Friday, December 19, 2008

Book News, In Brief

It's perhaps the grimmest Top 5 List you'll read this year, but it's also a fitting tribute to some good writers. Via USA Today: The publishing world lost five celebrated writers in 2008. Their books will live after them...
(Click here to see who.)

Nothing succeeds like success...and graphically detailed autopsies. Via When Patricia Cornwell began writing thriller novels, she ruled the world of forensic science...Now the author is bombarded with CSI-like information from every side -- from Bones to Forensic Files to, well, CSI.
(Click here for the grisly details.)

Remember the day after the election, when the media claimed that the USA was now a post-racial society? And then do you remember the day after that, when they had to try and find a way to spin the Springfield, MA church burning and the white-on-black violence that occurred the night of the election? Well, it took seven weeks, but the papers are finally beginning to return to their senses. Via In all likelihood, prejudice, intolerance and nationalism with us always. But what, you ask, does any of this have to do with books? Read on, my friends, read on: And two new slim volumes -- both remarkably thoughtful and compressed, both by extraordinary writers, and both addressing the gaps between disparate cultures -- will just as likely continue to remain relevant and timely.
(To find out which "two slim volumes" they're referring to, click here.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Quote of the Day

“Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint.”
Mark Twain, a.k.a. Samuel Clements, a.k.a. Li'l Twain

Go, Look: Corpus Libris

From the C.L. blog:
Corpus Libris began as a fun little photo essay on a Thursday night while working at Skylight Books in Los Angeles. As we kept going and going, I realized that many, many more people could enjoy and create similar photographs. The possibilities are practically endless! So, send me your Corpus Libris (body/book) photos, and perhaps I'll post them here.

(Well, what are you waiting for? Go, Look! And while you're there, see if you can't find this week's guest columnist, AutumnBottom. She's the one who tipped me off to this sweet site.)

Book News, In Brief

Booksellers: It's time to dig out the passwords to your old ebay seller accounts. has posted the Top 10 Out-of-Print Books in America. There's gold in them thar stacks!

Trust me, I'm as sick of these year-end round-ups as the rest of you. But The Best News Corrections of 2008? That's something worth linking to. (Thanks to the Bookninja for the heads-up.)

Bilious b*tch Ann Coulter is autographing a limited number of copies of her new book, Guilty. All you have to do is order it via WorldNetDaily, and the Far Right's answer to Oprah will personalize it for you. I'm ordering a copy this afternoon, on the proviso that she make it out to 'All My Friends at Planned Parenthood.' I'll let you know how it turns out.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Time's 2008 Person of the Year? An Author.

Click here to find out who.

Book News, In Brief

A personal message to our valued customers: Try this, and we'll show you the door. Via Haggling is no longer limited to used car lots...Retail prices are an artificial, arbitrary number. Ticket prices are not ordained by some almighty being. They are created by humans. Anything that results from a negotiation is negotiable.

Q: How is it that while book sales are down, poetry prospers? A: Filthy rich philanthropists. Via the AP: Poets & Writers, a nonprofit literary organization, has received a $2 million donation to support its Jackson Poetry Prize, a $50,000 award founded in 2007 for emerging American poets...The money comes from the Liana Foundation, a philanthropic organization based in N.J. and co-managed by poet Susan Jackson.

John Updike has written a promotional blurb for the first of a series of 500-word erotic e-book offerings. While Updike's 'elder statesman' status makes him an awkward choice, there's another, even less flattering reason he might want to refrain from putting his name on porn. Via The Guardian UK: What sets the story apart from other moby-lit offerings is the seal of approval from John Updike...Coincidentally or not, Updike last month won a lifetime award for Bad Sex in Fiction.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Oy vey! Hanukkah is Only Five Days Away!

Hanukkah starts this Sunday at sundown. Have you bought your Jewish friends their gifts yet? We Chosen Ones don't want to wait 'til the 25th for our presents any more than you want to wait 'til the 29th* for yours. But you jolly Gentiles needn't despair. (Despair is our thing!) Books Etc. has put together a list of Hanukkah Gifts for Adults.** You use this, and you'll go from insensitive shmoiger to goen Goy -- instantly.

*The 29th is the last day of Hanukkah, y'all.
** Don't worry about our kids. They're easy. They want video games, just like the uncircumcised ones.

10 Tips from a Former Traveling Sales Rep
...Part 2!

If you missed the first half of AutumnBottom's epic, two part guest column, click here. And shame on you for arriving late to the party.

The Final Five

-Sales Pitch-
We reps think it's wonderful when buyers have looked at the catalogue before we come in and you already have an idea of the titles that interest you and the numbers you might want to order. It's amazingly, wonderful helpful. That said, stay flexible. Or at least give the appearance of flexibility. We've worked hard on our sales pitches and, chances are, the books that we actually HAVE a pitch for are important. It's just nice to have a receptive audience.

Everyone loves to complain. I'd say it's the "great unifier" because nothing brings people together like kvetching. The company I worked for had a very...unique catalogue. It was about 16 inches tall, 10 inches wide, and 200 pages of flimsy newsprint. Putting a positive spin on it, I'd say something like, "It certainly is easy to spot!" But really, it was just a gigantic pain in the ass, and my buyers never hesitated to let me know.
Chances are, if you have to say to your rep, "I don't know if anyone has ever complained about this..." they have heard it a million, billion, trillion times over. At every single meeting I got a complaint about the catalogue. No, wait, I lie. There was one meeting with a design store in Beverly Hills where the buyer loved our catalogue. Silly Californians.
I'm sorry, where was I going? Oh yes. Complain about the catalogue to me all you want. Complain about having to pay freight or how we print our company's name on the cover of every book, but please, don't punish me for it. As a lowly rep I simply do not have the power to change these things. My buyers telling me that they wouldn't order books until we changed the catalogue just made me think they were jerks. But don't tell them I said that.

-Keep Your Appointments-
I toyed with the idea of making this heading "Keep your *fucking* appointments" to drive home the importance of this topic. As a traveling rep I cannot even begin to describe how annoying it is to take the time and effort to fly somewhere 1,000 miles from home and have the person you were supposed to meet cancel on you when you show up at their store. I completely understand cases of sickness or other emergencies, but when it's simply because you forgot to tell the babysitter that you needed her until 4 pm.... I had one guy in LA who would cancel on me almost every time and it was always because he'd already gone home and didn't want to fight traffic to come back "so maybe we can meet next time you're in LA". Gah!!!!

-Pass Along the Kind Words-
There is almost nothing better than praise. I loved, reveled really, in being told by my customers that they loved meeting with me. I loved that they felt taken care of by me and that I cared about them and their businesses. It was even better when I heard from my boss that one of my bookstores had taken the time to call New York to let her know that I was doing a good job. Something like that goes a long way in assuring job security and letting the muckity-mucks know that the people in the field are taking care of the customers.

-Always Use a GPS-
So this one has no bearing on you, the bookstore, whatsoever. But should a new traveling sales rep happen upon this list, this is the most important thing ever. Buy a GPS and take it with you wherever you go. Expense it, write it off on your taxes, or just eat the cost of it, but it is the most valuable tool in your arsenal.
The first three or four trips I went on, I printed out a veritable encyclopedia of MapQuest Maps and spent all my time in the rental car with my head buried in those print-outs and a map provided by the rental car company. I didn't see any of LA, Calgary, or Portland. But on a fateful trip to Denver I was offered a GPS unit at the rental counter and my life changed. I was able to drive around the city admiring the buildings and the mountains and avoiding pedestrians while a pleasant Englishwoman fed me turn by turn directions. I stopped at Best Buy on my way home from the airport and picked up one to take with me wherever I went.
It made my travels so much easier knowing that when I stepped off an airplane in a strange city I could just plug in my little friend (God that sounds dirty) and I could navigate the city like a native. My greatest fear while traveling was not that the planes would crash and burn or my buyers would block the doorways of their stores (that did happen to a fellow rep of mine) but that I would forget my GPS at home and be completely, utterly lost. See what technology hath wrought?! Anyway. GPS is a gift from God. Go buy one.

Again, if you dug what Autumn wrote,
PLEASE CHECK OUT HER LIVEJOURNAL! Homegirl is mad funny and she posts regularly. Oh, and if you work in a bookstore, make sure you print this out and show it to your travelling sales reps. It'll make them feel loved.

Book News, In Brief

Local city makes good. Boston has been named one of The 3 Best Cities for Bookworms. MSNBC explains why.

Bottomless Belly Button author/artist Dash Shaw has been crowned one of The Top 100 People of 2008 by USA Today. Pop Candy's Whitney Matheson has the accompanying interview.

Dorothy Sterling, author of perennial classroom favorite, Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman, died December 1st at her home in Welfleet, MA. The self-described "accidental historian" was 95.

The Washington Post pulls no punches with this one: Most Textbooks Should Just Stay On the Shelf. This is a follow-up to an article they did about the $8 billion-a-year textbook industry's unwillingness to include any science breakthroughs post-Einstein.

Monday, December 15, 2008

10 Tips from a Former Traveling Sales Rep

Ah, a guest column. These are always fun. Fun for me, the blogger, because I get to slack off in my duties. Fun for you, the reader, because my shtick is getting stale and y'all have been craving something ungrateful bastards. Anyway, today's column was written by former traveling sales rep and current bookseller AutumnBottom. (That's her LiveJournal name, anyway. Witness Protection rules prohibit us from divulging her true identity.) If you like what you read here, make sure to check out her LJ. She's funny as f*ck and a brand new mom. Oh, and she's got cool hair, too. The trifecta!

Autumn's caveat: I was only a sales rep for 1.5 years with one smallish publisher, so I can't say for sure if this list would apply to a seasoned veteran of Random House or Simon & Schuster. Besides, I wasn't a particularly successful rep having had a bit too much empathy to push hard for the big sales. But anyway....

- Sales Numbers-
As reps, we're the low-man on the sales chain totem pole which means that we report to sales managers who, in turn, report to points higher on. I was constantly struggling with trying to please my bosses whose sales mantra was "Don't take no for an answer," and trying to maintain my trusting relationships with my bookstores. I guess what I'm trying to say is when your rep is trying to convince you to take a display with 20 copies of a $50 book and seems to keep circling back around to it after you thought you'd moved on, it's because of the pressure from "on high" and not because your rep is an asshole.

Ask your rep for sample copies. Always. It never hurts to ask and, more often than not, they can get it for you. And, as was often the case with me, remind your rep about your request after a couple of weeks if you still haven't seen your freebie. It's totally not that we don't like you. It's just that we're busy people and things sometimes slip through the cracks.

Being a traveling sales rep is a lonely, lonely experience. It only took one week of business travel for the luster to wear off. Sitting in a restaurant by yourself is fun on occasion but when you do it for two to three weeks out of every month.... I was eternally grateful for the few buyers that I became friends with and could count on socializing outside of a business context with when away from home. If you like your rep, and you're willing, invite them out for a beer after work. They'll love you for it and be even more willing to go the extra mile for you.

-High Heels and Weak Arms-
I am all of 4 feet 11 inches tall. For my job I carted around a suitcase filled with 60 lbs of art and architecture books. By the time I finished hauling it out of the trunk of my rental car, dragging it through the gravel of the parking lot, and bouncing over the sidewalk into a store, the last thing I wanted to do was carry it up three flights to the buying office. If you are a brawny buyer and your rep happens to be wearing high heels or shops in the petite department please, please, please, offer to carry their suitcase.

-Free Lunches-
One of the major perks of being a buyer is having your rep take you out to lunch. There is nothing like free food in the middle of your day! However, if you've only bought three books out of the catalogue, for the love of Pete, don't order the lobster in truffle sauce. I'm not saying you need to satisfy yourself with the bar nuts, but try to order according to...well...your order.

Oh, come now. You didn't think I was going to give you all of Autumn's awesomeness in one fell swoop, did you? And rob myself of a second day of slacking off? Not a chance. If you want to read The Final Five Tips from a Former Traveling Sales Rep, your punk asses are gonna have to come back here tomorrow. Until then, you can visit Autumn here.

Added on 12/16: Link to part 2

Book News, In Brief
(now with editor's notes!)

Dear Bobby Brown: Don't be cruel. Yes, it's your prerogative, but after building a buzz with those juicy, leaked portions of your autobiography, do you really think that anyone's going to buy a re-written, scandal-free edition?
(Editor's note: Wait, where's the Humpin' Around reference I asked for? That song is the bomb, yo.)

It's like the snake eating its tail...or something like that. For those who like to read about reading, USA Today has five recommendations for books about books.
(Editor's note: And don't forget about Inkwell Michelle's positive review of Shelf Life by Suzanne Strempek Shea. It's a book about bookselling, so technically its a case of 'the snake eating the snake handler'...or something like that.)

Enraged by the fact that "in 2007, one of every fifteen hardcover novels sold was a James Patterson title," decided to "dig beyond the lists of what's selling the best to find what's best to read." Okay, so it's actually just another Best Of list, but at least they're honest about their superiority complex.
(Editor's note:! What, was down for repairs? The NYTimes just posted their official, year-end Best Of book list. You might've mentioned this instead.)

Yesterday's Telegraph UK had an interesting article about the mass library closings currently taking place in England. My fiscally-conscious first reaction was, "Those lucky British bookstores..." Then it hit me, with no libraries around to infect kids with the reading virus, there will be far fewer book buyers in the years to come. Now my fiscally conscious conscience is afraid. Very afraid.
(Editor's note: My first reaction was a selfless, "Oh, the inhumanity!" But maybe that's because I'm a better person than you.)