unfavorable comparison against last year's release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince attests to the strength of our multi-media business model."

Marmaduke attributed the decline in gross profit to "an acceleration of clearance merchandise to accommodate new merchandising initiatives in books and sidelines, as well as aggressive marketing initiatives in video and game rentals."

Wall Street did not like the news. Hastings stock closed at $5.80 a share, down 16.9%, on volume nearly three times the usual.


Harper: Sandwich by Catherine Newman

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Best Colleges; Euchner Plays Ball

This morning Good Morning America focuses on The Princeton Review with The Best 361 Colleges, 2007 (Princeton Review, $21.95, 0375765581). The guide is also featured on CNN's Headline News and American Morning today.


This morning on the Today Show: former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, whose new book is Dragon Fire (Forge, $24.95, 0765316196). He's also on Fox News and the O'Reilly Factor today.


Today on WAMU's Diane Rehm Show: Charles Euchner, author of Little League, Big Dreams: The Hope, the Hype and the Glory of the Greatest World Series Ever Played (Sourcebooks, $22.95, 1402206615).


Today on CNN's Situation Room: Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D.-Ill.), co-author with Bruce Reed of The Plan: Big Ideas for America (PublicAffairs, $19.95, 1586484125).


Today on Fox and Friends and MSNBC's Hardball: Patrick J. Buchanan, author of State of Emergency: How Illegal Immigration Is Destroying America (Thomas Dunne, $24.95, 0312360037).


In a repeat of a show earlier this month, the View talks with Nora Ephron, whose new book is I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman (Knopf, $19.95, 0307264556).


Today on NPR's All Things Considered: Dr. Steven Schnur, author of The Reality Diet: Lose the Pounds for Good with a Cardiologist's Simple, Healthy, Proven Plan (Avery, $24.95, 1583332502).

Spiegel & Grau: Tiananmen Square by Lai Wen

Books & Authors

NAIBA's Booksellers' Favorites

This year's books that are "favorites among the booksellers" of the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association are:

  • Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala (HarperCollins). "Both a searing take on coming-of-age and a vivid document of the dark face of war, Beasts of No Nation announces the arrival of an extraordinary new writer," the association said.
  • Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin (S&S). "Acclaimed historian Doris Kearns Goodwin illuminates Lincoln's political genius in this highly original work, as the one-term congressman and prairie lawyer rises from obscurity to prevail over three gifted rivals of national reputation to become president."
  • Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glaser (HarperCollins). "From the top of her tiara down to her sparkly studded shoes, Nancy is determined to teach her family a thing or two about being fancy. How Nancy transforms her parents and little sister for one enchanted evening makes for a story that is funny and warm--with or without the frills."
  • Rebel Angels by Libba Bray (Delacorte). "Ah, Christmas! Gemma Doyle is looking forward to a holiday from Spence Academy, spending time with her friends in the city, attending ritzy balls, and on a somber note, tending to her ailing father. As she prepares to ring in the New Year, 1896, a handsome young man, Lord Denby, has set his sights on Gemma, or so it seems."

The winning authors and illustrators have been invited to receive their awards at the Breakfast of Champions, Sunday, September 17, at the NAIBA Trade Show in Valley Forge, Pa.

Attainment: New Books Out Next Week

The following are selected significant titles that will be published next Tuesday, August 29:

Armageddon's Children by Terry Brooks (Del Rey, $26.95, 0345484088). Continuing the Word Void trilogy.

The Edge of Darkness by Tim F. Lahaye (Bantam Dell, $26, 0553803255). The latest in the Babylon Rising series.

Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen (Random House, $24.95, 0375502246). Not part of a series, this novel features two tough sisters who deal with the aftermath of a phrase one of them, a famous morning TV host, utters over the air.

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman: 25 Stories
by Haruki Murakami (Knopf, $24.59, 1400044618). Stories from the author of Kafka on the Shore.

The Last Town on Earth: A Novel by Thomas Mullen (Random House, $23.95, 1400065208). Set in a small town in the Pacific Northwest that has quarantined itself during the 1918 flu pandemic.

The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud (Knopf, $25, 030726419X). Three friends in their late 20s take on New York City.

Elizabeth by J. Randy Taraborrelli (Warner, $26.99, 0446532541). Elizabeth Taylor, that is.

Out in paperback next Tuesday:

Thug-A-Licious by Noire (Ballantine, $13.95, 0345486919). More street lit from the author of Candy Licker.

Friends, Lovers, Chocolate by Alexander McCall Smith (Knopf, $12.95, 1400077109). Continuing the Sunday Philosophy Club.

Morrigan's Cross by Nora Roberts (Jove, $7.99, 0515141658). The first in the prolific author's Circle Trilogy, a paranormal series.

A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon (Delta, $15, 0385340397). The sixth novel in the Outlander series.

Wild Ducks Flying Backward by Tom Robbins (Bantam Dell, $12, 0553383531). A trade paperback reprint of Robbins' first collection of primarily nonfiction pieces.

Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley (Bantam Dell, $7.99, 0553589342). The war classic in a mass market tie-in edition for the movie that will be directed by Clint Eastwood and co-produced by Steven Spielberg.

Book Review

Mandahla: Anonymous Lawyer Reviewed

Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman (Henry Holt & Company, $25.00 Hardcover, 9780805079814, July 2006)

A few years ago, Harvard Law School student (now graduate) Jeremy Blachman started a blog, Anonymous Lawyer. His aims were modest, but the response grew to the point that the site was featured in the New York Times. Publishers got interested, Holt won his hand, and Blachman crafted a wickedly funny story about a hiring partner's quest to become chairman of his law firm. The eponymous narrator begins his maiden blog with a paranoid rant about a lawyer taking candy from his secretary's desk--"She's my secretary. Not yours, and her candy belongs to me, not you . . . Stop stealing my stapler, too. I shouldn't have to go wandering the halls looking for a stapler. I'm a partner in a half-billion dollar law firm. Staplers should be lining up at my desk, begging for me to use them. So should the young lawyers who think I know their names." To call Anonymous Lawyer "self-obsessed" would be a kindness.
The blogger's nemesis is The Jerk, his rival for the chairmanship--"We were both named partner the same year, the first time our names came up for consideration. Of course, on the same day I got called to be the hiring partner, The Jerk was named assistant head of litigation. I ripped up a paralegal's paycheck when I found out. Had to vent the frustration somehow." Of course, there already is a chairman, but that is of little consequence as Anonymous Lawyer maneuvers for position and attempts to impress his boss by hosting a party for the summer interns and others from the firm: "The partners will get a tour of the inside of the house; the associates will be limited to the backyard area . . . I don't need to have this party, [but it's] a chance to impress The New Chairman. To show off my house and finally get to exhibit the patio furniture that I had upholstered in the firm's color."
Anonymous Lawyer is blithely unaware of his narcissism, thinking of himself as benevolent, up to a point: "We advertise ourselves as humane, civil places where partners don't scream or spit or make the associates bleed. If someone makes a mistake, we get angry, but we don't do much damage. If someone begs to go see his baby's birth, he may feel the consequences down the road but it's not as if we're going to shackle him to his desk and beat him with the paper tray from the copy machine (legal size works better than letters size, incidentally--more torque). We ignore it when we hear an associate crying in the bathroom stall; we accept an apology for a missing comma." When he started out, people yelled, people hit. "But e-mail has ruined much of the spontaneity of unleashed passion; with the absence of letter openers, highlighters and binder clips just can't inflict that much damage."
The plot line is thin, and the blog-as-novel is a bit old hat. But it doesn't really matter. The laughs are abundant--snarky laughs, snorts, passages you'll read or e-mail to your friends and workmates. While Anonymous Lawyer satirizes big law firms, workplace tribulations are common to many of us, if only from reading Dilbert. Muffin wars, bad coffee, scheming, and self-importance are universal:
"I can barely do anything this morning knowing there's a living creature in the office next to mine. Usually it's just the corporate securities partner . . . but today he brought his dog into the office. Ridiculous. As if there aren't enough animals here already . . . Someone gave the dog a piece of muffin from the attorney lounge. The muffins aren't for dogs. We don't even let the paralegals have the muffins. The muffins are for client-billing attorneys. They're purely sustenance to keep the lawyers from having to leave the office for breakfast . . . The dog barked once. I told his owner to keep the dog quiet or I'd lock him in the document room with the junior associates who've been in there for six weeks, searching for a single e-mail in a room full of boxes. There's an eerie quiet that normally pervades the halls of the firm, punctuated only by the screams of those who've discovered they can use the letter opener to end the pain once and for all. I'd like to keep it that way. We don't need barking to drown out our inner turmoil. Noise is for the monthly happy hour and the annual picnic. Not the workspace. The workspace is sacred."--Marilyn Dahl

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Do You Have A Vision for Your Web Site?

When I visit bookshops on this site-seeing trek, I ask myself a simple question: What is the vision here?

Richard Goldman and Mary Alice Gorman, owners of Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, Pa., have a vision for their Web site that Richard calls "the Google vs. IMDB effect. If you're looking for something about the nesting habits of robins, you go to Google; if you're looking for the name of the actor who played the homicide detective in The Thin Man, you don't go to Google; you go to In a small way, I think we've become the IMDB of mystery readers--they go to us first to answer a question. Once they are on the site, we have the opportunity to make sales."

In a previous column, I cited a report that 30% of this bookshop's revenues come from online sales. Pennsylvania is its primary source for Internet business; New York, California, and Florida round out the top four. In addition to providing an extraordinary array of useful information for mystery readers, it has a discount program, sends weekly e-mails featuring 20% off a selected title and offers free shipping on orders over $45.

Mystery Lovers Bookshop is always seeking new avenues for Internet outreach. Mary Alice traces the evolution of this strategy back to 1990, when Richard developed a system that "tracks all sales so customers can check for dupes, generates mailing lists by author, shows series chronology and makes life so easy for me, the user from Hell. We've never found any system out there that can top ours or we would have updated by now."

The online version of Mystery Lovers Bookshop made its debut in 1995 and went through several incarnations over the next six years. Richard admits that those early variations were "strictly an advertising/promotion site," but by 2001 the bookstore faced increasing competition from superstores in its region. About 15% of its sales had been coming from phone and mail orders, so the next move seemed obvious. "With increasing difficulty facing us in the in-store business, we realized we had to have an e-commerce Web site if we wanted to attract more mail order customers. In October 2001, we launched the new Web site, which was an immediate success."

In 2003, the store began using Google AdWords to drive traffic to the site. According to Richard, "This has been amazingly successful. We now average about $50 a month in pay-per-click charges, which generate thousands of dollars in sales. Traffic-wise, here's an example: In February of 2004, we had 22,000 unique visitors, 780 a day; in February of 2006, we had 51,000 unique visitors, 1,833 a day; and in June of 2006, we had 71,000 unique visitors, 2,320 a day."

Mary Alice adds that the store works with online communities (blogs, list servers, groups, etc.) to drive traffic to the Web site, and has become more aggressive about getting authors to link directly to it.

Fresh content is always king, and Richard commits about 25 hours per month to his role as webmaster. "The update of the Web site is crucial to success; you constantly need new content to get people to keep coming back."

Continuing to adapt to the changing world online, Mystery Lovers Bookshop has begun an ambitious redesign of the site. According to Richard, "We felt the site was usable but a bit of a mess. The bottom line is that we're not converting enough visitors to buyers." To counter this, the store is working on a complete overhaul that will include a new, more efficient shopping cart as well as significant improvements in navigation and usability.

Ultimately, however, the key to online success for Mystery Lovers Bookshop is more than just improved shopping carts and navigation. It's the personal dialogue between handsellers and readers, a conversation that can be profitable even when it is virtual.

"Aside from the site content, our handselling and customer service with online customers is absolutely the key," says Richard. "Our responses to orders are very personal and idiosyncratic; they reflect the personality of the staff person who responds."

Richard doesn't prescribe the Mystery Lovers Bookshop strategy as a panacea. "Every bookseller is in a different situation. We were driven to the web by the continuing falloff of traffic in the store as a result of the chain store expansion. The Web gives us a way to project the personality and uniqueness of the store over a much wider area."

There's a word for that--vision.

--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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