Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, January 19, 2021

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

Quotation of the Day

'Indies Keeping Their Bright Light Shining'

"Despite all the loss, uncertainty, and fear, there's still good news. During challenging times, we rise up together and collectively reaffirm our values. Many bookstores have had a successful year, and many more are reporting they had the best holiday in history....

"Whether or not sales were up, down, or flat, independent bookstores worked tirelessly to keep their bright light shining at a time when it feels like we need them more than ever--and I don't say that lightly. We always need bookstores, but in a year when we were confined to our homes, disinformation flared, Amazon deprioritized books, and our country desperately needed to read about antiracism, bookstores were there for us as an unwavering refuge in the storm.

"I'd like to say thank you to booksellers and everyone in the industry who reinvented their work again and again. Each book we bought felt like one more brick laid on the path to a better world."

--Carrie Obry, executive director of the Midwest Independent Booksellers Association, in a letter to members

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


Bookstore Sales Down 21.5% in November

In the ninth month of data reflecting public health measures taken to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, including the closure of many bookstores for a time and limitations since then, in November sales at bookstores dropped 21.5%, to $485 million, compared to November 2019, according to preliminary Census Bureau estimates.

Between May, when bookstore sales plummeted 59.9%, and October, bookstore sales have been down in a range between 24.7% and 35.4%, making November's drop of 21.5% an improvement over the previous six months.

Altogether, during the first 11 months of the year, bookstore sales fell 30%, to $5.46 billion.

Total retail sales in November rose 2%, to $546.1 billion. During the first 11 months of the year, total retail sales have risen 0.2%, to $5.64 trillion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books." The Bureau also added this unusual caution concerning the effect of Covid-19: "The Census Bureau has monitored response and data quality and determined estimates in this release meet publication standards."

Watkins Publishing: Fall Into Folklore! ARCS Available On Request

Amanda Gorman to Be Inaugural Poet

Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman will read her poem, "The Hill We Climb," during tomorrow's inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, the Associated Press reported. At 22, she is the youngest inaugural poet in memory, but has made history before, having been named the first Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 and, in 2017, the first National Youth Poet Laureate in the U.S.

When she reads her inaugural poem, Gorman will be "continuing a tradition--for Democratic presidents--that includes such celebrated poets as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou. The latter's 'On the Pulse of Morning,' written for the 1993 inauguration of President Bill Clinton, went on to sell more than a million copies when published in book form. Recent readers include poets Elizabeth Alexander and Richard Blanco, both of whom Gorman has been in touch with," the AP noted.

"The three of us are together in mind, body and spirit," Gorman said.

"In other writings, Gorman has honored her Black ancestors, acknowledged and reveled in her own vulnerability ('Glorious in my fragmentation,' she has written) and confronted social issues," the AP noted. "Her poem 'In This Place (An American Lyric),' written for the 2017 inaugural reading of U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith, condemns the racist march in Charlottesville, Virginia ('tiki torches string a ring of flame') and holds up her art form as a force for democracy."

As she was composing her inaugural poem, the siege of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month presented "a challenge for keeping a positive tone, but also an inspiration," the AP wrote.

"That day gave me a second wave of energy to finish the poem," she said, adding that she will not refer directly to January 6, but will "touch" upon it. "The poem isn't blind. It isn't turning your back to the evidence of discord and division."

Regnery to Publish Hawley Book Cancelled by S&S

Senator Josh Hawley

Regnery Publishing, the conservative publisher, will publish the book by Senator Josh Hawley (R.-Mo.) that Simon & Schuster cancelled earlier this month. S&S had planned to release the book, The Tyranny of Big Tech, in June, but changed its mind after the author led efforts in the Senate to overturn the results of the presidential election despite no evidence of fraud--continuing even after the insurrection on January 6--and when he seemed to help incite the mob that stormed the Capitol building. Among other things, just before the attack, he waved, gave thumbs up signals and raised his fist in solidarity with the crowd that was gathering.

In announcing it was dropping the book, S&S said in part, "We did not come to this decision lightly. As a publisher it will always be our mission to amplify a variety of voices and viewpoints: at the same time we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom."

Regnery portrayed Senator Hawley as "one of the highest-profile victims of the 'cancel culture,' " and president and publisher Thomas Spence accused the major New York publishing houses of not having an "editorial spine," saying, "It's discouraging to see them cower before the 'woke mob,' as Senator Hawley correctly calls it. Regnery is proud to stand in the breach with him. And the warning in his book about censorship obviously couldn't be more urgent." In an unusual twist, Regnery is one of S&S's many distribution clients.

In a related move, more than 500 authors, editors, agents, and other publishing people so far have signed an open letter arguing that no book deals should be given to any people connected with the Trump administration or the Capitol insurrection. Headlined "No Book Deals for Traitors," the letter says "no participant in an administration that caged children, performed involuntary surgeries on captive women, and scoffed at science as millions were infected with a deadly virus should be enriched by the almost rote largesse of a big book deal. And no one who incited, suborned, instigated, or otherwise supported the January 6, 2021 coup attempt should have their philosophies remunerated and disseminated through our beloved publishing houses."

The letter observed that "Son of Sam" laws "exist to prevent criminals from benefiting financially from writing about their crimes. In that spirit, those who enabled, promulgated, and covered up crimes against the American people should not be enriched through the coffers of publishing."

How Bookstores Are Coping: Prioritizing Public Health; Nine-Week Plan

In Chicago, Ill., Women & Children First had a slower holiday season than normal, and the store was "down a good bit" in comparison to 2019, reported director of operations Jamie Thomas. Thomas added that the stock was leaner and more curated than ever before, and the bookstore team put a lot of time and energy into making the website feel as close as possible to the in-store shopping experience, which included browsing pre-made bundles and gift guides.

In mid-November, co-owner Sarah Hollenbeck said, the store made the difficult decision to close for in-store browsing, and the team has not been able to reopen safely since. After re-closing, the store has processed sales through the website or over the phone, along with offering curbside pick-up seven days per week. Most of the store's business, though, is shipping.

As the holiday season revved up, Hollenbeck continued, she and the team realized that online sales in late December were "going to be a different beast entirely," as the store's customer base would likely expand and they wouldn't be serving only their regular, easy-going and flexible customers. Because of that, the bookstore team decided to switch to phone sales only during the week leading up to Christmas, and they also held an outdoor pop-up shop. Hollenbeck noted the store was selling so many copies of the same few titles online that the inventory "would change wildly from one hour to the next." By taking only phone orders, they tried to eliminate any confusion and disappointment stemming from inventory discrepancies.

Store co-owner Lynn Mooney said there were some familiar holiday shopping patterns, despite all of the changes. Customers still ordered plenty of boxed sets, as well as hardcover versions of books already out in paperback. Many long-time customers asked after the team, and it was great to hear from so many of them. Thomas said sales peaked earlier than usual, and the final few days before Christmas were "the quietest of the entire six-week holiday season." The store sold thousands of dollars in gift cards each day, and it became difficult for staff members manually to create all of those gift cards.

Looking ahead to the first few months of 2021, Mooney said the team is always grateful this time of year "for the breathing space." They hope to find time finally to get to some projects that were put on hold, including rearranging the front office and doing some painting. They'll also keep a close eye on financials, with Mooney pointing out that even in a strong year, the late winter can be a "white-knuckle time."

On the bright side, Thomas said, the store is having a stronger January than usual despite being closed for browsing. Thomas attributed that to customers getting used to the updated website and feeling more comfortable with online ordering and pick-up. The store's goal is to keep the community safe, and at the moment public health is being prioritized over the bottom line.


Angela Schwesnedl, owner of Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis, Minn., said her store's sales this holiday season were almost identical to the store's numbers from 2019, which was surprising considering that the store has never reopened for browsing. All of the store's sales are online now, whether the orders are for pick-up or shipping. Compared to past holiday seasons, the store sold far fewer sidelines in 2020, and though overall sales were similar, "it felt like a lot more work."

Some of the store's biggest sellers included Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, which was the store's second biggest title of the year, as well as Owls of the Eastern Ice by Jonathan C. Slaght and The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus. Some of the other major titles, Schwednedl added, were a bit more "predictable," like A Promised Land by Barack Obama and The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett.

Schwesnedl said she plans to take a careful look at things after the inauguration this week and will "make a plan [for reopening] for the next nine weeks." She noted that early last year, she tried to think realistically about the pandemic and came to the conclusion that she would stay closed at least through the inauguration.

The health of her staff and customers is a priority, and she pointed out that if she had tried to reopen for the holidays and someone got sick, it would have caused a "huge disruption in our system." She and her team "all miss what life used to be like," but they're not going to rush anything. --Alex Mutter

International Update: Portuguese Indies Deem Government Measures 'Insufficient'

Bertrand Bookstore in Lisbon

Independent booksellers in Portugal have warned that the government's measures are "insufficient" to survive the pandemic, according to Lusa news agency. Portugal Resident reported that RELI, the network representing independent bookshops in country, said measures announced last Thursday by the ministers of economy and culture "aimed at minimizing the negative impacts of Covid-19 did 'address' some concerns expressed by the network during the first confinement, but did not resolve the 'dramatic situation experienced for many bookstores.' The network said in a statement that it also expected a reinforcement of the measures."

The government's support program includes €42 million [about $50.7 million] in a first phase, providing "universal, non-competitive and non-refundable support" for collective entities (companies, theaters, promoters, agents, independent movie theatres, cinemas), as well as individuals, such as artists, technicians and authors.

RELI countered this was insufficient, and should be accompanied by the state's intention to continuously reinforce "purchases of books for libraries to local bookstores at normal retail prices." The organization added that the remaining measures announced, including a simplified "lay-off" and support for managing partners, "may contribute to mitigate the devastating effects caused by the closing of bookstores, but may not be sufficient to guarantee their survival."

Regarding the Portuguese government's extended ban on the sale of books in supermarkets and in other places like service stations and postal services, RELI contended that such a measure "will not eliminate the risk of disappearance of the nearby bookstores."


Singapore publisher Epigram Books will stop publishing in the U.K. this month "to shore up the local business amid the Covid-19 slowdown," the Straits Times reported. Epigram Books UK launched in 2016 with three London staff members and has published more than 30 titles there.

"Our business in Singapore has suffered to such an extent that we are unable to support our U.K. arm any longer," said Epigram founder Edmund Wee. "We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped and supported us through the years."


In a recent episode of BBC News World Service's program Worklife India, Devina Gupta spoke with author/columnist Chetan Bhagat; Chiki Sarkar, publisher and co-founder of Juggernaut Books; and booktuber Manpreet Kaur about "re-energizing your reading regime."

"For many people, spending time at home, indulging in a hobby helps to escape the stresses of a global health crisis--and what better way than books?" Worklife India noted. "A recent study says people across the world read more during the lockdown--but despite this, the publishing industry and bookstores struggled. Many had to put their shutters down.

"So, is 2021 going to put that ember of hope in book sales? What genres are set to capture the readers' imaginations? And what can you do to motivate yourself to read more or to inculcate a love for books in your kids? We bring you some easy-to-follow tips." --Robert Gray

Caitlyn Dlouhy Promoted at Atheneum

Caitlyn Dlouhy
(photo: Tess Meis)

Caitlyn Dlouhy has been promoted to v-p, publisher of Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, Atheneum Books for Young Readers. She joined S&S Children's Publishing in 1998, and her eponymous imprint was established in 2014.

Dlouhy has published and edited, among others, Marjorie Agosin, Laurie Halse Anderson, Kathi Appelt, Jennifer Bradbury, Ashley Bryan, Doreen Cronin, Jennifer de Leon, Frances O'Roark Dowell, Sharon Draper, Candace Fleming, William Joyce, Heather Henson, Richard Jackson, Cynthia Kadohata, Uma Krishnaswami, Betsy Lewin, Alison McGhee, An Na, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Jason Reynolds, Eric Rohmann, David Small and Alicia D. Williams.


Image of the Day: Class Photo

The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association began its professional bookseller certification program this week. Twenty-five booksellers from across the country signed up for the eight-month course on event management; the class meets twice a month, on Sunday evenings. NAIBA is launching classes on inventory management in April, store operations in June and basic bookselling in July.

Personnel Changes at New Harbinger, Grove Atlantic

Julie Kahn has been promoted to v-p of sales and marketing at New Harbinger Publications. She has been director of sales and marketing since 2014. Kahn joined the company in 2005 as national accounts manager, working with Barnes & Noble, among others. She was promoted to sales manager in 2010.


At Grove Atlantic:

Kait Astrella has been promoted to publicist. She was previously an associate publicist.

Andrew Unger has been promoted to retail sales manager & digital strategy specialist. He was previously a sales & marketing associate.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Rachel Maddow on Late Night with Seth Meyers

Wendy Williams: Tommy Davidson, co-author of Living in Color: What's Funny About Me: Stories from In Living Color, Pop Culture, and the Stand-Up Comedy Scene of the '80s & '90s (Kensington, $15.95, 9781496712967).

Late Night with Seth Meyers: Rachel Maddow, co-author of Bag Man: The Wild Crimes, Audacious Cover-up, and Spectacular Downfall of a Brazen Crook in the White House (Crown, $28, 9780593136683).

Movies: Cherry

A trailer has been released for Cherry, the film based on Nico Walker's "partially autobiographical novel of the same name, which he wrote while in prison and published in 2018," Entertainment Weekly reported. Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, the movie stars Tom Holland and Ciara Bravo. It will debut in theaters February 26, before premiering on Apple TV+ March 12.

Regarding the trailer, Joe Russo said, "You get a taste of Holland's incredible performance in the movie and the range that he displays as an actor. I think you're seeing him transform from a teen actor into an adult actor." He added: "We're acutely aware of the existential blight that has gripped the Midwest in a lot of ways and made it ground zero for the opioid epidemic. We've known a lot of people very close to us who have been hurt by the epidemic…. We needed an actor who could bring [the audience] along emotionally on a journey. And there are very few actors who can do that like Tom Holland."

Anthony Russo observed: "We were coming off Avengers: Endgame, that seven-year run with four movies for Marvel. The question of what we were going to do next was a complicated one. We basically could do anything we want. And when we read this novel, it spoke to us so powerfully and so personally, and it felt like it [tackled] that ongoing crisis."

Books & Authors

Awards: Jane Addams

The winners and honor books of the 2021 Jane Addams Children's Book Awards, honoring "children's books of literary and aesthetic excellence that effectively engage children in thinking about peace, social justice, global community, and equity for all people," are:

Books for Younger Children:
Winner: We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade (Roaring Books Press)
Honor Books:
Ocean Speaks: How Marie Tharp Revealed the Ocean's Biggest Secret by Jess Keating, illustrated by Katie Hickey (Tundra)
Black Is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (Roaring Book Press)

Books for Older Children:
Winner: A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat (Candlewick Press)
Honor Books:
Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar (Scholastic Press)
Finish the Fight! The Brave and Revolutionary Women who Fought for the Right to Vote by Veronica Chambers and the New York Times staff, illustrated by diverse artists (Versify/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Book Review

Review: The Swallowed Man

The Swallowed Man by Edward Carey (Riverhead Books, $26 hardcover, 192p., 9780593188873, January 26, 2021)

Edward Carey is interested in art as it imitates life. In Alva and Irva (2003), a woman re-creates, in miniature, the city where she is afraid to venture. Little (2018) is a fictional account of the people behind Madame Tussaud's wax museum. The Swallowed Man is a much darker and emotionally complex exploration of this theme. This is the story of Giuseppe, the woodcarver who creates Pinocchio--a man whose art "comes through with more grace, more life in it, than you had supposed possible." In heartbreaking, increasingly mad narration, enriched with vintage-style line drawings, Giuseppe tells how he simultaneously loses his son and winds up in his current, fatal predicament: riding in the belly of a great fish.

Giuseppe creates Pinocchio to soothe his loneliness and challenge his woodworking skills. But pride takes over and he decides to exhibit Pinocchio for recognition that's eluded him his entire life. "How well, I thought, I shall be known for it. How celebrated--the creator of life." The tension between parenting and exploiting his art tugs at him throughout. "My son, my love, my art," he calls Pinocchio, unsure of which comes first. In wrenching, brutally candid memories Giuseppe recalls his conflicted feelings about his creation: "I own it: I was expecting not just a boy, but a fortune. I was wishing not just for family but also for fame."

Pinocchio runs away after Giuseppe punishes him for lying. Giuseppe dedicates himself to finding his son, who may have been set to sea in a boat. As Giuseppe himself rows out to search, an impossibly large fish swallows him. At some point, the "monster-beast, this hunger-creature" also swallowed a schooner and so, using found items from the ship, Giuseppe makes confinement bearable. If he was lonely before he created Pinocchio, the abandonment he experiences in the belly of this behemoth is exponentially greater. Art once again provides solace. "I have set about the business of making myself a family," he says, creating figures and drawings, naming and talking to each. "Ever since losing my Pino I have begun to look differently at objects. Wondering if they have life, too," he remarks. Are humans doomed when they create life outside of God and nature? The Swallowed Man is a haunting tale that provides no easy answer, but readers looking for a compelling story rich with insight and compassion will appreciate Carey's work. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

Shelf Talker: Giuseppe, the woodcarver who created Pinocchio, narrates the story of his miraculous creation in this moving tale that hews more closely to the traditional Italian folktale than to the cartoon.

The Bestsellers

Top-Selling Self-Published Titles

The bestselling self-published books last week as compiled by

1. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki with Sharon L. Lechter
2. Shielding Jayme by Susan Stoker
3. Authority by Various
4. The Beach House by Rachel Hanna
5. Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins
6. From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout
7. Blackthorne Brothers: The Complete Collection by Amanda Torrey
8. Only One Night by Natasha Madison
9. Critical Doubt by Barbara Freethy
10. Reclaimed by Jaymin Eve

[Many thanks to!]

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