Shelf Awareness for Friday, September 28, 2007


Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster BFYR: Me & Mama by Cozbi A. Cabrera

Tor Books: Rhythm of War (Stormlight Archive, 4) by Brandon Sanderson

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Disney-Hyperion: The Mirror Broken Wish (Mirror #1) by Julie C. Dao

Basic Books: Dog-Eared: Poems about Humanity's Best Friend by Duncan Wu

News

Notes: Hedge Fund Wants Tongue on Borders Board

Hedge fund advisor Spencer Capital Management, which owns a 7.9% stake in Borders Group, is seeking representation on the Borders board, Reuters reported. Spencer said in an SEC filing that it wants to have Glenn Tongue, managing partner of T2 Partners Management, which also has a stake in Borders, join the board to "bring focus to board efforts to maximize shareholder value."

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Banned Books Week Update: 

Peter Wannier, co-owner of Flintridge Bookstore, La Cañada Flintridge, Calif., told the La Canada Valley Sun he will display "a first edition of Dialogo Di Galileo Galilei, published in 1632, which led to Galileo's persecution by the Catholic Church for his belief that the Earth was not the center of the universe. Wannier said, 'I believe this might be the first book ever to be banned.'"

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Bookselling This Week
celebrates the 10th anniversary of the purchase of Barrett Bookstore, Darien, Conn., by Sheila and Tom Daley, who on September 22 served refreshments and offered a 20% discount on books. The 2,800-sq.-ft. store was founded in 1939.
 
Because more younger families are moving to Darien, the children's section keeps growing. Book clubs are popular, and the store holds many events in partnership with the Darien Public Library and the Darien Community Association.

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BTW also profiles Page23, a program set up by Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, Ariz., aimed at encouraging reading among people who might "reject traditional marketing approaches." Cindy Dach, the store's marketing director, called Page23 "like Book Sense for hipsters" and said sales are "astounding."

The program's print material and in-store displays are "design driven" with less copy than traditional materials. "There is a fascination with the lack of information presented," Dach said. Page23 has a MySpace page with lists of books from both independent and major publishers. "We see ourselves as a mechanism to connect people with books that might otherwise go unnoticed," Dach added.

Next spring the company will launch a Page23 website and offer lists and materials to other bookstores for "a nominal fee."
 


Berkley Books: The Ballad of Hattie Taylor by Susan Anderson


Happy 20th to Sourcebooks!

Congratulations to Sourcebooks, Naperville, Ill., which celebrates its 20th anniversary on Sunday, when it hosts a boat party on Lake Michigan that as many as 250 people will attend. Another sort of celebration is the publication in early October of Poetry Speaks Expanded, a revised edition of Poetry Speaks, the company's 2001 multimedia book. The new edition, which includes three CDs of poets reading their work, added material by James Joyce and Robert Graves, among others.

The title is just one indication of how far Sourcebooks has come in 20 years. "Originally I thought the company would be a financial services information company," founder Dominique Raccah told Shelf Awareness. "Obviously I was completely wrong." She also planned to sell only via direct mail, she added in a tone of incredulity. "That's what companies selling very specialized professional products did at the time."

Now Sourcebooks publishes poetry (a personal interest of Raccah), children's books, calendars, nonfiction women's titles, college titles, multimedia titles (including e-books soon) and with its new Sourcebooks Casablanca imprint, romance. Among its bestsellers are 1001 Ways to Be Romantic by Gregory J.P. Godek, the Sourcebooks Shakespeare series, The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College by Harlan Cohen and the George W. Bush Out of Office Countdown calendar.

The range of titles comes not so much from a master plan to expand over time as a function of Sourcebooks's approach to business and publishing.

For one, the company is very "author-focused," as Raccah put it. "We focus on our authors in a career, long-term way rather than taking the approach of buying a book at a time. As a result, 20% of the company is focused on marketing and p.r. to help authors succeed." Also the company is sometimes "led" by authors in new directions.

The company continues to be very entrepreneurial, which, among other things, helps "you go down paths that interest you," Raccah said. "You start saying that you'd love to try something, you do it, the marketplace responds, then you do more and try other things." It's also important, Raccah continued, to have what she called "creative flutter." Overall, "we try to create a stable environment in which to be creative," Raccah said. "It's easier to be creative in a warm, familial, harmonious environment. It's a team effort."

Channels of distribution have expanded along the company's areas of publishing. In the beginning, Sourcebooks focused on selling to general bookstores and libraries. Now with its own sales force, it sells to children's bookstores, general retail children's stores, mass market, specialty retail and through the web.

"We like to get it right and not go to market too early," Raccah stated, offering as an example The Ultimate Bartender's Guide, which Sourcebooks has been working on for two years with Bartender magazine and continues to work on. "We want these kinds of project to be great for readers so they became a wave, a great experience," she said.

Perhaps the 20th anniversary Sunday party will be a good research venue for this title!--John Mutter


BINC: Book Auction to Benefit BINC - Click Here!


Media and Movies

Media Heat: First Daughter Jenna Bush

This morning on Good Morning America: Cheryl Dellasega, author of Forced to Be Family: A Guide for Living with Sinister Sisters, Drama Mamas, and Infuriating In-Laws (Wiley, $24.95, 9780470049990/0470049995).

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This morning on the Air America's Young Turks program: Naomi Wolf, author most recently of The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot (Chelsea Green, $13.95, 9781933392790/1933392797).

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Tonight on Real Time with Bill Maher: Ken Burns, co-author of The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945 (Knopf, $50, 9780307262837/0307262839).

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Tonight on 20/20: Jenna Bush, author of Ana's Story: A Journey of Hope (HarperCollins, $18.99, 9780061379086/0061379085).

Also tonight on 20/20: Kirsten Kemp, author of Flipping Confidential: The Secrets of Renovating Property for Profit in Any Market (Wiley, $19.95, 9780470068359/0470068353).

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On Sunday morning on ESPN2's NASCAR Now: Mark Yost, author of The 200-MPH Billboard: The Inside Story of How Big Money Changed NASCAR (Motorbooks, $25.95, 9780760328125/0760328129).

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On NPR's Weekend Edition on Sunday: in a rare interview, Chuck Feeney, subject of the book The Billionaire Who Wasn't: How Chuck Feeney Made and Gave Away a Fortune Without Anyone Knowing by Conor O'Clery (PublicAffairs, $26.95, 9781586483913/1586483919).


University of California Press: Deviant Opera by Axel Englund


Books & Authors

Books For Understanding: Race Relations in the U.S.

The Association of American University Presses has revised and updated its Race Relations in the U.S. Books for Understanding bibliography. The list has doubled to nearly 1,500 book and journal titles since the first edition in 2002 and is organized by chronology, from "slavery and abolition" to the present day, and includes studies of race theories and racism, race in national politics and education.

Among titles on the list:
  • On the Courthouse Lawn: Confronting the Legacy of Lynching in the Twenty-first Century by Sherrilyn A. Ifill (Beacon Press, 2007)
  • Black Scholars on the Line: Race, Social Science, and American Thought in the Twentieth Century by Jonathan Scott Holloway and Ben Keppel (University of Notre Dame Press, 2007)
  • Taps for a Jim Crow Army: Letters from Black Soldiers in World War II edited by Phillip McGuire (University Press of Kentucky, 1993)
  • The Souls of Black Folk: One Hundred Years Later edited by Dolan Hubbard (University of Missouri Press, 2007)


G.P. Putnam's Sons: This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens


Book Brahmins: Gina B. Nahai

Gina B. Nahai is the author of Cry of the Peacock (winner of the Los Angeles Arts Council Award for Fiction), Moonlight on the Avenue of Faith (finalist for the Orange Prize in England and the IMPAC award in Dublin), Sunday's Silence and Caspian Rain (MacAdam Cage, $25, 9781596922518/1596922516), which is being published October 16. She is a former consultant for the Rand Corporation and has studied the politics of pre- and post-revolutionary Iran for the United States Department of Defense. Nahai lives in Los Angeles, where she is a professor of Creative Writing at the University of Southern California. Here she answers questions we occasionally put to people in the industry:

On your nightstand now:

The Lover by Marguerite Duras
 
Favorite book when you were a child:

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Your top five authors:

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Marguerite Duras, Tennessee Williams, Vladimir Nabokov, Adrienne Sharp

Book you've faked reading:

The Sound and the Fury
by William Faulkner

Book you are an evangelist for:

The Lover by Marguerite Duras
 
Book you've bought for the cover:

Sleeping Beauty, A Novel by Adrienne Sharp
 
Book that changed your life:

Nothing, and So Be It by Orianna Fallaci
 
Favorite line from a book:

"Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia would remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to see ice."--Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
 
Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Collected Short Stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez




Deeper Understanding

Far Out: New Booksmith Owners Add MBA Ideas

At first blush, it seems likely that someone's been smoking a little too much something: the new owners of the Booksmith, mainstay of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, most famous as the center of the 1967 summer of love, are a husband-and-wife team with strong business backgrounds. Praveen Madan is an engineer and MBA "by education," he said, and has worked as a consultant and headed marketing and business development for a small software company. Christin Evans has a similar background; although she went to Vassar, she got an MBA, then worked as a consultant and in high tech. "My path to becoming an entrepreneur and becoming a bookstore owner has not been obvious," she commented.

The pair are "avid readers" and have visited many bookstores around the world. "We're like bookstore tourists," Evans said. The couple has known about the challenges faced by independents and believed some of their business skills might help. They considered acting as consultants to bookstore owners, believing that there was "not enough innovation in the business model. Many stores are run as they were 30-40 years ago," Madan said. But "many booksellers wouldn't use free advice if we gave it to them." So then they considered buying a store. The decision, Madan continued, "came down to doing something we cared deeply about" rather than continuing in "nice, cushy, well-paid corporate jobs."

Gary Frank, who had founded Booksmith 31 years ago, had been trying to sell the store for five years. Madan and Evans were attracted by the store's location at the "crux of several neighborhoods."

The best-known of those neighborhoods is, of course, Haight-Ashbury, which "still has the spirit of the summer of love," Evans said. The store serves this clientele in a variety of ways--it even has an Altered States section, which contains titles on drugs, dreams and meditation. Books on the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix are also perennially popular since the store remains a mecca for people around the world who love the summer of love, which marked its 40th anniversary this year.

A kind of commemorative title that the pair said they would do very well with is just coming out: The Sixties, a collection of photographs by Robert Altman (Santa Monica Press, $39.95, 9781595800244/1595800247), a staff photographer for Rolling Stone whose pictures chronicle some of the major figures and events of the time, including the March on Washington, People's Park in Berkeley, Haight-Ashbury, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, Jerry Garcia, Mick Jagger, Jerry Rubin and Grace Slick.

Other nearby neighborhoods are Cole Valley, where many people working in high tech live, and Buena Vista Park, which has affluent residents. The store serves "many audiences with many needs," Evans said.

The pair were struck by many other positive things about Booksmith: it had a website before Amazon and helped develop IBID; the store had a reputation of being well-run; the staff, many members of which have Master's degrees, is "amazing."

Madan and Evans's first move after buying the store stemmed from their consultant training: "we solicited input," as Evans phrased it. The pair spoke with more than 100 customers, authors and staff members about the store's strengths and weaknesses.

Soon the couple drew up what Evans called "a hit list of quick things" to change or emphasize. For one, they wanted to build on Booksmith's sense of community. The first "simple, little" step to build on this involved inviting customers to write shelf talkers. "We realized that many long-term, loyal customers have favorite books and authors they want to share with the community," she commented.

Longer-term projects to continue emphasizing community include assisting people who have a variety of needs for which finding appropriate books may be just part of a process. So when people are going through a phase of life, planning a trip or getting married, "We want to help people make connections and find each other," Evans said. The store also plans to offer a "just-in-time book club around a particular book"--that is, a book club that forms only to read a particular title and disbands afterwards.

The store aims to increase the number of events it puts on in-store and provide more space for community-related activities.

As Madan said, "It all goes back to one, simple principle: putting the customers at the center of the business and of thinking. It seems a lot of independents have gotten focused on book sales and transactions."

He believes customer service is an obvious strength for indies. "As a small business, bookstores can go out of their way to make customers happy and provide great customer service that large corporations can't provide." He gave an unusual example of how to do this: despite their "visceral hatred" of Amazon, booksellers should, he said, make Amazon's reviews and metadata available in stores since Amazon probably has the best search engine and is an excellent place to find reviews.

Evans added that because the cost of technology has come down dramatically, many booksellers should reexamine the Internet. "Booksellers should think of it as an evolutionary thing and realize that as a local store, your advantage is being local and technology used in a smart way can help your store."

Booksmith is also "experimenting with a high level of customers service, helping customers find the books they need, much as a hotel concierge would.

"There is no silver bullet," Madan continued. "We're trying lots of ideas, seeing what works and what doesn't work. We're not hesitating to bring skills from outside businesses."

As part of their efforts, earlier this year Madan and Evans launched a site called litminds, which features interviews of literary innovators and is a venture separate from Booksmith. "Does this sell books?" Madan asked. "It doesn't, but the goal is to create a gathering place online for people interested in these issues, a kind of literary salon."

It's no surprise that what strikes the new owners of Booksmith as most difficult about the business is what Madan calls "the black hole in the back of every bookstore, the energy- and time-sucking" effort of dealing with publishers and wholesalers. "We buy from 250 different publishers, and it amazes me that each publisher has a different way of doing business, from ordering processing, invoices, coop," he said. "It's amazing how complicated it is to make sure you have books on the shelves that customers want."

By the way, former Booksmith owner Gary Frank is still a busy man. He is a member of the Booksmith's advisory board, founded by Madan and Evans. He remains the landlord of the store and has set up his own venture, selling a Plexiglas shelf talker holder. For more information about his invention, go to shelfwiz.com.--John Mutter


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