Saturday, February 6, 2010

Obligatory Winter Institute Post--Boswell Books Edition

500 booksellers converged on San Jose at the Doubletree Hotel Airport for the 5th annual Winter Institute. Surrounded by office parks, but only about five blocks to the light rail, does it really matter where we are? It's pretty much day-to-night presentations, workshops, industry talk, plus a pretty good dose of schmoozing and gossip.

I went with Amie, Boswell's kids and calendar buyer slash bookkeeper slash manager. Thought we probably would have done better to divide an conquer, we stuck together a bit for solidarity's sake. That was a big deal for me, as I am apt to flitter. My feeling was that as long as I walked a couple extra blocks to buy her freshly-brewed coffee (the hotel stuff was sitting around for quite a bit), I could get away with a lot.

This post could be about all the workshops, the first day of e-everything, a rather depressing excercise for a bookseller who could do a lot better, yet would still expect to remain on the margins of a business that demands massive capital infusions and is more concerned with short-term sale of hardware. There's also a feeling that there is a lot of posturing to control the supply chain. Yeeks. I'll just hide under a rug.

We also met a lot of authors, and had what seemed to be over three hours of rep presentations. This is something that started in the regionals and plays off of speed dating. Publisher folks rotate tables and give you about 12 minutes of shpiel on new books.

The whole idea is to break a book out of this thing. Well, that's at least one of the publisher incentives. There were some books that certainly had some buzz. I tried to find out what everyone was talking about and kept note. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, by Helen Simonson had a number of votes, as did The Girl Who Fell from the Sky, by Heidi Durrow. That one's seemingly already out, and the only caveat is that two of the three folks who talked about it had not finished it yet. As always, I feared that they could change their mind at the end, so I only considered this three quarters of a rec.

Justin Cronin's vampire novel is getting attention everywhere, and some books, like Chang-rae Lee's The Surrendered had amazing accolates, but that was already cleanly on my radar as we're having an event on March 13th. We all left with piles of advance reading copies in the galley room to send back to our stores. Oddly enough, nobody offered downloads. Maybe next year.

The book that seemed to "place" in the buzz derby was Matterhorn, by Karl Merlantes. Oh, goody, I was hoping for another big fat novel about the Vietnam War. But boy, have the reads been amazing. And for a book that you would consider a boy novel, there's actually a triumvirate of women who helped get this published at Grove/Atlantic. You can probably read these stories elsewhere. Perhaps I'll post some links closer to the book's publication.

There's no question that the book of the show was Brady Udall's The Lonely Polygamist. Not only did every person who read this (and just to frustrate me, big, fat) novel become overwhelmed with emotion, but the line for getting this book signed at the author reception had to be three times the size of anything else. Udall had a bookseller favorite in The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint some years ago, and wrote the article that inspired the series "Big Love." And gets no royalties for it, by the way.

I think the cover is still under discussion, so here's a shot of my arc, with a little snippet of my pal Sue at Lake Forest, busily working on her laptop. What exactly did we all do before we had computers at these things? Drink more at the bar, probably.

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