Shelf Awareness for Friday, November 9, 2007

Aladdin Paperbacks: The Islanders by Mary Alice Monroe and Angela May

Tordotcom: The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Just Pretend by Tori Sharp

Mandala Publishing: Big Panda and Tiny Dragon by James Norbury and Insight Editions

Simon & Schuster Fall Preview: Join us for a virtual panel featuring your favorite authors and their editors!

Tor Books: When the Sparrow Falls by Neil Sharpson

Liveright Publishing Corporation: Mrs. March by Virginia Feito

Zest Books: When Dogs Heal: Powerful Stories of People Living with HIV and the Dogs That Saved Them by Jesse Freidin, Robert Garofalo, Zach Stafford, and Christina Garofalo


Hyper About Links?

We received a range of letters in response to our story Tuesday about Rainy Day Books's policy of not staging events for authors whose websites and e-mails have book purchase links to but not as well as to the letter on Wednesday from a publisher noting the low level of sales through her link. Here is a sampling of views on the matter:

We independent booksellers understand that Amazon controls the Web. People click, money (some) rolls in. BookSense doesn't have a brand strong enough to compete.
But authors and publishers will likewise have to understand that we don't like this situation, and will push back in any way that we have available to us. That includes not scheduling events with authors and publishers who are actively trying to drive business to our competition. Let these authors schedule an appearance with Amazon if Amazon is their preferred vendor. While they're at it, they should ask Amazon to donate a gift certificate to their school's PTO, or buy raffle tickets from their kids, or do book talks in their schools, or . . . you get the drift.--Michael Herrmann, Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, N.H.


The reason that independent booksellers get so feisty about publishers and authors linking to Amazon or Barnes & Noble on their websites is because we are, in fact, well aware that the public is mostly unaware of BookSense and what it means and does. THAT is the reason we get upset when we see our business partners catering exclusively to our competition. I would think that it would be beneficial for a business not to alienate a broad sweep of its customer base in the name of simple lazy expedience.
I believe, though, we are in the midst of a paradigm shift in public sentiment. Buy Local Programs are sprouting in hundreds of communities, and the number of mainstream books blasting globalization and big corporations are on the rise. In light of this, it better serves all of your customers, both us and your readers, by more easily allowing them to make the more moral decision to buy local.

You say, "Put your energy into raising awareness rather than bludgeoning authors for 'non-compliance.' " I say that's exactly what we're doing.--Joe Foster, ordering manager at Maria's Bookshop, Durango, Colo.


I do not believe most of my colleagues object to having Amazon as a CHOICE to click when the consumer goes to buy a book. It is when it is the ONLY option that a very strong message is sent.
As far as I am concerned, the indy choice doesn't have to be (though ours is a website), even though it is a good option because it is a useful way to include hundreds of bookstores in a simple step. But just the effort to include ANY independent bookstore option is important--whether it be Powell's or the author's favorite local independent bookstore website. Many authors do this so it should not be difficult and allows the consumer the ability to make a choice.--Kerry Slattery, general manager, Skylight Books, Los Angeles, Calif.


Speaking as an author, I agree that many consumers do not recognize BookSense. What I have on my website for my most recent book (Company Towns of the Pacific Northwest, published by the University of Washington) is a list of the Northwest indies (with links) that have told me they keep the book in stock. This obviously would be difficult to manage for a title with national appeal. However, what I like about this strategy is (a) it gives me a reason to contact booksellers; and (b) when someone Googles the bookstore by name, the URL for my list of booksellers also comes up.--Linda Carlson

Harper: The Taking of Jemima Boone: The True Story of the Kidnap and Rescue That Shaped America by Matthew Pearl


Notes: College Store Buys Fact & Fiction; Borat 'Pleasurings'

The Bookstore at the University of Montana has bought Fact & Fiction, Missoula, Mont., Bookselling This Week reported. The Bookstore, a not-for-profit corporation run by a board of faculty and students, may rebrand its university trade book department into a Fact & Fiction and may open a third Fact & Fiction in a building to be constructed in a residential area.

Fact & Fiction owner Barbara Theroux will continue working at the store for two years. "It is exciting," Theroux told BTW. "What else can you ask for? I sold the business, kept my job, and will be able to work" on expanding the Fact & Fiction brand. Theroux noted that before founding Fact & Fiction 21 years ago, she worked at the University bookstore for seven years. "So I'm being rehired by the same place I used to work for."


BTW celebrates the 30th anniversary of St. Mark's Bookshop, New York City, which on November 13 will give away a $30 gift certificate every 30 minutes. The store has also celebrating in a different way: it recently signed a 10-year lease on its space. In other, somewhat understated St. Mark's news, the closing at the end of the year of a Barnes & Noble at Astor Place two blocks away "is definitely not going to hurt us," co-owner Bob Contant told BTW.


Books-A-Million is opening a 15,500-sq.-ft. store in Nashville, Tenn., at 6718 Charlotte Pike in Nashville West. This is the company's 16th store in Tennessee and the fourth in the Nashville area.


Mint edition of town vs. gown. Like many bookstores in the U.S., Becky Dayton's Vermont Book Shop, Middlebury, Vt., sells mints produced by the Unemployed Philosophers Guild. The sugary bestsellers, featuring caricatures of George W. Bush, include Indictmints, Impeachmints and Embarrassmints.

According to an op-ed piece posted at, Frederick Fritz, chair of the Middlebury College board of trustees, took exception to the counter display and called Dayton, asserting "that bookstores are held to higher standards, that they are a higher class of retailer that promotes the free exchange of ideas. In short, an independent bookstore is no place for a political statement (even if in a box of mints)."

The student who wrote the piece called the bookstore "a shining example of a space ripe for College and town interaction. . . . What is first so disheartening about Mr. Fritz's actions is that, despite his position as one of the most powerful members of the College administration, he has a fundamentally skewed notion of what role an independent bookshop such as this plays in the community."


Borat creator Sacha Baron Cohen stayed in character for his appearance Wednesday at a Borders bookstore in Los Angeles, Calif. According to USA Today, "He even turned his new status as a published author against [Kazahkstan]. 'It give me great pleasurings to announce that Kazahkstan, after many years of secret research, we are now able to produce our own book!' he declared to the crowd, opening the cover as all the pages fell out of the binding."


Effective January 1, Taschen America will be distributed in the U.S. and Canada by Ingram Publisher Services. Taschen is currently distributed by Perseus.


Effective November 28, Amanda Tobier will become marketing director for Avery and Viking Studio. She has been working at Dutton and Gotham as marketing manager and earlier was assistant marketing director at Hyperion. Before that, she was a buyer for Third Place Books and Elliott Bay Book Company, both in Seattle, Wash.


Borders Group has promoted two executives to v-p, merchandising.

  • Beryl Needham, who has been director of field marketing and events, will be responsible for fiction, bargain, diversity and proprietary publishing.
  • Kathryn Popoff, who has been director of merchandising for adult trade books in the nonfiction category, will be responsible for all nonfiction.

Needham has 25 years of publishing and retail experience. Before joining Borders last year, she was v-p of sales and liaison to Borders for Random House and worked at Little, Brown and Time Warner Audio Books. Early in her career she worked at Waldenbooks in a variety of positions, including director of buying and divisional merchandise manager.

Popoff joined Borders in 2002 as director of multimedia and managed all buying, merchandising and marketing for the company's music and DVD categories. Before that, Popoff worked for Albertsons/Jewel-Osco and Bloomingdale's.

Bronzeville Books: Rising and Other Stories by Gale Massey

General Retail in October: Fasten Your Seatbelts

Last month sales at general retail stores rose 1.6%, the lowest rate of growth in October in 12 years, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. Today's New York Times commented: "Consumers have rendered a verdict on the coming holiday season: grim."

Among the factors, of course, are the subprime mortgage crisis, credit problems, high energy costs and most important consumer concern about the economy. Anecdotal evidence is mounting that many consumers will tighten their spending this holiday. Already some general retail chains, which have lowered holiday sales estimates, are reacting with sales and plan to discount heavily later in the month and December.

Comp-store sales in October in most categories dropped. The exceptions were luxury retailers Saks and Neiman Marcus, up 10.6% and 8.5% respectively, and Costco, up 7%. Saks's results were aided in part by the weak dollar. The Wall Street Journal said that foreign tourists "mobbed" its flagship store in New York City. That store accounted for 20% of Saks's revenue last year.

Bill Dreher of Deutsche Bank Securities noted the trend of "trading down," saying, "Nordstrom customers are trading down to Macy's, and the Macy's customer is trading down to Target."


KidsBuzz for the Week of 04.19.21

BISG's Annual Meeting: Data; Jan Nathan Remembered

Tuesday's annual meeting of the Book Industry Study Group marked a series of milestones: the organization's 30th annual meeting; 40 new members, more in one year than in many years and bringing the total to about 190 organizations; and the near anniversary of executive director Michael Healey.

The organization continues to be the "only place in which all sections of the book industry and the different pieces of the supply chain come together to talk about the future of the book," BISG president Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks said in opening remarks. And because the book is in "a period of transformation" and technology is one of the most "important drivers of change," BISG's role is ever more crucial.

"Every day we are making decisions based on our beliefs" about data, she continued. But data depends on "the specificity of the question asked" so that "the biggest thing may be asking the right questions." Among the many questions Raccah has are how big is the book industry? How many publishers are there? How many readers are there? Are they growing or not? What are the most successful e-books--and in what categories?

Looking back on his first year as executive director of BISG, Michael Healey reiterated that his challenge has been "to build on very strong foundations left by Jeff Abraham and the board, to innovate and maybe to take BISG in some new directions."

The organization is in "very good shape today," he said. Contrary to expectations, the organization's budget showed a surplus--of $85,000--and the group ended the year with an asset base that rose above $500,000 for the first time, to about $600,000. Membership continues to grow.

This year's budget is growing 11%, reflecting in part an investment in a redesigned website and server change. After being locked out of its Manhattan offices for six weeks this year when a steam pipe exploded on the street, BISG is also investing in processes and systems that protect its and members' data.

Some of the major programs or emphases of the group this year have an electronic theme. BISG is engaging in digital issues, Healey said, to help make the supply chain "as efficient and effective as possible." These efforts include participation in upgrading ONIX to version 3.0--which will have more information about digital publications--and the ONIX certification program, which measures the accuracy of the metadata (information about books from author, title, publisher and price to format, subject, etc.) sent by publishers and others to their trading partners.

Richard Stark of Barnes & Noble updated the group on the certification program, which he emphasized is key in this day and age. "Bad metadata leads to lost sales," he said. "Accurate, timely product data does increase sales." Through the voluntary program that formally launches in January, BISG aims to "raise the awareness of the importance of timely, accurate data, which some parts of the industry still need to hear." BISG will work with publishers to help them comply. He has aimed, he said, to learn "how to be certified without becoming certifiable"--a goal for all involved.

BISG is also in the midst of a benchmarking survey of environmental issues in the book world. Members are very "aware of the impact our paper-intense industry has," Healey noted. A report based on the survey will appear in February.

ISBN-13, which replaced ISBN-10 on January 1, is still an issue, because the 979 prefix for ISBNs will be introduced in the first quarter of next year. (It joins the familiar 978 prefix.) "The implications of that are very serious for those who have not made the full conversion or have made only a makeshift one," Healey said. "As of April 1, there will be no hiding from this."


Dominique Raccah and Florrie Kichler, president of PMA, offered tributes to Jan Nathan, founder and longtime head of PMA as well as treasurer of BISG, who died June 17.

Raccah called Nathan "a gentle but firm force of nature shaping the character of our industry. . . . She listened with intent, cared about you and your endeavors." She was also persuasive when she believed in something and "didn't know the meaning of the word no," Raccah said. "None of us got to say that word to her."

Through PMA, Kichler said, Nathan "enabled thousands of publishers to make their visions real, and in the process she transformed the industry." PMA has created an award in her honor that will "recognize lifetime achievement and contributions to publishing." The group also has established a memorial fund in Nathan's name to aid education and literacy and other interests she had.

In a related note, David Walker of the ABA has joined the BISG board as treasurer, Nathan's old post.--John Mutter


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Turnout by Megan Abbott

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
The Starless Crown
by James Rollins

GLOW: Tor Books: The Starless Crown by James RollinsJames Rollins, known for his international thrillers, returns to fantasy in The Starless Crown, the lush and captivating first book in a planned series that is already garnering early-reader comparisons to J.R.R. Tolkien. In a realm of secret societies, mystic arts, epic beasts and nations on the verge of war, a young woman's apocalyptic premonition sends her and an unlikely band of companions on a dangerous journey to save the world. "[It has] action and suspense, inventive and deeply informed use of science and history, all driven by masterful plotting and a rich cast of characters drawn together in the face of doom," says Will Hinton, executive editor at Tor Books. "It feels original and classic at the same time, a thriller merged with an epic fantasy." Rollins has created an enthralling and complex new world that readers will delight in exploring. --Jennifer Oleinik, freelance writer and editor

(Tor Books, $27.99 hardcover, 9781250816771, January 4, 2022)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Talk of the Nation Tunes in to Oliver Sacks

This morning on the Today Show: Margaret Russell, author of So Chic: Glamorous Lives, Stylish Spaces (Filipacchi, $40, 9781933231273/1933231270).

Also on Today: James Brady, author of Why Marines Fight (Thomas Dunne Books, $24.95, 9780312372804/0312372809).


Today on Talk of the Nation: neurologist Oliver Sacks, whose most recent book is Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain (Knopf, $26, 9781400040810/1400040817).


Sunday on 30 Good Minutes on WTTW in Chicago: Sister Joan Chittister, author of Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope (Eerdmans, $12, 9780802829740/0802829740).


University of Minnesota Press: Yang Warriors by Kao Kalia Yang, illustrated by Billy Thao

Deeper Understanding

Why Not Catch 21?: The Stories Behind the Titles

The following is in essence the title chapter from Why Not Catch 21?: The Stories Behind the Titles by Gary Dexter (Frances Lincoln, $16.95, 9780711227965/0711227969), an expansion of the author's Sunday Telegraph column that tells the origins of the titles of 50 great works of literature. This excerpt, the story of the title Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, published in 1961, is in the British English of the book, a situation Yossarian might call fubar:


'Catch-22' has passed into the language as a description of the impossible bind:

Yossarian looked at him soberly and tried another approach. 'Is Orr crazy?'
'He sure is,' Doc Daneeka said.
'Can you ground him?'
'I sure can. But first he has to ask me to. That's part of the rule.'
'Then why doesn't he ask you to?'
'Because he's crazy,' Doc Daneeka said. 'He has to be crazy to keep flying combat missions after all the close calls he's had. Sure, I can ground him. But first he has to ask me to.'
'That's all he has to do to be grounded?'
'That's all. Let him ask me.'
'And then you can ground him?' Yossarian asked.
'No. Then I can't ground him.'
'You mean there's a catch?'
'Sure there's a catch,' Doe Daneeka replied. 'Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn't really crazy.'

Orr is crazy, and can be grounded, but if he asks to be grounded he is sane--and he can only be grounded if he asks. Joseph Heller complained that the phrase 'a Catch-22 situation' was often used by people who did not seem to understand what it meant. Given the mental contortions of the catch, this is not surprising. He even described receiving a letter from a Finnish translator, which said (in Heller's paraphrase): 'I am translating your novel Catch-22 into Finnish. Would you please explain me one thing: What means Catch-22? I didn't find it in any vocabulary. Even assistant air attaché of the USA here in Helsinki could not explain exactly.' Heller added: 'I suspect the book lost a great deal in its Finnish translation.'

There are no catches 1 to 21, or 23 onwards, in the book. 'There was only one catch and that was Catch-22.' Like the final commandment left at the end of Animal Farm, Catch-22 is an entire rule-book distilled into one lunatic decree. Its very uniqueness meant that Heller had to think carefully before naming, or numbering it. And his choice was--'Catch-18'.

In World War II Heller was a bombardier with the 12th Air Force, based on Corsica, and flew 60 missions over Italy and France. Yossarian in Catch-22 is a bombardier flying the same missions. Rotated home in 1945 and discharged as a First Lieutenant with an Air Medal with Five Oak Leaf Clusters, Heller took a degree at New York University, then an MA at Columbia, before working in New York as an advertising copy-writer. In 1953 he began writing a book called Catch-18, the first chapter of which was published in the magazine New World Writing in 1955. When, three years later, he submitted the first large chunk of it to Simon & Schuster, it was quickly accepted for publication, and Heller worked on it steadily--all the time thinking of it as Catch-18--until its completion in 1961. Shortly before publication, however, the blockbuster novelist Leon Uris produced a novel entitled Mila 18 (also about the Second World War). It was thought advisable that Heller, the first-time novelist, should be the one to blink, and the title was changed. Heller said in an interview with Playboy in 1975: 'I was heartbroken. I thought 18 was the only number.' The first suggestion for a replacement was Catch-14, but Robert Gottlieb, Heller's editor, felt it didn't have the right ring. 'I thought 22 was a funnier number than 14', Gottlieb told the New York Times Review of Books in 1967. Heller took two weeks to persuade.

But the journey from 18 to 22, although tortuous, was worth making. The reason is this: 22 has a thematic significance that 18 or 14 do not.

The doubling of the digits emphasizes a major theme of the book: duplication and reduplication. When the book was first published, critics objected to its monotony and repetition. 'Heller's talent is impressive,' said Time magazine, 'but it is also undisciplined, sometimes luring him into bogs of boring repetition. Nearly every episode in Catch-22 is told and retold.'

This is true. In Catch-22 everything is doubled. Yossarian flies over the bridge at Ferrara twice, his food is poisoned twice, there is a chapter devoted to 'The Soldier Who Saw Everything Twice', the chaplain has the sensation of having experienced everything twice, Yossarian can name two things to be miserable about for every one to be thankful for, all Yossarian can say to the dying Snowden is 'There, there', all Snowden can say is 'I'm cold, I'm cold', Yossarian overhears a woman repeatedly begging 'please don't, please don't', and Major Major is actually Major Major Major Major. The critic JP Stern identified a pairing approach to the characters:

Most figures in Catch-22 are arranged in pairs; e.g., the medical orderlies Gus and Wes; the HR clerk Wintergreen and the Chaplain's orderly--both nasty characters; the two CID stooges; Major Major and Captain Flume--both persecuted; Generals Dreedle and Peckem--both harshly satirized; Snowden and Mudd--both dead; Piltchard and Wren--both enjoy combat missions; Aarfy and Black--men without feeling; Nately and Clevinger--upper-class college boys, both get killed; the nurses, Duckett and Kramer.

The mad pairing reaches its apotheosis in the catch itself. As the novel says: 'Yossarian saw it clearly in all its spinning reasonableness. There was an elliptical precision about its perfect pairs of parts that was graceful and shocking, like good modern art, and at times Yossarian wasn't quite sure that he saw it at all, just the way he was never quite sure about good modern art...'

Doubling is thus a stylistic device suggestive of the qualified nature of reality. Nothing is singular, unblurred or unambiguous. The title, with its doubled digits (2 representing duality, itself doubled to make 22) conveys this in a way that Catch-18 could not.

It seems clear therefore that what happened when Simon & Schuster found out about Leon Uris's book was a piece of great good luck.

[Many thanks to Gary Dexter and Frances Lincoln!]

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Blush by Jamie Brenner

KidsBuzz: FSG BYR: The Adventure Is Now by Jess Redman
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