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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Tennis, anyone? Pt. 4

The final day of qualifying at the US Open tennis was Friday, August 21, and my assistant Eddie joined me for the day.

After getting a mint ice from the Lemon Ice King of Corona, I headed over to Court 8. I did do some quick research to try and select my first match of the day because there wasn't a player going from the day before on my wannasee list for that one, and Court 8 had an 18-year old Lithuanian, Ricardas Berankis, going against the German journeyman Bjorn Phau. Phau was of little interest to me, but maybe the 18-year old was a rising star worth catching. No such luck. The match was so boring that I suggested midway thru the first set that we move from the bleachers at one side of Court 8 to the lower seating on the other side between Court 8 and 9 so we could watch Gianluca Naso and Robert Smeets at the same time. Why was Phau/Berankis boring? Well, neither player hit with a lot of pace. Neither was playing very well, with more of the points being won by errors than by winners. Phau ended up winning in three sets, but I wasn't sure the better player had won, since they were close to equal from the back of the court but Berankis had a slightly fuller game with occasional net approaches. Still, Ryan Harrison at 16 would have it over Berankis, I think. Smeets/Naso was a little bit better, with Smeets actually doing serve-and-volley (i.e., coming in right away to play from the net instead of from the back of the court) on a pretty consistent basis and won 6-4 and 7-6, with a tight 10-8 tiebreak in the second and deciding set.

Next off to Court 15 to watch the Portuguese player Rui Machado against Italy's Flavio Cipolla, whom I'd seen the day before. This was a distinctly better match than the first two which was won by Machado, a 24-year old with a peak ranking of #200, in two sets, the first 7-6 (7-5 in the tiebreak) 6-3. It seemed to me that both players were hitting with a little more pace, showing a little more variety and a little more of an all-court game. I told Eddie that I felt Machado had the best chance to advance in the tournament of the players we saw, though of course this is always somewhat dependent on the luck of the draw.

My next match was a journeyman German Philipp Petzschner against a journeyman Brazilian Thiago Alves which was most distinctive for the German losing the 2nd set tie-break 7-0 to lose the match. And he fought really really hard and really really gallantly to get the 2nd set to a tie-break, too.

The day concluded with Gilles Muller defeating my guy Tobias Kamke of Germany in 3 sets, 6-3 4-6 6-2. Darn! Experience does often win out in these circumstances.

So this wasn't the best year I've had at the qualies, no player I saw whom I'm expecting great stuff for in the main draw, but I am intrigiued by Ryan Harrison, by Chase Buchanan, by Franco Skugor for future years. And I'll endeavor to do a post to keep you abreast of how my qualifiers did fare in the tournament itself.

I did some bookstore research afterwards, walking thru Flushing Meadows Park and then up Jewel Ave. and down Union Turnpike to the Fresh Meadows Barnes & Noble, then the Q31 bus and a walk down Bell Blvd. to the B&N in Bayside. One of my top authors is being horrendously under-ordered and mis-ordered at B&N, and it's very frustrating. The Fresh Meadows store has an automatic replenishment for the first book in the series, but is expecting a 0 copy initial order of book #3, which I think could sell 2500 or 3000 copies its first week and make the extended NY Times list. Of course, it will have a hard time selling that many copies when one in five B&N stores is getting 0 copies to start with. Then at Bayside, they do not have any copies of the first book in the series and do not have any automatic replenishment in place for it, but they are getting 2 copies of the 3rd book. I have around 40 books that sell worse than this which are automatically replenished at (virtually) every B&N, but here they are going to try and sell the 3rd book at a store where nobody can buy the first, while at the other store the series is important enough to be sure the first book is on hand but not so important they'll allocate a copy of the third on. There's always a first time, and in 20 years in the business this is the first time I've seen B&N so totally blowing it on a book and author so certain to be very very Big. & yes, this has been discussed at length with the publisher, and the publisher tells me they've discussed at length with B&N. And I could go on at great length to discuss why B&N is behind the curve on this, and why it's so difficult to get it changed, but this is one of those cases where some of the good stuff has to be left out of public view. If I'm ever in your neck of the woods, and you're able to give me a ride to a Whole Foods or a bookstore or something...


Maria said...

Be happy to drop you at Whole Foods if you're in Austin again. :>) I know my local BN is perhaps the most frustrating bookstore I have ever visited (although the independent in town is a close second.) They used to get magazines in for me (BlackGate) from another store. Now--nope, gotta drive 20 minutes and get it myself. They will order books for me (but always encourage me to pay the shipping and have it sent directly to my home) but they will not take bookmarks or bookplates from authors (even when they carry the author's books.)

Their hit/miss. Sometimes when I walk in, there seems to be no one in the store except one lonely checkout person. If I need help (ie want to order something or can't find something there is no one to ask.) Then when I find someone, inevitably they don't know how to "find" it either...

I've been doing a lot more of my book shopping online. In fact, the vast majority I now do online. It's just less hassle.

Lisa Iriarte said...

I sympathize with your bookstore dilemma. Recently, I went looking for a book by an author friend of mine. It was release day. The first bookstore was a Borders. They had the book in their computer, but not on the shelf. They could not find it in the storage room, either. Then, came a Barnes & Noble. They did not have it on the shelf and were so unhelpful that we moved on to a third store. This was a second Barnes & Noble. Again, it was in the computer but not on the shelf. However, they went in the back and found it for me. When first week sales are so important, it is frustrating to know that many of the stores don't even stock books on release day. (By the way, it was nice to meet you in person at WorldCon, even if it was only for a moment.)

Lisa Iriarte