Thursday, November 14, 2013

Stock Signing Stories, with John Searles, Nickolas Butler, and Patrick Ness.

A lot has changed in four years regarding author events. Borders and Next Chapter have closed, both of whom did a good amount of author events. We do more events in conjunction with Mystery One. And that has led to fewer stock signings, as it is less likely for an author with books at Boswell to be appearing someone else. Authors who go to Barnes and Noble or appear at the Pabst, Riverside, or Bartolotta Restaurants tend to be celebrities, who don't usually pop by to sign stock.

That's why it was doubly unusual when John Searles came by to sign his new novel, Help for the Haunted, and meet some booksellers. He had done a number of events in Chicago, and was already skirting the northern suburbs of Chicago, meaning he was only a little more than an hour away. Since he was traveling with our bookseller pal Dan, he was convinced that we were worth the detour.

Searles has been doing events around Chicago for his third novel, following Boy Still Missing and Strange but True. His new novel seems to lurk at the instersection of mystery, horror, and coming-of-age. A young girl is left orphaned by the murder of her demonologist parents. As the trial nears, it turns out that the person Sylvie thinks committed the crime may not be the killer.

The book has a number of recommendations from Jodi Picoult, Chris Bohjalian, and Sara Gruen, along with a starred Booklist review praising its "superlative storytelling." Marion Winik in Newsday offers that "Searles controls the plot with a sure hand and wraps up the situation on Butter Lane in a satisfying and believable way."

Patick Anderson in The Washington Post wrote I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did, given my disbelief in the supernatural. But Searles isn’t trying to convert anyone. Rather, he has crafted a strange, spooky world that is absolutely believable."

Jason had brought in the novel in display quantity, but we just haven't been able to yet sell a copy. After some bonding with booksellers (I think Searles chatted with about five of us), there were three of us who were intrigued enough to try reading it. My apologies for the blurry photo--I am having camera phone issues.

I can't say this always works, but it was interesting that just a few weeks before, St. Martin's sent Nickolas Butler on a bookstore tour for his forthcoming novel, Shotgun Lovesongs, which doesn't come out until March.

It's the story of four friends in a small Wisconsin town, who've gone in different directions since high school. One went off to Chicago to try his hand at business and finance. Another toured the country in the rodeo. A third stayed behind to farm. And the fourth tried to make it as a musician in New York. For various reasons, they've all returned home, and while several are still friends, there's some bad blood mixed in. One of the hooks in the story is that Lee the musician is sort of inspired by Wisconsin's current rock hero, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. 

Our rep Anne started recommending the book early on, and got immediate reads from both Nick and myself. After Butler's visit, I noticed two more booksellers reading Shotgun Lovesongs. If they are related, we can definitively say the visit worked.You can find my staff rec on the title link to our website.

While Ingram doesn't seem to have a new feed on the jacket, this second cover is now showing up on a competitor's website, but it still looks like a work in progress. I think someone might have thought the old jacket was too literal--it couldn't have been our bricks-and-mortar competitor, because they'll generally take a picture over a type jacket.*

One of the oddest requirements I'll get from publishers is that they want a certain amount of books in stock before they will authorize a stock signing. In one amusing turn of events, the publisher demanded an additional order, and then the author didn't show up. No call, no apology, no follow up at all. What was the point of that?

For other authors, we'll jump through any hoop we can just to say hello. Patrick Ness was in town for a school visit for his most recent novel for young adults, More Than This. And by young adult, most of my booksellers would agree that his audience stretches to retirement age. We asked for a stock signing, and invited some young adult librarians (and one baby) as well. Let's just say there was a lot of geeking out going on.

Well, we're happy to say that the stock signing went well enough that we're on the tour for his forthcoming adult novel, The Crane Wife, coming this January. We've already got a great read from Jen, and Hannah and Jannis have both moved the book to the top of their pile.

*Addendum. I've been going back and forth with our rep Anne over why we think the jacket is not on Ingram's website. She noted that the town scene is still on the jacket on Edelweiss, our online catalog. We'll keep you posted. 

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