In the 18-plus years I’ve been a bookseller, the average word count in picture books has dropped, and dropped again, and dropped again. When we opened the bookstore in the mid-1990s, 1,500 words was at the upper limit of what was considered to be an acceptable length. Now that’s a laughable number, and the general rule of thumb is that you’d better watch yourself if you’re over 500.
The Fourth of July is a great holiday that celebrates our nation’s independence. I can’t think of a better weekend to shop at an indie bookstore. Small and large bricks and mortar stores represent everything that is great about our country: individuality, eclectic collections of books, and a deep commitment to community. Indies have great books for summer reading for kids and adults alike. Continue reading
You might think that shallow people miss out on a lot of the things which they are insensible to: faith, long-term conviction, the pursuit of a lofty goal, and so forth. You most likely also believe that it is obvious to outside observers that shallow people lack these things because, as Voltaire observed of himself, “I’m as small streams; they are transparent because they are shallow.”
It turns out that shallow and mordantly secular booksellers are not wholly immune to experiences of that sort. We feel loss and injustice. When the signature wrap of our store is discontinued, or a go-to handsell is not filled on an order because it has been placed out of stock indefinitely, we feel pain at the insensibility and injustice of the world in a manner not unlike our deeper colleagues.
As a die-hard mystery fan, I knew about Soho Press, but I have to confess, their teen imprint, Soho Teen, had flown a little under my radar. Luckily for me, when I was packing up galleys to take home for the anticipated rainy weekend, I grabbed The Girl with the Wrong Name by Barnabas Miller. I had no idea about the book when I started reading, choosing not to read the blurb on the back of the book, but just diving in. I actually enjoy reading like this with no preconceived notion of what to expect. I started reading and was immediately hooked. Continue reading
Part of doing business in any field is dealing with your bills. Those pesky bills come every month and every publisher has a different of reminding you about them. I would like to offer some tips for all the credit departments and bookstores on how to work better together and get paid faster. Continue reading
Once in a while, you’ll pick up a children’s book and know instantly it was not written (or perhaps illustrated) by anyone who grew up in this country. These books sometimes telegraph their not-United States-Americanness by having ambiguous endings, or delving into unapologetic melancholy or darkness, or taking on existential themes. I love these books, because the good ones — and I have only seen good ones, because the rest wouldn’t have made it through the import vetting process — refresh the brain like seltzer and invite us to step outside narrative habits we aren’t necessarily aware of inhabiting. They also respect the capacious nature of a child’s inquisitive, thoughtful mind.
At ALA Midwinter this January, a Gecko Press book on the Lerner table caught my eye immediately because of its retro feeling (both in palette and style) cover that reminded me of picture books I’d pore over at my grandmother’s house as a child. I also liked the title, The Day No One Was Angry. It’s always intriguing when a title pronounces itself by way of something it is not. I opened the book expecting to find a happy or at least tongue-in-cheek happy animal friendship story. Ha! Not at all.
Thanks to Goldilocks we can all grasp the concept of an amount being just right. But knowing what that right amount might be is harder to figure out in advance than it is to recognize after the fact. Money, love, fame, attendees for author events, the exact right amount is always clear retrospectively. Success and failure clarify everything wonderfully.
So when Pamela Voelkel and I plotted to do some outreach to book people on behalf of a prolific ninth grade writer whose mother was dying of cancer (read the full story here), we weren’t quite sure of our goal. We knew we wanted to make a difference in Kayla’s life. But we didn’t have a clear idea of how much participation was needed or if what we were asking was impossible. The main thing was that, as Pam put it “right now, she’s out of words. Which is why I think she needs a group hug from her fellow authors and booklovers. We can’t rewrite Kayla’s story, but maybe we can give her strength for what she has to face.”
I read with increasing fury the news of Amazon’s new royalty payment for authors who self-publish books for the Kindle. The Telegraph reported this new plan this morning. Rather than paying a royalty when the book is purchased like a traditionally published book, self published authors are now going to paid by the number of pages of the book the customer actually reads. This is a frightening way to value books and a very scary way to observe readers’ habits. So, if someone downloads a book but only reads 10 pages, then the author gets that percentage of his or her royalty. Continue reading
All bookstore staffers get asked a lot of questions every day. They range from simple to complicated. Often we are asked if we carry certain books. These are usually straightforward questions about where a book might be in the store. Occasionally, we get asked questions that just stop us in our tracks, and leave us scratching our heads to wonder what’s happening at a customer’s house. I know everyone has a hobby or two, and there is the expectation that bookstores should reflect all of them. I have learned after 19 years of owning a bookstore that there are some hobbies we just don’t even think about. Sure, I have knitting books, cookbooks, books on how to build treehouses, gardening, even stamp collecting, but I found out last week I have a gap in the collection.
I was working with Laura when a man and his teenaged daughter came up to the counter. The father looked at me and asked quite seriously, “Do you have any books on how to clean a skull?” Continue reading
Every summer, we have families asking for books they can read aloud (or listen to on audio) that will work for the whole family — kids from, say, ages 6 to 16, and that will entertain the adult as well. Because this is such a common request, I thought I’d create a poster of recommendations to help my staffers as well as the families.
It can be hard to find books that resonate with such a broad range of ages, so I dipped into the classics quite a bit while also looking for more recent additions to keep the list current and diverse. I polled bookselling colleagues for titles they would add to their Great Family Read-Alouds lists, and got some terrific recommendations. Here’s the first iteration of the poster: