Monday, November 27, 2006

BookPeople's Camps for Kids

Last June, Austin's BookPeople hosted an innovative program: Camp Half-Blood. The week-long day camp for children, inspired by Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, took its name from the "half-bloods," the children of Gods and humans who populate the novels. A total of 55 kids attended from such far-flung states as New York, Colorado and Iowa, and even Greece, and inquiries came from England and Japan.

The event was such a success that its organizer, BookPeople's children's outreach coordinator Topher Bradfield, is now planning eight more. The first, based on The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, is scheduled for December 26–31. Camp Spiderwick will be followed in 2007 by camps based on Half-Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer (March), Abarat by Clive Barker (August), the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix (October), the Charlie Bone books by Jenny Nimmo (November), Babymouse by Jennifer and Matt Holm, and Bone by Jeff Smith (both December). And Camp Half-Blood will return for another run in the summer.

Each camp accepts a maximum of 50 children, with five additional slots reserved for scholarship students sponsored by the bookstore. The cost is $325 per camper.

Although Bradford calls his invention a "literary" camp, the event stresses action. Last summer's festivities included a theatrical "claiming" ceremony (complete with colored smoke, sound effects and stage lighting), simulated chariot racing and Spartan warrior training.

BookPeople owner Steve Bercu explained to PW that Camp Half-Blood was "the test" to whether the idea would be well received and if they could pull it off. "It was and we did," said Bercu. "Then we immediately looked to see what could be done along the same lines."

While last June's Camp Half- Blood managed a $600 profit, Bercu emphasized that the priority of the camps is not to make money. "As much as I'd like to be profitable on every one of these, it's not essential," he said. "I'm more interested in the concept and seeing this have an impact on our potential future customers."

Bercu (PW's Bookseller of the Year in 2005) noted that the passion and involvement of the staff and community was impressive. Hyperion, Riordan's publisher, supplied T-shirts and banners, BookPeople staff sewed costumes and painted sets, and various teachers and parents volunteered to be counselors. After the camp ended, Bradfield said the store was flooded with letters from campers and their parents praising the event.

Though no U.S. booksellers have contacted BookPeople about running a similar camp, interest ran extremely high when Bradfield described the program at the Association of Booksellers for Children's annual meeting at BEA in June. And it has inspired Toni Davis, an employee at the Cornwall branch of the U.K. bookseller Ottakars (recently taken over by Waterstones) to approach Riordan's British publisher, Penguin, about the possibility.

Davis recently traveled to the U.S. to meet with Bradfield and author Rick Riordan during the Texas Book Festival. As a special honor to Davis, who is battling ovarian cancer, Bradfield arranged for some of the children who attended last year's Camp Half-Blood to hold a "claiming" ceremony for her.

Riordan, who told PW he wishes he could "clone" Bradfield and Davis, has dedicated the third book in the series, The Curse of the Titans, to them.

Bradfield continues to drum up enthusiasm for the Percy Jackson books during his weekly visits to schools in the Austin area, where he runs fairs and meets with groups of students to talk about new books. In all, BookPeople has sold more than 1,400 copies of The Lightning Thief,the first Percy Jackson title, and nearly 500 of its followup, The Sea of Monsters. "Prior to the camp, we saw a small boost in sales," said Bradford, "but after—as the kids who went started talking about it to their friends—we saw a bigger bump. Having an excited kid talking about a book is the best form of advertising."

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Starbucks Selection Process Raises Eyebrows

Starbucks Selection Process Raises Eyebrows
by Edward Nawotka -- Publishers Weekly, 10/30/2006

Mitch Albom's novel For One More Day has been a big hit at Starbucks, selling 45,000 copies since it became available at the stores on October 3. The company also confirmed it is looking at extending sales of the book through the holiday season and is talking to several publishers about a second title to go on sale in early 2007. William Morris Agency is acting as a consultant to Starbucks to scout books and negotiate terms on the new deal.

But William Morris's relationship with Starbucks, and the entire selection process, has caused some grumbling among rival agencies as well as at some retailers. Several agents who spoke with PW questioned William Morris's role in scouting books, suggesting a "conflict of interest" existed in having WMA representing both authors and a retailer simultaneously.

"If Starbucks wanted a scout, why didn't they hire one?" asked one agent. "They are having an opportunity to see manuscripts early, which gives them leverage in the long run. As of now, Starbucks hasn't picked a William Morris author to sell, but who is to say they won't favor their own clients in the future?"

Another agent, who claims familiarity with an ongoing negotiation with Starbucks, expressed concern about the terms WMA was requesting for a particular title, going so far as to call the deal "abusive." According to this agent, WMA asked for deeper-than-industry-standard discounts and a two-week window of exclusivity in which to be the sole retailer for a new title. Through a spokesperson, Starbucks strenuously denied asking for a special discount, but did acknowledge requesting two-week exclusivity, a request the company evenually dropped.

Bob Miller, president of Hyperion, said that his company had dealt directly with Ken Lombard, head of Starbucks's entertainment division, when negotiating terms for Albom's For One More Day and that WMA was not involved.

Starbucks said that everything WMA does on Starbucks's behalf is done with the coffee company's approval. The spokesperson expressed satisfaction with the work the agency is doing on the chain's behalf, and in particular, praised the "passion and intelligence" of agent Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, who is working on the project. Lombard called Starbucks's relationship with WMA "very much a collaborative effort," in which all books under consideration are also vetted by many of his division's 65 partners (Starbucks's preferred term for its employees).

Mostly, agents seemed concerned about their authors developing any kind of relationship with WMA. "Knowledge is power, and the more they know about my authors, the more it worries me," said one.

On the other hand, Starbucks appears willing to take risks and is asking publishers to follow its lead. The company has confirmed that the second book it will sell in its stores is likely to be a debut novel by an unknown writer—a far cry from the near sure-thing Albom's novel represents. This would likely require a publisher to commit to a far larger initial print run on a debut novel than usual. With Starbucks's thousands of locations, it is likely a publisher would need to commit to a print run in the tens of thousands to satisfy demand and maintain a reasonable level of stock in each store. It's a heady risk to take on a first-time novelist, albeit one who will be exposed to 40 million Starbucks caffeinated customers each week.

Starbucks Succeeds with Albom; Second Book Planned

Starbucks Succeeds with Albom; Second Book Planned
by Edward Nawotka, PW Daily -- Publishers Weekly, 10/26/2006

Starbucks has sold 45,000 copies of Mitch Albom's novel For One More Day (Hyperion) since it went on sale at the chain October 3, a week after the book reached bookstores. The figure accounts for roughly 12% of a total of 391,000 copies sold, as tabulated by Nielsen BookScan. (BookScan, which added Starbucks to its file the week it began selling For One More Day, represents about 70% of total book sales).

Ken Lombard, head of Starbucks' entertainment division, said, "So far, it's been a great success."Initially, the merchandising of Albom's book was planned to end on November 6, though Lombard said that the company is "going to take a look at that" and may consider extending sales of the book through the holiday season.

Bob Miller, president of Hyperion Books, said that Starbucks has recently reordered. So far, Hyperion has four million copies of For One More Day in print. Miller added that sales of the title “are running week against week 150% over [Albom’s] The Five People You Meet in Heaven, which sold six million copies."

Starbucks has planned several promotions around For One More Day, including eight appearances at Starbucks stores and today's nationwide "Book Break," discussion groups at 25 Starbucks locations.

Albom, who works as a sportswriter and radio host in Detroit, has committed to a total of 74 events to promote the book. So far, with the Detroit Tigers playing in the World Series, he has been forced to cancel yesterday's appearance at a Joseph-Beth bookstore in Nashville. Albom also plans to conduct a final driving tour to bookstores in Michigan in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

PW has also learned that Starbucks is on the verge of signing a deal to sell a second title in their stores. The next book is expected to be a novel by a first-time novelist. William Morris Agency, which scouts books for Starbucks and negotiates terms on its behalf, is said to be in discussion with a variety of publishers, though Farrar, Straus & Giroux has been mentioned several times as the likely publisher.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Obama Wows Crowd at Texas Book Festival

Obama Wows Crowd at Texas Book Festival

Perfect weather blessed this past weekend's Texas Book Festival at the State Capitol in Austin, where Barak Obama set a record for book sales at the event. According to Barnes & Noble, Obama sold more than 1,000 copies of his political manifesto, "The Audacity of Hope,'' beating past record holders Bill Clinton and local favorite Barbara Bush.

Obama, who signed 365 copies before heading off to a meeting with Democratic movers and shakers at the Driskill Hotel, opened this years Festival at a ceremony that honored Austin writer Louis Sachar and Texas Monthly magazine for their contributions to Texas letters. The enthusiastic audience that gathered in the Texas State Capitol House chamber to hear Obama speak greeted the junior Senator from Illinois with wild cheering and a standing ovation, suggesting that he has a willing base of supporters in Austin should he run for President in 2008.

Also on hand for the weekend were Gore Vidal, touring for his new memoir "tk," condemned the Bush administration in front of an audience of well-heeled guests at the annual Gala, part of the fundraising the Festival does for Texas public libraries. Thriller writer Alan Furst, attracted more than two hundred to his presentation at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, where his archives are housed alongside with those of Julian Barnes and Norman Mailer. Notables, including Richard Ford, Irish novelist Colm Toibin, Amy Sedaris also drew enthusiastic audiences, but were rivaled by Texas favorites including Lou Dubose and Jake Bernstein, whose new book, "Vice: Dick Cheney and the Highjacking of the American Presidency" drew a capacity crowd.

Cheney took body blows elsewhere in the weekend as well, when Vidal and New York Times columnist Marueen Dowd took to attacking the VP during an interview with Texas Monthly editor Evan Smith, referring to the VP as "our S&M vice president" and "Bush's Iago" respectively.

A little bit of New York publishing glamour also descended on Texas, with a handful of editors in attendance, including Ann Close, senior editor at Knopf, who publishes four Austin writers: National Book Award finalist Larry Wright, Steve Harrigan, Greg Curtis, and Sarah Bird, who was all smiles after Close told her she was publishing Bird's next novel. Dave Patterson, senior editor at Holt, told PW Daily he was impressed. "It's amazing who they have," said Patterson. "It's easily got to be one of the best events I've seen."

Elsewhere, Jay McInerney, promoting his collection of wine columns, tk, left a few Austinites smirking after sniffing a plastic cup of wine handed to him at a barbecue.

In the exhibition tents, a representative from Sony gathered the curious to his booth showing off the company's attractive new e-book reader, perhaps giving a glimpse of what the future of books might look like to the denizens of the tech happy town and one of the last remaining Democratic strongholds in this deep red state.