Archive for June 2, 2009
Book Expo America is the biggest book event in the country. It happens every spring and this year it was at the Javits Center in New York City. We hit the road at 4:00 a.m. on Thursday so we could get to the educational sessions for booksellers. It’s a good thing we like computers!! It’s all about tweeting and blogging and YouTube these days. We had an inspiring session with wine seller Gary Vaynerchuk, (to see the video and learn more about him, use this link http://news.bookweb.org/news/6808.html) who talked about doing what you love and doing it with passion. Please don’t expect an outrageous approach to bookselling from us – his message was to be who you are!
One very interesting session was an “Editor’s Picks” session where editors choose their very favorite book of the fall season. Here are a few to watch out for: Justice by Harvard philosopher Michael Sandal, Roses by Lila Meacham, a novel about a family in Texas, and Jonathan Tropper’s novel, This is Where I Leave You. Elizabeth and I simply could not put down review copies we got of David Small’s autobiography in pictures, Stitches. David is a children’s book illustrator we love, and the story of his childhood is utterly harrowing, honest and moving. We can’t wait until it’s published this September.
At the Children’s Book Breakfast the next day, Julie Andrews acted as host and brought in a surprise guest, Peter Yarrow from Peter, Paul and Mary. (Hmmm….Julie looks a LOT better in focus!)
Best of all was Literary Lions panel – an hour-long discussion about writing with Richard Russo and John Irving. Richard Russo’s new book is set on Cape Cod. For him, Cape Cod represents the notion of the finer place we all search for – a notion determined in part by the fact that it’s something that is just out of reach because we cannot afford it. (He was referring to Martha’s Vineyard!) Richard is coming here on August 15, so the discussion will continue! By the way, did you know that John Irving starts writing all his books with their last line? Serendipity occurs when the title of the book fits in the last line, which has only happened twice – in The World According to Garp and his new book, Last Night in Twisted River, which will be published this October.
There were fascinating and sobering sessions on the future of books and publishing. We can potentially look forward to huge changes over the next few years, including easier access to downloadable books. Even the publishers realize that some ways they are doing business are very dysfunctional. The large publishing houses are losing money by paying huge advances to big name authors, whose books are returned at the outrageous average rate of 40%, mainly by mega-stores of all kinds who stock mountains these books. The returned books are no longer saleable, so are sent to remainder houses. How can they afford to do this? By raising the prices of books across the board, so we all pay for this poor arrangement. (Independent bookstores have had a consistent return rate of about 10%!) Who wins in this scenario? Well, the celebrity authors are doing pretty well!
It wasn’t all serious, however……
Elizabeth and I were walking through the exhibit hall when we came upon our friend Jeff Kinney, who visited us last year. The 4th book in his Wimpy Kid series will be published on October 12.
Elizabeth met a new best friend, so don’t mess with her!
As always, it was such a treat to meet authors whose work we’ve long admired and whose new books we can’t wait to read! I sat with children’s author Rosemary Wells at lunch on Saturday and Kathleen chatted with Sherman Alexie. We had a really wonderful chance encounter with Silas House, whose book, A Parchment of Leaves was our very first our book club book over 5 years ago. A native of Kentucky, he was soft-spoken and kind and was attending the meeting to promote his new children’s book, Eli the Good. We also bumped into our good friend Claire Cook, who was at our bookshop last week for a signing of her new book The Wildwater Walking Club.
There was one final stop to say farewell to Clifford the Big Red Dog. A smaller version of Clifford will be visiting the bookshop this summer!
As many of you know, we love food! We couldn’t leave New York City without a stop at our very favorite grocery store, Zabar’s. Somehow calling it a grocery store makes it sound entirely too common – such great cheeses, breads, olives and coffee!! Perfect treats for the ride home!