DD Booksellers in Farmington, Maine, has remained a staple in the community since 1991. Proprietor Kenny Brechner tells us why.
We have a real emphasis on creative outreach here both through in store handselling and display, marketing, and community partnerships. Thematically we strive to convey an atmosphere of informed fun marked by love of reading, love of community and love of our customers, accompanied by strong book knowledge. Also, I think we have sensationally good children's sidelines.
What has been a successful author visit and why do you believe it was more successful than others?
It's hard to pick of course but in Fall 2011 the team of Jon and Pamela Voelkel barnstormed with me across all of Franklin County, which is geographically immense if sparsely populated, doing three school districts, six events in two days. They were the most dynamic presenters I've ever seen, wonderful people, and we reached and connected with every 4th-8th grader in the area, more than 2,000, many of whom had never been to an author event before. It was fun, high impact, memorable and meaningful, and we sold lots of books.
How much handselling do you do? What in your opinion makes a bestselling book?
Handselling is our mainstay here. We handsell all day long. I really believe in selling a book that we stand behind to the right reader. Even with toys we focus on demoing them and picking only toys that are really fun and a good value. In terms of bestsellers, word of mouth, good marketing, and author name recognition are very important but for a book to really catch fire it has to be a big experience to read that is broadly accessible as such.
How is DDG involved in the community?
We have many community related programs. We work closely with over ten school districts providing in school literacy outreach, such as galley review projects, book review contests, author presentations, in store fund raising projects for school libraries, and a local libraries wish list program. We also work closely with an array of local non-profits such as Literacy Volunteers, The Children's Task Force and Reading Rescue, and Support Our Schools. We cover the Visiting Writer's Series at the local University of Maine at Farmington, and do outreach with their Upward Bound program. Our newest program is called DDG Deserving Readers. This is a partnership with schools and non-profits to identify children who love to read but would never, due to family circumstances, be in position to own their own books. The program allows the recipients to be able to come into DDG and get $25.00 worth of books for their very own. DDG has been recognized with both The Pannell Award and The Maine School Board Association Business Friend of Education Award for our community outreach.
Personal Book recommendation?
Hmmn. I notice that is singular. A middle grade fantasy book I recommend all the time is The Blackthorne Key, by Kevin Sands. It has a richness of character and setting that makes its other strengths, strong action scenes and engrossing mysteries, all the more compelling. It also brings a very authentic historical backdrop into the story: the fascinating world of medieval apothecaries, which demonstrates that real history is the best partner a fantasy can have. Great stuff.
Michelle Nagler oversees chapter books through young adult, and primarily acquires commercial chapter books and middle grade—books that children will eagerly self-select, and that have staying power on school, library, and bookstore shelves. Her imprint is home to series including Magic Tree House, Junie B. Jones, and Nevergirls; the middle grade fiction of Chris Grabenstein, Bruce Coville, and Jennifer L. Holm; graphic novels like Babymouse and Hilo, and young adult novels by Tamora Pierce and Rachel Hartman. She also works on projects that overlap with the licensing division, like the #1 New York Times bestseller The Amazing Book Is Not On Fire.
Prior to joining Random House, Michelle was the Editorial Director at Bloomsbury, where she worked on the NAACP Award-winning picture book Our Children Can Soar, and with authors including Sarah J. Maas and Jessica Day George. Michelle began her career at Simon Pulse and Scholastic.
What is the acquisitions process for your group?
We do not have a committee or a formal acquisitions board in my group for most projects — we are more editorially driven. Typically an editor reads a submission, loves it, and brings it to our weekly editorial meeting to discuss. If we see potential in it, another editor does a second read, sometimes I do it. If the second reader agrees we should publish, I read it and the editor and I set a strategy for how we will position the book in the market. Then we run numbers and, hopefully, make an offer.
What elements does a manuscript need to have to grab your attention and keep you turning the pages?
I respond most strongly to a manuscript when there is an energy in the writing, and a freshness of some kind. The freshness could be in the voice, or in the elements of the story, or the characters’ point of view—but there has to be something that makes the book feel distinctive and memorable. I am not one for lengthy description, no matter how beautiful—I like it when the action keeps moving along, and I think most kids feel the same way.
When you do acquire a manuscript, what can an author expect between the time they sign a contract and when the book is published?
Oh, it will feel like eons, I’m afraid. Usually we work with the author on editing the book for six months to a year (though it can be really variable, depending on the author’s process and the editor’s schedule). Next, our design team starts working on the cover and any interior illustrations. Meanwhile the editor generates all the materials we need to position the book to our sales and marketing teams: title Information sheets, meta data, ARC copy, flap or cover copy, comp titles… Then we officially launch the book to the larger team—the sales, marketing, subsidiary rights teams…All the people who are going to present the book out in the world, to buyers and licensees. And then there is a series of meetings with those folks, to make sure they have what they need to go out and sell the book. All told, it is usually 18 months to 2 years. Though in certain “crash” circumstances, we can move much quicker.
What is it like working on both licensing and trade titles, and how are they different?
It is a total joy for me. Licensing divisions publish books based on existing characters or content—we license the rights to, say, Disney’s Frozen and work with the licensor to publish books based on the movie. We hire writers and work with them, but the stories they write are based on someone else’s property. On the trade side, the writers are usually writing their own stories. These two sides of our business used to operate fairly separately. But lately, we have been working on more hybrid projects that are driven in partnership by both the studios and the writers—both are bringing vision and creativity to the table in an unprecedented way, to everyone’s benefit—especially our young readers.
Follow Michelle on twitter @MichelleNagler