Some of the freshest summer reading often comes from independent presses, where there's a willingness to experiment with emerging genres like "spook lit" for teens, or inventive fiction by young authors. On the nonfiction side, some of the summer's most promising picks are category benders, like Yul Brynner's son's memoir, which adds celebrity gloss and historical dimension to a compelling family story, and Devyani Saltzman's mother-daughter memoir from Newmarket, which has an unconventional movie connection.
Kiki Strike:Inside the Shadow City
by Kirsten Miller
Bloomsbury (Holtzbrinck, dist.), June$16.95 hardcover; 50,000 first printing
Within the first 50 pages, associate publisher Victoria Wells Arms was hooked on this debut novel for 10- to 14-year-olds, featuring six delinquent Girl Scouts, a secret city below Manhattan and a girl superspy called Kiki Strike. "The voice is fresh and the characters are unusual," says Arms, who anticipates that slightly older teens will also be attracted by the book's cover and lively style.Bloomsbury's campaign is the largest to date for its children's division, and will start with teaser postcards and a galley mailing to top accounts, Book Sense stores and Baker & Taylor's YA list for public librarians and retailers. Next month, Miller will do a five-city pre-pub buzz tour to Minneapolis/St. Paul, the Bay Area, San Jose, San Diego and Los Angeles, as well as BEA. After pub, there will be another tour (venues to be announced) and radio, teen magazine and Web site giveaways of "I am Kiki Strike" T-shirts.
by Charlie Price
Roaring Brook Press/Deborah Brodie (Holtzbrinck, dist.), May$16.95 hardcover; 50,000 first printingHaving found this debut mystery for ages 12 and up "a smart, funny, very clever page-turner," novelist Chris Crutcher (King of the Mild Frontier) brought it to Roaring Brook's attention. The house snapped up this tale of a lonely boy who likes to talk to the dead and hears a voice that he thinks belongs to a missing cheerleader, though he has to convince others to believe him.
Now publisher Simon Boughton is faced with a similar conundrum. How to persuade booksellers that kids who are drawn to TV shows like Ghost Whisperer and Medium will want to read this creepy book, which he's positioning at the forefront of the new teen genre he's dubbed "spook lit"? The house printed 1,500 ARCs and sent several hundred of them in mini-coffins to booksellers and the media. In addition, Roaring Brook is planning a three-pronged promotional campaign involving spooky banner ads on teen Web sites and radio giveaways, starting at publication in May, then in July for summer reading, and again in October for Halloween.
Water for Elephants: A Novel
by Sara Gruen
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, June 2$23.95 hardcover; 25,000 first printing
"I stay in this business because I keep falling in love," says executive editor Chuck Adams, whose latest object of affection is a novel that recounts a love story—with an elephant—against the backdrop of a circus struggling to survive during the Depression. The Algonquin staff was so certain that booksellers would love the book, they brought Gruen to the ABA Winter Institute. Though the novel is Gruen's third, it's her first to be published in hardcover, following two mass market originals from HarperTrophy (including the USA Today bestseller Riding Lessons).
Since the house mailed 1,500 galleys, dozens of booksellers have contacted Algonquin to praise the book, which is written from the perspective of a 92-year-old man looking back on his life. "It's amazing that someone so young could describe what it would be like to be an old man," said Vivian Tackett, book and sidelines buyer at Brace Books & More in Ponca City, Okla. "I couldn't put it down." Gruen will appear at BEA and tour to Ann Arbor, Milwaukee and Chicago and possibly the West Coast.
Confessions of a Memory Eater
by Pagan Kennedy
Leapfrog (Consortium, dist.), June 2$14.95 paperback original; 10,000 first printingKennedy's most recent book, the biography Black Livingstone: A True Tale of Adventure in the 19th-Century Congo (Viking, 2002), won a Massachusetts Book Award Honor, and her novel Spinsters (Serpent's Tale, 1995) was shortlisted for Britain's prestigious Orange Prize. So why is she back with a small press, this one owned by writers Ira Wood and Marge Piercy and based in Wellfleet, Mass.? It has to do with Kennedy's connection to Wood, whom she met when he published a friend of hers, Arne Tangherlini.
To get the word out about the new novel—which features a once-promising historian who becomes a guinea pig for a drug that allows him to forget the present and relive the best moments of his life—Wood printed 500 bound galleys and is planning an online Memory Contest. There's also an ambitious ad campaign that includes Salon.com, Temerarious.net, BOMB, the Boston Phoenix, the Village Voice, Utne Reader and Ms.. Kennedy will do signings in Boston, Amherst, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Shooting Water: A Memoir of Second Chances, Family, and Filmmaking
by Devyani Saltzman, afterword by Deepa Mehta
Newmarket Press (Norton, dist.), May$23.95 hardcover, 15,000 first printingThough based on the author's work as a still photographer on the film Water and timed to coincide with the movie's April release by Fox Searchlight, this memoir is not an official tie-in. The book, which PW described in a starred review as "lush, evocative... emotional but never cloying," could just as easily have been called Second Chances, says publisher Esther Margolis. It recounts how Saltzman attempted to reweave her frayed relationship with her mother, Deepa Mehta (the director of Water), years after Salzman chose at age 11 to live with her father when her parents divorced. The other second chance occurred during the filming of Water, which was halted when rioting broke out in India, until Mehta secretly finished it in Sri Lanka four years later.
Newmarket hopes to get the promotion right the first time around, with Salzman's tour tying in with Mehta's promotional schedule for the film, along with stops at BEA, ALA, the L.A. Times Festival of the Book and the Ann Arbor Book Festival.
Empire and Odyssey:The Brynners in Far EastRussia and Beyond
by Rock Brynner
Steerforth (Random House, dist.), Apr. 3$29.95 hardcover, 10,000 first printingThis unusual celebrity biography/family saga traces four generations of the Brynner men, from author Rock Brynner, a historian who also was a road manager for the rock group the Band; to his father, the Oscar-winning actor; to their Vladivostok forebears. Historian John J. Stephan, who contributed a blurb along with actor James Earl Jonesand Muhammad Ali, likens it to "The Forsyte Saga of the Russian diaspora, an absorbing story of an extraordinary family adapting to changing times." (See Q&A with Brynner on page 58.)
For Steerforth publisher Chip Fleischer, the book is emblematic of the press: it's a category bender by a media-savvy author who's been on Good Morning America and Larry King. It contains more than 160 photographs, including eight pages in color, yet it also is a solidly researched history. Steerforth is doing a Book Sense white box mailing and is planning a tour to Washington, D.C., New York City and Los Angeles.
by Linda Medley, intro. by Jane Yolen
Fantagraphics (Norton, dist.), May 24$29.95 hardcover; 7,000 first printingMedley's Castle Waiting comics series, which retells classic fairytales and received two prestigious Eisner awards, has been a cult favorite for more than 20 years. This 456-page hardcover with deckled edges collects the two previously self-published Castle Waiting collections along with substantial new material. To position the book for a wider audience, Fantagraphics added an introduction by writer Jane Yolen, who describes Medley's graphic novel as "a feminist fairy tale with attitude, heart, imagination, laughter, love and truth."
As part of its largely grassroots promotion, Fantagraphics mailed 500 galleys to booksellers and adult and children's librarians. The house, which is located in Seattle, is also planning a West Coast tour, with a stop at the San Diego Comic-Con in July. Fantagraphics will advertise in the Comics Journaland will cross-promote Castle Waiting with a new comics series by Medley in July.
Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die!
by Mark Binelli
Dalkey Archive Press, July 25$14.95 paperback original; 10,000 first printingThis debut novel by Rolling Stone contributing editor Binelli is one of only a half dozen books that Dalkey has plucked from the slush pile since its founding 22 years ago. Binelli says that Dalkey is his dream publisher (because they are the publishers of Gilbert Sorrentino), and it looks like Binelli might become Dalkey's dream author. Based on early orders, the house is doubling its usual first printing for this reimagining of the infamous archivists as slapstick comedians and silent film stars who rise to fame, only to see their careers decline amid controversy.
Dalkey will make use of Binelli's media connections at its first ever pre-pub lunch for him, in April. Although Dalkey is not given to blurbs, it can't resist using what it sees as an "anti-blurb" promoting Binelli as the journalist Britney Spears once decried for his rudeness. "He made me come across in such a horrible light," she wrote. "You suck, reporter! And I'm not afraid to say that, because he was really wrong. He hurt my feelings."