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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

WOODIN | Finding His Bio in a Bookstore

Autobiographies are shelved in this bookstore by last
name of the author. Franklin and Eleanor is also
shelved under the author, i.e., Rowley.
My previous post showed where one would look for biographical information in a library.

This is about where a biography of Will Woodin might be found in a bookstore.

The bookstore I have examined in detail is the Vero Beach Book Center in Vero Beach, Fla. It is the only listed independent bookstore between Orlando and Palm Beach.

Biographies in Author Order

Chernow's Hamilton is next
to the story of a Holocaust
survivor, Chiger.
You won't find nearly as much in a bookstore as in a library about genealogies of families or small areas. The reason is that these books are not big sellers and space is at a high premium in bookstores, which tend to be in prime commercial space. Biographies can be big sellers. But in a bookstore, they can be harder to find:
  • In a library, biographies are shelved by name of the person who is the subject of the biography.
  • In a bookstore, biographies are shelved by author, not the name of the biographee–except for  autobiographies, where the authors are also the subjects.
Didion is next to Keynes because
Daugherty is next to Davenport.
So comparative shopping among biographies may be hard to do. Hence Franklin and Eleanor (see photo at top), by Hazel Rowley, is between autobiographies of Karl Rove and Donald Rumsfeld. Biographies of FDR could be shelved anywhere in the alphabet.
Some books have the covers facing out. (At the new
Amazon store in Seattle, all covers face out.)

TV tie-in
helps.
Bookstores feature some books by showing their whole cover facing out.

In the new Amazon bricks-and-mortar store in Seattle (with another in the pipeline in San Diego), all the books face out, as shown on the first page of the Business Section of the NY Times on Saturday and in an article in GeekWire.

Bookstores are less concerned about having many biographies as having the ones that people are looking for. Some biographies sell themselves based on their subjects, like Prince Philip or Teddy Roosevelt.

FDR is next Lincoln's cabinet
because both are by Goodwin. 
It helps if the biographee is a television personality like Regis Philbin or the late Roger Ebert, or  a classically famous author like Mark Twain (his "Autobiography" is actually a collection of his writings).

A good bet for sales are books about royalty in the news, like [Prince] William & Catherine [Kate Middleton] or William and Harry.

Note from the photos of the shelves how important it is to have a cover that can be read quickly, in large type.

From all of the above, it seems that a book about Will Woodin would have to have FDR in the name, to establish Woodin's closest connection to fame today. Treasury Secretary is a long title and by itself does not establish Woodin's importance.

A title like How Roosevelt and Woodin Calmed the Banks gets the subject matter across. If this could be tied into the election-year debate about Glass-Steagall, even better.

Woodin's name is so little known that a title might be better not including it, as in FDR's Money Man. This conveys that Woodin was the person to whom FDR delegated all the money problems that the country faced when FDR was inaugurated:
  • The need for greenbacks.
  • The need for more liquidity from the  Federal Reserve.
  • The need for gold (gold reserves were declining).
  • The long-term need for fiscal spending to reduce unemployment.
American History Books in Author Order

Another approach to shelving a biography of Will Woodin would be to put it under American History. It would most likely go chronologically between books on the Crash of 1929 and books on the Great Depression. It belongs exactly next to a book on FDR's First Hundred Days. Here are some key books that evaluate the First Hundred Days and the New Deal, starting with the three most recent, two of which sought to knock the New Deal from its pedestal:

2007. Amity Schlaes, Amity. The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression (Harper Collins).
2006. Alter,  Jonathan. The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope (Simon & Schuster).
2003. Powell, Jim. FDR’s Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great  Depression (Crown Forum).
1999. Kennedy, David M. Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press).
1993. McElvaine, Robert S. The Great Depression: America, 1929-1941 (New York: Random House).
1989. Anthony Badger, The New Deal: The Depression Years, 1933-1940 (Ivan R. Dee).
1963. Leuchtenburg, William E. Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal, 1932-1940 (Harper & Row).
1958. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., The Age of Roosevelt: The Coming of the New Deal (Houghton Mifflin).

1939. Moley, Raymond. After Seven Years (Harper Brothers).

Better Place: Business Books

Banks and banking never fail to
draw business interest. The
business reader wants a takeaway.
A better place to be than in American History is the Business Section of a bookstore. These books will be found at airport newsstands and get reviewed in places where book-buyers will find them – the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, The Economist, Forbes etc.

Business books need a takeaway. Business buyers want to be educated so they can do their jobs better.

A book on Will Woodin fits the criteria. 


The Big Short updates 1929-33
 to 2008-2016.
Woodin was a Main Street executive, the top executive in a company town, Berwick, Pa. His company was swept up in the merger boom of the 1890s. Originally named Jackson & Woodin, the company was renamed American Car & Foundry in 1899, and it gobbled up other railway car manufacturers to become the largest car manufacturer in the country. It benefited greatly from New York City's new subway system and then the commuter rail boom. 

In 1928, Woodin was CEO of one of the 20 companies in the Dow. He was also Chairman of another company in the Dow, American Locomotive Co. The rise of his company is a history lesson of the 100 years leading up to 1929.

Woodin's second act was as confidant and financier of FDR's ascent to the presidency and then as the man who carried out the calming of a panic-stricken country. In addition to creating liquidity, FDR and Woodin got through the Glass-Steagall deal to insure bank deposits while preventing speculators from having access to the insured deposits. The Glass-Steagall Act is often cited but few people understand how and why it was enacted.

Even Better Place: Staff Picks
A better place for a book is in a section called "Staff Picks", where  bookstore staff pick out books they like or think their customers will like.

To get here, presumably one would have to establish a connection between the customers and the subject matter. So a book on Will Woodin could be promoted to staff in bookstores in Pennsylvania, where he came from, and New York and Washington, D.C., where he went.

Another way to get a bookstore to pick the book would be to establish a local connection in another way. Two of Woodin's children retired to Vero Beach, for example, and he has many descendants who still live there. Tucson and Sedona, Arizona also have Woodin grandchildren in residence.

Best Place: Best Sellers

The best place to be–and libraries also offer these shelves–is on a best-seller shelf.

This is harder to maneuver onto. The shelves are filled based on periodic consultation of a standard ranking system, such as the New York Times Book Review section, which has weekly rankings of the nationally top-selling books in fiction and nonfiction as well as other categories.

Biographies routinely make it onto the best-seller list. The shelf at right includes recent biographies of Jefferson, the Wright Brothers, Reagan, Clementine Churchill and the Koch Brothers (Dark Money).

The inclusion of two books on Vero Beach and Palm Beach suggests they are on a local (Florida? Southern Florida?) best-seller ranking.