We were fortunate to host middle school author John David Anderson at our local library today, and as I sat behind the table of his books, swiping parents’ credit cards to purchase books for excited young readers, I thought about other successful author presentations and signings that we have been part of this year. There’s a formula for a good event, I believe, and tonight’s was a perfect example of just the right ingredients, mixed together perfectly. Here’s the recipe to copy.
War and Peace, the board book? Image © Romchello | Dreamstime.com
A while back, I bemoaned the growing trend
for publishers to turn pretty much every successful picture book into a board book, no matter the age of the intended audience. Stories aimed at 3-to-5- or 4-to-6-year-olds, I felt, did not make good board book candidates, since that market is primarily for the 0-2 crowd. Unsuspecting parents would buy these beautiful-looking board books, assuming they were great baby/toddler reads, and be very surprised to find their tots bored three pages in by all the text and the incomprehensible story lines.
Recently, though, I’ve had a semi change of heart.
It’s SHARK WEEK! No, this is a not technically a literary occasion or gift-giving holiday, but booksellers can turn anything into a reason for display and promotion, can’t we? Of course we can!
Our behind-the-counter display this week at 4 Kids Books… thanks to staffer Haley.
Shark Week is a television network holiday (like Sweeps Week
or Season Finale Week
or the annual airing of all the Christmas specials), and was premiered back in 1988 by the Discovery Channel, originally devoted to educating viewers about sharks, promoting conservation efforts, and taking full advantage of the interests of summertime beach-bound viewers. Over the years, as it returns each July or early August, Shark Week has developed an identity — a life motto of character Tracy Jordan on NBC’s 30 Rock “to live every week like it’s Shark Week,”
and the blessing of Stephen Colbert, naming it “one of the two holiest holidays alongside Christmas.”
Earlier this year I was approached with a very interesting proposal to host April Stone, the librarian at Four Points Middle School, for an externship. Through a grant, the district gives educators a stipend to go on-site at a business for three days during the summer. They then create a presentation to share with their colleagues and a lesson plan to share with students. I was intrigued and obviously said yes. Not only did we get an extra bookseller who already knows her stuff for a few days, but librarians are our number one best community partners. I always want to know more about what they’re working on too. So it’s an obvious win-win!
Perusing stacks of picture book samples.
We packed a lot into our three-day window. She watched visits from preschool field trips each morning, she took on one of our storytime slots, made a display and some shelftalkers, sat in on a commission rep appointment, and came to our biweekly children’s book specialist meeting—where our Hachette rep also gave a fall book presentation. And, of course, we just talked a lot about the different (and not so different) ways we each approach what we do. Continue reading
Here is a little news quiz.
1. Dean Koontz’s recent statement that “The times are changing, and it’s invigorating to be where change is understood and embraced.” referred to Koontz…
- A) Attending Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize for Literature ceremony
- B) Attending the NYC Pride March – Worldwide Pride – Stonewall50
- C) Signing a five-book deal with Amazon Publishing
- D) Attending President Trump’s Rally in Greenville, N.C. Continue reading
Kites, sidewalk chalk, jump ropes and sand toys…. these are the traditional summer staples of a children’s store, along with graphic novels, a healthy dose of classics in paperback, and in late July and early August, the ENTIRE SCHOOL SUMMER READING LIST, ranked for us in sales order by the lowest number of pages per title added to the number of days until classes begin…. and just like golf, the lowest score wins.
Add to our hot list the “big” new releases, and those favorite staff backlist hand-sold titles that top the backorder reorder lists…. in our store, that includes a lot of sports titles and middle grade historical fiction. I think that it’s also fun and profitable to liven things up a bit with new impulse items in the summer season. Stacked next to the displays of patriotic titles in July and back-to-school picture books in August, those special little treasures just beg to be added into bags and tied on top of wrapped packages. Add-on items are good for both the bottom line and your customers’ sense of vacation whimsy, and keep the store interesting and fun for repeat customers and new visitors alike. For the adult gift givers who are “just not sure what the kids are reading,” we can offer gift cards for books to be selected later, and a “little treat” tied on top of the envelope… or a summer camp care package filled with small delights for rainy days.
People in every field of endeavor must encounter misunderstandings from the general public. In bookselling, there are many common misperceptions: customers thinking we order our books from that online megalith, customers thinking we clear 100% of a book’s cover price, customers thinking we are making a profitable living at our work (hahaha).
I don’t expect people outside the field to have more than the vaguest clue about how our operations work. But I do, I find, expect them to pay attention to the names of extremely famous authors.
Avin Domnitz, former CEO of the American Booksellers Association and co-owner of Schwartz Bookshops in Milwaukee, told a great story in his infamous “2% Solution” workshops about bookseller profitability that has stayed with me since before I opened 4 Kids Books in 2003. I attended BEA in both 2001 and 2002 as a prospective bookseller, and signed up for all the educational offerings from the ABA (this was long before Winter Institute, but around the time that our friends at Paz and Associates began offering their highly valuable prospective bookseller workshops.,,, which I planned to attend, but a new baby and three other young children kept me homebound. Donna Paz, to her credit and my eternal gratitude, sold me a workshop manual that she shipped TO THE HOSPITAL and offered coaching over the phone… this, my friends, is how small and connected our bookselling community can be) and once I was mobile again, I took entire yellow pads full of notes about running a bookstore at every industry event. My husband carried our newborn around the show floor at the Javits Center, and brought her to me every two hours to nurse on those folding chairs that they stationed against the black draping curtains at the end of each aisle – wait! I was going to tell you about Avin’s story. (Do remind me to tell you, however, about ALL THE FREE STUFF that my husband Steve got at BEA that year, as he strolled the aisles with a newborn strapped in an infant carrier… and to this day, he believes that all bookseller events are just swag opportunities full of nice people who want to hold your children so that he can go to the men’s room. Actually, they are.)
As we plunge into the last few months of planning for the 11th annual Texas Teen Book Festival, we’re working on finalizing all the details for our move to the campus of Southwestern University up in Georgetown, Tex. Although we’ve loved our time at St. Edwards University, construction has sent us up north, and it’s been really fun for me personally to get to know Georgetown a little bit more. With a beautiful campus and terrific facilities, Southwestern University has proven a really promising partner, but we’re also excited to spread our wings north of the city and maybe expand the festival’s outreach to some new school districts and some new readers. Surprisingly accessible from Austin, Georgetown offers a charming small-town feel but also has a lot to offer in its cheerful downtown—including Lark & Owl, a brand-new indie bookstore that opened its doors at the end of April. Continue reading
When a prominent YA author with a legion of fans produces an adult novel it is only natural that her younger readers will be possessed with the desire to consume it. Booksellers must necessarily ponder over each particular case for just as young adult authors have a caretaking interest in their readers, we have a guardianship interest in our young customers. Let us take Ninth House, the adult debut of that excellent, long established and bestselling YA author Leigh Bardugo as a current example.
On the surface it would not be hard to identify aspects of Ninth House as indeed making it a novel for adults. It is graphic in terms of sex, violence, emotional and physical abuse, and drug use. It lacks visible guard rails for the mordantly unsettling evil it depicts, and makes no pretense of redemption or salvation for characters who exercise malevolence, privilege, or accommodation.