Shelf Awareness for Friday, December 2, 2022

Hanover Square Press: Before the Coffee Gets Cold series by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Del Rey Books: The Book of Elsewhere by Keeanu Reeves and China Miéville

St. Martin's Press: You'll Never Believe Me: A Life of Lies, Second Tries, and Other Stuff I Should Only Tell My Therapist by St. Martin's Press

Watkins Publishing: A Feminist's Guide to ADHD: How Women Can Thrive and Find Focus in a World Built for Men by Janina Maschke

Soho Teen: Only for the Holidays by Abiola Bello

W. W. Norton & Company: Still Life by Katherine Packert Burke

Shadow Mountain: A Kingdom to Claim by Sian Ann Bessey


Grand Opening for A Thousand Stories-Herndon Books in Herndon, Va.

A Thousand Stories-Herndon Books celebrated its grand opening recently at 750 Center Street in Herndon, Va., the Connection reported. The new venture, owned by Michelle Ratto and Beth Luke, is located in the Arts Herndon building. 

"This has been a nice opening day for us," said Luke, who recalled the moment before the bookstore's launch when it went from a vision to a reality. Items had been arriving piecemeal. "But one day, a giant pallet got here. And once we started putting those on the shelves, we were like, 'Oh, this is really happening.' "

Ratto noted that the store features new books, primarily for children and young adults, along with a selection of adult titles and gift items. "Things like mugs, puzzles, stuffed animals, and things like that you can pair with a book, and... there is gift wrapping."

A nonprofit organization, Arts Herndon offers a local gathering place to celebrate and advance the arts. In collaboration with Newbery medalist Kwame Alexander--who lived in Herndon and brought many of his new books to the space--and the National Endowment for the Arts, Arts Herndon has presented the one-day Children's Literary Festival. 

"A Thousand Stories will be doing book talks in the gallery," said Joanna Ormesher, the organization's president, adding that Arts Herndon will again participate in the Fall for the Book literary festival at George Mason University and she plans to work with A Thousand Stories on that event.

"From a blank room to this, we're super excited with the progress so far," Ratto said.

W. W. Norton & Company: Still Life by Katherine Packert Burke

Book Betty Bookstore and Coffee Shop Coming to Vestavia Hills, Ala.

The owners of Flower Betty, a florist shop in Vestavia Hills, Ala., will be opening a bookstore and coffee shop called Book Betty in an adjacent storefront this month, the Vestavia Voice reported.

Owners Marilee and Bradley Gilbert have been in the flower business for nearly 30 years and opened Flower Betty several years ago. The bookstore will have a separate entrance from Flower Betty and will sell a variety of new titles. The coffee shop will be at the back of the store, with bookshelves and seating located throughout.

In addition to books and coffee, the store will sell candles and journals as well as baked goods sourced from a local baker. All of the coffee drinks will be named after literary characters, such as a salted caramel mocha called the "Marianne Dashwood."

Marilee Gilbert told the Voice that she has made connections with a nearby high school and hopes to host things like poetry slams and book club meetings. The bookstore and coffee shop will have a cozy and comfortable feel, and "we want it to be a place for friends to come and hang out," she said.

She added that she's always wanted to own a bookstore, and decided to make that dream come true after realizing that Vestavia Hills did not have an independent bookstore or coffee shop.

Gilbert said she's "always worked for small businesses" and believes "in small business." The community has supported Flower Betty very well, and she hopes that continues with the bookstore. She hopes to have the store up and running within the first week of December.

GLOW: Sourcebooks Landmark: Remember You Will Die by Eden Robins

Adrian Newell Retires from Warwick's, La Jolla, Calif.

Adrian Newell

Adrian Newell, who has worked at Warwick's, La Jolla, Calif., for 34 years, has retired. Her last day was Wednesday.

Newell was hired in 1988 by Bob Warwick and Barbara Christman, who became her mentor. Though she started as a part-timer, Adrian soon became responsible for small and university press title buys. By 1997, she was officially head book buyer and book department manager at Warwick's.

She started her career at Waldenbooks, where she worked for five years, then moved to the Aztec Shops at San Diego State University for another five years, as assistant to the trade book buyer. Among many duties there, she developed and managed an overstock returns program and purchased children's books for the trade book division.

At Warwick's, as the store noted, "Adrian oversaw major shifts. The Warwick's book department almost doubled in size and the broader bookselling ecosystem itself changed, evolving from a world of phoned-in orders and Books in Print--itself in print!--into a highly computerized industry."

Warwick's added that it "has been immensely fortunate to benefit from Adrian's keen discernment, finely-honed instinct for curation, and aesthetic sensibility. Though she is expert in buying all categories, there are special places in her heart for superlative writing about animals, nature, and travel--and, of course, she always loves a really excellent thriller."

Newell will continue to be involved in the Glenn Goldman Scholarship program for Southern California booksellers, which she and the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association founded in 2009 to honor the late Book Soup founder and owner. (The scholarship is now administered by the California Independent Booksellers Alliance and is open to booksellers throughout California.)

She's also planning to keep reading. In a farewell e-mail to the many publisher reps she's worked with over the years, Newell wrote, "p.s. i'll have lots more time to read so pls send galleys when you can."

International Update: Booksellers Association Names Consumer Publications Editor; National Survey of Aussie Authors

Ruth Hunter

The Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland has named Ruth Hunter as its consumer publications editor. In her new position, she will handle publisher liaison, design and editorial, as well as bookseller liaison and communications. The Christmas and Summer Books Catalogues will now be BA-run projects (in conjunction with Gardners Books) and will no longer be a joint venture with Nielsen. 

Hunter had previously been editing Booktime magazine for the BA as a freelancer. Prior to that, she worked for Bertrams Books, editing Booktime and the Bertrams Christmas Catalogue. She joins the campaigns team, and will report to Emma Bradshaw, head of campaigns at the BA.
"We are delighted to welcome Ruth to the team, and look forward to working with her on improving and re-energizing the Books Catalogues projects," said BA managing director Meryl Halls. "Having already edited Booktime and the Bertrams Christmas Catalogue, she is uniquely qualified for this role." 
Hunter added: "I'm thrilled to be joining the BA. They are an amazing team to be a part of, and I am looking forward to producing the consumer catalogues, as well as continuing with Booktime magazine. I feel very lucky to be given the opportunity to follow my passion for books and literature, working with publishers, authors and booksellers, in such a friendly environment."


A recent National Survey of Australian Book Authors has found that the average total annual income for authors, including all sources of income, is A$64,900 (about US$43,435), Books+Publishing reported. The percentage of authors earning the average annual income for the Australian workforce--A$70,000 (about US$46,850) in 2020-2021 fiscal year--was down from approximately 43% in 2013-2014 to only one third. The figures represent half or more education and scholarly authors, and one-third of trade authors.

The survey, conducted by Macquarie University researchers Jan Zwar, Paul Crosby and David Throsby, also found that "levels of indie publishing are higher than in the 2015 survey, especially for some genre fiction authors for whom it is a good fit and a more profitable publishing model." In addition, a "striking finding from this survey is the increase in the proportion of authors since the survey in 2015 who are very satisfied or satisfied with their main publisher. Nearly one-third of authors are very satisfied with their publisher, and approximately one-third are satisfied. One-fifth of authors are neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, and approximately 15% of authors are either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their main publisher."

Offering what they termed "somewhat good news" regarding how long authors estimated it would take for their careers to recover to their pre-Covid level, the researchers said that "approximately one-fifth of authors thought it would take less than one year and another fifth estimated it will take one year. However, one third of authors estimated it will take two years, and nearly one fifth estimated it will take three to five years, indicating substantial setbacks and ground to be regained. Approximately one-twentieth of authors estimated that their careers wouldn't recover from the pandemic." 


"Is there anything more inviting than a good indie bookstore window display?!" the Canadian Independent Booksellers Association asked while highlighting some holiday-themed examples, including Laughing Oyster Bookshop, Courtenay, B.C.; and Volume One Bookstore, Duncan, B.C, which noted: "Fired up on sugary cookies, a couple « elves » have done up the Christmas windows. Night-shop our windows and reserve any books you like for pickup later, by typing keywords from author or title into the search tool on our website. All the windows are looking pretty sweet downtown."

Another Canadian indie getting in on the fun is the City & the City Books, Hamilton, Ont.: "Holiday window now up! Come say hi to Krampus, Frank, and their little friends and have a licorice allsort too! Once again huge thanks to @trishaleighlavoie and Margaret Juraj for once again putting together another fabulous window!" --Robert Gray

Shelf Awareness's Best Adult Books of 2022

Once again, this year was filled with unknowns, emerging from a pandemic, anticipating the midterm elections, reconnecting with family, friends and colleagues in person. These 10 fiction and 10 nonfiction adult titles helped the team at Shelf Awareness reflect, sustain, and find some bright spots and some literary companions during the strange and unpredictable year that was 2022. Click here to see our reviews. (Our Best Children's and YA Books of 2022 are here.)

At Certain Points We Touch by Lauren John Joseph (Bloomsbury)
Fellowship Point by Alice Elliot Dark (Scribner)
Four Treasures of the Sky by Jenny Tinghui Zhang (Flatiron)
How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu (Morrow)
Killers of a Certain Age
by Deanna Raybourn (Berkley)
Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu (Tin House)
Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher (Tor)
Spear by Nicola Griffith (Tordotcom)
We Are the Light by Matthew Quick (Avid Reader)
The Wild Hunt by Emma Seckel (Tin House)

All Down Darkness Wide by Seán Hewitt (Penguin Press)
Black Boy Smile by D. Watkins (Legacy Lit)
Black Hollywood by Carell Augustus (Ebony Magazine/Sourcebooks)
Ducks by Kate Beaton (Drawn & Quarterly)
Endless Forms by Seirian Sumner (Harper)
How Far the Light Reaches by Sabrina Imbler (Little, Brown)
Inciting Joy by Ross Gay (Algonquin)
Life on the Mississippi by Rinker Buck (Avid Reader)
One Hundred Saturdays by Michael Frank, illus. by Maira Kalman (Avid Reader)
Shy by Mary Rodgers (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)


Bookseller Cat: RIP Poe at Sunrise Books


Posted on Instagram by Sunrise Books, High Point, N.C.: "It is with great sorrow that we report the passing of Poe, our sweet, friendly, beautiful bookstore cat. She was about 20 years old, and her last 4 years were spent in the bookstore, being adored by all. We will miss her terribly, and I'm sure that a lot of you will, too. Hug your furbabies a little tighter today."

"She had her own fan club," Angel Schroeder, owner of Sunrise Books, told the High Point Enterprise. "She was just the perfect bookstore cat.... We had some customers who would come in and not even pretend to look at books. They were just here to pet the cat.... Poe was definitely the most photographed of all our employees."

Bookseller Moment: Chatham Bookstore

"Happy December!," the Chatham Bookstore, Chatham, N.Y., noted in a Facebook post yesterday. "If you haven't stopped by the store lately, come by this week to check out our holiday displays. They're perfect for window shopping--but we hope you'll come inside too to grab that book that caught your eye or just to say hi!"

Chalkboard: Reads & Company

Reads & Company, Phoenixville, Pa., shared photos of two of the shop's recent sidewalk chalkboard messages, noting: "We've been told our sign game is top notch, and most recently that's because of the awesome job our bookseller Reagan does to keep things fresh! And here we have the first sign of the holiday season. We're looking forward to a great end of the year, and we have some fun stuff coming up. Stay tuned and watch that sign!"

Personnel Changes at Macmillan

At Macmillan:

Maya Battle joins the company as director, marketing intelligence.

Meaghan Leahy has been promoted to the B&N team as a national account manager.

Nomaris Garcia Rivera joins the company as a retail marketing assistant.

Bryn Goldstein joins the company as a sales assistant.

Media and Movies

TV: A Most Wanted Man

A German TV version of John Le Carré's A Most Wanted Man is being developed almost a decade after the film adaptation, Deadline reported. Oskar Söderlund is attached as showrunner. 

Filmed in German, the project will reunite the Ink Factory (The Night Manager) and Amusement Park (All Quiet on the Western Front), which co-produced the 2014 film version of A Most Wanted Man that was directed by Anton Corbijn and starred Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Willem Dafoe, Rachel McAdams and Daniel Brühl.

"Le Carré's searing insights into political machinations and the fallible and morally complex people behind them have an eternal relevance," said Ink Factory co-CEOs Simon Cornwell and Stephen Cornwell. "We have great respect for the team at Amusement Park and are excited to be building on our original collaboration to cast one of le Carré's most impactful and resonant works in a new light."

On Stage: The Great Gatsby

A private industry reading of a musical stage adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel The Great Gatsby, which entered the public domain in 2021, will be presented later this month, Playbill reported. A regional bow is expected during the 2023-24 season.

Directed by Marc Bruni (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical), the project features music and lyrics by Tony nominees Nathan Tysen (Paradise Square) and Jason Howland (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) and a book by Kait Kerrigan (The Mad Ones). Chunsoo Shin, "one of the most influential producers in Korea's theatre industry, will produce the Broadway-aimed musical with Mark Shacket as executive producer," Playbill noted. 

The musical is one of many Gatsby adaptations in the works, including rock star Florence Welch (Florence + The Machine), Thomas Bartlett, and Pulitzer Prize winner Martyna Majok collaborating on a musical stage adaptation; and Immersive Everywhere's interactive production, created and directed by Alexander Wright, which will begin March 9, 2023, at Park Central Hotel New York, transforming the 16,000 square foot ballroom into the Gatsby mansion.

Books & Authors

Awards: Cundill Winner

All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake by Tiya Miles (Random House) has won the $75,000 2022 Cundill History Prize, which is administered by McGill University and honors "the best history writing in English."

Organizers said, "In All That She Carried, Tiya Miles, traces the life of a single object handed down through three generations of Black women to craft an extraordinary testament to people who are left out of the archives. It honours the creativity and fierce resourcefulness of people who preserved family ties even when official systems refused to do so."

Juror Martha S. Jones said, "Tiya Miles' All That She Carried is a history that reminds us about what makes us human. The book brings determined research and eloquent compassion to the story of an enslaved mother and her daughter just as they are doomed to be separated, and then discovers how one mother's love survived across time and space in the form of a simple cotton sack. We learn how the past still shapes our present and how we might use its hard won lessons to face the hardship of our own times. Miles deploys dogged research and elegant prose to reveal how the survivors of slavery's crime against humanity left a legacy that undergirds our present-day strivings for justice."

All That She Carried also has won the National Book Award for Nonfiction and the American Historical Association's Joan Kelly Memorial Prize.

The two runners up--Cuba: An American History by Ada Ferrer (Scribner) and Collapse: The Fall of the Soviet Union by Vladislav M. Zubok (Yale University Press)--each receive $10,000 awards.

Reading with... Olivie Blake

Olivie Blake is the author of The Atlas Six and its sequel, The Atlas Paradox (Tor)--about a society of magical academicians facing betrayal and chaos--as well as the viral hit Alone with You in the Ether (re-releasing this month from Tor). As Alexene Farol Follmuth, she wrote My Mechanical Romance, a YA rom-com.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

Six-person love story/slightly deranged family drama that takes place within an Extremely British (implications both derogatory and affectionate) secret society.

Alternatively: hot nerds, quantum physics is magic now, everyone is a rival and, at any moment, somebody might die.

On your nightstand now:

Little Eve by my beloved auto-buy author Catriona Ward; Dogs of Summer by Andrea Abreu (I picked this up because it was recommended by my local indie for lovers of Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels, of which I am EXUBERANTLY one); and Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn, a hotly anticipated release for me.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine; Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman; Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede; Diana Wynne Jones's The Chronicles of Chrestomanci books; Tamora Pierce's The Song of the Lioness quartet; and when I was a bit older, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. (If this list feels familiar to anyone, I assume that you, like me, now love Alix E. Harrow as an adult.)

Your top five authors:

Ahh, starting off with an impossible question. I'll try to just go with my gut, because otherwise we'll be here all day. Elena Ferrante, definitely, as I've mentioned. Zadie Smith--I think White Teeth is pitch-perfect. V.E. Schwab for the beloved Shades of Magic trilogy. Carmen Maria Machado for basically blurring genre lines, especially in In the Dream House. Ottessa Moshfegh, because I love what she's done for sad girls in literature.

Book you've faked reading:

I don't actively fake it, but I'm not that well-versed in "classic" (interpret that as you will) fantasy. I've read The Hobbit but couldn't really get into the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I haven't seen the films. I also haven't read or watched Game of Thrones for a lot of reasons (e.g., I was in college when it came out and didn't have HBO), but mainly that I'm such an enthusiast of Philippa Gregory's Cousins' War series that every time I happened to hear about a Game of Thrones plotline, I was, like, wait, you mean the princes in the tower? Are you guys talking about Richard III and Elizabeth of York??

Book you're an evangelist for:

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas. I think it is extremely funny and lyrical and a fantastically unexpected story about agency and self. Also, If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha, another perfect book. People who enjoy ensemble casts will appreciate the way her story lives in the space between character points of view--what one character sees that another doesn't. And a book I won't shut up about is Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki. It seems weird to say no one is talking about it, because plenty of people are, but it's a must for cozy, found-family sci-fi/fantasy.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The hardcover version of Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch by Rivka Galchen, and what an excellent choice that was. Rivka should absolutely be on my list of favorites! I also love her motherhood memoir, Little Labors, which I read as I imagine it was meant to be read--while breastfeeding at 3 a.m. She also wrote a very good essay on the many-worlds interpretation that I used in writing the Atlas series.

Book you hid from your parents:

Oh gosh, a lot of bodice-rippers, ha. And The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. My entire sexual awakening revolved around Arthuriana, honestly.

Book that changed your life:

So, so many, but coming to mind now is No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood. Oh, the tears. I read it while pregnant and rage-laughed through part one (by design, of course) and then felt absolutely washed clean as a human being by the entirety of the second act.

Favorite line from a book:

"Motherhood is not a house you live in but a warren of beautiful rooms, something like Topkapi... some well-trod but magnificent place you're only allowed to sit in for a minute and snap a photo before you are ushered out." --From The Golden State by Lydia Kiesling, which I recently read and truly, deeply cherished.

Also, this from Henry and June by Anaïs Nin, which has many quotable lines, but I am always mentally laughing at this one: "Hugo [Anaïs's husband] reads my thirty pages on June [the woman Anaïs is in love with/erotically fixated on] and exclaims they are good. Again I wonder if he is only half alive or simply inarticulate."

Five books you'll never part with:

Fault Lines by Emily Itami, which is a bit like a Sally Rooney love story with a sprinkle of Bridget Jones verve, and the four Neapolitan Novels. No, let's count those as one book. Okay, so Fault Lines, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante, Henry and June by Anaïs Nin, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith and Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, which really, really makes me laugh. Wow, what an odd collection. I contain multitudes!

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

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas are books I read in high school that I think have really affected my personal literary aesthetic. I've reread them both multiple times, but there's something about being in the throes of youth and experiencing a long-term revenge scheme for the first time. I'll also add a short story here, "The Difference Between Love and Time" by Catherynne M. Valente in the Someone in Time anthology, edited by Jonathan Strahan. The collection is brilliant, but that story is a standout for me. It has all the wit you'd expect from Valente with an unexpected emotional depth.

Best books read while breastfeeding:

I like to think, based on the motherhood memoirs I have read and felt a kinship with, that there's this cult of motherhood involving the bleary wee hours where we all sort of occupy the same mental house of exhaustion and love. I used to go through almost a book a night--just me, my nursing son and my Kindle and/or phone screen. Of these, my favorites were the Outline trilogy by Rachel Cusk, which is just my favorite form of narrative style. (I like dialogue and gleaning what I need to about the narrator purely from what they observe in others. It's a fun game for me, a nosy person.) I also loved Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, which was an absolute life-changer of a book. I was deeply, deeply invested in the entirety of that family and everyone their lives touched. Lastly, Beautiful World, Where Are You is my absolute favorite Sally Rooney novel. What can I say? I love a lengthy rumination.

The flip side of this question is cozy books I read while pregnant, which was an utterly miserable time. (Sciatica! Carpal tunnel! Spontaneous nosebleeds!) I'd just like to offer my very real thanks to Elle Cosimano for Finlay Donovan Knocks 'Em Dead, TJ Klune for The House in the Cerulean Sea, Fredrik Backman for Anxious People and Cat Sebastian for her entire oeuvre.

Book Review

Review: Woman, Captain, Rebel: The Extraordinary True Story of a Daring Icelandic Sea Captain

Woman, Captain, Rebel: The Extraordinary True Story of a Daring Icelandic Sea Captain by Margaret Willson (Sourcebooks, $16.99 paperback, 432p., 9781728240053, January 31, 2023)

Anthropologist and researcher Margaret Willson spins a real-life tale as compelling as any fishing yarn in her third nonfiction book, Woman, Captain, Rebel. Willson's fascinating biography of Captain Thurídur Einarsdóttir (1777-1863) tells the true story of a female Icelandic sea captain who defied gender conventions throughout her long life. With elements of nautical and feminist history, as well as an account of how Einarsdóttir solved a high-profile crime in her village, Willson's account breaks narrow genre conventions in the same way Einarsdóttir herself defied the expectations placed on women of her time and place.

Willson (Seawomen of Iceland) begins by recounting a visit to Stokkseyri, Einarsdóttir's home village, and her subsequent discovery of a set of newspaper articles detailing Einarsdóttir's life, relationships and career. She sets the scene of Einarsdóttir's family home, recounting her adventures as a child (even then she loved to fish and often wore trousers) and the curse that plagued her family after her father, Einar, turned away a young boy in need of food. Willson introduces a cast of colorful characters (including an astonishing number of men named Jón) who populated Einarsdóttir's life: her fellow sailors and deckhands; the local pastor who became an archbishop and Einarsdóttir's staunch ally; her two siblings and their spouses; and a few local bigwigs, both Icelandic and Danish, who did their best to thwart her successes. Willson also shares the tragedies of Einarsdóttir's life, including the death of her daughter, Thórdís, and several occasions when she lost her home or assets and needed to start over. Throughout the narrative, Willson emphasizes the courage, resilience and integrity of her central character: especially later in life, Einarsdóttir did not hesitate to seek justice for herself or for members of her community who had been wronged.

Though 18th-century rural Icelandic customs may be unfamiliar to modern readers, Willson gives plenty of background on fishing practices, laws of employment and landowning, marriage customs and other norms that shaped Einarsdóttir's life and those of her community. Willson weaves these in with a brilliant portrait of Einarsdóttir herself: intelligent, hardworking and determined to secure her own stability and success through fishing, farming and later several other occupations. Through her account of Einarsdóttir's adventures, Willson calls into question the male-centered images of life at sea, and the still-persistent bias against women participating in physically demanding trades such as deep-sea fishing.

With a clear, compelling narrative voice, Willson illuminates the life of an extraordinary woman and brings rural Iceland to life for her readers. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: Anthropologist Margaret Willson brilliantly illuminates the life of a female Icelandic sea captain who was also a community leader.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: The 'Very Special, Symbiotic Relationship' Between Indie Publishers & Booksellers

In the Before Times, otherwise known as the final morning of the pre-pandemic Winter Institute 2020 in Baltimore, Md., Doug Seibold, president and publisher of Agate Publishing, stood at the podium during the Publisher Rep Breakfast Presentations and said that for him, the moment represented "an opportunity to talk about a very special, symbiotic relationship that I feel exists between independent publishers and independent bookstores.... Thank you for making space for the new voices we bring you, and for helping us and our writers find a place in our industry."

Doug Seibold with his daughter Jane, Agate's production manager.

In recent weeks, Seibold and I have been continuing a conversation about this topic that dates back, as it happens, to the early 2000s. Most recently, after discussing our mutual support for England at this year's World Cup, we talked about how the relationship between indie publishers and booksellers continues to grow even as the book business rapidly changes.

Seibold cited as examples two nearby Chicago area bookstores, Javier Ramirez's Exile in Bookville on S. Michigan Ave. and Nina Barrett's Bookends & Beginnings in Evanston. "I appreciate more than ever that as a small business, Agate has more in common with stores like Javier's and Nina's than it does with the Big 5 presses, and I think they'd agree they have a greater kinship with Agate than they do with Amazon or B&N. Scale is the big differentiator in American business. Amazon was a very effective disruptor of the Big 6 publishers and Big 2 retail chains dominant when Agate started, but it's become impossible not to see their overweening scale as a threat to our whole industry. One effect of the DoJ v PRH trial from last summer was highlighting just how different PRH's business is from that of companies like Agate, especially in its focus on the very biggest authors."

Javier Ramirez and Keir Graff

In late September, Agate's indie connection was celebrated when Publishing Cocktails, a series that highlights Chicago's thriving publishing scene, held an event at the Peckish Pig in Evanston to feature upcoming titles from Agate--which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year--as well as Northwestern University Press and Rose Metal Press.

Publishing Cocktails was co-founded in 2011 by Javier Ramirez and Keir Graff, author and former long-time editor of Booklist, "as a way to build community and collaboration among Chicago's most interesting book people," Ramirez noted. "We cast a wide net, including not only booksellers but authors, editors, publishers, publicists, sales reps, agents, librarians, reviewers, interns and power readers. 

"Usually, we meet up in a bar to talk about books and the book business over drinks, but we also host an annual summer book swap and holiday season cash mob to support a local indie bookstore. Our goal has always been to make the Chicago literary community feel smaller, more welcoming, and better connected. But as we enter our second decade, we're thrilled to see that our model has been adopted in other cities, including Seattle (Lit Up) and Milwaukee (Publishing Cocktails Milwaukee). This year we've even fielded inquiries from Minneapolis and Denver. We love sharing our story and encourage others to host their own Publishing Cocktails events!"

Author Jonathan Black and Nina Barrett

Noting that Chicago "has a disproportionately small trade publishing community for a city its size, and PC has become an important way to connect folks across the area," Seibold said he was contacted earlier this year about holding a PC event in Agate's vicinity, Evanston. 

"I suggested a venue on Howard Street, the actual border between Chicago and Evanston, which seemed apropos," he added. "I also reached out to my friends Parneshia Jones, executive director of Northwestern University Press, and Kathleen Rooney, co-founder of Rose Metal Press, to be co-hosts, as they're both based north--Parneshia (and Northwestern of course) in Evanston, and Kathleen in the far-north Chicago neighborhood of Edgewater.

"Agate took on a bigger role for this particular event in part because I saw it as a great way to celebrate our anniversary. We incorporated in early fall of 2002, and signed our first contracts for the initial books we published over the course of the following fall and winter, and also sent out our inaugural call for submissions that October. Who better to mark this milestone with than professional colleagues from across the area? Especially since there've been so few opportunities to assemble this way since the onset of the pandemic."

About 100 "local publishing folks turned up" for the event, Seibold said. "From our local indie bookstore contingent, Nina Barrett of Evanston's Bookends & Beginnings was there--she is also an Agate author (The Leopold and Loeb Files, 2018); as did Jeff Deutsch, all the way from the South Side and Seminary Co-op, and whose own book In Praise of Good Bookstores came out in April from Princeton University Press. There were also folks from local magazines and news outlets, freelance writers, authors, bookstore staff, and more. And of course Keir Graff is another author-editor himself. I felt like the only non-hyphenate involved."
The future of the book trade is uncertain for many reasons, but Seibold has faith it will favor indie publishers and booksellers: "When I started Agate, I used to tell people we could flourish by making smarter, more discriminating, more focused choices amid what the big companies overlooked, oftentimes sheerly as a product of their size. That's not so different from the myriad large and small ways indie stores have found to better serve their unique communities than is possible for a one-size-fits-all chain operation."

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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