Depending on how you look at it, last week was a great week for bargain-hunting book buyers or a disheartening one for authors, booksellers and publishers.
Wal-Mart and Amazon have engaged in a price war for the holiday season’s hardcover bestsellers.
On Thursday, Wal-Mart announced that it would pre-sell 10 hardcovers for $10. Amazon matched the price on the same day, then Friday Wal-Mart lowered to $9 – then again to $8.99 (where the price currently stands).
The price of Stephen King’s Under the Dome is a whopping 74% off the $35 cover price. Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna can be bought for a 67% discount. Wal-Mart also offers free shipping for the 10 titles on their list.
If readers come to believe that the value of a new book is $10, publishing as we know it is over. If you can buy Stephen King’s new novel or John Grisham’s Ford County for $10, why would you buy a brilliant first novel for $25? I think we underestimate the effect to which extremely discounted best sellers take the consumer’s attention away from emerging writers.
What do The Book Case readers think of the price war? Will you be ordering multiple copies of The Lacuna to give away as gifts, or do you plan on sticking to your local bookseller for a more memorable book-buying experience? Do price cuts like the ones offered by Wal-Mart and Amazon encourage you to buy more books? Would you rather buy a $9 hardcover or a $9.99 e-book?
The annual mystery writers' convention, Bouchercon, is going on this weekend in Indianapolis. Author Laura Caldwell, who writes a series of mysteries starring red-headed lawyer Izzy MacNeil for MIRA, gives The Book Case an inside look at the what it's like to be on an author panel—and reveals the power of a perfectly chosen outfit.
The man in the hat was kind, and by the end of the night, it was mine. The next morning, I left Chicago for Indianapolis (swearing the whole way because I screwed up the time change and was almost late for my panel). I valeted the car, ran into the hotel and found the ballroom where my panel was being held. Already on the dais were authors Maris Roule, Jordan Dane, Casey Daniels and Judi McCoy. My super-agent, Amy Moore-Benson, was standing there, ready to give my name tag. She was with Ben LeRoy, publisher extraordinaire from Bleak House Books, which has morphed into Tyrus Books.
“You ready?” she said.
“Ready,” I answered. I held out the hat, then put it on my head. “Do you think I can get away with this?”
Ben LeRoy grasped my arm. “You own that hat.”
I headed for the dais. The panel, “Love, Murder, Romance and Suspense” was a hit. And so was the hat. I might never take it off. Mickey Spillane would be proud.
So true, Travis—I'm not much for glittering bodies, either. Luckily our prizes hew more closely to the classics! Email me (trisha at bookpage dot com) to claim your prize, and I'll get Isis, The Casebook of Doctor Frankenstein, and The Vampire Archives on their way to you in time for some Halloween reading.
The talented Adriana Trigiani will continue her series starring Valentine Roncalli this February in Brava, Valentine. Her Italian-American heroine, who runs her own custom shoe design boutique in Greenwich Village, is still struggling to balance love, a career and her well-meaning but nosy family.
Read our review of Valentine's first adventure, Very Valentine, which comes out in paperback in January (the pb version will include the first chapter of Brava and "a divine recipe section including Roman Falconi’s savory pizzelles with caviar," according to Trigiani's website.)
We interviewed Trigiani in 2005 for Rococo, her first book featuring a male hero. "This is the thing about families: we know everything about each other. We just don't talk about it," she told us, explaining the theme of many of her books.
This week's mail brought something beautiful to BookPage: a set of Penguin's new clothbound classics. Designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith and previously available only at Waterstone's bookstore in the UK, these new jacketless hardcovers pair early 20th-century styling with classic content.
The eight titles available in the US are Great Expectations, Wuthering Heights, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Cranford, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, Jane Eyre and The Picture of Dorian Gray. (Links go to images of each book.) Each retails at $20 and contains a ribbon bookmark. In a nod to their stylish appearance, the books will be sold at Anthropology and Urban Outfitters as well as your local bookstore. More titles—including Madame Bovary and Crime and Punishment—are available in the UK; if the series proves popular here, perhaps they'll make the jump as well.
Bickford-Smith is a senior designer at Penguin UK, and is responsible for some of the more memorable Penguin Classic covers that have appeared over the past few years. In a recent interview, she gave her designer's perspective on the ebook phenomenon:
Electronic books are inevitably going to impact physical publishing, but the printed book is a very successful technology in its own right and I don’t think it will be entirely displaced. For all the advantages of ebooks—portability, interactivity, production and distribution savings—there’s something potent about the physical object that will always have a strong appeal. I like to think that as the volume of physical books declines, the average quality of the design will increase, because books will have to work harder to justify their physical presence.
More about the series can be found on Penguin UK's blog.
This morning brought news of this year's National Book Award nominees. It's an eclectic list that contains a couple of surprises (such as American Salvage). We're rooting for Colum McCann or Jayne Anne Phillips for fiction (fun fact: the same reviewer who wrote about this year's Booker Prize winner, Wolf Hall, for BookPage also covered Lark and Termite—does that mean Jayne Anne's a shoo-in?), and my personal nonfiction pick is the fascinating Fordlandia.
David Small's Stitches seems like the obvious front-runner for Young People's Literature, given its crossover success and starkly powerful images, though we wouldn't rule out Charles and Emma, a moving exploration of the Darwins' marriage. We'll find out whether we're right when the winners are announced on November 18.
Full list of nominees after the jump! Who's your favorite on the list? Is there a book you thought should have made it that didn't?
Bonnie Jo Campbell, American Salvage (Wayne State University Press)
Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin (Random House)
Daniyal Mueenuddin, In Other Rooms, Other Wonders (W. W. Norton &
Jayne Anne Phillips, Lark and Termite (Alfred A. Knopf)
Marcel Theroux, Far North (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Judges: Alan Cheuse, Junot Díaz, Jennifer Egan, Charles Johnson, Lydia Millet
David M. Carroll, Following the Water: A Hydromancer's Notebook (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Sean B. Carroll, Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search
for the Origins of Species (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Greg Grandin, Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford's Forgotten Jungle City (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt)
Adrienne Mayor, The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy (Princeton University Press)
T. J. Stiles, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt (Alfred A. Knopf)
YOUNG PEOPLE'S LITERATURE
Deborah Heiligman, Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith (Henry Holt)
Phillip Hoose, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
David Small, Stitches (W. W. Norton & Co.)
Laini Taylor, Lips Touch: Three Times (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic)
Rita Williams-Garcia, Jumped (HarperTeen/HarperCollins)
Rae Armantrout, Versed (Wesleyan University Press)
Ann Lauterbach, Or to Begin Again (Viking Penguin)
Carl Phillips, Speak Low (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Open Interval (University of Pittsburgh Press)
Keith Waldrop, Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy (University of California Press)
You can find more information about the awards on the site for the National Book Foundation.
This post about the past weekend's Southern Festival of Books goes back to the very first night, when BookPage reserved a table at the Authors in the Round dinner. We got to the cocktail party a little late but there was plenty of time to catch a glimpse of authors like Kathryn Stockett, Robert Hicks, Jill McCorkle, Michael Sims and even John Carter Cash, who was wearing a dapper seersucker suit.
Our dinner companion was Madison Smartt Bell, who we're pretty sure was happy with his seat between two lovely ladies.
Conversation ranged from his early years in Nashville, to the Bell witch, to the merits of Goucher College, where he is a professor of English. And of course we talked about his forthcoming novel, Devil's Dream, which brings one of the Civil War's most complicated generals, Nathan Bedford Forrest, to life. Bell told us his college-aged daughter helped him finalize the book's structure, which jumps backward and forward through time with each chapter. Watch for more details in a website interview in November.
If you could have dinner with an author, who would it be?
While the anticipation grows for Stephen King's Under the Dome, buzz is also building for the latest project from his son, who writes as Joe Hill. Hill's debut, Heart-Shaped Box, was an uber-creepy tale of a haunted rock star that demonstrated that a talent for tapping into the dark side of human nature just might be genetic.
In February, Morrow will publish Hill's second novel, Horns, a book the author describes as "another heart-warmer." It's already been optioned for film by Mandalay entertainment. The premise: a man wakes up after a wild night to find horns growing out of his head—and like Pinocchio's nose, they keep growing every day. Turns out his girlfriend's murder might have something to do with his strange condition.
Like King's Under the Dome, Horns will also be released (in the UK, at least) in a limited edition by PS Publishing. The limited edition of 500 will include art by Vincent Chong and be signed by the author. Full details on the special edition can be found here.
What do you think of this special edition trend? Are there any books you'd like to have a $300 deluxe version of?
These days there seem to be more vampires around than you can shake a stake at. On TV, with "True Blood" and the CW's new series "The Vampire Diaries"; on the big screen, with the films New Moon and Jennifer's Body; and definitely in books (which inspired all of the above except Jennifer's Body, an original screenplay by Diablo Cody).
A new wave of books is feeding on the lifeblood of this vampire explosion—vampire humor and mashups. Newbie and wannabe vamps will slurp up The New Vampire's Handbook, a snarky look at life as one of the undead that was edited by "the Vampire Miles Proctor."
Useful advice on topics like "Fighting Werewolves" and "Common Puncture Methods" are punctuated by "Words to Live Forever By" sections that offer advice like this:
If you find yourself fumbling at any point in your approach, try making a little small talk with your victim. Ask about his favorite hobbies, television shows or his taste in popular music. Then, once you're both feeling a little more relaxed, savagely plunge your fangs into his neck.
Another new book, The Vampire Is Just Not That Into You, plays off of both a book and the vampire trend (nicely done, Vlad Mezrick!). Any girls looking to lure a sparkly Edward Cullen of their very own will treasure the advice provided here, which includes ideas for making your bedroom more vampire-friendly (avoid thick comforters which can "muffle the exhilarating and delicious sound of your heartbeat"), 10 things not to bring up when meeting his family (don't bother asking for family photos!) and stories from real-life girls and the vampires who (might) be into them.
From the section on "10 tips on dating a (much) older man":
#4 Learn about his past. It would be super awkward to invite your vampire to tour Gettysburg if it turns out he, um, left mortality behind during the Civil War. Avoid forcing him to relive painful moments, like bloody wars or the time he missed an early opportunity to invest in Microsoft.
Time for a poll:
And a giveaway: comment about your favorite vampire story of all time (book or TV) before Friday, October 16 and win three books from our Halloween roundup, including Otto Penzler's The Vampire Archives. US residents only this time. Good luck!
Monday is going to be a happy day for a lot of kids.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, the fourth book in Jeff Kinney’s “Wimpy Kid” series, hits bookstores everywhere on Oct. 12. With a whopping first printing of 4 million copies, Dog Days is the largest children’s book release this year, according to a press release from Abrams, Kinney’s publisher. The press release also offered the tidbit (the first I’d heard) that a Wimpy Kid movie is in the works with an April 2 release date.
Our reviewer loved the first Wimpy Kid book, noting that “the writing is sharp, and the artwork, though deceptively simple, is both entertaining and expressive.”
In the series, Kinney writes and illustrates the diary of Greg, “a boy whose mom makes him keep a journal about his life.” Greg is picked-on at school. He’s just “trying to make it through school in one piece,” writes our reviewer.
At BookPage, we were lucky to have Kinney as our “Meet the Illustrator” columnist in Feb. 2009.
He answered and illustrated a series of questions, writing that the message he’d like to send to kids is:
Take pride in everything you do, from tonight’s homework assignment to setting the kitchen table. If you always try to do a good job, even the most unpleasant task can be rewarding.
Are any readers going to buy Dog Days on Monday? With fall book sales down, let's hope Kinney's latest gives children's publishing a boost.