Shelf Awareness for Friday, June 28, 2019

Simon & Schuster: Fall Cooking With Simon Element

Tor Nightfire: Devils Kill Devils by Johnny Compton

Shadow Mountain: Highcliffe House (Proper Romance Regency) by Megan Walker

Simon & Schuster: Register for the Simon & Schuster Fall Preview!

Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster: The Ministry of Time Kaliane Bradley


Ci7: The ABA Town Hall

The American Booksellers Association held a member town hall at Children's Institute for the first time yesterday, with booksellers gathering at Ci7 in Pittsburgh, Pa., to discuss a variety of issues. Among the topics brought up for discussion were tariffs, the closure of Baker & Taylor's bookstore business and the need for education catering to more specific bookstore models.

On the subject of tariffs, Jamie Fiocco, ABA board president and owner of Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, N.C., reported that she and ABA senior strategy officer Dan Cullen traveled to Washington, D.C., recently to testify on the effects tariffs would have on independent booksellers. She noted that some publishers, as well as representatives of the Association of American Publishers, also testified, but ultimately the decision whether to place any new tariffs comes down to the administration. Fiocco added that she appreciated all of the hard work done by the ABA and said: "We've done what we can."

Baker & Taylor
Fiocco said the closure of B&T's bookstore business was another major focus of the board and ABA staff, and reported that at least through the 2019 holidays there should be options for rapid fulfillment for booksellers on the West Coast. Smaller stores that have lost their e-commerce sites have options through IndieLite, and Fiocco urged any stores facing that sort of situation to contact their ABA member relationship manager.

Minimum Wage
In response to questions about how booksellers are dealing with things like the rising minimum wage and occupancy costs, Fiocco said the ABA's ABACUS data was one of the best tools indies have when it comes to talking with publishers and those in other areas of the book business. She urged any bookseller with the authority to report to ABACUS to do so, and booksellers without that authority should ask their managers if they are reporting. She explained that at present around 300 stores report to ABACUS, and the ABA would like that number to at least double. Without that data, she continued, indies can't show publishers where their help is most needed.

Bookselling Sustainability
Making bookselling sustainable as a career was a significant topic of discussion. Fiocco said all booksellers have a part to play in raising the profile of bookselling and pushing back against the narrative that all indies are struggling and the industry is vanishing. Explaining to publishers the realities of independent bookselling remains a major part of the work being done. Christine Onorati, board member and owner of WORD Bookstores in Jersey City, N.J., and Brooklyn, N.Y., emphasized the board's conversations with publishers and said booksellers don't want to "put new tires on an old car"--they want a whole new car.

Indiebound and E-Commerce
The owner of a small bookstore brought up the monthly cost of the ABA's IndieCommerce platform, saying the price was almost prohibitive for a store of her size, and she wondered if the ABA might implement a sliding scale for fees based on revenue or size of store. She expressed frustration with the comparatively limited functionality of IndieLite, the delay in receiving payments and the way Indiebound makes it easier for a shopper to buy a book outright than to search for a store near them. Fiocco said the board has wrestled with the "instant gratification" nature of Indiebound and whether the ABA can subsidize something that not all members use. It was also pointed out that stores with an "authorized .net account" can receive funds immediately once a sale is completed, and Kenny Brechner, board member and owner of Devaney, Doak & Garrett Booksellers in Farmington, Maine, acknowledged that there may be a case for an "Indie Medium" e-commerce platform.

Calls for Wider Education
Several booksellers called for a greater variety of educational programming pertaining to specific models and sizes of bookstores, such as micro-bookstores or nonprofit bookstores. Fiocco said more feedback about what sort of education is needed is always valuable and urged booksellers to let the board and ABA know what they need. She added that the ABA has considered a "boot camp" for stores that need mentors or one-on-one help. And in response to a bookseller asking for human resources-specific training, Fiocco said the HR education track had largely been dropped but will be making a comeback.

Perception of Children's Books and Children's Bookselling
Both board members and attending booksellers acknowledged the widespread bias against children's books and children's bookselling common throughout the book industry. Board members were in agreement that a lot of work needs to be done to put an end to those biases, both within bookselling and the broader publishing world. Board member Tegan Tigani, bookseller at Queen Anne Book Company in Seattle, Wash., noted that an ABA town hall being hosted at Children's Institute was one sign that things were progressing. --Alex Mutter

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!

'Doing God's Work': Ann Patchett at Ci7

Yesterday morning, at the seventh annual ABC Children's Institute underway in Pittsburgh, Pa., ABA president Jamie Fiocco welcomed a ballroom full of children's booksellers and publishing professionals to the opening keynote. After a quick word from Dan Verdick, director of national sales at this year's sponsor, Baker & Taylor Publishing Services, Fiocco again took the stage to declare Ci7 the biggest institute yet: with 62 scholarships awarded, there are 330 booksellers (more than half of whom are first-time attendees) from 230 stores in attendance.

Retiring ABA CEO Oren Teicher, attending his last Children's Institute, took the stage to introduce Ann Patchett, saying that the "narrative about our speaker" parallels that of the past decade of independent bookselling. Sad that her town had no independent bookstore, Patchett joined forces with business partner Karen Hayes to build Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tenn. Eight years later, Parnassus "has become one of America's most cherished bookstores." Patchett joined Teicher on stage, and the audience gave him a standing ovation as the two hugged.

Anne Patchett at Ci7

"I never thought I was ever going into retail," Patchett said in her friendly, upbeat speech. "I just saw it as a civic duty." In November of 2011, she and Hayes decided to be 50/50 partners in the business--Hayes would run it and Patchett would pay for everything. "The benefits to me have been almost incalculable," Patchett said. One benefit is the ways in which owning a bookstore has changed how she reads. Before Parnassus, reading was about "filling in the gaps" in her education, bouncing around from work to work, plugging up any perceived holes in her literary knowledge. (An understandable focus considering, she related, that she did not learn to read until the third grade.) Now, "all I read are books that haven't been published. [People ask me] 'What are you reading?' " Patchett said with a laugh. "It's not gonna help you." But reading so many upcoming titles taught her something 25 years of writing hadn't: "Fiction has fashion."

Also because of the bookstore, Patchett met Robin Preiss Glasser, best known for her illustrative work in the Fancy Nancy series. Glasser, who had recently put the Fancy Nancy series to rest, asked Patchett if she had ever considered writing for children. No, she said, "I don't have children. I don't know children. I don't actually feel comfortable with children." But, after a brief picture book lesson from Glasser, Patchett went home and wrote a picture book. And another. And yet another. While still writing her adult works, she started a practice of "winding down" from the day by writing a picture book. With children's stories on her mind, she watched news coverage of Pennsylvania's 2018 congressional district special election. When Conor Lamb's win was announced, someone was shown holding a sign proclaiming the election a "Lambslide." With that image, Patchett's first published children's book, Lambslide (HarperCollins), illustrated by Glasser, was born.

Since then, she's toured with Glasser and learned the ins and outs of talking to and working with children, and she realized, "Children made me uncomfortable because I was uncomfortable as a child." As an adult author, the book tour was always a chore--now, she said, donning a headband with lamb ears attached, "I am Robin Preiss Glasser's sidekick." Personal growth, professional discovery, children and children's books.... All thanks to owning an independent bookstore.

"It's always dire times," Patchett said of contemporary bookselling, "Booksellers as a whole are like Depression Era babies." Even when things are good, she joked, we can't admit it. "If you have a good year," she implored the audience, "celebrate it." "You're doing God's work... I am so proud to be a member of your ranks."

--Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

Graphic Universe (Tm): Hotelitor: Luxury-Class Defense and Hospitality Unit by Josh Hicks

For Sale: Oregon Books & Games, Rogue Reader


After 30 years in business, Karen and Robert Moore "are putting their downtown Grants Pass [Ore.] store fronts on the market, but there's a catch. They're only interested in a potential new owner if they're passionate about books and wish to continue their legacy," KOBI reported. The Moores own and operate Oregon Books and Games at 150 NE East St. and the Rogue Reader at 329 NE East St. in downtown Grants Pass.


"It's been family from the beginning," said Karen Moore, who hasn't been able to work for the last few years. With her husband turning 74, they decided it was time for a change.

"We're not closing. We're selling," Robert Moore said. "We built bookshelves and some of them are still being used today. We have been such an integral part of the community for so many years and so much of our own philosophy is to give back and help out.... A town this size to have a bookstore like this is unusual now."

GLOW: Workman Publishing: Atlas Obscura: Wild Life: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Living Wonders by Cara Giaimo, Joshua Foer, and Atlas Obscura

AAP to FTC: Regulate Amazon and Google


In a 12-page filing with the Federal Trade Commission in connection with the Commission's hearings on "Competition and Consumer Protection in the 21st Century," the Association of American Publishers urged the Commission to "more closely scrutinize the behavior of dominant online platforms that pervade every aspect of the economy."

The AAP emphasized that dominant technology platforms "exercise extraordinary market power in the markets for book distribution and Internet search," and singled out Amazon. It said, "No publisher can avoid distributing through Amazon and, for all intents and purposes, Amazon dictates the economic terms, with publishers paying more for Amazon's services each year and receiving less in return."

AAP also highlighted that Amazon and other platforms facilitate transactions for "unauthorized books." It wrote that Amazon enables "widespread counterfeiting, defective products, and fake reviews that both degrade the consumer experience and diminish the incentives of authors and publishers to create new works and bring them to the marketplace."

As for book searches, the AAP called Google's "complete and untouchable dominance... highly problematic because its business model is largely indifferent to whether consumers arrive at legitimate or pirated goods."

In general, the AAP said it had five "primary areas of concern," many or all of which apply to Amazon and, to a lesser extent, Google. Those concerns are: "(i) platforms exercising extraordinary market power in the markets for book distribution and Internet search; (ii) the threat to competition when platforms act as both producers and suppliers to the marketplaces they operate; (iii) platforms' imposition of most-favored nation clauses and other parity provisions that stifle competition, market entry, and innovation; (iv) platforms' use of non-transparent search algorithms and manipulated discovery tools that facilitate infringement and deceive consumers; and (v) platforms' tying of distribution services to the purchase of advertising services."

Maria A. Pallante, president and CEO of the AAP, commented: "Unfortunately, the marketplace of ideas is now at risk for serious if not irreparable damage because of the unprecedented dominance of a very small number of technology platforms. In order to mitigate this crisis and protect the public interest, AAP urges the FTC to exercise much-needed oversight and regulation, particularly as to circumstances where technology platforms stifle competition and manipulate consumer outcomes."

Harpervia: Only Big Bumbum Matters Tomorrow by Damilare Kuku

BookBar Among Denver Businesses Defying Fascists


BookBar was one of several Denver businesses "with openness and inclusivity at the core of their philosophy" to be targeted Wednesday by the alt-right group Patriot Front, one of the fascist and white supremacist groups that "have been plastering the Denver area with racist messaging for at least a year, putting hate stickers in a wide variety of very public locations," Westword reported.

Responding to the threat, businesses in the area are joining forces today to throw "a block party at which they'll celebrate everything the Patriot Front seems to find so threatening," Westword wrote.

Erika Righter, owner of Hope Tank, said that "it's a way to make a statement about our community and our connectedness. Broadway is an incredibly important part of the story of Denver, and it needs to be protected."

In a message to the community posted on Facebook, BookBar wrote that "we were one of the businesses targeted by White Supremacists yesterday. We stand strong with South Broadway on making sure our businesses are always a safe, warm, welcoming space for ALL! Come to BookBar today at 4 p.m. for an impromptu community dance party to celebrate inclusion. Stick around for our previously scheduled Drag Queen Storytime at 4:30! We'll be handing out our remaining FREE copies of The Mueller Report. And we hope to see you at the block party on South Broadway tomorrow at 4 p.m. #LetFreedomRead"


Image of the Day: Matching Booksellers

At Anderson's Bookshop, Naperville, Ill., "a case of unintended matching T-shirts just goes to show that our booksellers are always hungry for great books!" Pictured: Anne Waite (l.) and Carolyn Roys.

Cool Idea of the Day: Bonjour Books DC & Women's Soccer

This afternoon, Bonjour Books DC, Kensington, Md., has invited bookish soccer fans "to watch the game and cheer for your team" as the bookshop hosts an event for the FIFA Women's World Cup match between France and the U.S. at La Maison Française at the Embassy of France in Washington. "Don't forget to wear blue, white and red!" Bonjour Books DC advised.

Personnel Changes at Random House Group; The Experiment

In the Random House Group marketing department:
Melissa Esner is promoted to associate marketing director for the Crown and Hogarth imprints.
Rachel Aldrich is promoted to marketing manager for the Crown and Hogarth imprints.

Katie Tull is promoted to assistant marketing manager for the Random House, Dial, Modern Library, and One World imprints.


Ashley Yepsen has been promoted to publicist at The Experiment.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Joy-Ann Reid, Adam Gopnik on Real Time with Bill Maher

Fresh Air: John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars, among other titles.

HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: Joy-Ann Reid, author of The Man Who Sold America: Trump and the Unraveling of the American Story (Morrow, $27.99, 9780062880109).

Also on Real Time: Adam Gopnik, author of A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism (Basic Books, $28, 9781541699366).

TV: The Lincoln Lawyer; All Creatures Great & Small

CBS has issued a series production commitment for The Lincoln Lawyer, based on Michael Connelly's novels, with David E. Kelley set to write and executive produce, Variety reported. The show is from A+E Studios in association with CBS TV Studios. Matthew McConaughey previously starred as Mickey Haller in a 2011 film adaptation. Connelly and Ross Fineman will executive produce the series.

Kelley, creator and writer of the hit HBO series based on Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies, also created NBC's Harry's Law, ABC's The Practice and Boston Legal, and Ally McBeal at Fox. His collaborations with CBS include the 1992 series Picket Fences, Chicago Hope and more recently The Crazy Ones, starring Robin Williams.


PBS Masterpiece will co-produce All Creatures Great and Small, a new adaptation of the bestselling books by James Alfred Wight, published under the pen name James Herriot. The project will shoot on location in Yorkshire, England, and is timed for release in 2020, the 50th anniversary of the original publication of the much-loved books, which have never been out of print and sold 60 million copies internationally.

The six-part series, plus a Christmas special, will be produced by Richard Burrell (New Tricks, Silent Witness). Executive producers are Colin Callender and Melissa Gallant for Playground, Hugo Heppell for Screen Yorkshire and Rebecca Eaton for Masterpiece. Ben Vanstone (The Last Kingdom) is lead writer and executive producer, while Brian Percival (Downton Abbey) is lead director.

"Revisiting James Herriot's beloved stories is an immense privilege and we are honored that Alf Wight's family have entrusted us with his legacy. It is a responsibility we take very seriously," said Callender. "At a time when the country feels more divided than ever, Herriot's glorious books remind us how to connect and belong again. The series will embrace the fun and the nostalgia of revisiting the England of the past, while celebrating Herriot's values that, despite all our current upheaval, still underpin British life today."

Rebecca Eaton, executive producer of Masterpiece, added: "When it originally aired on public broadcasting, All Creatures Great and Small captured the hearts of millions of television viewers. We promise that the new series will have all the wit, warmth, and quirky charm of the original--and of course, lots of irresistible animals."

Wight's children, Jim Wight and Rosie Page, commented: "The books of James Herriot have enchanted millions of readers worldwide for almost half a century. We are delighted that our father's work will be brought to life once again for a new generation of viewers Great and Small."

Books & Authors

Awards: National Biography Shortlist

The State Library of New South Wales has unveiled its shortlist for the AU$25,000 (about US$17,510) National Biography Award, which recognizes "a published work of biographical or autobiographical writing aiming to promote public interest in these genres." The winner will be named August 12. This year's shortlisted authors, each of whom receives AU$2,000 (about US$1,400), are:

Do Oysters Get Bored? A Curious Life by Rozanna Lilley
Miss Ex-Yugoslavia by Sofija Stefanovic
No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison by Behrouz Boochani, translated by Omid Tofighian
One Hundred Years of Dirt by Rick Morton
The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay & Disaster by Sarah Krasnostein
The Wasp and the Orchid: The Remarkable Life of Australian Naturalist Edith Coleman by Danielle Clode

Reading with... James Polchin

photo: Greg Salvatori

James Polchin is a writer, cultural historian and a Clinical Professor in Liberal Studies at New York University. He has held faculty appointments in the Princeton Writing Program, the Parsons School of Design, the New School, and the Creative Nonfiction Foundation. He has lived in London, Paris, and Florence, where he taught writing classes at NYU sites abroad. For more than 10  years he has been a contributing writer to the Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide. His essays and reviews have appeared in The New Inquiry, Lambda Literary, BrevityDucts magazine and the Smart Set. Indecent Advances: A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall (Counterpoint, June 4, 2019) is his first book.

On your nightstand now:

My reading stack is usually a mixture of essays, biographies and histories. Or, better, works that do all three. Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous by Christopher Bonanos, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee, When Brooklyn Was Queer by Hugh Ryan, Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval by Saidiya Hartman and 16 Pills: Essays by Carley Moore.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Two Minute Mysteries by Donald Sobol. I had a few books in the series. Each mystery was only one or two pages long and featured the criminologist Dr. Haledjian. I remember being fascinated by that name. The mysteries included thefts, missing objects and even murders. Some tough stuff for a kid. Always the answer was printed upside down on the bottom of the page.

Your top five authors:

James Baldwin's precision and confrontation; Patricia Highsmith's double-edged sword in every plot; Edward P. Jones's lyrical force; Maggie Nelson's play with genre and a writer's presence; Rebecca Solnit's incisive intelligence; Edmund White's honesty and witnessing.

Book you've faked reading:

Moby-Dick. I tried, and will try again. But all that fishing.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Recently I've been talking about two books: The Meursault Investigation, a brilliant novel by the Algerian writer Kamel Daoud. He rewrites Camus's The Stranger from the perspective of the brother of the nameless man Meursault casually kills on the beach. And Édouard Louis's The End of Eddy, which tells the story of an assault Louis experienced one night when he brought home a man. He mixes fiction and memoir and sociological analysis as he searches to put into language the visceral and emotional impact of the violence.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The paperback version of Matthew Stadler's The Sex Offender, with its red filter over the Peter Hujar photograph, is as beautifully haunting as the book.

Book you hid from your parents:

I never had to hide books, thankfully. Growing up, we had a large bookcase of Book-of-the-Month Club selections, mostly from the 1960s. Once I stumbled on a queer passage in Midnight Cowboy by James Leo Herlihy, which led me on the hunt for other passages in other books. I'd do this reading in secret, huddle near the bookcase. If someone entered the room, I'd quickly replace the book. It was the first time that reading felt dangerous and powerful for me.

Book that changed your life:

James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room. The first book I read that had a complex queer center.

Favorite line from a book:

"I've come to understand," he writes, "that I am connected with other men's lives, men living in London with me. Or with other, dead Londoners. That's the story." --Neil Barlett's Who Was That Man: A Present for Oscar Wilde.

Bartlett's sense of history and biography is wonderfully enmeshed with the physical landscape, in ephemera, in details we might overlook. He makes us understand how the intangibility of queer history is not usually found in the official records but rather in between the lines of these records.

Five books you'll never part with:

Reinaldo Arenas's Before Night Falls: A Memoir reminds me how dangerous and politically powerful writing can be; Christopher Bram's Eminent Outlaws: The Gay Writers Who Changed America shows me how we can make the marginal a central story to tell; Rebecca Solnit's A Field Guide to Getting Lost feeds my love of longing; Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others has always challenged my ideas about seeing; Verlyn Klinkenborg's Several Short Sentences About Writing reminds me that writing is all about the simple sentence.

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

Truman Capote's In Cold Blood.

Book Review

Review: Summerlings

Summerlings by Lisa Howorth (Doubleday, $24.95 hardcover, 256p., 9780385544641, August 6, 2019)

Lisa Howorth's second novel is narrated by John, who spends the book's length looking back at the summer of 1959. He was eight years old and, thrillingly, a spider infestation overtook his neighborhood in Chevy Chase, Md. One adult-promulgated theory was that refugees and immigrants had brought in the spiders. Notes the adult John: "Even though World War II had been over for more than a decade, there was still a collective war hangover among the people on Connors Lane, maybe because so many of our neighbors had been affected by it in one way or another."

Because his divorced parents were unstable sorts, John lived with his maternal grandparents, flanked by families with unconventional backgrounds--John's grandmother called Connors Lane a "Whitman's Sampler." Also on the street was John's best friend, Ivan Goncharoff, whose father and mysterious, alluring aunt emigrated from Ukraine as children "to get away from Stalin," John explains, "but even so, the Soviet connection didn't endear [them] to my grandparents."

In such a climate, it's perhaps unsurprising that John and Ivan's Jewish friend, Max Friedmann, whose parents fled Austria after the Anschluss, is pointedly not invited to swim in one Connors Lane family's pool. This doesn't sit right with John and Ivan. Never mind the Marshall Plan: the three boys hatch the Beaver Plan, named for the title character in television's Leave It to Beaver. (It must be said that, as in Leave It to Beaver, the kids' dialogue in Summerlings can have a scripted quality--"Aww, forget it, you dumbheads.") The Beaver Plan's aim is to "make the neighbors nicer," and the friends throw themselves into organizing a Connors Lane Labor Day potluck for the cause. Meanwhile, the spider invasion remains of paramount importance to the boys, and they plot to steal a poisonous arachnid from a museum in order to exact revenge on one of the neighborhood's dumbheads.

In Howorth's fine first novel, Flying Shoes, the protagonist, recalling the three-decades-earlier murder of her nine-year-old stepbrother, wonders, "When had the times turned on children?" True nostalgists might insist that Summerlings takes place long before such times, but the book entertainingly eviscerates the rose-colored notion of postwar tranquility. Despite its Howdy Doody, Brillo pad and Hostess cupcake references slathered on sunscreen-thick, Summerlings is really about a regrettably timely subject: the nation's enduringly mixed track record when it comes to loving thy neighbor. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Shelf Talker: In this nostalgic but unblinkered novel set in Chevy Chase, Md., during the summer of 1959, three boys are sufficiently displeased by their neighbors' anti-Semitism to do something about it.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: 'Why People Buy Books'

At the end of six months, nine-tenths of the books will be dead for the reason that something else will have displaced public interest. It may be a new war, the ghost of hard times or a presidential election--perhaps another book--but somewhere the public interest will be gone for something new, and the publisher and retailer who have not made their hay while the sun has been shining will have a painful job in balancing the credit and debit accounts of the house.

--H.A. Pavey, "Why Novel Is a Success," Chicago Daily Tribune (1905)

Pavey's intriguing blast from book trade's past begins with some pertinent, and still relevant, questions (pricing not adjusted for inflation): "How does the novel of today become popular? And once popular, how and why does the public invest $1.50, gross, in the volume which may have been two months attaining its popularity for only four months of life."

Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth was a top-10 bestseller in 1905

The initial reason given by book dealers is that "not being able to answer these questions lies unemphasized in the fact that three-fourths of the popular books of the type are bought by women or for women. The reason must be a women's reason." (Hmm...) Noting that "women are the buyers," Pavey suggests that "in the end woman's judgment and tastes make a story popular for its brief existence."

Oddly, the rest of the article employs a male pronoun, and thus--on thin ice indeed--we arrive at the eternal conundrum, masked in the piece as a section heading: "Why people buy books"

Pavey writes that the customer seeking a novel "will have known something about it before he enters the bookshop." This information comes from traditional sources like newspaper reviews or advertisements, "but better than these may have been the commendation of the story from the lips of a friend with whom the prospective buyer has sympathies in common."

The Library by Elizabeth Shippen Green (1905)

Once in the shop, the customer requests a particular book: "Instinctively he opens it at the first touch. Type and paper will be expected to make the first appeal in the physical makeup. An attractive frontispiece and title page will be convincing, as will possibly well done illustrations. Then the scrutiny of the cover will follow."

Now the handselling portion of our program, 1905-style, begins: "In the meantime the salesmanship of the salesman will be called upon as it so seldom is at the average department store's general counters. For any book that is in demand, the salesman will have had his own brief lesson. He will have read the reviews of the book as far as possible; he will have run through it himself perhaps as closely as does the average reviewer; he has at his tongue's end a striking situation or two of the situations needed to have made the work talked about and favorably reviewed."

The bad news (filed under the heading "Job security? What job security?"): "Under these conditions, if he doesn't sell the book, he is in line for a prize contribution to the Worker's Magazine on 'How I Lost My Job.' "

When considering the "psychology of publishing," Pavey charts the treacherous path for a new title "from the publisher to the bookshop and to the reader," stressing the importance of the publisher's "ability to convince the book buyer for the shop. The publisher's salesman does this through the advance sheets of the story, through the psychological influences of the publisher, and by means of the publisher's declared intent to push the book through advertising."

They are, however, "confronting conditions of a market whose whims and moods neither has a chance to determine beyond the hazards of a guess.... Timeliness, could that timeliness always be determined, is of great significance. But to try to determine timeliness is one of the most difficult of a publisher's feats."

Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic children's novel was published in 1905

Pavey notes that "a book from the publisher to the retailer--which will have cost the publisher all told 35 cents--will have had 20 cents expended upon it for advertising," about the same amount as the author receives in royalties.

Adding to the fickleness of the market is the fact that the turn of the century brought a new type of popular book reader into play for the book trade.

"The retail customer is a buyer of a type that did not exist 40 years ago," Pavey writes. "Ten persons of the type which did not buy books then are book buyers now. These modern buyers of the popular novel have no idea of putting the volume on a shelf; it is a book to read and soon afterward to pass along among his friends or to gravitate toward the second hand booksellers. Forty years ago the book buyer had the shelf first in mind, then the book. Today there is no shelf. The phrase 'summer reading,' for instance, becomes one of the characteristic indexes to the reasons why the modern novel is not placed alongside the volumes of Thackeray, Eliot and Dickens."

So, what's the magic key to discovering why readers buy particular novels? Don't ask Pavey for help: "One time this public demands that it be flattered; at another time it says, 'Show us ourselves.' And to catch either mood may mean the success of the book." In other words, there is none.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor (Column archives at Fresh Eyes Now)

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