Thursday, October 2, 2014

The New Book Club Flier is Here. We Ponder Selection, Contemplate Connection, Praise Perfection!

Our new book club flier is out! Alas, we took an extended spring break, which was particularly unfortunate as for at least several weeks there, Jane, Anne, and I were doing presentations almost every week. The good news is that I think we have a handle on what was working, though as always, I've included several books that are a bit of a reach. We've been pleasantly surprised in the past, so who knows?

I try to have a grouping of nonfiction titles, so in addition to Jane's pick of Knocking on Heaven's Door and Anne's of After Visiting Friends (we retired Shakespeare Saved my Life, after an amazing run of over 100 books sold--congrats again, Anne!), I decided to have a "history of publishing, part one and two" feature. I just think that Boris Kachka's Hothouse and Brad Stone's The Everything Store make great reading together, perhaps spread over two meetings. If you are a reader and want to know the past, present, and possible future of publishing, these books will make for great discussion.

I can't pass up an opportunity to push a few upcoming events. Of course we just hosted Simon Van Booy's The Illusion of Separateness, knowing that not only was it just an amazing book, but it's one that you can read quickly when folks are reading during a month of outside activity, like December or early January. But we're also excited about the impending visit of Gabrielle Hamilton, whose new cookbook Prune will be the inspiration for an author dinner on November 17 at Bacchus. I think that folks who read Blood, Bones, and Butter will be even more inspired to see the author, and the James Beard Award doesn't hurt either. We don't have the pricing yet for the dinner, but you can call (414) 765-1166 for details.

Jane has been presenting Unmentionables and Instructions for a Heatwave at many talks, and those books have really made inroads. While Laurie Loewenstein's novel of a woman's suffrage speaker stuck in a small Illinois town came out in January, September has proven to be our best month of sales to date. And Anne and Jane (along with other booksellers) have made a great case for Hannah Kent's Burial Rites.

Our in-store lit group loved it too, with one notable exception, and that kept the conversation lively. We've sold well over 100 copies of the book, but we still feel we haven't maximized the book's potential. I'd say the same for The President's Hat. People just love the book, and it's perfect for tight months, but I still don't think the 200+ copies we've sold have completely penetrated the market.

Needless to say, my reading is very driven by events, and several authors made such a strong impact that they are still in my head, speaking. That's definitely been the case for Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings and Kate Atkinson's Life After Life. For Mel, Janice Clark made a great impact with The Rathbones and I thought this book could have a great book club discussion, mixing whaling, Homer, and Melville. It's actually on our shortlist to be the December In Store Lit Group discussion title.

One book that started off slowly but has picked up with each award nomination is Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves. It started for us with Jane Hamilton's enthusiasm but the Pen/Faulker, Nebula, and Man Booker prize committees have certainly helped drive sales.

Brand new in paperback is Larry Watson's Let Him Go, a book that had great reads from Jason and Sharon, and has terrific book club potential. In fact, a whole Milwaukee-area village is reading him. Watson's newest is the Elm Grove Reads title, and he's appearing at the Sunset Playhouse on October 22. Tickets are $5 and are available at the Elm Grove Library, and likely at the door as well.

In addition to our several in-store book clubs, we work with over fifty book clubs in the area, displaying their upcoming selection and making them available to their members. Registered book clubs get a 10% discount on their scheduled selection and that book also qualifies for Boswell Benefits, as long as the book is full-trade discount (meaning print-on-demand, nonreturnable, short discount titles from places like CreateSpace do not qualify, unless the author has placed books with us on consignment.

If you love our book club service, here are two key ways that you can make sure that you've made it easy for your members to choose to read a physical book bought from your favorite bookstore.

a. If you can't map out your selections for the year, why not pick your selections two months in advance instead of one. That's what we do for our in-store clubs. It allows us to source the books more profitably from the publisher, and allows members with different time constraints to read ahead when necessary. For folks who live farther from their favorite bookstore (wherever that is, but in this case, we're referencing Boswell), they can buy two selections in one trip.

b. Consider keeping your selections to trade paperbacks. It's my mathematical formula that when library users plus ebook users plus online shoppers outweigh traditional bookstore purchasers in a book club, the selections start tilting to hardcover. I love readers wherever they buy their books from, but note that keeping the selections to paperback gives the bookstore a fighting chance.

If you'd like to have us do a presentation for your book club at the store, we are available to groups of 8-15 on weekday afternoons. Contact me to set something up. Needless to say, we understand that not everyone in the club will buy their books from us, but try not to forget that we are a for-profit bookstore, and we'd hope for your support in exchange for this service.

Here's the complete list. You can also download our pdf, or pick up a copy of our pastel yellow flier in the store.

After Visiting Friends, by Michael Hainey
Blood Bones and Butter, by Gabrielle Hamilton
The Everything Store, by Jeff Stone
The Girls of Atomic City, by Denise Kiernan
Hothouse, by Boris Kachka
Knocking on Heaven's Door, by Katy Butler
Longbourn, by Jo Baker
The Rathbones, by Janice Clark The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
Unmentionables, by Laurie Loewenstein
The Illusion of Separateness, by Simon Van Booy
TransAtlantic, by Colum McCann
We are All Completely Beside Ourselves, by Karen Joy Fowler
Fin and Lady, by Cathleen Schine
Enon, by Paul Harding
Let Him Go, by Larry Watson
Someone, by Alice McDermott
Instructions for a Heatwave, by Maggie O'Farrell
Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra
The President's Hat, by Antoine Laurain
An Untamed State, by Roxane Gay
Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson
A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki

Browse these books online at our website.

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