Creating a New Austin Tradition

Meghan Dietsche Goel -- May 25th, 2018

Kate DiCamillo wows the crowd.

Last Saturday marked the launch of Austin’s first annual summer reading kick-off festival, put on in partnership between BookPeople, the Austin Independent School District and the Austin Public Library, and it was a blast! Kicked off by the incomparable Kate DiCamillo, the day was marked by a spirit of creativity and interaction. Setting the tone with a keynote followed by a generous Q&A session, Kate answered questions that ran the gamut—from how her mom’s beloved vacuum inspired a key moment in Flora & Ulysses, to why her books so often deal with loss and sorrow, to what she recommends for a third grade class to read together as their first book next year (Charlotte’s Web, of course). No one gets a crowd buzzing quite like Kate, and from there everyone went forth to explore the rest of the festival and connect with some favorite authors, old and new.
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The Huge Benefits of Amazon Echo’s “Technology-Driven Storytelling”

Kenny Brechner -- May 24th, 2018

The announcement that Hachette Book Group will be providing exclusive “technology driven storytelling” content for Amazon Echo devices, provides a window into a world of exciting new possibilities for removing the antiquated obstructions to developing more pliable consumer citizens. One such still pervasive and unduly lingering obstruction is traditional reading. The malignant cognitive side-effects of reading are a result of the unnecessary work involved in an unmediated interaction with printed text. Producing a personal experience in the theater of an individual reader’s mind inhibits affected persons from being constructively directed by a robust interface with modern commercial algorithms dispensed by voice controlled digital assistants.

The technology driven storytelling produced as exclusive content by HBG for Amazon’s devices not only presents a strong medium for erasing and atrophying the development of independent critical thought in society members who have already contracted traditional reading habits, but even more importantly in preventing their development in children.
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Trade Show Focus (Group)

Cynthia Compton -- May 23rd, 2018


I love to go to trade shows. Not for the inevitable accompanying airport fiascos, the tiny hotel rooms located too close to the elevator, and the stress of all the minor store emergencies that occur while I’m away, but for the possibilities. I love being away, briefly,  from my own aisles, where I stare and obsess about things that are selling and those that are not, and look instead at all the pretty, shiny new merchandise and just unveiled dust jackets of new titles and series from authors both familiar and new. I love to imagine whole new sections in my store, innovative displays, different programs and promotions, and new ways to delight customers. I picture giant stacks of boxes arriving at the store, and the staff exclaiming (with delight, not with “WHERE DO WE PUT THIS?” frustration) and getting excited about building displays and fixtures that require total section resets.  I crave the time spent visiting with colleagues, hearing about what’s working in their stores, and commiserating about what isn’t. Choices and possibilities abound, inspiration flows like wine at the hotel bar, and all those hundreds of pre-show phone calls (“Hi! Are you attending …….? We are in Booth # …….”) fade away like the well-intentioned plan to pack at least TWO pairs of comfortable shoes and to be back in the room to sleep every night before midnight.

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When Elephant and Piggie Came to Town

Elizabeth Bluemle -- May 22nd, 2018

When the Elephant and Piggie Thank-O-Rama tour was offered to us for Sunday, May 13 (which fell on Mother’s Day), we knew it was one of those big events that needed planning within an inch of our lives. Venue, staffing, supplies, activities — all of these needed to be locked down as soon as possible.

The tour van comes with plenty of supplies — a reading corner with six colorful, tiny, soft armchairs for little readers and felt bins for books, a prize wheel with some truly excellent merch ranging from Elephant and Piggie postcards to a plush Pigeon bus (!!!), a craft station with tables, crayons, child-safe scissors, etc., sturdy cut-outs of favorite Mo Willems characters, a big backdrop against which families could pose for photos with the Elephant and Piggie costume characters, and two official Thank-O-Rama staffers to set it all up and help the event run smoothly.  Continue reading

Magna Cum Sapientia

Leslie Hawkins -- May 21st, 2018

Magna cum sapientia means “with great wisdom,” a title honoring authors with words of wisdom for graduates and making some use of eight years of Latin instruction (or at least my ability to look up the ablative case in my ancient Cassell’s dictionary). As it’s graduation season, you may be looking for something fresh to add to all those copies of Oh, The Places You’ll Go on the display table. Here are a few favorites at Spellbound. I’d love to see some of your recommendations in the comments, as well. Continue reading

Skulduggery Pleasant’s Second Invasion

Kenny Brechner -- May 17th, 2018

I know. The Beatles only had to invade America once, so what does that say about Skulduggery Pleasant making a second incursion? This nine-book middle grade fantasy series by Irish author Derek Landy was published simultaneously in the U.S. and the U.K. in 2007. It was a giant hit in Europe but passed almost unnoticed here in the U.S. where it was ignominiously retired after the third book.

Skuldguggery’s publisher, HarperCollins, is making a second attempt here now, simultaneously re-releasing the first three books in new paperback editions. Is this second invasion merited? The Secret Code* of bookselling demands an answer to that question and so I undertook the process of providing one.

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Pass the Sunscreen, It’s Summer Reading Sign Up Time

Cynthia Compton -- May 16th, 2018

The Mother’s Day displays are down in our little shop, replaced with Indy 500 themed books and graduation titles. The weather has turned from winter directly to summer temps, and the sneezing and sniffles of my poor allergy-ridden staff indicates that the pollen count has achieved May-in-Indianapolis levels. Mothers of school-aged children look haggard and over scheduled, and newborn-ish babies are making appearances, toes revealed, in brand new expensive strollers, and most days there’s a teenager or two dropping by after school asking about summer employment….. it’s time, indeed, for our summer reading program sign-ups.

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The Trouble with (and Triumphs of) Trends

Elizabeth Bluemle -- May 15th, 2018

When you’ve been a bookseller for more than 21 years, you see a lot of trends come and go. When we opened in 1996, middle-grade realistic fiction and mysteries were big and the young adult genre was considered “dead.” Ten years later, YA was exploding, and picture books were declared to be critical condition. When Harry Potter burst onto the scene, catapulting longish MG fantasy into the stratosphere, realistic MG fiction languished. When The Hunger Games launched a torrent of dystopian fiction, classic fantasy took a backseat. Then, when Game of Thrones hit the small screen — well, you get the idea. One genre rises, another falls, and thus spin the wheels of publishing.

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Serial Reading

Leslie Hawkins -- May 14th, 2018

A frequent question I get from customers at the bookstore is whether a particular book series needs to be read in order. Depending on the series in question, I’ll usually respond with a) Yes, each installment builds on the previous one and it would be difficult to follow if read out of order; or b) You can read them in any order and not miss anything, like Nancy Drew (a reference that always clicks with parents and grandparents); or c) Well, each book has a stand-alone plot with a beginning and end, but there’s also an overarching background plot that builds throughout the series. And, then again, there are some series that defy any of those broad categories. I began wondering recently if there are standard publishing terms for the different types of series–some better, more succinct verbiage I could borrow for booktalking and, possibly, for some handy in-store signage.

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Twelve Debuts, Twelve Questions, Twelve Prizes.

Meghan Dietsche Goel -- May 11th, 2018

We have seen an exciting spate of new local releases this spring, many with coordinating pre-order campaigns. I feel like it must be such a personal thing, sending a new book into the world, so I love seeing what each author builds out around their launch. When I met Samantha Clark recently to talk about her new book and her launch plans for The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast, she showed us these ingeniously soothing comfort squares that she had printed with the hashtag #MakeYourOwnCourage. If you’ve read the book, you know that the boy at the center of it all must do exactly that under perilous circumstances, battling his own fears along the way. She gave each of us a square, and as we chatted, we realized that we were all rubbing the velvety comfort squares against our cheeks or fingers without even thinking about it. We loved them! She told us that she was going to be highlighting them as prizes in an upcoming scavenger hunt that she had coordinated with 11 other debut authors from around the country, and I was intrigued.

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