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Beyond ‘Goodnight Moon’: Building Home Libraries by Mail

Meghan Dietsche Goel -- February 24th, 2017

Helping a customer find just the right book is one of the purest joys of bookselling. But I’ve also found that curating home libraries through our Books By Mail subscription service holds a special kind of magic. The curious thing about the process is that I’ve never met most of the kids in the program, and while some subscribers send me some general reading preferences, the sky’s really the limit. Because I don’t know my audience, beyond age and a few other descriptors, I try to look at each kid’s selection at its own project, looking at the list over time to think about just the right next book round out their library. For some kids that list is dozens and dozens of titles long at this point, which feels very rewarding. I get a real sense of connection to the readers, most of whom I’ve never met, just because I know we share all these books in common.
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A New Kind of Book Is Discovered

Kenny Brechner -- February 23rd, 2017

In the ordinary course of things we tend to think of books as either fiction or nonfiction. We had an experience at the bookstore recently that indicates that there is a third category. The Latin term for these books would be Genius Liberloci, books which are literally animated by the protective spirit of their contents. We’ll simply refer to them here as Animus Books. Here’s how we made this discovery at DDG.

One of our wonderful booksellers, Hannah, was helping me review the forthcoming picture books from a publisher’s summer list, from a traveling kit of F&Gs. There was one title in the box that she found unusually disturbing. This book, set up as a parable, conveyed darkness, irresponsibility, and callousness to her, as opposed to hopefulness and warmth. Called to attention by her exclamations of dismay, I read the book in turn and found that I shared her view of it.
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Bring On #OwnVoices!

Elizabeth Bluemle -- February 21st, 2017

As the conversation about diversity in children’s literature grows broader and deeper, new topics and initiatives arise that inspire growth in the field, and spark great conversation. A couple of years ago, author Corinne Duyvis (Otherbound, On the Edge of Gone, Guardians of the Galaxy: Collect Them All) added a new layer to the We Need Diverse Books movement. Responding to articulated frustration with the publishing industry’s unequal playing field, especially for authors of color, Duyvis wrote a couple of tweets that gave a new home to a long-held conversation.

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Folded and Gathered Fun

Leslie Hawkins -- February 17th, 2017

Many bookstore buyers find themselves recycling box after box of folded and gathered galleys (F&Gs) of picture books once our seasonal frontlist orders are placed. It seems a shame to send such lovely artwork to the recycling bin, but they do tend to pile up and since they’re unbound they can be more difficult to donate than bound galleys. Personally, I’m always happy to find new ways to make use of them. Continue reading

A Farewell to Dahlov Ipcar

Kenny Brechner -- February 16th, 2017

Maine artist and picture book author- illustrator Dahlov Ipcar died last Saturday at the age of 99. Her two sons described the day of her death as follows. “Dahlov spent the morning as usual at her easel working on her latest painting; she fielded a few calls with her son, Bob, pertaining to a sit-down interview for a publication and worked with her son, Charlie, on a number of projects related to her upcoming exhibits.”

Ipcar has left behind a wonderful and extensive legacy, both nationally and here in Maine. The exhibit of her paintings at the Portland Museum of Art some years ago was one of the most captivating I’ve ever seen. Locally, Ipcar painted a remarkable mural along the hallway walls of the Kingfield School. She produced many enduring children’s books of course such as Hardcrabble Harvest, The Cat at Night, and Wild and Tame Animals, which were orignally published by Doubleday and which are now republished by Maine’s Islandport Press. Nonetheless I do have a very clear personal favorite.
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The Perilous Path to Paperback

Elizabeth Bluemle -- February 14th, 2017

Recently, we were approached by a local school to create a monthly book-order flyer for students. It’s been a fun challenge to come up with the perfect mix of new and established books for ages preschool through eighth grade, but in my travels through the various databases I use, I’m starting to feel anxious for all of the hardcover books I see that would be perfect in paperback but may never make it there if hardcover sales don’t support them.

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Tour Grid Dreams: No Ghosting, Please

Leslie Hawkins -- February 13th, 2017

When’s the last time being rejected made you this happy? If you’re the person who schedules events at your bookstore, then it might have been one of those rare occasions when a publicist took the time to let you know that your store is not getting that author tour stop you requested. In fact, I’d like to thank the publicity department at Macmillan for being particularly responsive when it comes to letting us know if our store has not been chosen for inclusion on a tour. We’d always prefer a “yes,” of course, but having an answer one way or the other just makes our lives so much easier.

For readers unfamiliar with the fabled tour grid, here’s a brief outline of how the author tour happens, from the bookstore’s point of view.

For example, let’s say a publisher is putting out a new book by Frederick Douglass in September. (Someone really should, by the way. I hear he’s done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more.) The publicity department wants to send him out on tour and so will include Frederick and his new book on a list of upcoming tours, also called an event grid, which is often shared on a spreadsheet or on Edelweiss (a platform that publishers use to share catalogs electronically with buyers at bookstores and libraries) several months before the book releases and the tour would start.

On the grid, we see a description of the forthcoming book, a pub date, and whatever information the publisher wishes to share in order to guide us, the bookstore staff, on how to craft a proposal. Maybe they want a combination of bookstore and school visits, or maybe they only plan to send the author to a few states in the Pacific Northwest, and so on.

A school auditorium borrowed for an author event.

Or maybe the publicist putting together the tour indicates on the grid that for this author they only want proposals for large (audience of 300+) ticketed public events. For almost every bookstore out there, that’s going to mean making arrangements with a local venue that can seat that many people before we can commit to hosting. We’ll typically reach out to one or two such venues about their availability for an event in this general time frame (September, in the example above), and they’ll pencil us in, just in case, and expect to hear back from us at some point. When we submit the proposal and never hear a peep about it either way, not only is the bookstore left hanging, wondering if we’re going to be putting on this big event that will affect what else we can commit to, but now we’re leaving one or more local venues hanging, too.

But even if we’re just sending a proposal for a simple, straightforward in-store event with an author, we’re constantly adding events large and small to our bookstore calendar and trying to balance what can happen when — author events, book club meetings, story times, birthday parties, and on and on. If we’ve sent a dozen proposals in the spring for author events that would happen in the month of September, we’re trying to keep those in mind as we schedule other possible events for September. Which is why a simple form letter email saying “Sorry, we can’t send Frederick Douglass to you on this tour” is actually a huge help!

In short, a simple and direct “no” is always much better than no reply at all. See also “ghosting,” or Things That Will Land You in Dating Hell.

Notes from the Teen Press Corps

Meghan Dietsche Goel -- February 10th, 2017

BookPeople’s Teen Press Corps brings together more than a dozen opinionated, well-read, book lovers at the store every month to discuss books, trends, and all things YA. We keep them well supplied in ARCs, and they review books for us (in-store and online), interview touring authors, and liveblog at the annual Texas Teen Book Festival. We always take a break over the holidays, but they’ve just kicked off their new year, so we checked in with them to see what they’re looking for in 2017.

The Teen Press Corps keeps us honest. We give them a ton of ARCs to choose from every month, but they read and write about what they want. They set their own agenda and are never afraid to give an unfiltered opinion to us or our customers. To take us into the new year on the right foot, we gave them some prompts and, as always, they had a lot to say!

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HONONI’s Mean More to a Rural Bookstore

Kenny Brechner -- February 9th, 2017

When your bookstore is in an urban center HONONI’s have happened and continue to happen all the time. They are important of course, but unexceptional and a matter of course. If your bookstore is in a rural town, however, a HONONI is an absolute singularity and a huge big deal. All right, slow down you say. What are HONONI’s, and did I coin that acronym just now? HONONI’s are Harbingers of Nonfiction of National Interest, historical events which spawn nationally released nonfiction books. Let’s face it, notable historical events happen all the time in cities. Take Boston, for example.  A giant wave of molasses that immolates a whole neighborhood? Boston had one of those. The Boston Tea Party, even the title rubs it in. If you have a bookstore in an urban area, or even a suburban area, big nonfiction releases set locally happen regularly.
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