Laurie Hertzel is senior editor for books at the Star Tribune, where she has worked since 1996. She is the author of "News to Me: Adventures of an Accidental Journalist," winner of a Minnesota Book Award.

Augsburg College author gets the 'Colbert bump'

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel under Book news, Local authors Updated: July 22, 2014 - 4:39 PM
Stephan Eirik Clark

Stephan Eirik Clark. Augsburg College photo by Stephen Geffre

A second debut novelist got the "Colbert bump" last night on the "The Colbert Report"--this time it was St. Paul author Stephan Eirik Clark, who teaches at Augsburg College. His novel, "Sweetness No. 9"--which will be published Aug. 19--was recommended on the show by novelist Edan Lepucki.

Overnight, his book shot up from being unlisted on Powell's Books best-seller list, to number three.

Lepucki was paying it forward; her own debut novel, "California," became a New York Times best-seller after Colbert recommended it a few weeks ago as part of his attack on Amazon.

Colbert's love for first-time Hachette authors and disdain for Amazon stems from an ongoing dispute between the publishing group and the internet retailer over e-book pricing. Authors and customers are caught in the middle, as Amazon has severely restricted sales of Hachette books. (This includes books published by Grand Central, Little Brown, Hyperion, and others, and it includes authors J.K. Rowling, Kate Atkinson and David Baldacci. It also includes Lepucki and Clark--and Colbert.)

Not-yet-published Hachette books, such as Clark's, are listed on Amazon as "currently unvailable," with no option for pre-ordering. Other Hachette books face five- and six-week delays in shipping. Colbert has asked his viewers to buy books--specifically, Hachette books--from independent booksellers, and his first recommendation was for Lepucki's "California." He challenged viewers to make it a best-seller, and they did.

"Is there another Hachette author that you'd like to recommend?" Colbert asked Lepucki night. "I'm reading Stephan Eirik Clark's 'Sweetness No 9,' which is sooo good," Lepucki said. (She later said on Twitter that the book is "funny, moving, like DeLillo crossed with AM Homes.")

Clark said this morning that when his publisher and agent told him yesterday that his book would be bumped on the Colbert Report, he was left uncharacteristically speechless.

"You'd think I would burst out with an excited speech, but I just didn’t have anything to say," he said. "It was too good for words."

Clark's first book, a collection of short stories called "Vladimir's Mustache," was a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award. "Going with a small press for my collection, I didn’t expect to find readers," he said. "I’ve experienced the absence of readers, and so it’s encouraging to think that this one might find a readership, and I'm extremely grateful."

Put down that book and get online

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel under Book news, Libraries Updated: July 16, 2014 - 1:59 PM
The James J. Hill Reference library in downtown St. Paul.

The James J. Hill Reference library in downtown St. Paul.

You know you should get off of Facebook and go read a book. But what book? A person can get lost forever in the stacks. Well, you no longer have any excuses: On Monday, Facebook will spend two hours giving you book suggestions in real time. Not Facebook as in Mark Zuckerman (does he even read?), but Facebook as in three friendly librarians from the St. Paul Public Library, who will be standing by with thousands of book titles at the ready.

Every so often--the last time, I think, was last fall--the St. Paul librarians monitor a live chat on Facebook, answering your questions and offering suggestions for your next great read. All you have to do is leave a comment on the page (which is here), and within seconds a librarian will answer you. This is no automated Amazon-type "Readers who bought this book often bought this other book," algorithm. This is real librarians, all with tidy gray buns, glasses, and multiple cats, digging around in their card catalogs and brains, just for you.

OK, I'm kidding about the buns and glasses cliche. (That wasn't even true in 1975, when I worked in a public library.) The St. Paul Public Library has a pretty fun Facebook page, actually, with pictures of jazz musicians and Asian dancers and little kids building birdhouses, and, for some reason, pictures of people doing yoga, as well as far too many alerts as to bookmobile cancellations due to snow, but don’t get distracted! Stay on task!

Leave a comment on Monday between 4 and 6 p.m. telling them what books you’ve liked, or what you’re interested in reading about (yoga! birdhouses! jazz! snow!) and the librarians will consult their Magic 8 ball (that is, other librarians) and respond. After that, of course, it's up to you.

Club Book fall season includes Sue Miller, Nikki Giovanni, Amy Bloom

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel under Author events, Book news, Club Book Updated: July 9, 2014 - 12:12 PM
Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni

The fall series of Club Book will begin in mid-August with a visit to Roseville from Lev Grossman, author of the wildly popular 'Magicians" trilogy, and wind up two months later with poetry in St. Paul. (Nikki Giovanni at the Arlington Hills library.)

Club Book is a free author series that is designed to bring great writers throughout the entire metro area and suburbs. It is funded through the Legacy Amendment and is coordinated by Library Strategies, which is part of the Friends of the St. Paul Public Library.

Here's the whole list for this season:

Lev Grossman, author of the bestselling "Magicians" trilogy. The final book of the trilogy, "The Magician's Land," will be published in August. He's here Monday, August 11, 7 p.m., Roseville Library, 2180 N. Hamline Ave., Roseville

Amy Bloom, whose third novel, "Lucky Us," will be published in the fall. Thursday, August 14, 7 p.m., Galaxie Library, 14955 Galaxie Ave., Apple Valley

Louise Penny, mystery writer and author of the popular Armand Gamache series. Winner of five Agatha Awards, an Edgar Award, and many other awards. Her new novel, "The Long Way Home," will be published in August. Saturday, August 30, 2 p.m., Prior Lake Library, 16210 Eagle Creek Ave. SE, Prior Lake

Jennifer McMahon, author of many best-sellers, including "The Winter People." Thursday, September 11, 6:30 p.m, Chanhassen Library, 7711 Kerber Blvd., Chanhassen

Sue Miller, author of "The Arsonist," "The Good Mother," "Inventing the Abbotts," and other best-sellers. Thursday, September 25, 6:30 p.m., Central Park Amphitheater, 8595 Central Park Pl., Woodbury

Hampton Sides, Author of "Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King Junior," and other books. His new book, "In the Kingdom of Ice," will pub this fall. Monday, October 13, 7 p.m., Southdale Library, 7001 York Ave S., Edina

Julie Klassen, Twin Cities author of Regency-era romances and a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award. Tuesday, October 21, 7 p.m., Rum River Library, 4201 6th Ave., Anoka

Rebecca Rasmussen, Author of "The Bird Sisters," and of the new novel, "Evergreen," which is set in Minnesota. Thursday, November 6, 7 p.m., Stillwater Public Library, 224 3rd St. N., Stillwater

Nikki Giovanni, author of more than twenty collections of poetry and ten books for children. Thursday, November 13, 7 p.m., Arlington Hills Library and Community Center, 1200 Payne Ave., Saint Paul

Hillary Rodham Clinton to appear at Common Good Books on July 20

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel under Author events, Book news Updated: July 8, 2014 - 2:58 PM

Former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will sign copies of her new book, "Hard Choices," at Common Good Books in St. Paul on Sunday, July 20. She will be there for two hours, from 2:15-4:15 p.m., and will autograph up to 1,000 books.

Five hundred books an hour? "She can do it. She's been practicing," said Common Good Books events manager David Enyeart.

"Hard Choices" is a memoir about Clinton's years as secretary of state under President Barack Obama, and it has been on the New York Times bestseller list.

Because of the short time-frame, tickets are available in person only--no phone or Internet orders--beginning Saturday, July 12, at Common Good Books, 38 S. Snelling Av., St. Paul. The store will be closed to other business on the day of Clinton's appearance.

ABC News has gathered clips of "surprising moments" from Clinton's book tour, including encounters with Katy Perry and a Republican squirrel, which you can watch here.

Financial pressures will end World Book Night USA.

Posted by: Laurie Hertzel under Book news, World Book Night Updated: July 2, 2014 - 8:37 AM
Kate DiCamillo signs books for fans at a 2012 Magers & Quinn World Book Night party. That year DiCamillo's "Because of Winn Dixie" was given away.

Kate DiCamillo signs books for fans at a 2012 Magers & Quinn World Book Night party. That year DiCamillo's "Because of Winn Dixie" was given away, as was Leif Enger's "Peace Like a River." Both writers attended the event.

It will be sad to see World Book Night USA go. It was a crazy, ridiculous, beautiful scheme that sought to give away a million books every year on one specific day in April. The organizers quickly scaled back their goal to 500,000 books a year, but that's still a tremendous number, and over three years of giving they had a lot of success.

Every April since 2012, volunteers all over the country gave away boxes and boxes of books to anyone who wanted them, no strings attached.

In a press release this morning, though, the organizers have announced that because of financial pressures, they will cease operation in the United States. (The event began in Great Britain and Ireland four years ago, and spread to Germany for one year.)

"For three years, the publishing industry and book community have very generously footed the bill and contributed enormous time and effort, and we are so very grateful for all the support," the press release stated. "We did receive some funds via individual donations, and we worked very hard to get grants. We did get some, but there are a lot of other worthy causes out there and only so much money available. We can't carry on without significant, sustainable outside funding."

Each year, World Book Night chose 30 titles for giveaway. Publishers absorbed the cost of printing special editions of the books, authors waived their royalties, and volunteers signed up to hand out the books--at community clubs, city parks, homeless shelters, nursing homes, taverns, schools and other public places. Bookstores and libraries served as book depots, housing the titles until giveaway night, and hosting parties for givers and authors.

Titles by Minnesota writers Leif Enger, Kate DiCamillo, Garrison Keillor, Cheryl Strayed and Peter Geye were among those given away over the years. 

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