Shelf Awareness for Friday, October 18, 2019

University of Texas Press: Grief Is a Sneaky Bitch: An Uncensored Guide to Navigating Loss by Lisa Keefauver

Berkley Books: Hair-raising horror to sink your teeth into!

Berkley Books: The Hitchcock Hotel by Stephanie Wrobel

Queen Mab Media: Get Our Brand Toolkit

Ballantine Books: Gather Me: A Memoir in Praise of the Books That Saved Me by Glory Edim

Ace Books: Rewitched by Lucy Jane Wood

Graywolf Press: We're Alone: Essays by Edwidge Danticat

St. Martin's Press: Runaway Train: Or, the Story of My Life So Far by Erin Roberts with Sam Kashner


Frankfurt 2019: A Look at Antitrust Investigations Against Amazon

At the European and International Booksellers Federation annual conference at the Frankfurt Book Fair yesterday, Thomas Höppner, a lawyer who specializes in European Union and German competition law and intellectual property law, provided an overview of past antitrust investigations against Amazon, a look into current investigations into the company and some predictions about what might appear in the months and years ahead.

Höppner began by noting that Amazon has, relatively recently, begun to come under increasing scrutiny from antitrust enforcers all over the globe, with investigations "popping up everywhere." He pointed out that this new wave of scrutiny largely began in the U.S. with a push from the Federal Trade Commission, which he found interesting given that for many years there seemed to be "some sort of protective hand" shielding Amazon.

Thomas Höppner

Although Höppner did report that Amazon is actively cooperating with the investigation, he still offered a "word of warning," explaining that Amazon may not be actively fighting the FTC because the company may feel that since U.S. antitrust laws are so weak, very little will come of it. Höppner suggested that this sort of cooperation actually "drags out" the finding of the "proper remedy," which would be the creation of new antitrust laws and regulations--something that Amazon absolutely wishes to avoid.

In discussing past antitrust investigations against the company, Höppner said much of it has rested on Amazon's dual role as both a vendor/publisher and the owner of the single most important distribution platform for those products. He likened the situation to being both a competitor and referee at the same time, saying that in such cases there is a "very strong incentive to favor your own products."

He touched on an investigation launched in 2014 that began with a complaint by the Börsenverein, the German book industry association, regarding "parity clauses" in Amazon's deals with publishers that required the publisher to make Amazon aware of any better deals, terms or discounts that other competitors might be getting. As a consequence of the investigation, Amazon has committed itself to no longer forcing publishers to sign those sorts of clauses, but, Höppner said, "these are quite narrow commitments."

Höppner also detailed two investigations, one past and one ongoing, regarding Amazon's marketplace, on which it sells its own and its competitor's goods. The first was a German investigation regarding Amazon's dealings with marketplace vendors, and it resulted in Amazon accepting some commitments on things like how and when the company can terminate or suspend a vendor's account. 

Höppner explained that though this now applies to vendors in the E.U., North America and much of Asia, this was "not a game changer," as new platform-to-business regulations are set to be enforced in the E.U. next summer, and Amazon would have had to accept these things anyway.

The other, ongoing investigation, Höppner continued, is looking into whether Amazon uses data gathered from third-party sales on its platform to then boost the sales of its own products. He described the process as Amazon shifting the "success of pioneers" to itself, and noted "no one else can compete with that."

On the subject of predatory pricing, Höppner acknowledged that Europe and the U.S. have different approaches--predatory pricing is illegal in America only if prices are then raised in a "recoupment phase," and he suggested that such a phase may still be ahead. One thing that has yet to be decided in a legal sense, he added, is whether selling certain products below cost in order to hook customers, and then selling them other products at a very high margin, is a form of predatory pricing. Similarly, it has not been decided yet if selling products below cost to acquire data, and then using that data to monetize a different market, constitutes infringement.

Höppner characterized Amazon as a company that does not "just say no," but so far has "shifted a bit smoothly," accepting things here and there in order to avoid "full-blown prohibition decisions at any cost." When asked what the outcome would be of any major, hypothetical antitrust action against Amazon, Höppner said he wasn't sure. In the U.S., there has historically been more of a focus on splitting up companies as a remedy, but that works well only when there is a clear distinction between infrastructure and service and "no overlaps." Another possibility would be vertically splitting the company, which in this case might mean Amazon could still own and operate its marketplace, but could not compete directly with third parties on its own platform.

Looking ahead, Höppner predicted that any significant changes that benefit booksellers and publishers will not come from the enforcement of existing antitrust laws but through the establishment of new regulations and the signing of new laws. Current competition law is "so traditional" and "so focused on offline markets," he said, that a new strategy is needed, and "now is the best time" to express concerns with lawmakers. --Alex Mutter

BINC: Click to Apply to the Macmillan Booksellers Professional Development Scholarships

27th Letter Books Wins $100,000 Hatch Detroit Competition

Drew and Erin Pineda of 27th Letter Books

Congratulations to 27th Letter Books' co-owners Drew and Erin Pineda, who won the $100,000 startup funds grant in this year's Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest to open storefront in the city. Out of nearly 450 submissions to this year's competition, 27th Letter Books garnered enough public votes to survive through the semifinalist and finalist rounds before participating last night in a Shark Tank-style "Hatch Off." The independent bookstore aims to open a bricks-and-mortar location in Detroit's Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood.

On Hatch Detroit's contest website, the Pinedas said their mission is "to connect and inspire people through stories.... Participating in the Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest is a remarkable opportunity to deepen our roots in Detroit and its community of creative entrepreneurs. As Air Force veterans, we have lived and traveled across the world, exploring what it means to belong. Michigan is the first place we have ever chosen as our home, and we are immensely thankful for the ability to share and further our dream through a contest built to support the local community."

In addition to the $100,000 business grant from Comerica Bank, the booksellers also receive a package of more than $200,000 in pro bono counsel from Hatch Detroit and its partners, including architectural, IT, legal and public relations services.

"We know we'll see great things from 27th Letter Books and their contributions to the small business community here in the city," said Vittoria Katanski, executive director of Hatch Detroit. "This year's Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest was incredibly close. We look forward to supporting 27th Letter Books alongside each of our Top 10 semifinalists as they work toward opening their doors."

Michael T. Ritchie, Comerica Bank Michigan president, commented: "We were so thrilled to see all of the excitement build around this year's Comerica Hatch Detroit Contest. Everybody and I at Comerica Bank congratulate 27th Letter Books on this distinct honor, and whenever they open their doors, we'll be there to root them on--knowing they will surely be providing an exceptional economic impact to the Jefferson Chalmers community. We have no doubt they will be a valuable addition to the city's growing independent small business environment."

Watkins Publishing: Fall Into Folklore! ARCS Available On Request

Arts & Letters Bookstore Debuts in Granbury, Tex.

Arts & Letters Bookstore opened October 12 on the Historic Square in Granbury, Tex. The shop offers new books for adults, teens and children. Owner Roxanne Laney said Arts & Letters is her seventh, and final, entrepreneurial business. Starting in January, local artist Jack Fleming, who has created all of the windows, signage and murals at Arts & Letters, will be teaching art classes for children and teens in the event room.

Describing herself as a life-long reader for whom the bookshop is "my retirement business," Laney said she has been a technical writer and editor by profession. Her other businesses were curated user groups (for software and for business idea exchange), a technical publications service company, an entrepreneurial consultant, a manufacturer's representative and owning a gun range. She and her husband still operate three gun ranges that offer firearms safety and skill training.

Laney's inspiration for becoming a bookseller can be traced back more than four decades. "I met a new hire at Westinghouse named Cam Kovach. She and I have been friends all this time. When we were young and had no children, we thought it would be so cool to open a children's bookstore. Work, education and seven children later, we finally got to talk seriously about that dream. During a visit to my home last September (a year ago), she shared with me that she was planning to retire from Westinghouse. She mentioned that she might want to start a bookstore, as the shock of working long hours for decades and moving to not working at all would be too uncomfortable. We decided to proceed together. Eventually we agreed that having one business with locations in Texas and Pennsylvania didn't make sense, but we've collaborated on everything. Cam opened her store, Completely Booked, last month in Murrysville, Pa."

In selecting inventory for Arts & Letters Bookstore, Laney said she "resisted the urge to buy only books I like. But I did buy all the books I like--literary fiction, nonfiction, poetry, plays, essays. I added mysteries, sci fi, graphic novels and other stuff for the customers. Our store is homey and contains several things I've made, such as the lace tablecloth on the focus table."

Located about 40 miles southwest of Fort Worth, Granbury is the county seat of Hood County, and USA Today has named it the "Best Small Historic Town" in the U.S.

"The bookstore is on the square; we have a huge tourist population, a growing permanent population, and weekenders," Laney said. "We have a large lake here, and many, many people own second homes on the lake. That's the demographic. Rich people with second homes, travelers, and a lot of ranchers in the county."

As a bookseller, Laney wants "to be part of the historic community here in Granbury. I want to create an environment where people can come in and hang around, talk to other book lovers, and get recommendations from our employees about what to read. I hope the bookstore will even up the preponderance of boutiques and souvenir shops and round out the offerings of all the merchants on the square. We are adding art lessons for children and teens in the store starting in January. Eventually, it would be nice to have a cafe."

The Nook Opens in Baldwin City, Kan.

The Nook, a bookstore, bar and coffee shop located at 703 8th St. in Baldwin City, Kan., held its soft opening recently. The Baker Orange reported that the shop, located in a renovated older building on the corner of High St. and Grove St., is owned by Niki Manbeck, who also "owns a publishing company and was looking for a way to show off her authors. When the building became available, Manbeck jumped on the opportunity to open up a bookstore in Baldwin City."

Manbeck told the Baker Orange that she wants Baker University students "to know she has the fastest wi-fi around and hopes she can provide a fun environment for people to come enjoy a drink without the loud bar atmosphere."

The Nook has been chronicling its stretch run to opening day on Facebook, posting last month: "So, here's the deal.... Send all your good juju and positive vibes this way. We are working frantically over here to get the Nook open. But I am sure some of you can only imagine the curve balls an old house throws at you. We will absolutely be shouting from the rooftops as soon as we are able to open. No really. It could actually happen...."

In an update on October 5, the bookstore wrote: "We have news! We are going to be doing a soft opening on Saturday, October 5 from 5-10 pm. The bar and bookstore will be open for business. We would love for everyone to stop by and help us become great at our jobs! We are still learning, but that's half the fun! We want to hear from YOU! And we will officially be open for business October 9!!" 

And after last Sunday's inaugural event: "Thank you to everyone who came out today for our first (of many) author signing events! We completely SOLD OUT of all Gerard Arantowicz books!!! Baldwin City you are truly amazing, thank you for the support!"

Bookstore Sales Down 10.3% in August

In August, bookstore sales fell 10.3%, to $1.2 billion, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. For the first eight months of the year, bookstore sales have fallen 6.1%, to $6.5 billion.

By comparison, independent bookstores have done better than the Census Bureau average, which includes a range of retailers that sell books. Through August 14, slightly less than the eight-month period measured by the Census Bureau, sales at ABA member stores, as reported to the weekly bestseller lists, are down 0.5% 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 August rose 4.5%, to $547.7 billion. In the first eight months of the year, total retail sales rose 3.3%, to $4 trillion.

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

Obituary Note: Michael Mott

Poet, novelist, and biographer Michael Mott, a London native who worked as an editor and literary critic before emigrating to the U.S., died October 11. He was 88. Mott was poetry editor of The Kenyon Review, taught at Emory University, retired from Bowling Green State University, and was twice Writer-in-Residence at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

Mott was the author of 11 poetry collections, including Woman and the Sea and The World of Richard Dadd; four novels, including The Notebooks of Susan Berry and Helmet and Wasps; and The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton, which was a runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize in biography in 1985.

Before moving to the U.S. in 1966, Mott worked as a book editor at Thames & Hudson (1961-1964) and then as an editor at The Geographical Magazine (1964–66). Between 1956 and 1966, he also worked as the assistant editor of the literary magazine ADAM International Review. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1979.

Until the time of his death, Mott "maintained a lifelong practice of letter writing corresponding with family, friends, and deep thinkers--most recently former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, artist Katherine Mitchell, poet Tony Roberts, and religion and humanities scholar John Alden Williams--with whom he shared his great passions for literature, philosophy, art, and spirituality." Northwestern University houses his correspondence as part of the Michael Mott Collection in The Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections.

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
Remember You Will Die
by Eden Robins
GLOW: Sourcebooks Landmark: Remember You Will Die by Eden Robins

Despite the title, Eden Robins's Remember You Will Die is a joyously enlivening masterpiece. Only dead people inhabit the pages of this novel, their stories revealed predominantly through obituaries ranging from deeply soulful to hilariously delightful. As Christa Désir, editorial director for Bloom Books at Sourcebooks, promises, it's "a book about life and art and loss and being human and messy." By 2102, the singularity has long happened, and an AI called Peregrine learns that her 17-year-old daughter, Poppy, is dead. Unraveling this requires a three-century excavation of relationships, cultures, science, history, and brilliantly sourced etymology. Désir predicts "a cult classic" that readers will want to "immediately pick back up... to find more Easter eggs and clues." Eden Robins could have the singular bestseller of the year. --Terry Hong

(Sourcebooks Landmark, $16.99 paperback, 9781728256030, 
October 22, 2024)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Image of the Day: On a Rainy Night in Brooklyn...

Ocean Vuong appeared at WORD Brooklyn this week for a sold-out event. Fans waded through the rain for a chance to meet and greet the award-winning author of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (Penguin Press). Vuong (front, right) is pictured here with WORD's Deidre Dumpson, Davi Marra and Kim Small.

Happy 15th Birthday, Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore

Congratulations to Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore, Berkeley, Calif., which is celebrating its 15th anniversary today by "passing out a Staff Recommends lists of some of our favorite books of the past 15 years, showcasing bestselling titles by category, inviting customers--both young and old--to participate in a 'Can You Judge a Book by Its Cover?' in-store raffle, and providing other festive surprises."

For numbers geeks, Mrs. Dalloway's also compiled a fascinating Bookstore Index, which includes bookish stats like: combined number of years of current staff's bookselling experience (188), total number of volumes in inventory (24,381), total number of volumes in our Poetry section (617), number of times we have shipped a shovel (2), average number of books bought per day (120), average number of customers per day (100), and percentage of gratitude to our customers (100).

Future Bookstore Moment: Madison Books' Early Debut

Madison Street Books in Chicago's West Loop isn't open yet (demolition starts next week, with the opening planned for February 2020), but held its first event this week, drawing 50 people. Proprietors Mary Mollman and Javier Ramirez hosted the launch of Linda Keir's Drowning with Others in the unrenovated space. Keir (aka Linda Hull and Keir Graff) spoke with author Lori Rader-Day. 

Personnel Changes at Highlights for Children; HarperCollins Children's Books

At Highlights for Children:

Michael Eisenberg has been promoted to v-p, publisher, Highlights Book Group. He was formerly v-p, associate publisher, Highlights Retail Group.

Mary-Alice Moore has been promoted to executive v-p, business strategy and product development. She was formerly senior v-p, publisher, Highlights Retail Group.


Effective November 4, Annabelle Saks is joining HarperCollins Children's Books as director, media. She has been senior scout at Maria B. Campbell Associates.

Media and Movies

TV: Mary Higgins Clark; Howard Wallace, PI

Reel One Entertainment has partnered with Element 8 Entertainment and La Sabotière to develop an anthology series based on the novels of Mary Higgins Clark. Variety reported that Ilene Rosenzweig (Station 19, Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce) is attached as writer and executive producer.

Each season of the anthology series will be inspired by a different Higgins Clark novel and a different crime, beginning with I'll Be Seeing You. The series will shoot in Toronto and New York in 2020. La Sabotière has adapted Higgins Clark's novels for French television since 2010.

"Early in my career I loved watching crime series," Higgins Clark said. "I enjoyed challenging myself to solve the mystery before it was revealed at the end. I'm delighted that my stories will be used to entertain a new generation of TV crime series fans."

Rosenzweig commented: "I was into these books growing up because Mary writes characters you want to be: cool women with glamorous jobs and aspirational/cosmopolitan lives who are suddenly thrust into incredibly dangerous situations--and yet remain relatable."


Entertainment One has signed a first-look deal with the Mother Company, "a family-focused media company that creates premium cross-platform content," Deadline reported. The partnership's first two projects under the pact are based on Howard Wallace, PI, the first book in Casey Lyall's three-book series (along with along Shadow of a Pug and Sabotage Stage Left), and another based on Anne Ursu's The Lost Girl. Both will be executive produced by Drew Barrymore's Flower Films.

"We are thrilled to produce impactful content geared toward the growing young-adult audience. There are no better teams to begin this journey with than the Mother Company and Flower Films," said Peter Micelli, chief strategy officer, film & television, at eOne.

The Mother Company's president, Samantha Kurtzman-Counter, and CEO Abbie Schiller agreed: "Entertainment One is a perfect partner to help us amplify our mission to create engaging shows that inspire a generation of good people. Together, we're focused on growing global reach and bringing the best content to audiences worldwide. We are ecstatic to create with this phenomenal team."

Books & Authors

Awards: Neustadt International Literature Winner

World Literature Today announced that Albanian novelist, poet, essayist and playwright Ismail Kadare has won the $50,000 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, which "recognizes outstanding literary merit in literature worldwide." The winner was named during the Neustadt Lit Fest at the University of Oklahoma.

Robert Con Davis-Undiano, World Literature Today's executive director, called Kadare "one of the world's great writers and a champion of democracy and free speech."

Reading with... Chris Monks

photo: Anne Clark

Chris Monks is the author of The Ultimate Game Guide to Your Life and has been the editor of McSweeney's Internet Tendency since 2007. He and Samantha Riley have edited a new collection of their favorite material from the site, Keep Scrolling Till You Feel Something: Twenty-One Years of Humor from Mcsweeney's (McSweeney's, November 5, 2019).

On your nightstand now:

Since I am a humor editor, I feel like I should kick this off with mention of a humor book, but humor books sometimes wind up feeling more like work than anything. It's my cross to bear. Anyway, I've been reading Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. It's dark, sharply written and, yes, funny.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Anything by Maurice Sendak. I loved his stories because you could and were encouraged to chant along with them, "Let the wild rumpus begin!" "Milk in the batter! Milk in the batter!" They weren't just literature, they were theater, and I loved them.

Your top five authors:

Arthur Bryant (best BBQ in Kansas City!); Bea Arthur (although, to be honest, I think Golden Girls is overrated); King Arthur (not much for monarchies in general, but the guy knew how to wear a crown); Arthur the Aardvark (mainly because of this)--wait, I think I'm doing this wrong.

Okay, I don't have a top five list of favorite authors, it's more like a top 47. So, too many to list, but for starters how about Lorrie Moore, Toni Morrison, Raymond Carver, Kent Haruf and Paul Beatty.

Book you've faked reading:

Pretty much every book I was assigned in high school. After I graduated, I spent a couple years working before going to college and that's when I finally started to appreciate reading. I'd spend all my money on trade paperback versions of classics. I started with the ones that had the coolest covers, like Pale Fire and As I Lay Dying and then went on from there.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The only things I am a true evangelist for are sandwiches, Van Morrison and the Philadelphia 76ers, but if I'm forced to go on a street corner and shout at strangers about a book, I would probably do it for Winesberg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson. I first read it during that period in my life between high school and college and it just hit me in all the right places. I love art and literature that really goes for it emotionally, right up to the edge of being maudlin and overblown. Anderson adeptly walked that line in his stories.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Too many to count. I wish book covers weren't important, because it's so superficial, but odds are high I won't read a book if the cover is lousy. Any book that's been turned into a film and features a version of the movie poster is dead to me. One perk of electronic literature, though, is that you rarely see the cover, if ever. I find this something of a relief.

Book you hid from your parents:

My parents were very progressive, so I never felt like I had to hide much from them, let alone books. There was this one novel my mom had that depicted the sexual awakening of a woman in the 1970s. I forget the title and author, neither were important to me at the time. What mattered was how it was full of lurid sex scenes that both enraptured and repulsed me. I would sneak it out of her bookshelf when she wasn't home, then place it back before she returned. One day she came home from work and I had left the book out. She pretended not to notice but, yep, she definitely noticed. A few days later, she casually mentioned the book to me and asked what I liked about it in particular. That was a such a fun conversation.

Book that changed your life:

Cruel Shoes by Steve Martin. I read it when I was 11 or 12 and "light dawned on Marblehead": Oh, so people can write funny too.

Favorite line from a book:

I'm terrible at remembering lines, but the last couple pages of Tony Earley's Jim the Boy always tear me up. "But you're our boy."

Five books you'll never part with:

Barrel Fever by David Sedaris
Birds of America
by Lorrie Moore
CivilWarLand in Bad Decline
by George Saunders
Sweet Soul Music
by Peter Guralnick
The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. by Robert Coover

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

If I were a true humor editor/writer, I would call-back in a funny way to a book I referenced earlier, and this would be perfectly tied up in a neat, fancy bow. But, alas, my older son just took off for college and I am in a fragile emotional state, so the only book that pops into my head is The Stupids Step Out by Harry Allard and James Marshall because it brought me and my sons pure joy when we first read it in our pj's before bedtime way back when.

Book Review

Review: The Innocents

The Innocents by Michael Crummey (Doubleday, $26.95 hardcover, 304p., 9780385545426, November 12, 2019)

"They were left alone in the cove then.... A body must bear what can't be helped." Michael Crummey (Sweetland; Galore) rivets and flays his readers with The Innocents, a novel of innocence and hardship and what is intrinsically human.

"They were still youngsters that winter," begins the story, in the season when siblings Evered and Ada lose their family: first their baby sister dies, then their mother and then their father. Baby Martha is buried. Their father takes their mother out to sea, bringing back her dress for young Ada: "You'll have need of these," he tells her, but she "held her hands behind her back and shook her head fiercely." When their father dies, Evered takes him out to sea, as he had their mother. When Evered returns, spent, his hair has turned stark white: "As the driven snow, their mother would have said of it."

Following these events of just the first five pages, the two children fumble through the tasks their parents had struggled to complete. Evered fishes in a small boat in the Newfoundland cove that is all they have ever known. Ada gardens, after both children haul seaweed and caplin (small fish), turning them stinking into the scant soil. They pick berries in the fall, collect caplin in the spring, fish for cod all summer and salt it throughout the season. Every winter, the weather forces them to rebuild the stage at which they clean and salt fish. Twice a year they expect a visit from The Hope, the schooner that rules their lives, which their father called The Abandon Hope All Ye. This vessel brings flour, peas, salt meat, tea, molasses and eventually rum, on credit against salt cod. The first time Evered must row out to meet the schooner alone is the first time he has seen a man not his father. Evered does not know his age, but the beadle aboard The Hope tells him he is 11. Ada is younger.

Against all odds, and to the continuing surprise of the crew of The Hope, the youngsters survive that first year, and another, and on. They learn best practices, and the few rare visitors teach them new skills: how to fire their father's old flintlock, enabling Evered to shoot fowl; how to trap fox, otter, beaver for their pelts and precious meat. They muddle through their own changing bodies and desires, with disturbing if foreseeable results. They eventually hear that others now call the place they live Orphan Cove.

A gifted writer, Crummey shows imagination and compassion for his young protagonists, and a care for the oddities of language specific to time and place: the grieving children drink "bare-legged tea," which in Newfoundland is tea without saucer, sugar or accompaniment. The Innocents is deeply pained and enchanting, full of small joys and victories as well as the pressing multitude of aches and challenges that mere living offers to two babes alone in this fierce environment. This searing novel will keep readers engrossed in its harsh world long after its hopeful conclusion. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Inventive, dark, pathos-evoking, this sensitive novel of survival and discovery asks just how far innocence stretches in a remote cove of Newfoundland.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: MPIBA FallCon 2019--'You're in Your Granny's'

Speaking at the Gala Author Dinner Party during last week's Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association's FallCon 2019 in Denver, Colum McCann (Apeirogon, Random House, February 2020), observed: "There's an Irish phrase--'You're in your granny's'--and tonight I'm in my granny's. Because what that means is, you're with your friends, you're with your family, you're in a safe space. I do feel like I'm in a safe space with people that I've been working with now for over 20 years. And I'm delighted to be here."

Anne Holman and Colum McCann

Anne Holman of the King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, Utah, agreed: "It's always so nice to see old friends and catch up and it's especially nice to meet new booksellers who are so smart. Our industry is in good hands. The Author Banquet is always a highlight for me. When Colum McCann spoke of his experience in Israel and how he came to write Apeirogon, I, like probably many others in the room, couldn't wait to go back to my room and start reading. He confirms my belief that reading might just save the world."

Like any excellent book clan gathering, FallCon was about people, though the numbers were good, too. Total show attendance (booksellers, librarians, exhibitors, guests, and authors) was up 10%, and included representatives from more than 60 bookstores, with 14 stores attending for the first time. Currently MPIBA has 160 member stores, with 22 new members having signed on since January. Among the 130 authors in attendance were 84 featured writers and illustrators, as well as an additional 46 authors signing in the exhibit hall.

"For my part, I was particularly delighted with the look and feel of the exhibit hall," said MPIBA executive director Heather Duncan. "The exhibitors in the new perimeter booths that I spoke with were very happy with their space, with their ability to set the booths how it best suited their needs, and with their ability to hang banners and signage.... The quantity, quality and diversity of the appearing author line-up seems to have been a big hit--and many of our author events sold better than they ever have--a couple with completely full rooms. We also had very positive feedback from several publishers who booked authors to sign in the exhibit hall--lots of bookseller interest, and authors seeming happy."

Duncan added: "Of course, for me, it is so much about seeing old friends, and making new ones. I love being in the company of booksellers, and am so happy that the ones we've heard from so far feel the same--and got a lot of value out of the show."

Noting that each year she says the show keeps getting better, Nicole Sullivan of BookBar in Denver said 2019 "was certainly no exception. I don't think I'm alone in that sentiment either. As the current MPIBA president, I enjoy being the recipient of many opinions about various aspects of the show."

Sullivan also noted she had fielded a few questions regarding bookseller attendance: "Some fellow bookseller members asked me if attendance was down this year. When the board of directors crunched the numbers, however, during our post-show debrief, we found that attendance was up overall and for each of the events. We believe that it might have felt less crowded, even with larger numbers, because of the increased programming and laser-precise schedule organization Heather, her team and our truly amazing volunteers were able to pull off."

Attending her first MPIBA fall show, Sam Butler of Bright Side Bookshop, Flagstaff, Ariz., said that, as a bookseller, she "found the show completely enlightening. It's easy to forget about all of the hard work that is put into a book before it comes to the store and into my hands. There are so many people counting on booksellers like me to love and sell that book. It is a wonderful and humbling experience to be able to meet those people and hear about the books directly from them. Overall, the show is a lot of fun and is filled with so many good books and great people."

Oren Teicher chatting with Tattered Cover's Margaret Maupin

"Ch-ch-ch-changes" was the watchword for Catherine Weller of Weller Book Works, Salt Lake City, Utah. "This year felt like a year of transitions. It was a positive show full of energy. Perhaps that's because while we were saying goodbye, we were also saying hello." She cited ABA CEO Oren Teicher's retirement recognition at the opening reception as an example, balanced by the subsequent announcement that Allison Hill would succeed him, with Joy Dallanegra-Sanger becoming COO. "That was exciting. I am delighted the ABA will be headed by two such extraordinary women. It feels like the right move for the right time, and a real step toward an exciting future."

FallCon volunteer Eric Boss, Binc's Kit Steinaway, & Evan Schertz, winner of the Binc Heads or Tails Game

Weller also noted that her daughter and now colleague, Lila, attended FallCon 2019 as a recipient of one of MPIBA's Give a Bookseller a Lift (GABAL) travel grants: "It was a remarkable thing for me to recall the times Lila had attended MPIBA trade shows as a small child.... There were a number of other children in attendance during that period, including Evan Schertz, now one of the family members that owns and runs Maria's Bookshop [Durango, Colo.]. Perhaps it's because they were children of the book industry, perhaps it's because they were quiet and well behaved, perhaps it's because the MPIBA membership is like a family, fellow booksellers and publishers were so kind and generous to them all."

As Colum McCann said, we were all "in our granny's" at FallCon. More coverage next week.

Powered by: Xtenit