On November 23rd the Flying Pig will celebrate our 20th anniversary. This is a milestone for most independent bookstores and one that we starting to celebrate next week. In the 20 years we’ve been open we have many changes in the book world. We opened right around the time that the ABA sued publishers for unfair co-op policies that favored the large chains. Now, we struggle against Amazon’s aggressive policies surrounding book discounts and e-readers. But, there is no better way to celebrate being a thriving independent bookstore than with events. Events are the one thing that Amazon cannot do. While they may be able to sell bestsellers at a steep discount and ship them for free, they do not enrich a community with author events. Next week we begin a fall season loaded with great events to bring readers, authors and illustrators together. Continue reading
It may have a good deal to do with being in a rural area, but DDG’s most dynamic kids’ events tend to stem from community networking. That was certainly true last week.
One of the more awesome people in central Maine is author and professor Lyn Mikel Brown. Why am I on solid ground saying that? Apart from her being a good egg in general, the answer lies in Lyn’s remarkable ability to bring her scholarship to meaningful life in the community. And what is her scholarship, you ask? Here’s Lyn. “My scholarship and praxis focuses on understanding the conditions that enable girls’ healthy resistance and dissent in the face of oppression. I also develop feminist, anti-racist curricular materials and scaffold the online girl-developed and driven magazine, Powered by Girl.”
If you’ve ever had the experience of spying a book not seen since childhood, you’ll recognize the jolt of pleasure and memory that act like adrenaline through the system. This jolt is particularly strong for books not seen since those early, impressionable days; long-dormant neurons and dendrites spark with sudden connection, and a book you hadn’t even known you missed greets you like an old friend.
The first book that affected me like this was Purple House Press’s re-issue of Arnold Lobel’s wonderful Miss Suzy, which I blogged about years ago (with loads of other favorite rescued treasures) here. What I said then was: “I hadn’t thought about Miss Suzy in about 35 years, but when I spotted Arnold Lobel’s drawing of a small gray squirrel with two toy soldiers, my heart actually stopped beating for a second. As a little child, I had been FASCINATED by Miss Suzy’s plight with a band of mean red squirrels who chase her from her home. (She gets help from the toy soldiers.) I can’t tell you exactly why I loved that book so much, but it certainly had something to do with Lobel’s signature soft, rounded, friendly illustrations, and the slightly scary adventure with the mean squirrels written by Miriam Young.”
The visceral reaction doesn’t work quite the same way with books you recall and then track down; that is still a grand pleasure, but the jolt happens only when taken by surprise. I felt it again this week when I caught sight of New York Review of Books new release of Rumer Godden’s Mouse House on our shelves at the store. I remembered that wide-eyed mouse child peeking into the little doll’s house made especially for mice, and her surprised disappointment at discovering the fake, un-alive felted mice that inhabit it. Godden, who also wrote the mesmerizing The Doll’s House and the Christmas favorite, The Story of Holly and Ivy, was one of those authors who truly understand the hearts of children.
(Click through for more 2016 rescued treasures…)
A very curious thing happens when the weather starts to change in Vermont. The first hint of chillier weather brings out the oddest clothing in my customers. We’ve had a delightful summer of gorgeous weather, with very little rain. Too little rain, according to gardeners, but perfect for the bookstore and seasonal visitors. During the summer folks all seem to dress the same way. There are no massive ranges in clothing, but the below 60 degree day really creates a range of clothes that are worthy of mentioning. Continue reading
All Vermont schools, both public and private, are in full swing. Families are adjusting to the new schedule of classes, sports, and homework, and this affects the bookstore. There is a rhythm to the school year that is very different than the summer, and it’s one that often saddens me. Gone are the long days of summer reading. They are replaced by the workload of school. It’s been three weeks since school began here, and already I’m noticing that all my customers who started high school have been notably absent from the store. Continue reading
I’m not being strictly scientific here but given my 25 years of bookselling, and not having missed more than one or two New England regional trade shows over the years, I figure that I am reporting on my 23rd NEIBA Fall Conference. You may well ask if I find myself haunted by the ghosts of trade shows past while doing the things we attendees do, such as walking the exhibit floor, attending Rep Picks lunches, publisher dinners, and educational sessions. It’s a good question, and I promise to answer it later on. Talk about narrative suspense, eh!
We are often stymied by publishing decisions: ski stories that release in May, paperback versions of the previous novel in a series released a month after the new hardcover comes out (instead of simultaneously), nonfiction that screams “Perfect Father’s Day gift!” saddled with a late-June release date.
Our current brow-wrinkler is the pub date of the new James Patterson-Chris Tebbetts Middle School series title, Dog’s Best Friend. It’s scheduled to hit bookstores on October 24, two weeks after the new Middle School movie hits movie theaters on October 7.
Since we are lucky enough to have the book’s co-author Chris Tebbetts in the neighborhood, we have a very cool event lined up: after the 4 p.m. movie on Saturday, October 8, Chris will field questions from the movie crowd about any difference between the books and the movie, what it’s like to co-write books with James Patterson, and life as the co-author of a #1 New York Times bestselling series. Then we’ll have a signing table outside the screening room so Chris can meet young readers and autograph books.
We’ll be selling all of their co-written Middle School titles, but won’t have any copies of the brand-new one on hand to sell. This feels like a huge missed opportunity! Kids will be so jazzed up after the movie, they’ll want the books. Longtime fans who have read all of the books in the series will wonder why they can’t get the new one at this special event.
Why is the delay a good idea?
Is it connected to the impounded dock issue that has held up shipments for many publishers?
Is the printer’s schedule so tight that the books cannot be printed and shipped any sooner?
If those are not the reasons, I can’t think of a motivation for losing out on two weeks’ worth of immediate-gratification buying after kids see the movie.
One of our staffers conjectured that perhaps the publisher was concerned that sales of the new title might cut in to sales of the movie tie-in version, but that doesn’t make sense, since the kids who have already read the series are waiting for the new title; they aren’t the customers for the movie tie-in of book one.
This feels like one of those areas where the priorities of publishers are shrouded in mystery. Publishers – you don’t need to address this book in particular, but can you shed any light on what kinds of issues affect release-date decisions? Inquiring booksellers wish to know!
The happiest sight in a bookstore is the book hug, where a customer is so overcome by excitement or nostalgia over the book in their hands that they hug it to their chest. We’ve had the pleasure of witnessing the book hug countless times over the past 20 years. It’s a gesture most often used by children, but grownups have been known to embrace their books, too. Today, I saw a new version of the book hug: the soul tap. It was an adult man’s gesture, but you can see a recreation of it here from our staffer, Emily: Continue reading
When independent bookstore buyers venture beyond the fields we know, beyond the familiar world of trade books and out into the strange domain of educational publishers, we find that things are not only unfamiliar but at times unwholesome. I venture there often and am here to report on a particularly thorny problem: the need to acquire books for schools at terms significantly worse than what the schools could acquire them for directly. I also aim to offer a solution. In order to help cast this murky issue into a clear light, I have called upon none other than Socrates himself to assist me.
Socrates: Why have you summoned me, Kenny?
Kenny: Suppose you were traveling with a dog and had to stay at a hotel that didn’t allow pets. That is the situation independent bookstore buyers often find themselves in when dealing with school purchase orders.
Socrates: How so?
Kenny: Some hotels are pet friendly. Others are not. The same is true of educational publishers and independent booksellers.
All bookstore owners think they live amongst readers. How can we not? People come to our stores to buy books. But a new article from Quartz magazine, using census data and NEA statistics, breaks down which states are populated by readers, and which are not. I was saddened to see that the criterion for being a reader is someone who has read at least one book in the past year for pleasure. One book! I can’t imagine having read only one book last year. So, where does your state land on this list? Continue reading