Dog-Eared and Dispatched
In this week’s rundown of the wild world of book culture, it’s all about the indies. We begin by giving an update on James Patterson’s million-dollar donation to indie bookstores. Next, we investigate BEA’s and ABA’s new programming for indie authors and bookstores, respectively. Finally, we discuss a last-minute controversy concerning AWP attendees as Seattle prepares for an influx of literary citizens next week.
In September, we covered James Patterson’s plan to donate $1 million to indie bookstores over the course of a year. Patterson began honoring his promise this week by disbursing $267,000 among 55 bookstores. As reported by Shelf Awareness, the exact amounts given to each organization ranged from $2,000-$15,000. The proposals submitted for Patterson’s million-dollar giveaway have taken many forms thus far: from bookstore submissions to ABA/industry recommendations to author endorsements—all of which Patterson personally reads and reviews. In a Publishers Weekly interview, Patterson referred to himself as “the anti-Congress,” going on to say, “The future of books in America is at risk. Bookstore traffic is down. Kids aren’t reading as many books. I want to really shine a light and draw attention to the fact that this is a tricky time. The government will protect the automobile industry and the banking industry, but not books.” Well, if the government won’t step it up in the name of books, then Patterson will. And, thankfully, Patterson has the funds to do so, with The New York Times describing how, from 2006 to 2010, 1 out of 17 hardcover books purchased in the U.S. was written by the bestselling author. “Every day, booksellers are out there saving our country’s literature. The work they do to support schools and the rest of their communities leaves a lasting love of reading in children and adults,” Patterson stated. “I believe their work is vital to our future as a country. What are we if we don’t have our own literature? I couldn’t be happier to, very humbly, support booksellers in their mission. Maybe that’s because it’s my mission as well.” For a full list of the bookstores currently receiving grants, or to submit a proposal for a bookstore in your neighborhood, click here. [Shelf Awareness, Publishers Weekly, The New York Times, GalleyCat, jamespatterson.com]
In an effort to better recognize indie authors, BookExpo America has added a new component known as Author Hub to their uPublishU conference programming. BEA representatives told Publishers Weekly that, through this offering, the organization would like to “further integrate the self-publishing community into the publishing mainstream by providing platforms where entrepreneurial authors may interact and share the spotlight.” The hope is that Author Hub will allow for greater networking opportunities with well-known indie and hybrid authors, including such names as Bella Andre, Barbara Freethy, Hugh Howey, CJ Lyons and H.M. Ward. On the whole, this year’s uPublishU conference will consist of two tracks: one for aspiring authors in search of a publisher, and one focused on self-publishing. Meanwhile, in an ongoing show of indie love, the American Booksellers Association has proclaimed May 17 as Indies First Storytime Day. Led by Kate DiCamillo, this nationwide celebration will take place in conjunction with Children’s Book Week (May 12-18). DiCamillo has already put the call out to her fellow authors and illustrators: “Come in and read a story (a story that you didn’t write) out loud. You can read from that one where the pigeon (‘Come on, I’ll give you five bucks’) wants to drive the bus. You can read the first (very funny) chapter of The Watsons Go to Birmingham out loud. Or you could read about the miracle of garbage trucks in I Stink! Who knows, you might even feel compelled to read aloud from Stinky Cheese Man. Some people do. The point is to show up and to read aloud, to celebrate stories and to celebrate the indies who work so hard to put our stories in the hands of readers.” [Publishers Weekly, ABA, Shelf Awareness]
AWP organizers were confronted by an outraged populous this week when—only nine days before the conference’s start—they announced that the final day of the bookfair would not be open to the public, thereby breaking from tradition and likely impacting their vendors’ sales (historically, Saturday has yielded the highest sales figures for many merchants). On Monday, February 17, AWP tweeted, “To clear up some misinformation, the AWP Bookfair is not open to the public this year because of Seattle tax reasons.” According to the letter sent to all exhibitors, the decision was made in order to “help exhibitors avoid paying taxes to the City of Seattle.” In their message, the AWP reps went on to say, “The City of Seattle has some of the most complex and punitive tax laws for conventions that we have ever seen.” This announcement put non-members in the position of shelling out $285 for a ticket should they still desire to explore the fair. Perhaps more disappointing than the change itself was AWP’s previous silence regarding the matter, with AWP admitting to prior knowledge of the situation in a reply tweet to inquiring followers: “We did not just find this out, but we are sorry about it.” Indie authors and booksellers, in particular, felt a bit put-off by AWP’s lack of transparency on the issue, with The Rumpus Poetry Editor Brian Spears stating, “What bothers me so much about this whole incident is the lack of timely communication about the decision. If they’d said from the beginning, ‘Hey, we’re not going to open the book fair to the public in Seattle for these reasons, and here’s why we don’t think it’s going to be an issue, laid out the argument from the start, we wouldn’t be here right now,’ maybe a handful of presses would have decided not to come, but most would be there, because AWP is the biggest conference of its type. It’s the one that’s big enough to maybe justify the money you’re going to shell out to be a part of it. All we’re really asking is that you let us know the rules in advance.” Christian Teresi, AWP’s Director of Conferences, admitted to Buzzfeed that he and the AWP coordinators “should have absolutely announced the closure earlier,” going on to say, “When we originally made the decision [to open the book fair to the public], the conference was smaller. Now, given the significant growth of the conference, the normal attendance boost that was brought by that day is now negligible. Ultimately we have to abide by the law.” As it turns out, however, the law was malleable, and on Wednesday, February 19, AWP announced that the final day of the book fair had been re-opened to the public. This change was made possible through a negotiation with the City of Seattle, wherein—according to a follow-up letter sent to exhibitors—the Seattle Tax Office “enabled AWP to pay an aggregate tax on behalf of our exhibitors. This allows the public to attend the bookfair, with no additional costs to our exhibitors.” AWP concluded their latest announcement by stating, “The voices of AWP members, supporters, and exhibitors have been heard and were instrumental in achieving this goal. AWP is grateful to the City of Seattle Tax Office for its responsiveness to or community. We couldn’t be happier with this outcome.” [AWP, The Stranger, Buzzfeed]
(Dog-Eared and Dispatched will return on Sunday, March 9, following a one-week hiatus. Until then, we hope to meet many of you at AWP this weekend!)