Tuesday, April 22, 2014

when great colleagues retire: 50 plus reasons I will miss Adena Siegel

Because she’s the smartest rep in the book business, period.
Because she understands both the craft and the art.
Because she really loves university presses, especially Harvard/MIT/Yale.
Because she embraces the contradiction that good books come into the world as works of imagination, culture and beauty, but have to live there as commodities.
Because she sees that selling them can be both pain and privilege.
Because she’s never forgotten her retail roots, and sees our mission through the eyes of a bookseller.
Because, nevertheless, she knows that our main obligation is to our Presses, which sometimes require a different lens.
Because she’s also never forgotten that, ultimately, we are representing an author and a book.
Because, better than any rep I know, she balances these three sometimes competing imperatives with aplomb.
Because she works to really get the book as step one; the rest follows.
Because she brings her real self into the job, the room, the appointment.
Because when buyers check their calendars to see which reps they’re seeing tomorrow, Adena’s name makes them smile. not groan.
Because she pays attention to an uncelebrated but crucial rep necessity: the right shoes.
Because of the post sales conference hours we spend processing the deluge of information and making sense of it.
Because I’ve never had better laughs than I’ve had with Adena.
Because of her scrupulous attention to detail.
Because of her standards and work ethic- though she makes it not seem like work.
Because our midseason check in- what’s working, what’s not- is one of my favorite rituals.
Because of her tireless behind the scenes advocacy for booksellers, and to booksellers.
Because she understands in her bones how publicity works.
Because she always knows the right people to call to solve a problem, or will track them down.
Because she believes in telephones, and talking to people.
Because she asserts herself, and assumes her place at sometimes intimidating tables.
Because this confidence leaks out and bolsters her colleagues, and we feel more able to speak because of her.
Because she won’t be bullied, neither by self-important authors nor surly hotel staff.
Because she knows what she wants, and can order a coffee drink or a nice meal with exquisite precision.
Because she thinks on her feet.
Because she has informed reactions- to jackets, marketing plans, expectations.
Because she also has moral and political reactions to the contents of books.
Because she’s a human being.
Because she loves Chicago.
Because she’s not a luddite but she has a healthy skepticism about the digital turn.
Because she’s willing to take chances and expects others to be.
Because she’s had the kind of career- an honorable living in books- that seems to be melting into air.
Because I wouldn’t have considered leaving bookselling and taking this job without her.
Because she made me see that I could do it.
Because blunt is in her toolbox: “Five copies?  Twenty-five!
Because her booksellers can’t say they weren’t warned about the hottest book of 2014.
Because of her passion for and taste in art
Because of her same for blues, jazz, R&B
Because, ditto, her cats.
Because, Steve.
Because she loves the road and she loves coming home from it.
Because she has had some life experiences that might surprise people.
Because she talks and listens.
Because on our road trips from Cambridge to New Haven between sales conferences we’d always stop at Rein’s delicatessen.
Because she’s old school, but conversant with new.
Because we share frustration, sadness and anger about certain aspects of book world.
Because she’s a friend, mentor and colleague, and the lines are all tangled.
Because of her loyalty and collegiality.
Because she has an excellent and long memory.
Because she’s queen of the perfect gift, and the thoughtful gesture.
Because if the book business is to survive it will need more Adena's.
Because she will be embarrassed by this list.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Congress to Vote April 1 on $750 Billion Book Bailout

Recognizing the central and irreplaceable role books have played in American history and culture, and taking note of the unprecedented economic pressures that have made the survival of books an open question, Congress acts today to save the book for future generations.

Key components of the bailout legislation include:

-    A bookshop in every city of 25,000 or more.  Low cost loans made available to get these shops open by the end of the year.  The bigger the city, the bigger the investment;

-    A library in every community, open and staffed 24 hours a day.  Special supplementary grants to bring collections up to date;

-    Establishment of a National Bookselling and Publishing Academy, with the stature of West Point- a prestigious institution with a faculty consisting of the best minds in the field, and a student body of professionals who will graduate with the long-term support of their government for their career in books;

-    A National Reading Corps, to consist of thousands of unemployed workers who will be trained to fan out to communities across the country this summer.  They will conduct story-times and promote books and reading at schools, playgrounds, nursing homes, hospitals, community centers- wherever people gather.  The goal is nothing short of a fully literate population;

-    A National Author Tour in the fall, funded by the government, that would put one thousand authors on the road for six weeks, with readings and events in every corner of the country, with special emphasis on inner city neighborhoods, small towns and rural areas that have never seen a live author.  These events would leave a new functioning bookshop in every location;

-    A massive investment in translated books, with generous subsidies to publishers who undertake bringing the world’s literature to American readers at affordable prices, and raising the percentage of international books translated into English to 20%.  Conversely, we will hire and fund a Book Corps (modeled on the Peace Corps) that will fan out across the globe with the mission of spreading literacy, helping local bookshops get established, and making American books available everywhere;

-    The New Baby Book Bonus: henceforth, the family of every child born in the US will receive a voucher worth $500 for the first, and subsequent twelve, years of the child’s life.  This voucher would be redeemable for books purchased at a bookstore, with the goal of establishing a home library in every American household.

[I came across this 2009 piece among a batch of old folders, author unknown. Sad that it seems like an April Fool's idea.]