BEA Middle Grade Editors’ Buzz Panel Preview

Kenny Brechner -- May 9th, 2016

Friday morning the BEA Middle Grade Editors’ Buzz panel will be held, and as I am moderating it, I thought a preview was in order. As you may have had occasion to notice, most of us like to feel that the things we choose to spend time on are worthwhile. That will be an easy task for everyone attending and participating in the BEA Middle Grade Editors’ Buzz panel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is no genre that is more important to get right than Middle Grade. As booksellers the ratio of handselling to adults buying for kids and to kids selecting for themselves is more equal in Middle Grade than it is with any other children’s genre age group.  It truly is in the middle and getting it right is of enormous importance in terms of relationship-building with middle grade readers as they will shortly age into a period where suggestions from a stranger are not quite the thing.
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Elizabeth’s May Book-a-Day Challenge

Elizabeth Bluemle -- May 6th, 2016

Because I’ve been traveling for work a lot lately, I am way behind on my reading. As books and ARCs pile up in what we Flying Pig folks refer to as “towers of knowledge,” I find myself in need of a concrete, publicly accountable reading goal that I can rope fellow “behinders” in on. So I’ve created a Google spreadsheet called “Elizabeth’s May Book-a-Day Challenge,” and invite those of you with similar piles to join me.

Picture books count, yes, but otherwise, there’s no page-count grace given with the challenge, because there’s no page-count relief for the number of books waiting for us. The goal is one book per day. Period. And you can’t complain, either, because we’ve already had a week off; it’s already May 6 and I’m letting you off the hook for May 1-5.

Seriously, though, you can use the challenge any way that works for you. If it’s half-a-book-a-day, that’s fine. If it’s an audiobook every three days, you fly that flag. I’ve always been a quick reader, so I’m hoping one book a day is doable, especially if I disable Netflix and HBO Go on all of my devices. (House of Cards Season 4 will have to wait until June.)

The link to the May Book-a-Day Challenge is:

You can add your name and fill in books once you’ve finished reading them. I’ll stay honest, too. If you miss a day, don’t worry. We’re all human (except for Kate Messner; I’m convinced she has cloned herself in order to accomplish as much as she does in a day).

This weekend, I’ll be snuggling up with Crystal Allen’s The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown, Kwame Alexander’s Booked, and Meg Medina’s Burn, Baby, Burn. What will you be reading this weekend? You can answer even if you aren’t taking the challenge. I’d love to know!



Customers as Sensors

Kenny Brechner -- May 5th, 2016

CanaryInACoalMine_2We often think of sensors as warning us of danger, from canaries in coal mines to modern alarm systems. They can also be very helpful, of course, turning lights on for us at opportune times. At a bookstore customers act as wonderfully complex sensors with an almost unlimited range. Last week was a notable one at the store in this regard. Two incidents particularly exemplified the rewards and the perils which can come, on either hand, from receiving the words and actions of our patrons.
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Authors at the Airport, Mice at the Expo

Elizabeth Bluemle -- May 4th, 2016

IMG_6549When scouting possible locations for a fundraising event featuring 21 authors, you wouldn’t immediately think of the airport as a potential venue. But in a small city like Burlington, it’s not only feasible, it’s fantastic. Big windows, lots of light and space for setting up, and a series of available rooms for author panels and presentations —plus free parking for the event— made the Stern Center’s annual gala beautiful and unique.

I’d noticed a lot of civic things happening lately at our mighty little Burlington International Airport, so when I had a chance to meet its newest owner, Gene Richards, I asked him what was going on. “This airport was built with taxpayer dollars,” he said, “and it should be available to the community that built it.” One of his favorite recent events was a dinner to celebrate the Refugee Resettlement Program. Food from many international cultures were shared from family to family. It was a way to bring new Americans and longtime Vermonters together. Love that!

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Scaring Staffers

Josie Leavitt -- May 2nd, 2016

I think I’m a generally good-natured boss, one who is patient, understanding and kind. This is how I usually am at work, until I’m very tired, then things kind of fall apart. Most of the time I’m very well rested and a delight to be around (if I do say so myself), but the last few weeks of working just about every day had finally taken its toll on Saturday. I was supposed to be off, but a staffer had a flight snafu and couldn’t come in, so I had to work. I was exhausted, cranky and short-tempered, and I practically terrorized my youngest staffer, Lizzy, who had the poor misfortune of working alone with me. Continue reading

The Hard Work of Bookselling

Josie Leavitt -- April 29th, 2016

So often people romanticize bookstore life as one of sitting comfortably, usually in a rocking chair, reading all dweightlifting-sportsman-cartoon-illustration-illustrations-strongman-athlete-41896524ay. This image, while lovely, is very far from the truth of bookstore life. The first thing I tell people who think we read all day is, well, actually, if you see staffers at bookstores reading, the store is likely to go out of business soon. We are busy all day and store work is surprisingly physical. The days can be long and there is a lot of hauling of boxes and many steps taken on a regular day, but throw offsite events into the mix and you really don’t need to belong to a gym. Continue reading

John Locke Considers the Amazon NYC School District Deal

Kenny Brechner -- April 28th, 2016

locke_360x450I am reasonably sure that independent booksellers who work closely with schools feel unsettled by the news that Amazon Lands Major Account: New York City Public Schools. Rather thick for the thin edge of a new wedge in an already unbalanced market. The question at hand is whether working through that unsettling feeling can yield anything productive, rather than a simply cathartic result.

To help us answer that question, expert help seemed called for. Few people can provide greater insight into calibrating the means of maintaining  the social and economic balance essential for a civil society than John Locke. He was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to share his insights with us.
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Nurturing Readers

Josie Leavitt -- April 26th, 2016

Obviously, one of the best things about owning a bookstore is the kids. Daily, little ones come in and have milestones: first goodbye wave at an actual goodbye moment, first word read, etc. For me, though, it’s the first time I see the kids as book-loving adults that really moves me. We’ve been open almost 20 years, and now our first generation of little kids, kids who grew up reading at the store, are now in the mid-to-late-twenties. In the last several weeks I’ve seen a bunch of them and they’re all readers, and I am proud of that, and prouder still of the adults they’ve become. Continue reading

Beyond Bookmarks: How Publishers Can Help Authors and Booksellers

Elizabeth Bluemle -- April 22nd, 2016

Oh, publishers, you do love your promotional doodads. And we sometimes love them, too, but much of the time, they honestly don’t help us promote and sell your books. You might play to your strengths by helping where we need it most. Publishers have entire departments devoted to creating marketing and promotional materials, whereas we stores often have small staffs with varying levels of artistic ability. Instead of sending us 200 bookmarks that only 12 customers will end up taking, or shipping us those books-nestled-in-Easter-grass-in-a-special-fitted-box – which too often arrive looking sad, squished, and decrepit from their postal journey – consider sending us instead:

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Macmillan’s Stalwart Ellen Pyle Holds Forth

Kenny Brechner -- April 21st, 2016
The two of us in action with a stack of F&Gs and Edelweiss onthe screen!

The two of us in action with a stack of F&Gs and Edelweiss on the screen!

Bookselling in a rural area means many things, and one of them is that I see very few reps in person. Even when I have assigned field reps it is still by phone. From the major houses only one drives all the way up to central Maine to see me: Ellen Pyle of Macmillan. If you assumed that the fact of her making that effort indicated something about her character as a rep you would be right. Ellen is an intrepid and energetic individual, a voluminous communicator, and a tireless, thoroughgoing advocate for both Macmillan and her bookstores. When she crossed the threshold into DDG yesterday I made the move to corral Ellen and lure her into employing the Pyle propensity for strong communication into taking interview form.

Kenny: All right Ellen, the Young Adult novel you wish had been around when you were 12?

Ellen: Rain, Reign!  It’s not difficult to read, it’s wonderful to read. Wonderful. It’s so encouraging.

Kenny: A culturally superior alien was looking down her nose at human creative endeavors until you showed her this picture book?

Ellen: The Pout-Pout Fish for its soft encouragement of good behavior in toddlers and aliens.

Kenny: Your favorite fall kids’ book?

22065080Ellen: Oh definitely Vassa in the Night. While it’s a little dark, the writing is so imaginative and superior that you just flow along with the story. I love this book!

Kenny: Your thoughts on the evolving role of reps?

Ellen: Edelweiss has made our job a little more intense, a little more detail-oriented, but it has also allowed us to be better reps because it has forced to think a little more about what we’re saying about the books to our buyers.

Kenny: If you could change one thing in the book industry what would it be?

Ellen: Our relationship to other media. I’m constantly hearing that they’re happy that Independent bookstores are surviving when in fact they are thriving.

Kenny: Biggest mistake children’s buyers make?

Ellen: Allowing personal prejudices to color their purchases.

Kenny: Hmmn. The constant struggle, eh? How about the smartest thing children’s buyers do?

Ellen: Read galleys.

Kenny: Phew! Thanks, Ellen!

Ellen: Thank you!