Monday, September 28, 2009

MBA stuff

MBA is short-hand for the Midwest Booksellers Association and each fall we convene in the Twin Cities to kick-off another year of bookselling and have a small trade-show.

Unlike the national get-together that is held each May this has less bells and whistles and superstars floating around the convention floor. But what the conference actually yields is oftentimes equally helpful and more fulfilling.

The conference has breakfasts and lunches with specific authors that booksellers can attend and get some actual face to face contact with the writers themselves. There are also educational and informational panels on how to better display items, how to use social media and others with various titles(but the same goal) that simply mean: how to sell more books better.

On Friday evening I attended an awards reception featuring the Midwest Bookseller's Choice Awards winners. There was a winner and runner-up for 5 categories--Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Children's Picture Book and Children's Young Adult book. Seven of the ten authors were in attendance and it was a great joy to hear them speak about their books, why the Midwest matters to them or how independent booksellers have meant something to them.

David Wroblewski, author of "Story of Edgar Sawtelle" spoke of his connections to Wisconsin and how they continue to inform him despite no longer living there. Michael Perry has won legions of booksellers over, both near and far, for his great books of non-fiction, his sincerity and his ability to put on a good show--which he did in a speech that was nothing less than great stand-up humor. He also told a heart-warming story about his father, a farmer in Wisconsin, and when, at 17, Michael decided to tell him that he had decided to become a nurse.

Todd Boss and Freya Manfred followed by reading some poems filled with both wonder and whimsy and Todd recollecting his own personal connections to Michael Perry through his now-deceased editor. Todd was a manager at Micawber's before we bought the store and it was wonderful to see his poetry career continue to rise.

Ingrid Law and Lauren Stringer carried the children's portion of the event by discussing illustration of snowflakes and some items kept at the ready for inspiration. Law discussed taking a real road trip that followed one she was writing about to make sure she was "at least getting some of it right."

Neil Gaiman finished the evening with another wonderful speech. He said that he considers himself a Midwesterner now, after 17 years, and how he still felt it his job to point out that doing things like driving trucks onto soon to be thawed lakes only to see which fell in first "is a bit odd." He carried the laughter and the head-nodding from shared experience of the earlier speakers and told us how he got interested in good books; how one bookseller had done that for him as a child.

In all, it was a great reminder to me of the great sense of place so many books we sell can evoke for others. It was reaffirming to hear authors speak passionately in a number of different ways about how literature still matters. Most of all, it was fun and a real honor to be there in their presence.

Saturday I walked the floor of Rivercenter looking at new titles for fall and talking with sales reps from publishers both local and national. It was a fun, if tiring, weekend filled with books and the people who surround them. Rejuvanation in so many ways.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Ridiculous self-promotion

So, after my complaining last week someone from D.A.P. called me and explained their side of things. While we didn't come to a total agreement it was beyond good of her to take some of her busy time and chat with me. A nice discussion ended with her asking if I would participate in a series they run on their art blog. My art cred isn't all that great but I think I pulled together a pretty decent list. Here it is.

Just as a note--several of these books aren't readily availble or in stock at Micawber's. It was just stuff I pulled off my personal bookshelves.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A complaint about complaint--

I was very excited, about a week ago, when I was unpacking a box from Distributed Art Publishers and saw "New York City Musuem of Complaint" edited by Matthew Bakkom. The book is a collection of 132 letters written to various mayors of New York City from 1751-1969. Published by Steidl/Miles it is a gorgeous book and was priced at what seemed to be a great value--$35.

I was even more excited when I found out that Bakkom is originally from Minneapolis and began to page through it. Fabulous, witty, letters regarding all manner of things. One of the best aspects was the hand-written script or, even, at a later time the type-written messages. I was beginning to sense that we might have a real holiday sleeper on our hands. Good value, quirky with high-quality design and presentation.

That is, until yesterday when I found out that the price had been changed to $60. Now, I've been in bookselling for a decade-plus and I've seen trends come and go. Recently, lots of publishers have been changing prices in an effort to slow the bleeding a little. Almost anything priced $14 has gone to $14.95 Lots of hardcover fiction has changed from $23 or $24 to $25. We've even seen lots of changes from something costing 'x' dollars and ninety-five cents going to 'x' and ninety-nine cents. Every penny truly counts. But is well beyond what is rational or sensical.

For whatever reasons, and I'm sure that some people at Steidl or DAP could rattle a few off, they feel the need to almost double the price of a book that quickly goes from affordable to outlandish for a lot of book-buyers. I certainly would put myself in that boat at least.

The craziest part of this is that after selling our first copy we immediately ordered four more. We did this the day before the official price change, apparently. So we got billed at the original price and will be selling our remaining copies at the very fair price of $35. Sadly, when they are gone and we get more the price will have changed by twenty-five bucks. What this does to the overall sales of the book is yet to be determined. But I know one thing: we will sell far, far, less of it and I'm guessing many other indies will do the same. In fact, lots of smaller stores won't even carry it due to expected sticker shock.

We're down to two copies as we've sold two of our re-order since I started thinking about this last night. The book world is in a state of massive flux right now and there is nothing that can better illustrate that fact more than this bizarre saga.

The jacket is pretty plain and basic--I assure the inside is far more attractive.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Nice interview with Kate Greenstreet

She'll be reading here near the end of the month. 9/29@7 p.m. with poet Norma Cole.

Check it out here