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1. The 100 most sought after out-of-print books of 2014

Today we published the 2014 Bookfinder.com Report which features the 100 most sought after out-of-print books in America.  The big surprise this year annual report was that after years on the throne the Queen of Pop (Madonna)’s photographic escapade "Sex" was finally knocked off the top of the list, and the book(s) that took its place may surprise you.  There were in fact two, and you can read about them here.  What I wanted to talk about on the blog, however, are some of the usual suspects there were some interesting additions and subtractions to this year’s list.

Back In-Print:

Labyrinth-smith-2014
2014 edition

Avid readers will notice that A.C.H Smith’s Labyrinth novelization is noticeably missing from the top end of the report; the book has been a part of the BookFinder report since 2010 and was finally re-published in April as Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and contains updated cover art.  I’m not sure the books target age group would have any idea who David Bowie is anyway.  According to reviews the books both stay quite close to the movie’s plot line however the novel replaces Bowie’s musical interludes with additional dialogue; and Smith also draws out the dialogue in a number of scenes.

Another graduation was In A Dark Place: The Story of a True Haunting by Ray Garton who’s book has been on the BookFinder.com Report since 2008.  The fact that it was republished December 31st 2014 left me on the fence as to whether I should remove it from this year’s list, but considering precious few of you would have gotten to read an in-print copy in 2014 I decided to leave it on this year.  In 2009 the book became the basis for the hit film The Haunting in Connecticut (starring Virginia Madsen).

New to the BookFinder.com Report

An American Exodus: A Record of Human Erosion by Dorothea Lange this book was featured heavily in the photographer’s episode of PBS’s American Masters series (snippet below) which aired late August 2014.  The full episode covered Lange’s five decades photographic work which documented Great Depression, the Dust Bowl and World War II Japanese internment camps and more.  You can find a wide array of Dorothea Lange’s other work on BookFinder.com.

Another new, and timely, entry to the list was Margin of Safety by Seth Klarman.  The books author, who has been singled out by Forbes as one of the most successful hedge fund managers of recent years, was quoted numerous times this year after his 2013 year end investor letter was leaked online.  In the letter he preaches caution and warns of today’s stock markets being too bubbly, and that today's investors should take warning.  The fact that his track record for posting huge growth has remained in tact all these years has lead to his 1991 out-of-print value investing opus to fetch four figures, when you can find it.

Every year I find stories about these books buried within the list, and every year I also miss some amazing stories.  Read the full list and let us know any of your interesting stories about the books within.

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2. Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups by Stephanie Clarkson & Brigette Barrager

Rare is the princess picture book that I find worth reviewing here. In fact, I even find the "anti-princess" picture books not worth mentioning. However, I LOVE fairy tales and I couldn't resist  reading Sleeping Cinderella and Other Princess Mix-Ups by Stephanie Clarkson, with illustrations by Brigette Barrager. Clarkson takes four well known fairy tale princesses and imagines them fed up

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3. Gingerbread Spies and Magic Pencils - Two Book Birthdays!

Mara Rockliff's latest picture book, GINGERBREAD FOR LIBERTY, is the delicious (and true!) story of the baker who helped save the American Revolution.

Christopher Lutwick was a German immigrant and, in the 1770's, a vocal advocate of revolution as well as possibly the most celebrated and popular baker in Philadelphia. When the war broke out, though he was too old for fighting, he was determined to help, and his friend George Washington made him the "baker general" of the army. He also had an even more significant, albeit more secretive role... to talk starving Hessian soldiers working for the British into abandoning the King. And he could do it because he was a former starving Hessian soldier himself.

This remarkable tale shines a light on a little known figure of the Revolution who worked alongside George Washington and the other heroes we all know about. And the scrumptious illustrations by Vincent X Kirsch are the icing on the gingerbread!

"This appealing concoction is a powerful reminder of the good one person can do." -- Kirkus

"A sweet addition to Revolutionary War units." --School Library Journal, starred review

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4. The Messy Monster Book by Rachel Ortas

The Messy Monster Book by Rachel Ortas had me with the title alone. Even better, I discovered that Ortas is the co-creator and Creative Director of OKIDO, a very cool art and science magazine for kids. Follow the link above and you can see a sample of the bi-monthly, which is packed with activities (experiments, songs, recipes and crafts using cutouts from the magazine and found items) and

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5. Five Memorable Train Journeys

Some train journeys I don't remember. Thankfully not for the same reasons as the protagonist of The Girl on the Train — in my case, I was simply too young to recall the first time I ever got onto a train (a trip from Durban to Umhlali in South Africa, I'm told). I don't remember [...]

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6. Animalium curated by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom, 112 pp, RL: 2

Animalium, curated by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom, is the newest, biggest book from the fantastic Big Picture Press and is the first in their "Welcome to the Museum" series of books. It has also made many "best of 2014" book lists. There are hundreds of books about animals out there for kids, but Animalium is set apart - and far above  -from the rest because of the museum concept employed

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7. Poetry Friday: The Sea-Wash by Carl Sandburg

The sea-wash never ends.
The sea-wash repeats, repeats.
Only old songs? Is that all the sea knows?
Only the old strong songs?
Is that all?
The sea-wash repeats, repeats.
- The Sea-Wash by Carl Sandburg

Related posts at Bildungsroman
Fog by Carl Sandburg
Pigeon by Carl Sandburg
Potomac Town in February by Carl Sandburg

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.
View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.
Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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8. Blown Away by Rob Biddulph

I fell in love with Blown Away, the debut picture book by Rob Biddulph after only a few page turns. First of all, Biddulph, the award-winning art director for the Observer magazine, has written a rhyming picture book that I actually like! His text is haiku like at times, short bursts of well chosen words. It never feels forced, as so many rhyming stories do, and its simplicity suits the

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9. South of the Border, West of the Sun

Following the coming-of-age of Hajime, a lonely only child, into his young adulthood, marriage, and adult life, South of the Border, West of the Sun is a melancholy tale of a life of longing. Exploring love, attraction, sexuality, and happiness, Murakami's brilliant novel visits a marriage on the knife-edge of disaster. The tension, the indecision, [...]

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10. The Powell’s Playlist: Ned Beauman

I did have a playlist that I listened to over and over again while I was writing Glow, but three years on I'm a bit bored of those songs, which got their final blast at my book party in London last year. So here are the B-sides, so to speak: other good songs by the [...]

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11. From Musician to Novelist

I was asleep on the floor of the magicians' apartment. Not one, but three magicians lived there, and their mysterious, mischievous, and sometimes macabre props surrounded my living-room floor futon. A straitjacket hung on the coat rack, a mini-guillotine sat over the fireplace, a mechanical monkey poked out from behind the couch, and an artificial [...]

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12. The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency: The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford, illustrated by Kelly Murphy, 203 pp, RL 4

**This book really got my wheels spinning and I found that I had a lot to say about it before even getting to the plot. Skip to the third paragraph if that is what you came for...** Despite my love of girl detectives and historical England, I have to admit that I felt a bit more skeptical than excited when The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency: The Case of the Missing Moonstone arrived at

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13. Logrolling in Our Time*, or, You Can't Take Blurbs With You

Blurbs. You know,  those little quotes about how awesome an author or their book is that are often on book jackets or in advertisements? Like: "Author is a certified genius and this book is a revelation!" Yeah. Those little tricky devils are the cause of no small amount of angst for all parties concerned. So here are some blurb facts and some blurb etiquette that might help. (Maybe).

FACT: * Pretty Much Everyone Hates Blurbs. * I'm gonna go out on a limb and say the majority of people in the publishing industry LOATHE blurbs. Agents and editors and publicists and their ilk know how hard they are to get, and more than that, how little most of them are worth. Authors generally dislike being in the position of begging for favors OR having favors begged of them. The process of blurbery can cause anything from mild stress to genuine anguish in its victims. :(

FACT: * Blurbs Are Mostly Worthless. *  Did I say "how little most of them are worth"?? Am I implying that Blurbs are mostly WORTHLESS? Well... no. I wasn't implying it, I was saying it. I mean look: If you are lucky enough to get a blurb from an extremely well-regarded author in your genre, you might get some of their fans to perk up when they see it. But those fans are PROBABLY fans of the genre in general, and they probably already knew about your book or would have come across it anyway, and nobody is going to read it JUST because of the blurb.

It's much more likely that a personal recommendation or review from an author - on their twitter, blog, vlog or whatever - will bring the book to fan attention. The blurb that is in the catalogue or on the back of the book is only good if somebody has already picked up the publishers catalogue or the book to look at it. So, you know, it's SUPER NICE,  but there isn't any proof that blurbs really help move the needle, sales-wise.

I've spoken to hundreds of readers, booksellers, librarians and others, and the fact is, the vast majority of the time, the blurb is not the deciding factor about whether or not they spend time and money on a given book. It's just not.
 

FACT: * Sometimes They're Not Worthless. * I can see the value of a blurb from a LEGIT FAMOUS PERSON that may help you get customers you wouldn't normally get. There are a few "legit famous person" authors: John Green, Neil Gaiman, Judy Blume, and maybe a handful of others. A blurb from one of these people may translate to a buy from some of their fans, and that is not anything to sniff at. Most famous people, of course, are NOT authors.

I am in the publishing industry, I already knew about the book X: A NOVEL, read it in galley form with no blurbs attached. But even I, hardened and cynical, raised an eyebrow in appreciation at the nice blurbs from Chris Rock and Muhammad Ali. These quotes, if printed in advertisements in mainstream publications (ie, NOT trade publications like PW that only industry people read) will likely catch the eyes of people who aren't "the usual suspects" -- customers that DON'T normally shop in the YA section or have a clue about kids books, but who will be attracted by these very high-profile endorsements.



FACT: *Blurbs Aren't Going Anywhere. * - For better or for worse, this practice of trying to get blurbs for nearly every dang novel that comes out seems to be a trend that is lasting. Part of it, I think, is that success is so ephemeral. Nobody knows what exact combination of factors causes a breakout book. Is it about Great reviews? Word of mouth? Right place right time?  Pure dumb LUCK? Or what? WHAT? Everybody wants to catch this lightning in a bottle. But there is very little that is actually within the publisher or authors' control.

You can write the best book possible. That's in your control. But virtually nothing else about the process really is. And ultimately, even the biggest, fanciest publisher can't make people write reviews or talk the book up or influence the Great Beyond to work on the books behalf. They can make a great looking package, but they can't force people to buy or read it. They can spend money on marketing but they can't guarantee that it will DO anything. So "getting blurbs" at least makes people FEEL like they are doing something to encourage the success of the book. And it probably doesn't hurt at least, so what the hey.

Here's how to live with it, with less stress:

ADVICE: * If you are a BLURBEE * - that is to say, a person whose work is in the publication pipeline, who is seeking blurbs: If the subject doesn't come up, you really don't have to bring it up. If your publisher isn't anxious about this, you shouldn't be either. (See "mostly worthless", above).

BUT, if/when the subject DOES arise, I suggest working with your agent and editor to brainstorm a list of possible authors to approach for endorsements. These should be authors that you think are actually appropriate for the material at hand -- so I would not suggest a picture book author to blurb an edgy YA. It just doesn't make sense.  It makes logical sense that your book should appeal to the same audience as the person who is potentially endorsing you.

So you have your list of awesome, appropriate names that you brainstormed. Now you and your agent and editor figure out who will approach whom. The person with the strongest connection to that author (or their agent or editor) should be the person to approach. You as the author should NEVER have to "cold-call" (cold email?) people you don't have any connection to. Nor should you ever be asked to make the request if it makes you feel uncomfortable. When in doubt, your editor should approach their editor or agent.

YOU MIGHT HAVE WEIRD FEELINGS. Like: a) They'll feel sorry for me, as they know what it's like to "need" a blurb;  b) They'll be put on the spot and feel like they "have" to blurb and then hate me; c) They'll have to say no and then feel guilty. DO NOT FEEL WEIRD. This is just part of the process. Nobody will hate you. Nobody will give a blurb unless they are genuinely able and willing to do so. And if they aren't, that's OK. Blurbs are nice, but a lack of a blurb has never killed anybody.

If you are approaching somebody - whether they are your BFF or just somebody who you know tangentially, or even a total stranger - take Curtis Sittenfeld's advice and be polite, succinct, and pre-emptively let them off the hook.  DO tell them what the book is about, and why you think it is a fit, but do so briefly. Don't say no FOR them obviously - but don't be offended or upset if the answer IS no. When you are more famous, people will be asking YOU for blurbs, and you'll remember this experience.


ADVICE: * If you are a BLURBER * - that is to say, a person who is being approached for a blurb: Value your own time and sanity. If you are on deadline or just busy with life stuff, or hell, if the book just doesn't sound interesting to you, nobody can be offended by your saying No. If they are offended, they are jerks.

YOU MIGHT HAVE WEIRD FEELINGS. Like, a) I feel sorry for the author, and I know what it's like to "need" a blurb;  b) I'm worried the author will find out I was asked and said no and then hate me; c) I'm worried if I say no this fancy classy editor will hate me. DO NOT FEEL WEIRD. This is just part of the process. Nobody will hate you. If you have time and ability and are moved to do so, by all means do it! But if not, that's OK. Blurbs are nice, but a lack of a blurb has never killed anybody.

My Personal Blurb Rules: 1) You should genuinely like the book and want other people to read it. 2) It should fit your "brand" or target audience. Would you recommend this to the same people who buy your book? 3) Don't be a "blurb whore" - if you blurb everything, your endorsement will stop being meaningful.

Your blurb rules may vary, but whatever they are, if you want to avoid burnout, I suggest you and your agent come up with a blurb plan. Perhaps it is that you NEVER blurb, or you will only blurb one book per season or year. You can always reserve the right to CHANGE that blurb plan, you aren't locked into it with manacles, but if you are approached unawares, it will give you a handy excuse to say no if the stars aren't aligning, and you can always make your agent into the bad guy. "Ah, my agent doesn't want me to blurb until my deadlines are passed" or "Oh, my agent says only one book per year, sorry!" (Agents are fine with being the bad guys). 

But if the book does sound great, and you do have the time, and you do read it and love it -- well, what the heck. If you CAN do it and WANT to do it, by all means do! Nothing will make an authors day/month/year more than kind words from an author they admire.

Did I miss anything? What are YOUR blurby feelings?



*PS: If you are too young to get the title reference: in the late 80's/early 90's there was a satirical magazine called SPY that had a feature called "Logrolling in Our Time" that showed blurbs that famous people gave each other. Quid pro quo, Clarice. (And if you're too young for THAT reference, don't tell me).

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14. Story Thieves

In this tender and amusing story, Bethany, who is half-fictional, is looking for her fictional father by entering books. Meanwhile, Owen wishes to star in a book series. They form a reluctant friendship and encounter characters from books who are never quite sure who they are. Books mentioned in this post Story Thieves #1: Story [...]

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15. How to Fly a Horse

Drawing on countless examples of innovators and inventors, Ashton reminds us by example that creativity depends on hard work and perseverance, with a splash or two of genius topping off the mix. You might not reinvent the wheel after reading this, but you will be energized and inspired to exercise your creative muscles. Books mentioned [...]

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16. Firefight (The Reckoners #2)

You'll lose yourself in this riveting post-apocalyptic series in which the villains all have superpowers and the rebels committed to fight them are a motley crew of humans. If you haven't read Sanderson's Steelheart, DO IT — so you can dive into Firefight. Books mentioned in this post Firefight (Reckoners) Brandon Sanderson New Hardcover $18.99

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17. The Case of the Missing Moonstone (The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency # 1)

A delightfully clever start of a new mystery series, The Case of the Missing Moonstone brings together a young Ada Lovelace (the world's first computer programmer) and Mary Shelley (Frankenstein author) as they form a detective agency and become unlikely friends. The book combines humor and tenderness with a sprinkling of historical facts, making for [...]

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18. Required Reading: Books That Changed Us

We tend to think of reading as a cerebral endeavor, but every once in a while, it can spur action. The following books — ranging from inspiring biographies to evocative fiction to instructional guides — motivated us to step out of our comfort zones and make significant, lasting changes in our lives. ÷ ÷ ÷ [...]

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19. A Possum's Tail by Gabby Dawnay & Alex Barrow

A Possum's Tale by Gabby Dawnay and Alex Barrow is a gem of a book that reveals something new with every reading. Both work for the very cool OKIDO, the Arts & Science Magazine for Kids, where Barrow is the Art Director and Dawnay is a contributor. Set in a 1950s London A Possum's Tale begins with Samuel Drew and his dog (a wooden toy dog on a string) out for a stroll. Samuel passes

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20. The Big Blue Thing on the Hill by Yuval Zommer

The Big Blue Thing on the Hill is by Yuval Zommer, who comes to the world of picture books after many years as a creative director at some of the world's top advertising agencies. His debut is wonderful, and the story reminds me of a bit of the picture books of the environmentally conscious, animal friendly Bill Peet. Zommer's illustrations are full of energy and a little bit kooky,

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21. On Trimming Roses

Gardens do not wait. Weeds grow and flowers wilt. In the days and weeks following my father's death, my parents' garden continued to flourish and demand our attention, for plants do not know grief. When it came to our garden, my parents were a team. My father — dyslexic, spatial thinker, and dreamer — looked [...]

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22. The Powell’s Playlist: Mary Helen Specht

Migratory Animals is mostly set in Texas during the first years of the most recent recession, when the cast of characters — an eclectic group of college friends now in their 30s — are coming to the realization that, in a world of shrinking resources, a good education is no longer enough to ensure an [...]

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23. After Dark

Somewhere between the edge of sleep and wakefulness, After Dark resides. Told in one evening, with chapters indicated by time-stamps, Murakami's tale of both somnambulists and insomniacs is still, stark, and seductive. With a bonus delicious, "thriller-ish" story thread, After Dark is a little slice of Murakami heaven. Books mentioned in this post

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24. Julia's House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke

Ben Hatke has written a picture book! Julia's House of Lost Creatures has all that makes his graphic novel trilogy, Zita the Spacegirl, Legends of Zita and The Return of Zita, absolutely winning - strong girl character, cute (and sometimes creepy) creatures and a strong sense of family - and more. Hatke begins Julia's House of Lost Creatures with the sentence, "Julia's house came to

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25. Poetry Friday: The Sea-Weed by Elisabeth (Cabazza) Pullen

The flying sea-bird mocked the floating dulse:
"Poor wandering water-weed, where dost thou go,
Astray upon the ocean's restless pulse?"
It said: "I do not know.

"At a cliff's foot I clung and was content,
Swayed to and fro by warm and shallow waves;
Along the coast the storm-wind raging went,
And tore me from my caves.

"I am the bitter herbage of that plain
Where no flocks pasture, and no man shall have
Homestead, nor any tenure there may gain
But only for a grave.

"A worthless weed, a drifting, broken weed,
What can I do in all this boundless sea?
No creature of the universe has need
Or any thought of me."

Hither and yonder, as the winds might blow,
The sea-weed floated. Then a refluent tide
Swept it along to meet a galleon's prow-
"Land ho!" Columbus cried.

- The Sea-Weed by Elisabeth (Cabazza) Pullen

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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