In less than a decade the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute (Wi) has arguably become the second-most important bookseller gathering in the U.S., after BookExpo America. For booksellers who find the BEA in New York City too far away, too expensive, or both, Winter Institute is tops. Part of the reason this conference has so rapidly become key is its intense focus on the business of selling books, coupled with its deliberately limited attendance—500 booksellers max. When booksellers arrive at this year’s conference—January 21–24 at the Westin Seattle—there will be no rights stands or publishers’ booths, just a galley room, consultation stations, authors eager to make bookstore connections, and several days of educational workshops and panels focused on the nuts-and-bolts of bookselling.

The fact that [registration] filled up within a month,” observes ABA CEO Oren Teicher, “is a wonderful vote of confidence. Our members continue to tell us that they think education remains ABA’s number-one goal. And every aspect of the Winter Institute is crafted with that in mind.” Conference attendees include not just store owners but front-line booksellers from stores of a variety of sizes. This year there will be 150 first-timers, including representatives from 45 stores that have never attended Winter Institute before, along with booksellers from nearly a dozen countries, many of whom will offer their insights on competition and changing consumer interests in a session on global bookselling.

One educational message that the ABA has been trying to reinforce for members over the past few years is the importance of adding higher-margin nonbook items to inventory. In addition to a course on Nonbook 101, the 2014 conference will co-locate for the second year in a row with a trade show, in this case the Seattle Gift Show (January 18–21 at the Washington State Convention Center). Urban Expositions, which runs that show, will provide a free shuttle bus to and from the Westin as well as lunch vouchers. It has also set aside a designated room on-site for Institute attendees. Given that Seattle is home to a number of great niche and general bookstores (see p. 40), ABA will be running tour buses of its own for those who would like to visit area stores, including Third Place Books, Eagle Harbor Book Co., and Queen Anne Book Company, before the conference officially gets underway. The opening night reception will take place in another of the area’s landmark bookstores, Elliott Bay Book Company.

The post-Christmas timing of the Institute gives booksellers an opportunity to recharge after a compressed holiday season during which a number had record sales. Plenary sessions like the opening breakfast with Dan Heath, coauthor with his brother, Chip Heath, of Decisive (Crown Business), are geared to helping indies make smart choices. Geno Church with Brains on Fire, the agency that helped ABA move from BookSense to IndieBound, and author of The Passion Conversation (Wiley), will lead a workshop on word-of-mouth marketing. At the small and independent press breakfast, scholar Ray Oldenburg, author of The Great Good Place (Da Capo), in conversation with Ron Sher, creator and owner of Third Place Books, will discuss why independent businesses matter.

Much of the programming is divided into tracks. Children’s booksellers can attend a series of presentations put together by the ABC Group at ABA that will cover YA literature, tween and teen advisory boards, in-store promotions, and Common Core. Those looking for bookselling basics can attend sessions on handselling, publicizing events, building B-to-B sales, and cash flow. And a group of advanced learning sessions will give booksellers an opportunity to discuss managing employees and to pitch their ideas for expansion. Book Industry Study Group executive director Len Vlahos, former ABA COO, will be at the conference in two capacities. He will present BISG data and launch his debut novel The Scar Boys (Egmont USA) with a multimedia presentation at the conference he helped create during his tenure at ABA.

Vlahos isn’t the only author doing double duty. The Seattle7Writers group, a nonprofit collective of more than 60 Pacific Northwest authors who support indie booksellers and librarians, will present a panel discussion on how its supports literacy organizations, including placing pocket libraries in homeless shelters. At the conference’s closing reception, the group will kick back, and their band, the Rejections (and Trailing Spouses), featuring writers Jennie Shortridge, Garth Stein, and Stephanie Kallos, will play covers, including “Paperback Writer.” Another 50-plus authors and illustrators will sign at the author reception, which will also be the site for a silent art auction to benefit the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression.

Authors and Books to Watch for at WI9

With more than 50 authors scheduled to be in Seattle, PW’s review editors compiled a list of some of the books they believe will be among the most important in 2014. And we asked each book’s publisher to tell us what the buzz is about.

Adult Authors

The UnAmericans by Molly Antopol
W.W. Norton
Feb. 2014; $24.95 hardcover
Why the buzz: “Molly Antopol is a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and was a recipient of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 award. We’re thrilled to be publishing both her debut story collection, The UnAmericans, and her forthcoming novel,” says Erin Sinesky, assistant director of marketing.
Publicity & marketing plans: 5-city author tour.
Opening: “No one wants to listen to a man lament his solitary nights—myself included.”

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
May 2014; $28 hardcover
First printing: 75,000
Why the buzz: “In her first memoir, Chast brings her signature wit and art to the topic of aging parents. With four-color illustrations, family photos and documents, and handwritten text throughout, all wrapped up in a unique cover treatment with high production values, Roz’s memoir will be a must-have for her legions of fans,” says Laura Keefe, director of digital and trade marketing.
Publicity & marketing plans: Pre-pub bookseller and blogger campaign; six-city author tour.
Opening: “Two things about my childhood: (1) I was an only child (2) My parents were a lot older than other kids’ parents.”

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
May 2014: $27 hardcover
Why the buzz: “This is one of the most gorgeous novels I have ever published, heartbreakingly humane and exquisitely observed,” says Scribner publisher and senior v-p Nan Graham. “For years, Anthony Doerr has been collecting awards for his short stories. This is his masterpiece, 10 years in the making.”
Publicity & marketing plans: Print, radio, and online advertising; five-city tour.
Opening: “At dusk they pour from the sky. They blow across the ramparts, turn cartwheels over rooftops, flutter into the ravines between the streets.”

Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth About Everything by Barbara Ehrenreich
April 2014; $26 hardcover
First Printing: 50,000
Why the buzz: “[This] is one of the most important books I have ever edited. It is brave, frank, exquisitely written, and as honest as a memoir should be. To me, this memoir—Ehrenreich’s first—is the definition of a Twelve book. It is intensely personal, but tackles big ideas that will start a conversation. I think it will rattle your world,” says publisher Deb Futter.
Publicity & marketing plans: Print advertising; radio satellite tour; seven-city author tour.
Opening: “Sometime in my thirteenth year, but a little before I actually achieved that age, things began to assemble themselves into what I called ‘the situation.’ ”

Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf
Harlequin MIRA
June 2014; $15.95 paperback with French flaps
First printing: 130,000
Why the buzz: “Gudenkauf’s first novel, The Weight of Silence, has sold over half a million copies. It spent 21 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was published in 20 countries. Her subsequent novels were also New York Times bestsellers. Heather’s latest is a taut, emotional, ripped-from-the-headlines drama about a social worker and a young girl whose lives cross in the most extraordinary and unexpected ways,” says publicity manager Emer Flounders.
Publicity & marketing plans: Advertising, including in-book ads in selected Harlequin MIRA titles; author tour; ABA White Box mailing.
Opening: “When people find out what I do for a living their first question is always about the most horrendous case of child abuse I’ve encountered.”

Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
June 2014; $26.99 hardcover
First printing: 100,000
Why the buzz: “This is our lead title of the summer. [It] is a muscular, hugely ambitious literary debut set against the vivid backdrop of the Montana wilderness in which Pete Snow, a troubled social worker barely on the right side of the law, tries to keep a dangerously paranoid survivalist from jeopardizing his family, even as Pete’s own family disintegrates,” says publicist Michael McKenzie.
Publicity & marketing plans: seven-city tour; advertising.
Opening: “The cop flicked his cigarette to the dirt and gravel road in front of the house, and touched back his hat over his hairline as the social worker drove up in a dusty Toyota Corolla.”

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles
William Morrow
April 2014; $27.99 hardcover
First printing: 400,000
Why the buzz: “This is a project that all of us at William Morrow and the extended HarperCollins family are extremely proud to be a part of. Bestselling author Greg Iles returns after a five-year hiatus with an epic novel that spans 40 years and unflinchingly captures the political unrest of a nation dangling between a chaotic past and an unpredictable future,” says publicity director Danielle Bartlett.
Publicity & marketing plans: Radio, print, and online advertising; TV and radio satellite tours; author appearances in the South; pre-pub online buzz campaign; consumer sweepstakes; early galley giveaways to consumers.
Opening: “Albert Norris sang a few bars of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Natchez Burnin” to cover the sounds of the couple making love in the back of his shop.”

Euphoria by Lily King
Atlantic Monthly Press
June 2014; $25 hardcover
First printing: 50,000
Why the buzz: “King delivers what we believe is her breakout novel. Known for her ability to explore the domestic lives of her characters, she now delivers a novel loosely inspired by the journals of Margaret Mead. Set in 1930s Papua New Guinea, Euphoria is the story of three young anthropologists caught in a love triangle that threatens their bonds, their careers, and, ultimately, their lives,” says Deb Seager, director of publicity.
Publicity & marketing plans: eight-city tour
Opening: “As they were leaving the Mumbanyo someone threw something at them. It bobbed a few yards from the stern of the canoe.”

The Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go
Simon & Schuster
April 2014; $26 hardcover
First printing: 60,000
Why the buzz:Steady Running was the big debut at the 2012 London Book Fair, and S&S’s publication will kick off an international publishing event. At 27, Justin Go dropped out of corporate America and moved to Europe to write and research this book. The result is a mesmerizing and wildly imaginative novel that combines history, romance, and adventure as it takes the reader crisscrossing through Europe and to the top of Mount Everest,” says senior publicity manager Sarah Reidy.
Publicity & marketing plans: eight-city author tour; online reading group guide; blogger outreach campaign; advertising; online promotions.
Opening: “The letter came by courier last week.”

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica
Harlequin MIRA
July 2014; $24.95 hardcover
First printing: 35,000
Why the buzz:The Good Girl is a blockbuster breakout literary suspense debut in the vein of Gillian Flynn and Tana French. With a fresh commercial voice and intelligent storytelling, Mary Kubica is poised to join the ranks of today’s top thriller writers,” says publicity manager Emer Flounders.
Publicity & marketing plans: Advertising, including in-book ads in selected Harlequin MIRA titles; author tour; ABA White Box mailing.
Opening: “I’m sitting at the breakfast nook sipping from a mug of cocoa when the phone rings.”

Seven Wonders by Ben Mezrich
Running Press
August 2014; $26 hardcover
First Printing: 100,000; movie rights to 20th Century Fox for a film to start shooting shortly
Why the buzz: “Bestselling author Ben Mezrich is most well-known for his riveting nonfiction—Accidental Billionaires and Bringing Down the House. Seven Wonders is his first fiction in more than a decade, and it’s worth the wait. His new novel is a fast-paced, globe-trotting thriller that’s rife with historic secrets, conspiracies, intrigue, and plenty of adventure,” says marketing coordinator Geri DiTella.
Publicity & marketing plans: Print advertising; author appearances; blog tour to mystery and thriller sites; blogger outreach.
Opening: “Three a.m. It was five days into a fierce New England heat wave, the scattered trees lining Mass Ave. bowed and weeping, desolate sidewalks glistening, tar black asphalt leaking wisps of steam into the thick, humid air.”

Praying Drunk by Kyle Minor
Sarabande Books, dist. by Consortium
Feb. 2014; $15.95 paperback original
First printing: 10,000
Why the buzz: “The minute we tore into this manuscript, we realized it was exactly the book we’d been dying to read. We’re always looking for fiction that pushes boundaries, and Praying Drunk is completely riveting in its content and form,” says Kristen Radtke, director of marketing and development.
Publicity & marketing plans: Advertising; 15-city tour; IndieBound Advance Access program.
Opening: “We begin with the trouble, but where does the trouble begin? My uncle takes a pistol and blows his brains out.”

The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness
Penguin Press
Jan. 26; $26.95 hardcover
Why the buzz: “Patrick Ness is an award-winning YA author, and this is his first adult title,” notes publicity manager Samantha Choy Park. “John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars, has called Patrick Ness ‘an insanely beautiful writer.’ ”
Publicity & marketing plans: seven-city tour.
Opening: “What actually woke him was the unearthly sound itself—a mournful shatter of frozen midnight falling to earth to pierce his heart and lodge there forever, never to move, never to melt—but he, being who he was, assumed it was his bladder.”

The Noble Hustle by Colson Whitehead
May 2014; $24.95 hardcover
First printing: 50,000
Why the buzz: “Madly in love with this—on the surface it’s a book about playing poker, but it’s shot through with threads of memoir. I can’t think of anyone smarter or funnier than Colson Whitehead,” says Ruth Liebmann, v-p, director of account marketing.
Publicity & marketing plans: Author tour; print and Facebook advertising; giveaway memorabilia from Whitehead’s poker team.
Opening: “I have a good poker face because I am half-dead inside.”

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Algonquin Books
April 2014; $24.95 hardcover
First printing: 75,000
Why the buzz: “The prepublication excitement surrounding [this book] has been electric. The galley features four pages of rave reviews from booksellers from around the country and a letter of endorsement from Books & Books owner Mitchell Kaplan,” says director of marketing Craig Popelars. “Foreign rights have now sold in 21 countries. This enchanting and surprising novel about bookstore owner A.J. Fikry is bound to steal the hearts of millions of readers.”
Publicity & marketing plans: 20-city tour; poster; pre-pub campaign with extensive galley distribution; print and online advertising; double newsletter co-op; social media, including online profile of the novel’s fictional bookstore.
Opening: “On the ferry from Hyannis to Alice Island, Amelia Loman paints her nails yellow and, while waiting for them to dry, skims her predecessor’s notes. ‘Island Books, approximately $350,000.00 per annum in sales, the better portion of that in the summer months to folks on holiday,’ Harvey Rhodes reports.”

Children’s Authors

Graduation Day: The Testing, Book 3 by Joelle Charbonneau
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
June 2014; $17.99 hardcover
YA; ages 12 and up
First printing: 75,000
Why the buzz: “It’s the final book in the the Testing trilogy, a house favorite and a series we’re all passionate about. The first title, The Testing, was a #1 Kids’ Indie Next List pick, and recently made its debut on the New York Times bestsellers list,” says executive director of publicity Karen Walsh.
Publicity & marketing plans: Author appearances; blog tour; print and online advertising; promotional pens; educator guide; floor display
Opening: “A knock makes me jump.”

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Scholastic Press
Feb. 2014; $16.99 hardcover
Middle grade; ages 8-12
Why the buzz: “There’s a passage in A Snicker of Magic that encapsulates our feelings about Natalie Lloyd’s exquisite debut," says Mallory Kass, editor at Scholastic Press. “ ‘The way he said her name made my heart cramp. I can very often tell how much a person loves another person by the way they say their name. I think that’s one of the best feelings in the world, when you know your name is safe in another person’s mouth. When you know they’ll never shout it out like a cuss word, but say it or whisper it like a once-upon-a-time.’ This book has utterly enchanted us, and we couldn’t be more excited to see it cast its spell over readers!”Publicity & marketing plans: Author appearances; “word collecting” activity booklet and magnet sheet.
Opening: “ ‘They say all the magic is gone up out of this place,’ said Mama.”

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Delacorte Press
May 2014; $17.99 hardcover
YA; ages 12 and up
First printing: 75,000
Why the buzz:We Were Liars is the perfect opportunity to present E. Lockhart as a teen author with major crossover potential. Our goal is to grow her current teen fan base and broaden it to include an adult readership,” says Lauren Donovan, senior publicist, social media specialist at Random House Children’s Books.
Publicity & marketing plans: Extensive ARC distribution; pre-pub author buzz tour; floor display; chapter sampler giveaway; author appearances; advertising.
Opening: “Welcome to the beautiful Sinclair family.”

Five Kingdoms: Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull
March 2014; $16.99 hardcover
First printing: 250,000
Middle grade; ages 8-12
Why the buzz: “We’re excited to be releasing this adventurous new fantasy series from our #1 New York Times bestselling author, Brandon Mull,” says Teresa Ronquillo in marketing.
Publicity & marketing plans: Pre-pub buzz campaign; major ARC distribution; author tour, including signing at ALA annual meeting.
Opening: “Weaving down the hall, Cole avoided a ninja, a witch, a pirate, and a zombie bride.”

I’ll Never Let You Go by Marianne Richmond
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
March 2014; $16.99 hardcover
Picture book
Why the buzz: “Marianne Richmond has the rare gift of creating emotional, thoughtful stories that people of all ages will appreciate forever, and with I’ll Never Let You Go she’s at her best. Marianne’s children’s books have the ability to speak straight to a parent’s heart while entrancing young readers,” says senior publicity manager Heather Moore.
Publicity & marketing plans: Advertising; author appearances.
Opening: “Edward and Blankie met on the first day of Edward.”

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
March 2014; $17.99 hardcover
First printing: 75,000
Why the buzz: “We are very excited to be the publisher of The Winner’s Curse. It’s got an awesome heroine, a heart-pounding romance, and a beautifully drawn world. And it always makes us excited when every single person in-house is swept away by a book the way our team has been by this one,” says Allison Verost, director of publicity for Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.
Publicity & marketing plans: Fierce Reads national author tour along with festival/trade show appearances; pre-pub buzz campaign, including specially designed ARC box mailings and book trailer; advertising.
Opening: “She shouldn’t have been tempted.”

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
Feb. 2014; $18.99 hardcover
Why the buzz: “Grasshopper Jungle has been an in-house favorite at Penguin since it was launched by Dutton publisher Julie Strauss-Gabel. This utterly original novel will intrigue, shock, and disturb you, and we think it has the potential to be one of [the] year’s most talked-about books. It’s Vonnegut meets District 9 meets Lost, with a healthy dose of Starship Troopers thrown in,” says Penguin Young Readers Group executive director of publicity Shanta Newlin.
Publicity & marketing plans: Early manuscript mailing; postcards at fall book festivals; galley giveaways to consumers; blog tour with “Unstoppable Corn” t-shirt giveaways; author appearances.
Opening: “I read somewhere that human beings are genetically predisposed to record history.”

The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos
Egmont USA
Jan. 2014; $17.99 hardcover
YA; ages 14 and up
First printing: 50,000
Why the buzz: “We were excited about The Scar Boys from the start for its straightforward yet moving portrayal of the healing power of music. But the overwhelming support from the indie bookstore community—including the #1 spot on the Winter Kids’ Indie Next List and a 20-plus city tour—really sent this book over the top for us,” says Michelle Bayuk, associate sales and marketing director.
Publicity & marketing plans: 20-plus city author tour; 10-day blog tour; discussion guide.
Opening: “Please write an essay of 250 words on the topic of your choice.”

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
March 2014; $17.99 hardcover
First printing: 100,000
Why the buzz: “There has been an incredible amount of in-house excitement for [this book] from the moment the manuscript circulated. It is hard to believe that this is Leslye Walton’s debut novel. She can best be described as a wondrous new talent and discovery. It is pretty thrilling to be part of the launch of what we predict will be a very big literary career,” says Laura Rivas, associate director of marketing, publicity, and events.
Publicity & marketing plans: Global English-language laydown; advertising; author appearances; extensive ARC distribution; an ABA New Voices pick for Spring 2014
Opening: “To many, I was myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel.”

The Young World by Chris Weitz
Little, Brown
July 2014; $19 hardcover
First printing: 250,000
Why the buzz: As publicity director Jennifer Corcoran notes, this is the first novel from the director of Twilight: New Moon, The Golden Compass, and other films. The story takes place, she says, “after a mysterious Sickness wipes out the rest of the population, [and] the young survivors assemble into tightly run tribes. Jefferson, the reluctant leader of the Washington Square tribe, and Donna, the girl he’s secretly in love with, have carved out a precarious existence among the chaos. But when another tribe member discovers a clue that may hold the cure to the Sickness, five teens set out on a life-altering road trip to save humankind.”
Publicity & marketing plans: Author tour; print and online advertising; consumer sweepstakes; blogger outreach; extended free preview at e-tailers; exclusive digital extras; floor display.
Opening: “It’s another gorgeous spring day after the fall of civilization.”