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:
I’ve never come away from chatting with a classroom full of kids about ARCs they’ve read and reviewed for me without some interesting takeaways. The conversation below with two Cape Cod Hill School classes, one fourth grade and one fifth grade, who had just completed our annual Galley Review Project was not an exception. Note that while kids this age like nonfiction, the use of inserting fictional elements into the narrative to create dialogue is very important to them. Here are the kids!
Kenny: What surprised you the most about the book you read?
Emma Z: That seeing a unicorn in the parking lot wasn’t surprising to the people in the book. (Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures)
Brody: There was a boy who looked nice but he did something that was not nice at all.
Emma H: I read about Dolly Madison. (Women Who Broke the Rules: Dolly Madison) I was surprised that she was a famous girl who did a lot of things and helped her husband a lot.
The Stars So Far is a project in which I foolishly decide to gather all of the year’s starred reviews for children’s and YA books from Booklist, The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, Horn Book, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal. Some of the reviews are harder to track down than you’d think, so publishers, please alert me to omissions at ebluemle at publishers weekly.com.
Before writing to tell me I’m missing a star, please note that starred reviews are counted only when they have been officially printed and released by the review magazines. If you know that a book will be given a star next week or next month, please don’t send an email. I will add those stars as they are published by the review magazines. Thank you!
This is a detail-laden process, and as careful as I try to be, there will be bobbles here and there. If you want the cleanest, most comprehensive version of this list, check back here several days after the original post, when I’ll have been able to make any fixes.
And now for the stars:
I am just now getting to unpacking the box of galleys I mailed myself from Book Expo. Most of these galleys, some signed, are for friends. The sheer plethora of available galleys at the trade show really feels like a mini-shopping extravaganza with other people in mind. Yesterday I gave out the last of the gift galleys to two friends and a friend’s kid. After almost 20 years in business, it’s easy to forget that galleys are special and very, very fun to have. Continue reading
Recently, I visited a school so far north in Vermont that cell service there comes from Canada. I’d been invited as the visiting author guest to help the town’s school and public library celebrate the grand finale of their year-long literacy program courtesy of the wonderful Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF). I spoke to 110 K-3 students, then 110 kids in grades 4-6—and ended with a visit to a preschool with 10 toddlers and young children. At this event, a boy told me about a book that had “changed [his] whole life.” More on that in a bit.
These finale programs are fantastic fun. First, the town librarian introduces the fun summer reading programs available to the kids after school ends, then the author (at this event, it happened to be me) does a half-hour presentation, and then every child gets to pick a book to keep. CLiF chooses a fine selection of brand-new titles for the kids to peruse—everything from Caps for Sale to Inkheart to Anna Hibiscus to books about Nascar. It’s a great mix of literary and popular titles, and it’s a blast after my presentation to be one of the adults helping the kids find just the perfect book to take home and treasure. (Since I recommend books to children of all ages every day at the bookstore, it’s a familiar gig—and so much fun not to have charge any money for the books!)
Great moments with children always come out of these events. You can see the love of books lighting up their faces, and the utter joy of receiving a present they can have forever. You hear the most touching or interesting or perceptive or thoughtful or funny things from the kids. I have a couple of memories from this visit that I can’t resist sharing: