Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Bloom Books: Queen of Myth and Monsters (Adrian X Isolde #2) by Scarlett St. Clair

Bloom Books: Queen of Myth and Monsters (Adrian X Isolde #2) by Scarlett St. Clair

Blue Box Press: A Light in the Flame: A Flesh and Fire Novel by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Irh Press: The Unknown Stigma Trilogy by Ryuho Okawa

Other Press (NY): The Rebel and the Thief by Jan-Philipp Sendker, translated by Imogen Taylor

Holiday House: Welcome to Feral (Frights from Feral) by Mark Fearing

Charlesbridge Publishing: Too-Small Tyson (Storytelling Math) by Janay Brown-Wood, illustrated by Anastasia Williams

Berkley Books: Stone Cold Fox by Rachel Koller Croft

Quotation of the Day

PrimeDay19: 'So Many Book Shops Had a Great Day'

"Just a HUGE shout out to all the authors that went out of their way to push buying from their brick & mortar BOOKSTORE during #Primeday--twitter was on fire, and so many book shops had a great day."

--Let's Play Books, Emmaus, Pa., in a Facebook post yesterday

Minotaur Books: A World of Curiosities (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel #18) by Louise Penny


Bookstore Sales Slip 0.7% in May

In May, bookstore sales slipped 0.7%, to $763 million, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. For the first five months of the year, bookstore sales fell 5.1%, to $3.9 billion.

By comparison, independent bookstores have done better than the Census Bureau average, which includes a range of retailers that sell books. Through June 12, slightly longer than the four-month period as measured by the Census Bureau, sales at ABA member stores, as reported to the weekly bestseller lists, are down just 0.3% compared to the same period in 2018. Compound annual growth among ABA member stores is 7.5% during the past five years.

Total retail sales in May rose 5.6%, to $547.3 billion. In the first five months of the year, total retail sales rose 2.6%, to $2.5 trillion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books."

GLOW: Sourcebooks Landmark: Clytemnestra by Costanza Casati

Book Club Bookstore Planned for Manhattan's East Village

Book Club, an independent bookstore featuring a café, will open this fall at 197 E. Third St. in Manhattan's East Village. Erin Neary, who's operating the business with her fiancé, Nat Esten, told EV Grieve that the book section of the storefront will carry a broad selection of adult fiction, nonfiction and children's titles, as well as a variety of greeting cards and gifts. The cafe section will serve MUD coffee, among other items. The owners appeared earlier this week before Community Board 3's State Liquor Authority committee to request a beer-wine license for the address.

"Our vision for the space is a cozy, living room vibe: a place where you can enjoy a nice glass of wine or coffee while reading a book, but also a place for the community to come together for various events, such as author readings and signings, and literary trivia," Neary said. "As East Village residents for the last decade, we're committed to having Book Club be a celebration of the spirit and diversity of the neighborhood."

Barefoot Books: Save 10%

For Sale: Califon Book Shop in N.J.

Califon Book Shop, located at 72 Main Street in historic downtown Califon, N.J., has been put up for sale. In 2016, new owner Heather Kerner hosted a grand reopening of the store, which has been in business for 28 years. 

"Built in 1860, this delightful Colonial located on Califon's Main Street presents a unique opportunity," Jersey Digs reported, adding: "Although relatively simple in form and style, there is something quaint about the proportions of the structure and the aesthetic of the main façade. The front of the building features a large, two-story bay window that projects out significantly, allowing generous light into the lower and upper interior spaces. The upper-level bay features a generously sized window seat, currently being used as a display. The matching yellow front door and awnings on the upper bay help make the simple building welcoming." The asking price for the building is $159,000.

Ginger Fox: Free Freight and a Free Book Lovers Mug

Serrano Strikes Again with Prime Day 2 Indie Support

After mustering his FOH Army on Amazon Prime Day #1 Monday to help the Raven Book Store, Lawrence, Kan., set a record for online orders, author Shea Serrano came back for more yesterday.

This time the choice was Women & Children First Bookstore, Chicago, Ill., which offered some backstory on Facebook: "So, funny story. Before we opened the bookstore this morning, Jamie and Sarah were chatting about how cool it was that author Shea Serrano spearheaded some counter programming to yesterday’s Amazon Prime Day by choosing an indie bookstore to flood with online orders. The selected indie @raven_book_store received 328 orders by the end of the day. Sarah said to Jamie, 'What would you do if that happened to us?' Moments later... THIS HAPPENED. Thank you for the massive support and for your patience as we try to keep up with 122 orders and counting before 11 a.m."

Serrano: "hi @wcfbook. don't mind us. we're just gonna be over here buying a bunch of books from y'all. we've heard great things about your store. keep it up."

Raven Book Store approved: "We think @wcfbook is a lovely choice for more @SheaSerrano #PrimeDay counter-programming and we wish our Windy City friends good luck as the #FOHarmy descends upon them with kindness. Have fun!"

W&CF: "This is a VERY BIG day for our bookstore! We’ve never seen anything like this!"
Serrano: "ha--awesome--idk what y'all's record is for most books sold in a day is but i know we're gonna try and break it lol."

Serrano: "just refreshed it. Bang. 107/100. there it is. we are now officially in Running Up The Score territory. congrats @wcfbook. rooting for y'all."

Later in the afternoon, Serrano tweeted: "ha--people are still buying books from @wcfbook from this morning's rush--y'all jump in and support an indie on amazon prime day lol."

Another update appeared around 3:30 p.m.: "okay--we're back on track--we were supposed to place 100 orders with @wcfbook today--we're already up to 211 hahahahaha we more than doubled it--that's badass--y'all go grab a book it's super easy and fast."

Women & Children First checked in not long after that: "Wow! We are up to 222 orders and counting! Thank you @SheaSerrano for keeping us joyfully busy all day!"

By 7 p.m., Serrano tweeted: "was supposed to be 100 orders for @wcfbook today as counter-programming to today’s amazon prime day--we’re already at 244 orders only six more to hit 250.--six of y’all come through right now come on."

And the bookstore shared news of the big finish: "We did it! Thanks to @SheaSerrano & #FOHarmy as of closing time, we’ve received 259 online orders! That’s as many online orders as we normally receive during the ENTIRE holiday season! Thank you to everyone who chose to support our 40 year old feminist bookstore!"

John McKay New AAP Communications Head

john mckay, aap
John McKay

John McKay has joined the Association of American Publishers as senior v-p, communications. He was most recently an executive officer with the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority, where he advised the chairman and oversaw strategic communications initiatives, marketing partnerships, app developments, and public service announcements, and acted as a liaison to the Governor's Office. Previously, he was a v-p of communications for both NBC Universal and Sony Music Entertainment.

AAP president and CEO Maria A. Pallante said that McKay "brings tremendous experience in writing, strategy, and execution to AAP, from complex positions in both the government and the copyright industries. He will be a great asset to AAP as we advance our extensive public policy work and important programs on behalf of the publishing industry."

Fountain Bookstore's Pre-Order Campaigns: Lessons, Tips, Part 1

For more than a year, independent bookstores, led by the American Booksellers Association, have been placing a new emphasis on pre-orders, seeking to take a bigger share of a part of the business that has been dominated by Amazon. In this two-part feature, Shelf Awareness focuses on one indie that's built a successful pre-order business during the past decade--and its many tips and suggestions about how to do it right.

Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, Va., has been doing pre-order campaigns since 2009, beginning with an initiative centered on the novel Ballad by local author Maggie Stiefvater. According to Fountain Bookstore owner Kelly Justice, many of the store's early pre-order campaigns grew out of partnerships with authors, who besides Stiefvater have included John and Sherry Petersik (Young House Love) and D. Randall Blythe, lead vocalist of the heavy metal band Lamb of God.

Over the years, Justice said, the store's efforts have grown, as have the number of authors and publishers with which Fountain Bookstore works on pre-order campaigns. Pre-orders have become a major part of her business, and the major campaigns, which Justice loosely defined as around 500 copies or higher, necessitate renting warehouse and fulfillment space and even hiring temporary staff.

"No campaign is too small or too large," said Justice. "We are here to be of service to the authors, fans and our publishing partners."

Kelly Justice

Looking back on her roughly 10 years of experience doing online pre-orders, Justice said the most important thing to remember is that managing customer expectations is critical. Online customers, she explained, have certain sets of expectations that can "sort of conflict with the day-to-day running of your store." These expectations relate to customer service and communication as well as fulfillment, with many online customers accustomed to getting a book on the publication date.

That isn't always feasible for Fountain Bookstore, so Justice and her team now send a message to every pre-order customer explaining that their books and assorted pre-order bonuses are being packaged by hand and shipped the day before release, in the order in which they were received.

"The language is more elegant than that, but that's the general gist," Justice said. She emphasized that with pre-orders, it's not just "packing and shipping and packing and shipping," or "a book, a thing and a signature." She and her staff view the pre-order boxes and the entire pre-order process as an extension of the Fountain Bookstore experience.

"It's almost like having a personal author experience remotely," she said. "You get a story and you're part of a celebration. It just happens to be online instead of in the store."

One of the most valuable things Justice has learned from running these campaigns has to do with customer communication. If a customer asks a question on Twitter, she said, answer them on Twitter. If someone asks a question in an e-mail, answer with an e-mail.

"Whatever platform they choose to communicate with you on, even if it's Instagram, that is the platform you need to answer them on," Justice said. "Don't ever say, 'please call the store.' "

Once upon a time, Justice continued, it was fine if someone e-mailed the store with a question or concern and got a reply within 24 hours. But selling pre-orders online brings with it entirely different expectations regarding customer service, and booksellers need to be more responsive. A side effect of this, Justice added, is that booksellers need to make sure their internal communication systems work well. She said: "You need to be able to talk to each other and communicate with the customer without making the customer take an extra step."

When asked how far in advance she prefers to start pre-order campaigns, Justice answered "as far out as we can possibly get it," provided there's an ISBN and a finalized price. She warned that taking pre-orders before a price is finalized is a "great way to lose a lot of money" if you take dozens or potentially hundreds of pre-orders at a certain price and then the publisher increases the cost by a few dollars.

Having a finalized book cover, on the other hand, isn't necessary for launching a campaign, and a cover reveal can actually be a good way to drum up more interest for an ongoing campaign. And while it's almost never too early to start a pre-order campaign, it can be too late, and Justice recommended that any campaign start at least 60-90 days before publication.

"That would be my minimum," reported Justice. "We've had people who have approached us two weeks before the on-sale date." --Alex Mutter

Part two of this article will look at how Justice and her team fulfill major campaigns.


Image of the Day: NAIBA's Day of Learning

Yesterday the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association hosted a Day of Learning for 20 prospective and new store owners at the offices of Hachette Book Group in New York City. Panel sessions and small groups covered everything from opening mistakes to operations, inventory, marketing, POS and work/life balance.

Doing the Bookish Math: 'Happy Composite Day!'

Off the Beaten Path Bookstore, Lakewood, N.Y., did the math and suggested an Amazon Prime Day alternative: Composite Day

"Today and tomorrow there is a very wealthy man who is encouraging you to give him more of your money," Off the Beaten Path noted. "I encourage you to NOT do this. This wealthy man is asking for your money under the guise of 'Prime Day.'


"Prime. This is the word that he’s using to trick you.... A prime number is one that is only divisible by itself and one. One. Solitary. Your 'prime' purchases are going to one man, who is using that money for himself.

"That is why today, and every day, we celebrate Composite Day. The opposite of prime, composites are divisible by more than just the number One and itself. Composites, by definition, are made of several parts. Composites are like small businesses. Composites are like Communities. We are made, and supported, by each other. We exist because of you. And we exist for you. Happy Composite Day!"

Bookseller Moments: A Day in the Life of Left Bank Books

ABA board members with Rush's Geddy Lee--among the many events Left Bank hosted in a single day.

"Indie bookstores talk a lot about how much we give back to the community. But what does that actually look like? Let's take a look at yesterday," Left Bank Books, St. Louis, Mo., tweeted to introduce an amazing day-in-the-life-of-a-bookseller thread.

At the end, Left Bank tweeted: "(@ravenbookstore, how'd we do?  As the reigning champions of the bookstore Twitter thread, we look to you for validation.)"

Raven Book Store, Lawrence, Kan., replied: "this is stellar, we love it (and we love you all)."

Van Straaten Leaving Scholastic, Founding Own Firm

Tracey van Straaten

Tracy van Straaten, v-p, trade communications, publicity, and educational marketing at Scholastic, is relocating to Chicago and starting her own PR/consulting firm, TvS Media Group. She had been with the company for 13 years.

Personnel Changes at Knopf; Counterpoint/Catapult/Soft Skull; Naval Institute Press

Emily Reardon has been promoted to associate publicist at Knopf. She was formerly publicity assistant.


Dory Athey has been promoted to marketing and special sales manager at Counterpoint Press/Catapult/Soft Skull. She was formerly marketing and special sales associate.


Meagan Szekely has been promoted to digital marketing and database manager for Naval Institute Press. Previously she was marketing manager.

Media and Movies

TV: American Masters--Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin

American Masters--Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin will premiere on Friday, August 2, on PBS, and the PBS Video app. The film had its world premiere at the Sheffield Documentary Festival and has been shown internationally at dozens of festivals.

Produced with Le Guin's participation over the course of a decade, American Masters--Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin explores the personal and professional life of the notoriously private author through conversations with Le Guin as well as her family, friends and the generations of writers she influenced, including Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Michael Chabon and David Mitchell.

The film also illustrates the dramatic real-world settings that shaped Le Guin's invented places using original animations over her own readings of her work.

American Masters--Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin is a production of Arwen Curry in association with the Center for Independent Documentary and THIRTEEN's American Masters for WNET. The film is directed by Arwen Curry, who is also a co-producer with Jason Andrew Cohn and Camille Servan-Schreiber. Michael Kantor is American Masters series executive producer.

Books & Authors

Awards: RNA Joan Hessayon

The Romantic Novelists' Association has announced the contenders for this year's Joan Hessayon Award for new writers, all of whose debut novels have been accepted for publication after passing through the RNA's New Writers' Scheme. Each year, 300 places are offered to unpublished writers in the romantic fiction genre. As part of the initiative, they can submit a complete manuscript for critique by one of the association's published authors as well as attend RNA events which offer opportunities to meet and network with publishers, agents and other published authors. The award will be presented September 14 at the RNA's York Afternoon Tea in Aldwark, York, England. A complete list of contenders is available here.

Reading with... Daphne Kalotay

photo: Sasha Pedro

Daphne Kalotay made her publishing debut with the fiction collection Calamity and Other Stories, shortlisted for the Story Prize, and went on to publish the novels Russian Winter and Sight Reading. She has received fellowships from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, MacDowell and Yaddo. Kalotay teaches at Princeton University and lives in Somerville, Mass. Her novel Blue Hours (Triquarterly, July 15, 2019) is a mystery linking Manhattan circa 1991 to eastern Afghanistan in 2012, and tells of a life-changing friendship between two memorable heroines.

On your nightstand now:

Rutting Season, a terrific story collection by Mandeliene Smith. I blurbed the book and am rereading it now because the stories are daring in a way that I want to push my own writing to be daring. Smith writes about hard topics like domestic trauma, race relations, suicide and mortality, allowing her storylines into difficult spaces--with beauty and even humor.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Like so many girl writers, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. Harriet's curiosity about the people around her, her intense and complicated friendships, the comedy of her family, the seriousness she applied to her notetaking--and the way the outside world decided there was something wrong with that notetaking--all added up to good preparation for the life of a writer.

Your top five authors:

Toni Morrison for the audacity and inner wisdom of her strong female protagonists; Gina Berriault for her compassion; Elizabeth Hardwick for her unshowy brilliance; Anton Chekhov for making it look simple. Mavis Gallant for her moral engagement with topics that only now, it seems, everyone is finally paying attention to: refugees, xenophobia, the lingering consequences of colonialism. Back in the mid-'90s, I wrote my doctoral dissertation on Gallant's stories about intolerance; she was ahead of her time and, like Berriault and Hardwick, never sufficiently celebrated.

Book you've faked reading:

I don't fake it--I stop reading. Life's too short and there are too many good books to have to pretend to have read any you aren't into.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Autumn by Ali Smith, from her seasons quartet. She's written something so beautiful about friendship and the transformative power of art. And in this #metoo moment, a love story between a girl and a man that is not about sex or manipulation is liberating in its own right.

Book you've bought for the cover:

poems the size of photographs by Les Murray. The book itself is small, almost a square, the title printed in lowercase, with a dark brown cover that after a moment you realize is a brown and white photo of two men who look so similar they must be father and son. They are grinning goofily while holding these huge axes, so that you almost don't notice what they're holding. I didn't know anything about the poet, but I remember I opened the book and it was dedicated To the glory of God and I thought, this is a man of conviction, and scanned a poem or two, and next thing I knew I'd bought the book. I've treasured it for years. Each poem fits on a page or two, and of course Les Murray is an amazing poet. He died just this spring.

Book you hid from your parents:

I truly can't think of any.

Book that changed your mind:

Martyr's Day by Michael Kelly, the war correspondent who died in Iraq in 2003. I remember when he died, in the first days of the Iraq war, I was feeling very piqued at all the correspondents so keen on being "embedded" with the troops; to me, their eagerness felt like approval of that war, of which I did not approve. Then, years later, doing research for the early 1990s section of Blue Hours, I read Martyr's Day, Kelly's chronicle of the first Gulf War and the people he met during his year in the Persian Gulf. It is an incredibly humane, clear-sighted book, and through it I was able to truly understand that a journalist's urge to follow a war doesn't necessarily signal tacit approval of that war, and that this man risked--and ultimately gave--his life to find out the truth on the ground.

Favorite line from a book:

"It's a sad day when you find out that it's not accident or time or fortune but just yourself that kept things from you." --Lillian Hellman, Pentimento

Hellman is a great one for insightful quips, and the tone of this one sums up what I love about the autobiographical pieces that make up Pentimento, each one rich with her straightforward wisdom, humor and insight.

Five books you'll never part with:

Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald, for the growing power of that classic Sebald narrative voice, and for the way he tells a story of memory, loss and the Holocaust through a meditation on buildings and architecture.

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai, for her ability to tell an ultimately tragic story while staying true to the small daily moments of comic absurdity that are inseparable from our humanity.

The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard, for the sweeping beauty of the saga she created and the carefully placed plot twists that leave you spinning in the last pages.

The Known World by Edward P. Jones, for the sheer completeness of the world he has created, telling a complex and painful story from multiple angles in a way that feels utterly real and, to me, unforgettable.

The Door by Magda Szabo, for the way she creates a page-turner out of a woman's relationship with her cleaning lady and her neighbors.

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

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I have read it multiple times, captivated by the way she creates suspense around an apocalyptic event while retaining the basic tension of human relationships: love (between siblings, spouses, parents and children), secrets and power struggles. The world she creates is at once strange and familiar, and I remember the feeling of reading those opening pages for the first time, absolutely captivated, not knowing what was going to happen.

Book Review

Children's Review: Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln by Margarita Engle, illus. by Rafael López (Atheneum, $17.99 hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9781481487405, August 27, 2019)

"When Teresa was a little girl in Venezuela, Mamá sang lullabies while Papá showed Teresita how to let her happy hands dance across all the beautiful dark and light keys of a piano." The opening line from Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln sets both the stage and the mood for this picture-book portrait of a great but largely forgotten performer in her youthful prime.

By age six, Teresa Carreño (1853-1917) could compose music; at seven she performed at a cathedral. When she was eight, war broke out in Venezuela, so Carreño's father took the family by ship to New York City to escape the violence and begin their lives again. But the United States wasn't a nation at peace either--the Civil War was raging. Still, Carreño and her family were safe in New York, and their apartment had a piano. Soon Carreño, who was becoming known as "the Piano Girl," was playing with orchestras and invited to perform near and far, most dauntingly and climactically for President Abraham Lincoln and his family at the White House.

Although Dancing Hands is a story of triumph, Margarita Engle doesn't gloss over the darker circumstances--historical and personal--that surrounded Carreño's artistic rise. In her acknowledgments, Engle cites no writings by Carreño among her source materials, but the author's extrapolations about the young musician's feelings are all plausible, as well as timelessly understandable. After immigrating to the United States, Carreño senses that "all around her, curious strangers stared and whispered, as if her whole family belonged in a museum of oddities." And she wonders how she can "ever play happy songs again in this unfamiliar country where she did not know a single friend."

Rafael López's digitally assembled mixed-media art is like a reflection of Carreño's emotional topography: he adapts his palette to suit her state of mind. López also turns to fantastical imagery to show music's transcendent power. The red room where Carreño performs at the White House becomes a forest in which musical notes float as the president sits back in his chair, eyes closed, and takes in the miracle of her playing.

An author's note offers a brief look at Carreño's adult life, which was distinguished by performing, composing, singing and a scandal too delicious not to report here: she returned to her native Venezuela only once because its citizens were appalled that she had married and divorced three times before she settled down with her fourth and final husband. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Shelf Talker: This picture-book portrait of the Venezuela-born piano prodigy Teresa Carreño harbors music in its words and images.

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