Monday, September 29, 2008

NAIBA-Con: The Speed Recap

Can I truly ecap the amazingness that was NAIBA-Con 2008 in a blog post on a day when I have a million errands to run? Nay, I cannot. But I can give you the highlights.

THE BUS: NAIBA generously chartered a bus for us NYC folks to get to Cherry Hill. It was a small but talkative crowd, and I felt a little like the best parts of high school field trips -- not for the last time this weekend...

THE EARLY BIRD SUPPER: Brian Selznick (author of Hugo Cabret and more recently collaborator on The Runaway Dolls) is freakin' hilarious. He got co-author Ann Martin (of Babysitters Club fame) involved in a very silly scripted speech that had everyone's face hurting. Ask any bookseller who was there for his impression of a doll speaking into a microphone.

THE EMERGING LEADERS COCKTAILS: There were so few of us, and Workman's sponsorship so generous, that we invited all the seasoned booksellers to join us young folks for after-dinner cocktails, which was actually awesome -- it's all about mentorship, after all. And some booksellers and I had a fascinating conversation with author John Scalzi about the Bechdel Rule.

THE AFTERHOURS: Both Saturday and Sunday night I found myself staying up late and talking a mile a minute outside the hotel with fellow youthful nerds from the bookselling and publishing sides. There were boys there, and cigarettes (sorry, Mom!) so it felt a lot like high school speech and debate out of town trips where we tried to find shenanigans to get up to... except all we really wanted to do was satisfy our burning desire to talk about street dates, YA recommendations, the changing roles of women in publishing, and whatever Best Book Ever that we're reading right now... It's nice to be a grownup sometimes. And the talking to fellow booksellers is one of the most important parts of the show, whatever the age.

THE YOGA: Without Susan Weis's morning yoga, I would not have been able to functionally participate in the day's programming after the previous night's afterhours.

THE PROGRAMMING: Duh. The Store Self-Audit was a superhelpful way to analyze both my current bookstore and my future one, and some changes or changes of focus will be enacted as a result of it. The Pick of the Lists drew my attention to a bunch of titles I hadn't yet seen and will be handselling. And the IndieBound session hipped me to the joys of the new social networking aspect of the site, as well as the various ways folks are using the branding in their stores. All inspirational, all practical: change and experience, folks, right here in bookseller land.

THE MEALS: Not the food, persay (convention hotels being what they are), but the interactions with authors at the Moveable Feast, the moving speeches from Morgan Entrekin and others at the awards dinner, and the talks with booksellers at every sit-down event.

THE NOIR BAR: I got my Bronx Noir and Flipping Out books signed by their respective authors, then found myself in a fascinating conversation (that kept growing) about regional dialects: who stands "online" vs. "in line", who says "that needs fixed" even though they know it's incorrect, who reveals a Long Island or Southern or Midwestern accent when stressed. I know it's not 100% practical in business terms, but this is the stuff that you remember, and I was illuminated about my colleagues and my country (I was thinking all weekend of the fabulous book State by State, which has a similar effect).

THE PUBLISHERS: The show floor was a sight to behold, as publishers corporate and indie, large and small, displayed the best of what they've got, and welcomed booksellers in the uniquely intimate atmosphere of a regional show. In addition to sponsoring meals and drinks, they shared with us their picks for what will sell in our particular stores, and chatted with us about what they love and what we love about bookselling. I got so many congratulations this weekend about that lil' ol Times article, often from people I barely know, and that was only the tip of the iceberg of the true cameraderie and caring between the publishing and bookselling sides of the aisle.

And of course:

THE BOOKSELLERS: Stephanie Anderson of Moravian Bookstore (aka Bookavore), the most
put-together 23-year-old I know... Betty Bennett now of Sparta Bookstore, and her daughter Carolyn Bennett of BookStream, two denizens of one of the coolest families in bookselling and some of my favorite people... Susan Weis, the most inspiring Ayurveda afficionado AND savvy businesswoman... my McNally Jackson coworkers Erin, Katie, and Cheryl, whom I was grateful to get to know better as I saw them get inspired, too... Jonathan and Lucy of Talking Leaves in Buffalo, which embodies a good old tradition of bookselling and a smart awareness of new realities (and Lucy is a yente and one of the most generous and caring people I know)... Joe Drabyak of Chester County Books and Music, a source of vast and generous book knowledge and increasingly a character in murder mysteries (he always gets killed off early)... Henry Zook of Brooklyn's own BookCourt, who returned to the show after a long absence and was awesome to talk to about our own local issues... and about a million others (okay, a couple hundred), who spoke up in sessions, chatted at meals, said hi and congratulations when we passed on the show floor, offered advice, laughed at authors' jokes, shared passionate conversations over drinks, and opened up about what's working and not working, their triumphs and struggles, so that we can all benefit from our collective experience.


It took me a long weekend to recover from all of this goodness, and I've still got a packet of information and ideas to share with my booksellers back at McNally Jackson (not to mention way too many good books to read. If you were at the show, thanks for sharing it with all of us -- see you next year!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Three day weekend, baby

Through no finagling of my own, I find myself with Friday, Saturday and Sunday off (it has to do with some shifting of manager schedules at the store; things get back to normal next week). As you may have noticed, I've been a tad busy lately, so I am thrilled about the opportunity to take it easy -- especially as it's rather cold and gray in Brooklyn today, so I'm cozying up with the ALP and doing some serious mental health time.

Okay, I'm also poking around on IndieBound.org -- we learned more about how the social networking part works at NAIBA last weekend, and I'm friending folks left and right. I'm booknerdnyc, of course, if you wanna friend me...

I'm hoping for chronicles, news, reviews soon. Off to the weekend!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Chronicle: My week in bookselling; NAIBA-Con Approacheth!

I'm still reeling from the amazing Fort Greene bookstore party on Tuesday (look, ma, I'm in the New York Times!) Much follow-up to be done with the wonderful booklovers who put their support in writing, which Rebecca and I are furiously working on.

But bookselling life goes on, and how. Wednesday morning I spoke on a panel with Lance Fensterman and Ruth Liebman at the Association of American Publishers' Intro to Publishing course. It was a cool conversation about selling books all the way through to the consumer (i.e. through editorial, publicity, marketing, sales rep, etc.) and what that implies for cover design, flap copy, blurbs, etc. Lance is the most self-deprecating, energetic powerhouse of a book person I know, and Ruth is incredibly gracious and one of the reasons indie bookstores get the cred and attention they do; I was humbled by both of them. Hope the assembled young and eager publishing folks got something out of it; they're the emerging leaders of the other side

And last night was the premier of Powell's Books third (and best so far, I think) Out of the Book film: Weiland and Wilsey's State by State. It was an amazing evening, with the film followed by a panel discussion with amazing writerly talent -- Lawrence Weschler, Sean Wilsey, Matt Weiland, Charles Bock, Rick Moody, Ellery Washington, Joshua Ferris, and Myla Goldberg -- and played to a packed house at the Cantor Film Center. Watch the film trailer, buy the book (it's gorgeous!) and find out where a bookstores is hosting an OOTB: SxS event near you.

And tomorrow night begins the annual New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association fall trade show! I'm proud to be going with three of my McNally Jackson colleagues, and looking forward to all of the learning, networking, and of course eating and drinking we'll be doing through Monday. We're especially looking forward to the Emerging Leaders cocktail party on Saturday night (sponsored by Workman Publishing -- thanks, Steve!), where I'll get to share the awesome news: Ingram is sponsoring one Emerging Leaders scholarship to Winter Institute for FIVE different regions! The EL council is thrilled by their support, as this means more of those energetic frontline kids will get to experience the mountaintop high of professional development that is Winter Institute.

So that's where I'll be through Monday. Hope to see many of you in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, though I know lots of book industry folks are spreading out over the nine different regional shows happening in the next few weekends. Godspeed (and lots of coffee) to us all.

And incidentally, for your Friday enjoyment: the always-on-top-of-it Bookseller Chick informs us that today is Talk Like A Pirate Day. She has a list of pirate-themed books on her blog. Me, I'll just share one of my favorite songs ever. It's totally not book-related -- but there are times when the schedule I've been keeping lately make that lazy no-good pirate thing look pretty good....

Aaargggh... happy reading, me hearties!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Because of the overwhelming Fort Greene community response (i.e., we've had more RSVPs than the venue could handle), we've decided to change the location of Tuesday night's bookstore kickoff party to accomodate more people at the event.

The party will now take place in the lobby of the BAM Harvey Theater at 651 Fulton Street, between Ashland and Rockwell. (It's close to the DeKalb B/D/M/N/Q/R/W stop, or the Nevins Street 2/3/4/5. I recommend Google Maps or Hopstop.com for a map or further directions.)

The good news is, this means you can still RSVP! Just send an email to rsvp_fortgreeneindie@hotmail.com

The date and time of the party stay the same at Tuesday, September 16 from 7-9pm. Colson Whitehead will read one of his latest pieces at the party, and Jennifer Egan and Kate Christensen will be in attendance, as well as movers and shakers from the book industry and the Fort Greene community. And we've got the greenlight to make a really big announcement that brings the store closer to reality than ever!

BAM (the Brooklyn Academy of Music) is a neighborhood and a city institution, and the Harvey lobby is a big beautiful space -- I'm so excited to be there! So adjust your travel accordingly, and feel free to bring friends and loved ones. See you at a fabulous party on Tuesday night!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Cool News Day: Indie Bound, IBNYC, and the Brooklyn Book Festival!

Dude, it's a fun day in link land.

The IndieBound project has launched its social networking arm: the IndieBound Community. The beta tests were successful, and now anyone can sign up to become part of the community. Not only can you connect with other book lovers, you can also become a "fan" of your local indie stores (book and other), and start conversations around them. I'm on already as booknerdnyc, just like I am on Shelfari, LibraryThing, GoodReads, and LinkedIn -- so friend me already! Luckily, most of my "virtual friends" are also real-life friends/colleagues, so I don't feel like I have multiple social/professional lives to keep track of. And this one is especially cool as it lets me add stores to my network -- I'm excited about the possibilities, and I'll be reaching out to others to join up. And I can't wait until my own bookstore is one of those options!


Speaking of indie bookstore communities, the Independent Booksellers of New York City (known by the lovely acronym IBNYC) has officially launched! Here's the deal straight from the press release:

"Recognizing the common opportunities, virtues and values they share, New York City’s independent booksellers have united to raise awareness of the contributions their stores make not just to the local economy, but to the literary and cultural fabric of the city. Representatives from twenty stores met recently and formed the Independent Booksellers of New York City (IBNYC) – a group that is voluntary, non-exclusionary and cooperative in design. Member stores must primarily sell books, have a storefront that is open to the public, and be located within one of the five boroughs. The IBNYC’s primary goal is to encourage New Yorkers and visitors to patronize independent bookstores. The group will serve as a resource for consumers (producing events and tools like a website and printed maps); as a professional support group for member businesses both longstanding and brand new (a rare forum for sharing methods and best practices); and as an advocate to publishers and lawmakers on behalf of bookseller concerns."

They (or rather, WE) have a new website (still under construction) which not only has a list of over 60 awesome indie bookstores in the city (yes, there are that many, and more!), but also an online map that shows you where they are, so you can find the indie closest to you. And there are t-shirts, bags, and print maps available too! They'll soon be for sale at an indie bookstore near you, but even before that, they'll be available at the IBNYC table at the Brooklyn Book Festival this Sunday. (You can read more about this on the blog of Kelly Amabile, the fantastic events coordinator at Book Culture who has been coordinating the project.)

Ah, the Brooklyn Book Festival, when a borough's fancy turns to books! In addition to the IBNYC, there will be booksellers, publishers, authors and commentators from not only the five boroughs but all over the world: booths with everything bookish you could wish to buy, and a full day of programming including readings, discussions, writing contests, activities, and tons of thrills for bookish kids and adults alike. Yours truly will be moderating a graphic novels panel discussion on the Youth Stoop stage at 3:00 PM, and sporting the Book Nerd t-shirt so you can yell your comments at me if you happen to see me prowling the booths. It's a heck of a time in the old town -- hope to see lots of you there!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Friday Listening: BEA Graphic Novels Podcast

If you have zero to do today, or you're one of those people who can listen to talk radio and work at the same time, here's a little something:

BookExpoCast: "What’s Hot, What’s Good, What’s Next in Graphic Novels"


This is a panel I sat on at BEA with others far more expert than I: Nick Smith, a librarian with the Pasadena Public Library, Atom Freeman, the extremely knowledgeable owner of Brave New World Comics in L.A. County, and Tom Flinn with comics/pop culture trade rag ICv2. Milton Griepp of ICv2 was the moderator.

Aside from hearing the slightly annoying (lispy/boyish) sound of my voice, you might learn a thing or two about what's been doing well in various comics markets, and what to look forward to. This was where I learned about the Starman Omnibus, which I read with pleasure this summer, and it cemented my desire to read Scott Pilgrim, which has become a teensy obsession.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Like BEA for Brooklyn, but better: Brooklyn Book Festival coming up!

Call me lazy, but I'm posting the whole darn press release from the Brooklyn Literary Council right here -- there's so much information I don't want you to miss anything. And I've just found out that your own Book Nerd will be moderating a panel at the BBF: the 3:00 slot on graphic novels at the "youth stoop" stage, with Ariel Shrag, Ivan Velez Jr., and Brian Wood. Hope to see you there!

* * *

On Sunday, September 14, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn Literary Council and Brooklyn Tourism host the annual Brooklyn Book Festival, a huge, free event presenting an array of literary stars and emerging authors who represent the exciting world of literature today.

The Brooklyn Book Festival is one of America’s premier literary and literacy events—a hip, smart, diverse gathering attracting thousands of book lovers of all ages. The festival is organized around themed readings and devoted to timely and lively panel discussions. The inclusion of top national and international authors and new partners has expanded the festival’s reach while continuing to celebrate and enhance Brooklyn’s contemporary and historic literary reputation.

Confirmed authors include Joan Didion, Richard Price, Jonathan Lethem, Dorothy Allison, Russell Banks, A.M. Homes, George Pelecanos, Terry McMillan, Jonathan Franzen, Susan Choi, Esmeralda Santiago, Thurston Moore, Paul Beatty, Jacqueline Woodson, Chuck Klosterman, Jimmy Breslin, Pete Hamill, Ed Park, Pico Iyer, Gail Carson Levine, Cecily von Ziegesar, Chris Myers, Jane O’Connor, Jon Scieszka, Mo Willems and many more.

The 2008 Brooklyn Book Festival Best of Brooklyn Inc. (BOBI) award recipient will be Brooklynite Walter Mosley, one of the most versatile and admired writers in America today. Widely recognized for his crime and detective fiction, he is the author of more than 29 books, including his bestselling series featuring the hard-boiled detective, Easy Rawlins. His work has been translated into 21 languages and includes literary fiction, science fiction, political monographs, and a young adult novel.

“These days, Brooklyn is indeed the Creative Capital of America. We’re home to many of the world’s renowned writers and a thriving reading audience—as well as a destination for culture-seeking tourists worldwide,” says BP Markowitz. “The Brooklyn Book Festival is as diverse as our borough itself, and it’s only fitting that it’s now become a must on the national and international literary circuit. How sweet it is!”

The festival boasts five outdoor stages in Borough Hall Plaza and Columbus Park, as well as “Reading Rooms” inside beautiful, historic Borough Hall and nearby at the Brooklyn Historical Society and St. Francis College auditorium. An outdoor literary marketplace will include more than 140 booksellers, publishers and literary organizations.

Young adults and young adults at heart are in for a special treat. The Brooklyn Book Festival caters to the facebook set with hip panels on topics from graphic novels to fantasy and wildly popular teen “glamour fiction” at the “Youth Stoop” stage. Children of all ages will also be entertained at the Target “Children’s Area,” whereby kingpins of children’s lit like Mo Willems and Jane O’Connor will read from their work.

Again this year, beautiful, collectable Brooklyn Book Festival bookmarks will be available at all branches of the Brooklyn Public Library and most independent bookstores.

The 2008 Brooklyn Book Festival is an initiative of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz presented by Brooklyn Tourism and the Brooklyn Literary Council. Target is a major sponsor of this year’s Festival, and Time Out New York will once again serve as the event’s media sponsor, and WNYC is the radio sponsor.

Cultural partners include BAM, Brooklyn Historical Society, Brooklyn Public Library, Housing Works Bookstore Café, PEN American Center, National Book Foundation, and Words Without Borders. Programming partners are The Nation and The New York Review of Books.

Following is a complete list of confirmed authors to date. As programming information is updated, check www.visitbrooklyn.org. Also visit myspace.com/brooklynbookfestival and the Brooklyn Book Festival Official Site. For photos of the Brooklyn Book Festival, visit www.flickr.com/photos/brooklynbookfestival.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Brooklyn Lit Life: Joshua Henkin (and a giveaway!)

Joshua Henkin is the author of Matrimony (reviewed here by fellow Brooklynite Jennifer Egan). He's also a born-and-bred New Yorker, and he's got a bunch of readings coming up in our town -- see the Brooklyn listings at the end of this post. While his opinions on the state of indie bookstores may not reflect the opinions of The Written Nerd, its affiliate or subsidiary blogs, etc., I am most grateful to him for re-starting the Brooklyn Lit Life series for the fall. And you can be grateful for the free book he's gonna give you! Just email me with your suggestion for the next subject for Brooklyn Lit Life (contact information is helpful) -- first person I hear from, Joshua will send you a signed copy of Matrimony. Read on!

(Update: at Josh's wise suggestion, the free signed book will be given to a respondent who emails me with a BLL suggestion between now and next Monday, in a random drawing. So you've still got a shot -- write in now!)

Describe your particular literary project, and your role in it.


Ah, my particular literary project. How grand-sounding! My particular literary project is waking up earlier than I’d like and getting my four-year-old and two-year-old off to school and daycare, respectively, and then tying myself to my chair, turning my computer on, and forbidding myself to check email for the next several hours. Enough of those days pile one on top of the other and, if I’m lucky, I end up with something salvageable. My most recent novel, MATRIMONY, which took me ten years to write, was published by Pantheon last October and in paperback from Vintage on August 26. It is, unsurprisingly, about a marriage. It’s also about friendship, class, poor people who want to be rich and rich people who want to be poor, sickness and health, and so on. My new novel, already overdue at the publisher, is tentatively titled THE WORLD WITHOUT YOU and takes place over a July 4th weekend at a family reunion in the Berkshires, the occasion for which is the anniversary of the brother’s death; he was a journalist killed in Iraq.

Why Brooklyn? What made you decide to live/work here, in both practical and emotional terms?

I was living in Ann Arbor, my then-girlfriend/now-wife was a graduate student at Columblia, we’d been doing the long-distance thing for two years, and we decided to move in together. So I packed my bags and came east. Beth was living in Morningside Heights, but I’d grown up in Morningside Heights and my parents still lived there, and though I may have been willing to move home, I wasn’t willing to move HOME. I had my heart set on Brooklyn, knowing little about it other than that it was now different from the place where I’d visited my great aunt. Friends of friends were moving out of an apartment in Park Slope. Beth and I went to check it out. It was 1999, and the apartment was a two-bedroom with lots of space, light, etc., and it was renting for 1500 dollars a month. Just to convince ourselves, we allowed a broker to take us to a couple of places in SoHo and the East Village for the purposes of comparision-shopping. We signed the lease an hour later.

Is there a Brooklyn sensibility or character? How would you describe it? How does it differ from the character of New York City as a whole?

Brooklyn’s too big to have a single sensibility. If it drifted apart from the other boroughs, it would still be something like the fourth biggest city in the U.S. It would be bigger than Houston, I believe, and I don’t think Houston has a sensibility, or if it does, I don’t know what it is.

What about your particular neighborhood? Does it have its own unique character? This can include the kinds of people you tend to find there, particular characters or places that epitomize the neighborhood, etc.

Yes, indeedy. I live in Park Slope, and if I’m forced to read another article in the Sunday Styles section about the war between the strollers folks and the nons-strollers folks, I’m going to puke. Park Slope is a stereotype, and, alas, I’m part of that stereotype. My wife and I bought our place in 2003, but not before she was pregnant. And we already had a golden retriever! So there were no problems with the coop board….


What do you think of the direction Brooklyn, or at least your neighborhood, is going? What does the future look like in terms of economics, demographics, culture, and other changes?

My neighborhood is going in the direction of everybody being priced out. Jackson Heights advertises in a Park Slope [paper]. There’s a bus that goes directly to Montclair and Maplewood.

Is there a Brooklyn literary sensibility? Which writers or works most emblematize Brooklyn for you? Which older writers set the tone? Which contemporary writers are you reading with interest?

I love Brooklyn, mind you. I bought a house here, I pay taxes here, I send my kids to school here. But when it comes to a Brooklyn literary sensibility I agree with Colson Whitehead, who wrote a column in the Times Book Review several months back called “I Write in Brooklyn. Get Over It.” Here’s Whitehead: “I dig it here and all, but it’s just a place. It does not have magical properties…. I get invited to do panels with other Brooklyn writers to discuss what it’s like to be a writer in Brooklyn. I expect it’s like writing in Manhattan, but there aren’t as many tourists walking very slowly in front of you when you step out for coffee. It’s like writing in Paris, but there are fewer people speaking French. What do they expect me to say? ‘Instead of ink, I write in mustard from Nathan’s Famous, a Brooklyn institution since 1916.’”

Why do you think Brooklyn has such a dense population of writers? Is there something particularly literary about Brooklyn? Where and how do people read here?

Brooklyn has a dense population of writers because writers by and large are poor, and Brooklyn is cheaper than Manhattan. Now that Brooklyn has gotten expensive, I suspect its dense population of writers will migrate elsewhere.

What events, series, readings, happenings, places, stores, publications, movements, etc. seem to you currently interesting or important in the Brooklyn literary world?

Although I live in and love Brooklyn, I don’t consider myself part of a literary scene. Most of my friends aren’t writers. That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t put in a good word for Brooklyn College’s MFA program, where I teach (I also teach in Sarah Lawrence’s MFA program), and where the students are talented and charming and Brooklynites, most of them, and through the reading series at Perch and their work on the Brooklyn Review, they’re making significant contributions to the Brooklyn literary community at large. It’s one of the best things literary Brooklyn has going for it. I also love the Brooklyn Writers Space on 5th and Garfield, where, thanks to the white noise machine and the fact that I haven’t learned the Internet password, I get more writing done than anywhere else. There are lots of other good Brooklyn literary institutions: Community Bookstore in Park Slope, Bookcourt in Cobble Hill (plug for my paperback book tour: I’ll be reading at both those stores in early September), One Story, A Public Space, the Pacific Standard Reading Series, among others.

What do you think would make Brooklyn better as a literary place? What does the borough still need? What are the opportunities and challenges it faces?

See answer to next question.

Imagine the ideal Brooklyn bookstore or literary venue, a place you'd like to read on your own or participate in literary community. What would it be like? What would it avoid?

I wouldn’t mind if the Strand were in Brooklyn. Manhattan in general beats Brooklyn when it comes to large independent bookstores. Beyond the Strand, there’s McNally-Robinson (now McNally Jackson) and Book Culture (formerly Labyrinth.) Shortly after I moved to Park Slope, Book Link closed, and in my time here a used book store opnened on 7th Avenue, first with two branches, one for adult books and one for children’s books, which then got consolidated into a single store, which then closed down. Community Bookstore seemed on the brink of closing at one point, though now I gather it’s doing better. Bookcourt feels like it’s doing OK, but what do I know. This isn’t a Brooklyn problem; it’s a nationwide problem. Indie bookstores are hemorrhaging everwyhere. And it’s not just bookstores, of course. The book business is like any other business. The Tea Lounge on 10th Street and 7th Avenue, a south slope institution, recently closed due to an increase in rent, to be replaced, no doubt, by a bank.

Josh's readings in Brookly (and one in NYC):
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Community Bookstore
7:30 PM
143 7th Avenue (between Garfield and Carroll)
Brooklyn, NY 11215
718-783-3075

Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Bookcourt
7:30 PM
163 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 875-3677

Thursday, September 18, 2008
Congregation Beth Elohim
271 Garfield Place
Brooklyn, NY 11215
(718) 768-3814
Please note: The reading will take place across the street from the main synagogue, in the Temple Rotunda.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008
McNally Jackson Books
52 Prince Street
Brooklyn, NY 10012
(212) 274-1160
Author/Editor Series Event: Joshua Henkin talks with Lexy Bloom

Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor (Day) of (Link & Catchup) Love

Happy Labor Day, all you bookish types! I'm sure anyone who works in an office is far away from a work computer at the moment -- more power to you. For us retail types, it's a work day -- we're taking bets on whether the bookstore will be dead because all the New Yorkers are on vacation, or jumping because all the tourists are on vacation here. With gas prices and the Euro being what they are, my bet's on a sales uptick, but it's anybody's guess --we'll see at the end of the day.

It's also my first official day back from my August hiatus -- and I'm surprisingly eager to jump back into the swing of things. You can read about the progress of my bookstore plans on my other blog by tomorrow or so, but today I want to fill you in on some of what's caught my eye over the past month elsewhere in the world of books.

* 7/29 A venerable Brooklyn bookstore is moving - but not closing!

* 7/30 Danny Fingeroth has a pretty legit list of his top 10 graphic novels in the Guardian

* 8/4 The exciting Wordsmiths Books in Decatur, Georgia announced that they needed customers' help to save the bookstore. As they put it with refreshing honesty, "
We are not fighting declining sales, nor are we fighting customer apathy, or even a lagging book market. We are fighting only the debt created by starting in the wrong location."

* 8/17 The Wordsmiths campaign ended: in two weeks, the store "r
eceived help from 18 states, Canada and a handful of people in the U.K. ... We have raised enough capital to cover necessary operating expenses and give us a clear sight into the Fall." WOW! Read more of the story (including dissenting opinions on the cause) on the Wordsmiths blog.

* 8/6 Bookstore customer buddy Matthew Price, a talented and widely published book critic, steps into the blogosphere with PriceWrites.

* 8/15 Chelsea Green Publishers announces that it will rush to pub Obama's Challenge in time for the Democratic convention -- by granting exclusive early distribution rights to Amazon.com. Brick and mortar bookstores are outraged: independents express their disappointment, Barnes & Noble cancels its order of the book, and ABA president Gayle Shenks writes an open letter lamenting this choice on the part of Chelsea Green (which typically has a reputation of supporting local, sustainable business as well as progressive causes). Despite the publisher's open letter explaining their choice (which I've heard called condescending), nobody seems to be backing down. Kassia at BookSquare talks about the many reasons this was a mistake on the part of the publisher.

(My two cents: I understand that Chelsea Green wanted to get the book printed instantly with Print On Demand, and that Amazon.com owns POD provider BookSurge and has a history of demanding exclusivity. I wonder why Chelsea Green didn't either use LightningSource, the non-proprietary POD option from Ingram, or publish the book as an e-book, or even a free online version? This could have gotten the timely press they were seeking, and wouldn't have destroyed their reputation with the brick and mortar stores. As it is, I think few consumers ended up hearing about this book, and lots of bookstores have turned their backs on Chelsea Green.)

* 8/19 The Summer 2008 NYC ELNO (Emerging Leaders Night Out): Indie Bound Edition was a roaring success! We gathered at Flatbush Farm, we noshed, we drank, we took home free books, we learned about IndieBound with free materials and Paige Poe and her cohorts to guide us through the website, and we networked like there was no tomorrow. I was happy to get to chat with Stephanie Anderson (aka Bookavore) about our bookstore experiences and aspirations, and meet Vox Pop founder Sander Hicks at long last, as well as spending time with my nearest and dearest book buddies. Sarah Rettger from the ABA wrote up the event here in Bookselling This Week. The festivities ended at 9, but our after-party went on long afterward, enjoying Cuban music and too many glasses of prosecco and beer. Good times.


* 8/25 The Emerging Leaders Council visits Ingram Book Group in Nashville, gets a tour of their amazing warehouse and POD operations -- I admit I was impressed (I had the factory music from Loony Toons in my head the whole time: conveyors, headsets, bustling!) We also had a productive meeting with VP Dan Sheehan, with results that will be announced in good time. And Sweet Pea, Emily, Jenn L., Jenn N., Megan, Caroline and I got our honky tonk fix with some pool and country music at a bar called Losers. Ah, an Emerging Leader's work is never done...

Somehow, though, I also managed to find some time to enjoy Celebrate Brooklyn at Prospect Park, lounge around in my backyard hammock, canoodle with the ALP, and generally act like a lazy, contented slob.

That more or less covers the month. Keep an eye out for Handsells, links, event reports, guest posts and giveaways in the next weeks -- we're back in action, baby!