Sunday, January 31, 2010
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
Just as well. The show is far less crowded during the week than on the weekend. I'm still discovering gift reps for our territory. The hope is that if we know the reps, we might find out about product that might otherwise go unbought.
I'm still on the fence about what categories to expand in, and by how much. The easy things are cards (loose and boxed) and journals, which both are expected in a bookstore and also sell well. Then we have things like bookends, which are expected, but have spotty sales, and the little impulse-y things, that generally sell pretty well and have an obvious place (the front and special order counters).
Likewise, I seem to have a handle on what I want in the kids' area--plush, puppets, toys, games, diaries, impulse, and the occasional home item, like our animal cushions we had in the fall.
But where should we go from here? Do we venture into the tabletop area that Schwartz played with? Can I sell tee shirts or bags? When I managed Mequon in the 90's, we had a poster rack (Remember those? They sure have disappeared from most retailers.)
One retailer told me she sold a lot of nightlights to bookstores. She's small artisan, out of Cleveland Heights (my mouth watered as we discussed Tommy's Retaurant) and her business grew out of greeting cards, which she also designs and sells. They were nice looking, reasonably priced, and fit my esthetic. The only problem? I have very few outlets, and it seems you can't really sell them well without samples and that involved buying a fixture and attaching it to the wall. Yeeks, my head started spinning.
So I can't tell you what I bought because...I didn't buy anything. But you should see the fruits of our labors in the next two months.
How are we doing? The American Booksellers Association polled member stores who joined in 2009. Two of the respondees were Lanora at Next Chapter and myself. We both had a lot to say!
Read it here.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
It Hasn't Even Begun, but I'm Pretty Certain that the Boulevard Theatre Preview is Going to End Well (at Around 3 PM this Saturday, January 30th)
I am no Shakespearean scholar. In fact, I probably studied less Shakespeare in college than the average student. I remember a class of Julius Caesar and another of Romeo and Juliet. Heck, the bookstore has its own Shakespeare section, and there seems to be a book on the Bard every year that breaks out.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
In addition, I've selected Elmer Gantry to be our in-store book club selection for February. It gives me another reason to display the book, and we've actually been doing pretty well with it, having sold about 8 in the last month. I know that doesn't sound like much to you, but...Elmer Gantry? Actually the story of an evangelist who lives a life of "duplicity, sensuality, and ruthless self-indulgence" seems downright ordinary in the age of prosperity gospel.
So here's the problem. The book is only available in mass market. I don't know the last time I've read a mass market, particularly one this long*. The type is small, the spaces between the lines are nonexistent, and the bulking of the book makes holding it uncomfortable.
The book is published by Signet Classics, which is owned by Penguin. So why hasn't the book been done as a Penguin Classic, or at least Plume or Mentor? (These two other old NAL imprints. I don't think Plume is actually linked to Signet anymore but I don't think anybody's thinking about Mentor).
The opera's being done all over the country, and certainly would have had a sales pop in New York in 2008. What am I missing here?**
1. Reviews of the "Elmer Gantry" opera when it was performed in New York.
2. A scene from the opera on Youtube. It's set in a bar in Cato, Missouri.
3. Buy tickets to the opera, which is being performed at the Marcus Center on Friday, March 19th and Sunday, March 21st (matinee).
*I could have read Lisa Lutz's The Spellman Files in mass market, but we chose to pretend it doesn't exist, and we're selling it in trade paperback. If you want the mass, we'll order it in for you.
**The only time you see books like this only in mass is when a huge percentage of sale is from k-12 schools that are very price sensitive. If you worry that moving the price point from $8 to $14 will get the school to choose something else, then I think you are stuck. Do high schools read Elmer Gantry?
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Emmie: I originally wanted to write & illustrate children's picture books, so I spent years working on convoluted manuscripts and drawings. During that time, I was also attending my version of art school, which was me working and quitting odd jobs, doodling, and spending insane amounts of money at Pearl Art Supply.
One day, I randomly thought about starting a company. I'm embarrassed to tell you this, but the first thought was "my own Sanrio." I'm not even super into Sanrio (I was as a kid, but now I've grown up and graduated onto comic books), but the idea was to create a bunch of fun, possibly useless products for people.
Daniel: What's your bestselling card?
Emmie: A card about Facebook. A few others have been cards about mix tapes, cheese, and driving.
Emmie: Currently I like Boris. He owns a teahouse and a cheese shop. I feel like we'd be friends if he existed.
Daniel: Is there one person who does both the art and the writing or should I be referring to you as youse?
Emmie: I do the text & graphics. By the way, since you are very knowledgeable in this field (I mean that sincerely) - is there an apt term for someone who does text & graphics? I was thinking today about people I admire, like David Shrigley and Christoph Niemann, who combine both. I feel like the writer/illustrator, cartoonist, and graphic novelist terms aren't always applicable, and artist is too broad. I'm hoping that another good term is out there. Maybe I'll just start saying "text & graphics."
Emmie: I think you're thinking blue because of the non-denominational holiday cards with snow.
Ah, I do see a bunch of blue cards in there. I'm not sure why I threw blue in so many designs.
To answer your question, I can't commit to one color, but I do love moss green - one that you find growing on black rocks next to waterfalls. Cerulean blue mixed with lemon yellow (in watercolor) is also amazing - you get that beautiful spring green.
Now I'm thinking about yellow, crimson, purple, and thistle. Saturated colors are wonderful. Everytime I see someone wearing black, I mentally redress him/her in a color that would be fantastic with his or her skin tone. Is that strange? I sort of wish I could give people swatches of colors that would look great on them. But then people would think I was crazy.
Emmie: A delicious Krispy Kreme doughnut, please. I can't get behind cupcakes. Why spend $5 on an overly frosted speck when you can crash someone's bday party and eat an entire half of a cake for free?
Daniel: The one card that bombed for us was the late Christmas card. Why? Because nobody buys them before Christmas and then we mark down our Christmas cards and how do we leave this one out? Well what's the point of carrying a card you can only really sell at 50% off. I wound up buying them all for me to send myself, since I don't think of sending out holiday cards until December 26th.
Emmie: I'm sorry this card didn't sell for you (sucka!!! just kidding). I'd have guessed people would buy them before Christmas, but it sounds like people who send holiday cards are also people who send them out on time. I can't relate . . . next time I'll have to channel my inner punctual person.
By the way, it would be awesome if you sent them out in July. I would say a July holiday card was a pretty damn late holiday card.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
A Family Story Today, Wisconsin Gothic Tomorrow, and According to Jim Stingel, a Stephen King Novel for You to Read for the Next, Two Months
Friday, January 22, 2010
Another MPL note. Our event with Katie Gingrass Gallery is over for the fill-the-shelves promotion. Katie's customers bought more than a thousand dollars of books for the Milwaukee Public Library. We're hoping to do another promotion next fall, and we're both hoping to take it to the next level, whatever that means.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Serena is a big novel about a logging dynasty in Virginia, taking place at the dawn environmental movement. It's a play on Macbeth and thus features a big, bold and deliciously evil villainess in the title character. I haven't read it yet, but I knew enough booksellers who loved it to be able to use their recommendations. Right now Stacie is recommending it to lots of folks who've read A Reliable Wife (our event for Robert Goolrick is Sunday, 1/24, 2 PM, and yes, the jacket changed from hardcover to paperback).
"Our art director, Allison Saltzman and I sat down to see if we could come up with something fresh that we felt was a better overall representation of the read. After 6+ months of looking at jackets with every combination of woman, trains, woods, etc, suddenly the new jacket just had it all fall into place. We rushed to push it through for the first reprint so that the new and improved jacket is the one being found in stores by the holiday season. Luckily for us, my gamble paid off, and we are now happily into our third reprint with close to 50,000 TP copies in print. A Christmas miracle, perhaps? Some might just say a hyper-competitive Associate Publisher who can’t take “why not wait a few years before you think about re-jacketing?” as an answer!"
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
I panic about this stuff a lot, but it turns out our event with Jeannette Walls went about as well as it could go. Relocated to Alphonsa Hall on Alverno's campus, we had a crowd of about 150 fans, and because of the way the ticketing is set up, we had a very nice attendee-to-book-sold ratio.
Just one little detail we learned at the talk. This is not a picture of her family, though at one point, the Scribner cover had a picture of her grandmother. It's a stock photo from Dorothea Lange. Doesn't it totally capture the mood of Half Broke Horses?
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
We don't sell memberships, but we do have an option. You know those five dollar coupons you receive for each hundred dollars you spend at our store? For a limited time, you can allocate your active coupon (less than two months old) to Partners in Health, and we will donate that money to the Stand with Haiti campaign.
Partners in Health is connected to Paul Farmer, the inspirational figure profiled in Tracy Kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains. The organization helps provide health care to the poor, and Haiti has been one of the main focus of their efforts. It's a much-lauded organization with an infrastructure in place to help.
No surprise, there's been increased interest in the book since Haiti's devastating earthquake. Here's the NPR story from when the book first came out.
We should have this up and running by tomorrow.
Closer to home, any ex-Milwaukeeans may have heard that there has been a bad fire on Oakland and North, and the business from Pizza Man east to the church have been destroyed. More in the Journal Sentinel. Here's another piece in On Milwaukee.com.
Monday, January 18, 2010
But what do you think is our second-best occasion after birthdays? Sadly, it's sympathy cards. Is it because more people die than get married, have kids, get sick, buy a new house, or get thanked? Well, among my customers, probably.
But more than that, it's one type of sentiment that just doesn't come off right on an ecard.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Saturday, January 16, 2010
He said, "How many books are you bringing?" and I answered, "None, we're not doing the event." His reply, "According to my email, you are." Oops. I could do a better job of following up on these things. But the story has a happy ending.
And so we are selling the books at the Riverside. Very swell. I attended Mr. Bourdain's event at Schwartz for Kitchen Confidential and it was truly entertaining. And packed with fans.
I'm proud to say we're up for just about anything, and we're grateful to have another opportunity to sell books at the Riverside--Stacie sold books for Lisa Lampinelli's Chocolate Please tour in December. And yes, we'll have all the books in on time.
We'll have Kitchen Confidential (in both cloth and paper), The Nasty Bits, A Cook's Tour, the Les Halles Cookbook, and even the mysteries. What won't we have? Well, Mr. Bourdain's publisher is releasing Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook in June.
I was talking to my sister Merrill, who was excited at the prospect of a Bourdain event. "I wish I could come to Milwaukee to see Bourdain," she exclaimed. "He's got the only food show left that I like, even though it's more of a travel show. He also understands the difference between new New York and old New York. Old New York was for artists; new New York is for the moneyed. So what if it's more dangerous." This went on for a while. I totally agreed, though I have to say that I was more afraid of getting mugged in old New York.
It's this Friday. Buy tickets on the Riverside site.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Well, it seems that Ferris's new novel The Unnamed, from early reviews at least, is quite different and likely to get very strong reviews in the press. It's about a lawyer named Tim Farnsworth who is periodically struck with a strange malady; he wanders off until he can't walk any more and then he goes to sleep. Part of the disease involves taking off articles of clothing so even though he tries to be prepared, things can turn particularly sticky in the winter.
The story is also about his wife Jane and his daughter Becka and how their lives are made more difficult by the illness. Sometimes they learn to work around it and sometimes it takes a toll on them, leading to identity disorders and addictions and the like.
It's clear to most readers (in addition to reading advance reviews and quotes from other bookstores, my coworker Rebecca also read the book) that whatever the disease (it's unnamed!) that Tim has, it's also probably a metaphor for something else. One reviewer said the book was clearly about man's urge to wander. That seemed literal to me and I didn't see how it fit into the rest of the book. Rebecca thought it was clearly an allegory about mental illness, perhaps schitzophrenia. That made a lot more sense to me. Did I give anything away by saying this? Every review I read gave a theory on what the book was supposed to be about, so it seemed like fair game.
That's part of the beauty of the book; it's the kind of story where you really want someone else you know to read it so you can talk about it. This is going to be a great book for book clubs.
As I said, reads from booksellers have been vry strong. The book is the #1 Indie Bound pick for January.
I had some issues with the book, particularly with the mystery angle that seems to come out of nowhere. Tim's a lawyer, and has a lead on a case, but he loses the lead due to an outbreak of his wandering. There's a certain point where I wondered if the novel was going to turn into a thriller a la the Motherless Brooklyn detective with Tourette's. I'm going to give you some advice and not attach any baggage to that subplot (and you might well have, as editor Reagan Arthur is well known for her supremely crafted literary/mystery hybrids) as it is only a minor strand of the book. I think in the end, it's another avenue for the protagonist's frustration.
I also expected to be much more sympathetic to Jane's plight, but Ferris gave her so many issues that this was difficult. After some thought, I understood why this was done. Despite how hard it can be at times, you want the focus to be on Tim and Tim's illness, and not switch sympathies to Jane, so Ferris set up some roadblocks to prevent that from happening.
If you don't regularly read our sister blog The Boswellians, you really should, particularly Jocelyn's new piece on our Salt-o-meter.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Drift, by Victoria Patterson. This is a book we brought in but since ignored, perhaps unfairly. We haven't been able to sell a copy yet either, so reviewers might also have missed the boat. It's a glimpse into the lives of the privileged of Newport Beach. We brought in two more, to make a nominee display.
The pick the nominees and then three judges (including A. M. Homes) pick the winner. The winer gets $20,000 and the runners up $5000.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Now I know how Channing Tatum feels in the upcoming movie adaption of the bestselling novel by Nicholas Sparks (at right).
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
I've done a bunch of searches but can't find anything appropriate. "Mark" just doesn't seem correct. That's someone you con. What in Miss Marple's name is the right word for this?
Monday, January 11, 2010
Is it the striking cover? Could it be the a novel told in all questions would resonate with readers? Is it, as the anonymous Kirkus reviewer labeled it, a one-trick pony? Does that make the book appealing to Paul Simon?
Have we not even been paying attention? Could we sell more? Do I want to read this now? Are four copies enough to display it? What would Jason say if I just put them in the to-be-ordered field?
Can you think of other books like this? Would you consider A Void, the novel by George Perec, that doesn't have the letter "e", to fit the bill? What about Mark Dunn's Ella Minnow Pea (not "pee" as previously written), which progressively loses letters of the alphabet as they are stolen from a small island? Could the recently-read Rabih Alameddine's novel I the Divine fall into this category, since it is completely composed of first chapters?
Can you think of more?
Sunday, January 10, 2010
In my world, two is a trend.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Friday, January 8, 2010
Mr. Verghese was in Milwaukee several years ago to speak at the founding of a new Center for the Study of Bioethics at the Medical College of Wisconsin. He has a few friends here, and one of them forwarded to him my ponderings.
We had a little back and forth about my comment "The book had enough momentum not to need me." He assured me the book does need the help of hand-selling booksellers: "It is a curious, word of mouth sort of book, not exactly flying off the racks but doing a good steady business which has been very gratifying. I have great hopes that the momentum will carry on in paperback." Then we had a little chat about which bookstore in his area sold his book by the hundreds and which could not identify it when he dropped by, despite saying he was the author. I'm not naming names!
Here's the information on Lake Forest Bookstore's author luncheon with Abraham Verghese:
DATE: Wednesday, January 27, 2010
TIME: 11:30 AM
LOCATION: Lovell's of Lake Forest
915 S. Waukegan Road
To make a reservation please call
Thursday, January 7, 2010
I now know that the name for this kind of person is a Disniac.
Now that's not exactly what Chris Mitchell, skateboard photographer, obsessive graffiti tagger, all around hipster, had in mind for his book. Instead, Chris ditches SoCal for a gig at Walt Disney World, inspired after meeting another extreme sports dude who has bought into the Disney lifestyle.
And why not? He's lost his job, been ditched by his girlfriend, and his mom has been diagnosed with cancer. Why not go to a place where people never die?
So Chris joins Disney and learns a few things:
Nobody ever dies in the Magic Kingdom
Almost everybody is gay (he is not). (Richard Florida touches on why Orlando and New Orleans are the two cities that contradict his thesis about GLBT populations being an indicator of strong creative cultures.)
And then there is the cardinal rule:
It's a rule that will bite him in the butt numerous times, and more than that, reflects on the folks drawn to Disney in the first place. For they are truly characters--some real, some reimagined.
Pretty good fun and I certainly learned a lot about obscure Disney characters. And yes, no matter how good your hair is, everyone in character must wear a wig.