Monthly Archives: June 2013

Sometimes It Is a Yellow Book

Josie Leavitt - June 28, 2013

I know I’ve gently teased bookstore customer who come in and ask for a particular book by describing it. Often the description of a book is not all that helpful in finding it, especially if said book was last seen by the customer six months ago in a display.
But yesterday found me working alone, and very busy. A lovely customer wanted two books, both of which the computer said we had. They were hardcover picture books. So, already that limits where these should theoretically be found. As any bookseller knows, books, even picture books, can roam far and wide in a store, so they can still hard to find. Looking for a book when the store is full can be a vexing issue, if the book is nowhere to be found.
As I scoured the shelves for Ain’t Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont, I grew increasingly frustrated. It wasn’t until the very patient customer said, “It’s bright yellow,” that I was able to find it, shelved in with the F’s. Sometimes having a color to look for is actually helpful. Our inventory system gives a lot of information: type of book, hard or soft cover, what section it should be in, and what kind of book it is: history, fiction, etc. If there’s time, we’ll often go to our books in print database to get an image of what the book looks like. It’s enormously helpful to know not only the words of what you’re looking for, but the color of the spine as well.
So, the next time you come to a bookstore with sketchy title information, just know that knowing the color of the book sometimes is really helpful. Except when the yellow book is actually blue.

Anatomy of a Day, Or, Why We Haven’t Yet Answered Your Email

Elizabeth Bluemle - June 27, 2013

When most people imagine a day working in a bookstore, they have a somewhat idyllic notion of a quiet workplace involving customer service, shelving, and a little paperwork. Perhaps there’s a cat, and a comfy chair, and some reading during the quiet moments. The real thing is more like handling triage in a lively E.R. without (one hopes) the life-or-death consequences.
Yesterday was a busy day at The Flying Pig. There were three of us on the afternoon shift from 2-6 pm, and the constant, if mostly controlled, whirlwind of activity made me wish everyone knew what a day at the store really looked like from the inside. At the end of the day, I mentioned this to my cohorts on the floor, Sandy and PJ, and asked them to try to remember all of the things they had done during their shift.
The following is what we actually remembered doing. Note: this is an incomplete list; the task was much like trying to name all of the contents of one’s refrigerator. We got the majority of items, but there are of course bunches of parsley and half-limes and hunks of Parmesan and foil-wrapped lasagne leftovers and A-1 sauce forgotten on the backs of shelves and the corners of drawers.
Sandy’s list was from a full day; PJ and Elizabeth’s lists each covered a four-hour period.
Sandy’s list

  • Pick books for Story Hour
  • Recommend for 5-year-old girl with older brothers a book that “has beautiful language and illustrations and is good for girls but not too girly”
  • Recommend great vacation read that is “very well written but not too heavy” for a woman “who has read everything”
  • Give directions to Massachusetts (Mapquest, print out)
  • Track down why a customer’s order did not come in as expected
  • Talk with drop-in magazine writers about why Shelburne is a great place to live and visit
  • Read to children at Story Hour
  • Help a mother find where her daughter had dropped her toy
  • Receive a book order shipment
  • Shelve the books that have come in
  • Call customers to let them know their orders are in
  •  Recommend birthday gift books for a husband “who already buys everything he wants to read”
  • Ring up customers
  • Wrap gifts
  • Change burned-out light bulbs
  • Help a visiting family locate a nearby playground
  • Field promotional cold calls for “owner or manager”
  • Answer multiple calls asking about book availability
  • Call Ingram to find out when they expect to get in a backordered title
  • Help a group of children who love books and have read many of the best ones find new volumes
  • Try to figure out why inventory says we have 2 (negative 2) copies of a title when we actually have 3 on the shelf
  • Help a father find books for his preteen daughter who “hates to read” and automatically loathes anything her father suggests
  • Make recommendations to a young woman who wants “a good romance.” After getting excited about several books, she states she does not want any today, just wanted ideas
  • Clean up the mess left by a large group
  • Try to figure out the order of a series that has no numbers and a child wants #8-10
  • Help a customer find a massage in the area
  • Print out this week’s bestseller list
  • Rearrange bestseller shelves accordingly
  • Code discounts for books new to bestseller list and remove code from those not on bestseller list any more
  • Check on-hand quantities of all bestsellers and place books from the list that we are in short supply of on purchase orders, deciding how from the distributor and how many from publisher
  • Find good choices for the holes in: Book Group Picks, Great Summer Reads, Staff Picks, adult, youth, and picture books
  • Research best audiobooks to have on hand for the summer
  • Check the cash, credit card, check, and gift card numbers and make sure everything adds up correctly
  • Take trash to dumpster
  • Close

PJ’s list

  • Re-did four window. displays: spring reads to summer, spring kids picture books to summer picture books, grad gifts to outdoor books and gifts, recent fiction to great books for camp
  • Helped customer find book for two-year-old (loved Flora and the Flamingo)
  • Re-shelved tons of picture books left out by two large families
  • Rang up customers
  • Helped a great-grandmother find a book for her great-grandson (Loren Long’s illustrated version of Watty Piper’s The Little Engine That Could)
  • Called publisher to report receiving 4 copies of a book we’d ordered 2 of
  • Shelved receiving
  • Wrapped gifts
  • Re-did display on Flying Pig table and front case by window
  • Recycling to dumpster

Elizabeth’s list

  • Review applications for events and marketing position to determine next steps for each candidate
  • Talk with author dropping in to sell hiking/nature books
  • Recommend books to well-read kids looking for new fantasy titles
  • Get catalog online from puzzle vendor; sort through puzzle styles and difficulty ranges to build opening order; email rep to ask about per-style minimums and pricing
  • Take three avid, articulate, enterprising young readers to ARC shelves to choose books to take home and read, then share their opinions with us
  • Open and receive six envelopes from publishers, each holding two copies of various titles we’d ordered
  • Call publisher to report paperback damaged in shipment
  • Peruse Above the Treeline to look at indie top sellers for April-June 2013 and place titles we’re out of and want to restock on orders — titles we need by the weekend on distributor order; titles we can wait a few days for on publisher orders
  • Welcome longtime customer who lives two hours away, chat about books
  • Edit series titles in database to make recent series additions consistent with title and volume information
  • Help customer figure out title of book she heard about on the radio
  • Call sideline vendor to get our freight charge for a received order to reconcile and post
  • Fix price gun (labels sticking)
  • Review day’s customer online orders, place titles on purchase order and tag for customers
  • Finish pricing greeting card order
  • Check on-hand availability of books for phoning customers
  • Intervene with new customer whose two children are teetering on tantrum because they are allowed one book each but want several, by offering to children to record the titles of all of the extra books they want in a wish list for future reference; offer accepted; peace ensues
  • Gently redirect unsupervised toddlers pulling books off shelves; reshelve books
  • Look up and share with customer reviews for two books staff had not yet read that customer was interested in
  • Field summer job inquiry by high school student
  • Field inquiry by local author about number of copies of their books sold
  • Set aside Game of Thrones series for customer Josie ran into at the grocery store and called store about

As you can see, working at a bookstore is a little like making a Chinese papercut; you snip away at  dozens of disparate areas and hope by the end of the day you’ve unfolded something that holds together, something you hope, disregarding the bits on the floor, that’s maybe even a little bit pretty. And as you drive home, your mind is filled with tomorrow’s partially planned papercut: the event fliers and press releases you hope to design and post, the new book orders and teacher requests that will be coming in, emails and phone calls that need answering, titles to request from Netgalley, reviews to read, sections that need updating, series book that need restocking before the influx of weekend tourists, and so on and so forth, until the end of time. Suffice it to say, if there’s a comfy chair in the store, it’s unlikely to be occupied by the bookseller. We are more than delighted to see you in it, enjoying a book.

Not a Good Day for Titles

Josie Leavitt - June 26, 2013

I’m not sure if it was the heat and humidity yesterday, but nary a person in the bookstore could remember a title. I thought I’d share some of them.
– The Pow Pow Dog
– The Red Head was the only thing I had to go on. She thought it was an adult mystery. Turns she wanted The Hare with Amber Eyes.
Brothers and Sisters, the customer emphatically stated. Turns out he was looking for Team of Rivals. I think this says more about his siblings than anything else.
– “Something about cities. I heard it on PBS” turned out to be The Metropolitan Revolution.  This was only made possible by the customer actually remembering the name of the PBS show.
– “You know, the one. That one.” The exasperated customer was getting irritated. I asked if maybe she could tell me anything about the book, anything at all, so I might be able to help her.  All she said was this, “I can’t believe you don’t know.”
– “Something about mice. You sold it to me last summer.” I sold a lot of books last summer, and a surprising number of them actually had to do with mice. I was stumped, until I looked up her customer record (we track customers only for our frequent buyer program where you get $10 off every $100 you spend – it comes in handy at moments like these) and could see she was talking about Tum Tum and Nutmeg. Turns out she didn’t want it, she just wanted to know.
So, what crazy garbled titles have you gotten this summer?

The Power to Sell Books

Josie Leavitt - June 24, 2013

Yesterday was a slow Sunday at the bookstore. The warm and sunny weather had taken most of our customers to the lake, so it was quiet. This quiet, though, allowed me to really talk to everyone.
One young man came in and strode with purpose to the science fiction/fantasy section. He came back with George RR Martin’s book, A Dance with Dragons. He plopped the massive hardcover down and asked if it came in paperback. I told him, not until October. He looked so disappointed. I asked a few questions. Was he desperate for this book today? Why yes, yes he was. Honestly, a 22-year-old man who freely admits he’s desperate to read a 1152-page book is very endearing to me. I asked what his budget was. He said, “I was expecting $9, not $35.” Andrew, by now we were on a first name basis, started rapidly drumming his fingers on the counter, almost like he was counting pennies he had in a jar back at home.
I quickly looked at my inventory for the book and sales have slowed way down for it. I also really liked this kid. He seemed like an avid reader. In fact, one of the reasons he couldn’t just buy the book was he had already spent $20 on a book earlier in the day. I offered him a 20% discount, to get the book below $30. I could tell that was making a difference, but not enough. And he looked so sad to not be able to leave with the book, that I said, “Okay, how’s 25% off? For a total of $27.83.” His eyes lit up. I rang him up and he practically clutched the book to his chest as he left.
“I get paid tomorrow,” he said as he left. Anyone, especially, a young adult, who is allocating part of his paycheck to books is someone who should get a discount. And I was thrilled to help him out.

Haiku, Lowku, and a Motion Comic Strip

Elizabeth Bluemle - June 21, 2013

Ahh, I well remember my long-ago Fridays in publishing, when we sat at our desks until noon and then hopped a jitney out of town or flew to Tortola. (Well, people with houses in the Hamptons hopped a jitney; I took the train back to Brooklyn and spent the weekend looking out my third-floor window into the inaccessible row of back gardens behind my apartment, but same-same.)
In deference to that most noble tradition, Summer Fridays, this post will be readable in a few short chunks as the wi-fi on the bus flickers in and out or the captain makes you turn off your electronic device.
First, a simple haiku (actually, a senryu, since, unlike true haiku, this one doesn’t hint at the season):
Opening a book
before take-off: real paper
never powers down.
Next, a lowku (so-called because I couldn’t even stick to the simple traditional U.S. haiku rules of 5-7-5, but instead had to borrow a syllable from the first line to use in the third). And I don’t so much hint at the season as hurl it out there, but hey, it’s Friday morning and I have an imaginary jitney to catch:
for a perfect summer day:
Lemonade. Hammock. Book.
Finally, a comic-strip musing on the recent buzz that dystopia is dead, long live mysteries or contemporary realistic YA fiction or cowboy space opera or whatever genre will next explode/resurge:
Bookselling Life #3: The End of Dystopia? by Elizabeth Bluemle
by: EHB

(My previous bookselling life movies can be found here and here.)

Summer Visitors and Feeling the Love

Josie Leavitt - June 20, 2013

I know I often write about the seasonal changes I feel at the bookstore. These are not weather-driven, but people-driven. I only see certain people during certain seasons. Summer is the time when I see the most people for the briefest amount of time.
Our town is nestled right next to Lake Champlain, and Charlotte, our old town, has camps, as they’re called are beautiful houses right on the lake. These camps, on Thompson’s Point, are only lived in between May and October, but generally they aren’t full until the weather is warm enough to not need heat at night, as none of the camps are properly insulated or have a means to heat. So, June into July is when folks start streaming into the store.
I love that these visitors make it a point to stop at the store and let us know they’re here. Some folks are here for a week, some are here for the summer. One customer lives in Cape Town, South Africa and she announces her arrival every year by emailing a list of books she’d like us to have on hand for her when she arrives. I got the email Monday. She wants a book by Sarah Churchwell. I’ve ordered it and it should be here when she comes to the store. Kathryn has been shopping with us since 1998 when she and her husband first came back to Charlotte from London, where they met. He attended Middlebury College and went to work overseas.
The first time they came they had their little girl, Alice, who was all of two and a half. She asked oh so politely, “Where’s the loo?” and I’ve loved her ever since. Subsequently, they’ve had two more children and each is just as delightful. This family could shop anywhere, and yet, year after year, they start their vacation with us. To be part of a vacation preparation list is pretty awesome.
Other vacationers give us their whole summer’s book group picks. One group, again on Thompson’s Point, reads a book a week. They email us the list right after their first meeting the first week of July. We stock their books and even create a shelf for them, so they can more easily find all the books they’ll be reading during the summer.
We sometimes take our seasonal customers for granted. We just always expect them to be there. Two years in a row, Kathryn and her family didn’t come to the store, and I was practically bereft. I had come to count on their arrival to somehow complete my summer and without them, it felt strange. Sometimes kids no longer vacation here because they’ve gone to college out west and stayed. I miss these kids. I always love getting caught up on the past year’s activities and changes. The customers who always stun me are the ones who plan their road trip to coincide with our open hours. They come in, usually with lists at the ready, and stock up for the rest of their journey.
These people shop at bookstores all over the country during the summer. These book lovers understand the value of indies and how we can enrich their lives. But what they might not know is how much they enrich our lives.

Back to the Future

Elizabeth Bluemle - June 19, 2013

A longtime Burlington business, a wonderful independent movie rental store boasting around 30,000 eclectic, interesting titles, closed recently. It was a loss, and the other night, a friend was bemoaning its demise. “It was a community gathering place,” Christopher said. “It was a landmark. We’ve shopped there since it actually was down on the waterfront, and then after its move.” He loved the sense of community the video store offered. “You’d always run into someone there,” he said. Now his family doesn’t watch nearly as many movies together. They miss the staff recommendations, the serendipity of finding something unexpected on the shelf, the broad, curated collection. The loss of the indie movie rental store is personal for Christopher and his family.
It all sounded so familiar. Those things apply, of course, to the pleasures of bookstores and the many kinds of value and experiences they provide. At our own store, especially at this tourist-filled time of year, we hear frequent lamentations of bookshops lost and sorely missed in communities all over the country. I like to think the pendulum will swing back toward the bricks-and-mortar store (smartly updated and thoughtfully positioned) as gadget-hype settles down, solar flares remind us of the fallibility of electronics, and people realize how much they miss the smell and feel and satisfaction of looking at shelves of books they’ve loved. (Remember how people were tossing vinyl records when CDs and then digital tracks came in? And now, well, vinyl is back, baby!) Judging from the number of young people we see who have e-readers but continue to savor real physical books, I am very hopeful. For example:
A 14-year-old boy was browsing the fantasy section. He was one of those great kids who is initially a little shy but lights up when talking about books. An avid reader, he had a gift card burning a hole in his pocket. He’d already found a couple of books: a thick Stephen King paperback and a copy of Prodigy, the sequel to Marie Lu’s Legacy. We struck up a conversation about Legacy, which we’d both enjoyed, and I showed him a few other books, including The 5th Wave. He was so luminously happy with his thick stack of books, and while he waited patiently for his relatives to finish their own shopping, I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions.
“Do you have an e-reader?” I asked him.
“I have a Nook and an iPad, if that’s what you mean,” he said. I loved the twinkle in this kid’s eye.
“So here you are with a stack of books. What is it about actual books you like, since you aren’t doing all your reading electronically?”
“For one thing, you don’t have to stop reading while the plane takes off,” he said. (I am in full agreement with him there.)
Then he picked up Prodigy and riffled the pages back and forth. “And it’s just easier to do this,” he said. “You know?” (I do.)
Then he picked up the stack, all three books different thicknesses and trim sizes, with distinct covers and textures, and sort of bounced them up and down in his hands, feeling the weight. “And you don’t get this.”
I knew exactly what he meant. That boy is my future, and if you have a bricks-and-mortar store with pulp and paper books, he is yours, too.

Oh, to Be a Teacher Last Week

Josie Leavitt - June 17, 2013

Friday was the last day of school for all public schools in my county. Since Monday, we have sold well over $4000 in gift cards, almost all of them going to teachers as thanks.
Every year I’m blown away by how much parents give to teachers at the end of the year. I’m not talking a $10 gift card, although there are plenty of those, but $50 or $100 and in one case $200! These teachers are clearly doing something right by their students and it’s great that parents are getting them practical gifts as thanks. What’s also great is that the shop local theme is big this year. We are the only bookstore near five schools and our gift card purchasers are reinforcing that it’s important to go to local stores for gifts.
All teachers work so hard that it’s great to see them being thanked with the promise of books. I love the cycle that this perpetuates. Reading is so important for everyone, but especially those involved with education. It makes me happy to know that there are so many teachers, some of whom might not be regular customers, who now have a great reason to come in and get some books.
Yesterday, several eager teachers already came in with their gift cards to get books, not for themselves to read during the summer, but for their classroom libraries.

Illustrators Give the Best Studio Tours

Elizabeth Bluemle - June 13, 2013

Forget Universal and Warner Bros, folks. Children’s book illustrators have studios just as full of whimsy, magic, and fantasy, along with the advantage of also being real and personal and beautiful. One of the BEA events arranged by the Association of Booksellers for Children and the Children’s Book Council was a three-studio tour for small groups of visitors. This was a magnificently fun, enriching opportunity, one of the highlights in a BEA full of highlights.
Everyone involved in the planning and execution of this event deserves major kudos. I cannot imagine trying to work out the logistics; the mapping alone must have taken days. Beyond figuring out which Manhattan and Brooklyn illustrators would participate, the organizers had to group them into threes, divvy up the visitors among them, and then plan routes and timing and set subway and walking directions for at least a dozen disparate groups of booksellers from out of town. I need four Advil just thinking about that level of detail.
My group visited the studios of Tad Hills, Betsy Lewin and Ted Lewin, and Katie Yamasaki. They were all such kind and welcoming hosts, and their studios were distinct and enchanting.
Tad Hills lives in a fetching brownstone in a great little Brooklyn neighborhood full of authors and artists. We were greeted at the door by Rocket, a cheery moppet of a dog (you can see his smile through the flying fur below):

Rocket in action

Rocket, one of the cutest dogs in existence.

Tad doesn’t have a separate studio; he paints at home at his dining room table and in the kitchen. The living room/dining room are open and light and full of colorful art, books, and incredible Halloween-costume building replicas Tad made for his kids. When we arrived, the dining room table also boasted a bowl of fresh cherries (yum) along with Tad’s new board book addition to the Rocket books, Rocket’s Mighty Words. This word book for early readers makes so much sense as a companion to Rocket Learns to Read. 
Tad at Kitchen

Tad Hills with his paints in the kitchen.

Tad Rocket's Mighty Words

Tad’s new learn-to-read board book (coming in July). And cherries.

Tad Costumes

Halloween costumes Tad made (!!!) for his children.

Tad in action

Tad showing us art from next summer’s new Duck and Goose beach book.

Tad with beach art

Look closely to see Duck and Goose tumbled by a big wave.

Tad’s artwork is shamelessly adorable. You just want to pick his characters up off the page and cuddle them. The best part of our visit was hearing Tad talk about his artistic process and his upcoming Duck and Goose book for next summer. The premise is funny and there’s a little surprising twist with the characters’ usual antics. Tad had taped up some of the art in progress and finished paintings on the wall for us to see, and took us through his process as both author and artist.
At the end of our visit, Tad handed out small square cards with a Rocket illustration, then escorted us to a nearby bakery, where the cards were good for two free cookies. How’s that for hospitality? (One Girl Cookies bakery is not only delicious, but is a favorite haunt of writers. We ran into Siobhan Vivian and Jenny Han, co-authors of Burn for Burn and this fall’s follow-up, Fire with Fire, hanging out side by side with their laptops.)
We hopped back on the subway to travel further into Brooklyn to visit Betsy Lewin and Ted Lewin’s elegant brownstone. As with Tad, their home houses their studios. All of the rooms we visited were full of art by both Lewins and other artists, and lovely objects from their travels around the world. This year marks the couple’s 50th wedding anniversary — amazing to believe because they seem too young to be at such a landmark! — and it was fascinating to see their separate studios. Ted has the lion’s share of space, but as he pointed out, his studio also stores both artists’ files. Their styles are so different, which they said in part accounts for their ability to stay happily married doing the same type of work all these years.
Ted’s paintings are detailed, beautiful, realistic, richly handsome. His travels have provided not only hundreds, likely thousands, of photographs Ted uses as references when he draws and paints, but also many stories and anecdotes. He told us of a farmer in a rice paddy who thought Ted was “nuts” for standing there all day taking pictures of him, but that day yielded a beautiful painting.
Ted Studio 2

Ted Lewin showed us the table where he projects his watercolor art onto a large monitor so he can see all the details.

Ted at Desk

Another long table provides room for pages in progress.

Ted wrestler

One of the many photos lining the stairways was of Ted’s days as a professional wrestler, along with his two brothers.

Betsy Lewin’s style is loose, free and joyous. Her sense of humor and joie de vivre burst from the page. No one does dancing animals like Betsy!
Betsy in Studio

Betsy Lewin in her bright studio.

Betsy draws a knight

Betsy drew us a knight and horse from the book she’s currently working on. Magic!

Betsy and Ted in B studio

Behind the couple in Betsy’s studio are just some of the dozens of books they’ve illustrated, both separately and together.

Lewin Oasis

The Lewins’ garden oasis, where we were offered Champagne and chocolate.

I could have spent hours poring over the walls filled with artwork from both Lewins and photographs of their many journeys. But all too soon, it was time for us to depart. Holiday House had generously provided copies of Betsy’s You Can Do It! and Thumpy Feet for booksellers to take home, as well as Ted’s Look and Where Am I? What Am I?  Betsy had brought out a stash of tote bags she’s collected over the years for us to carry them in. Ted called us a cab to take us to our next studio. Really, we might have been in a Merchant Ivory film, our hosts were so gracious.

The cab dropped us off outside our last stop on the tour, a busy street with car repair shops and other industrial entities, including this mysterious business:

God's Only Demons MC 2

Artist Katie Yamasaki is one of many artists who have a studio in a warehouse building nearby, and she ushered us inside, up stairs, and down a long hallway.

Katie's Hallway

Each doorway is a different artist’s studio. Katie leads us to hers.

One of my bookselling compatriots took a deep whiff of the hallway and said happily, “It smells like art school.” There was indeed a paint-y, clay-ey aroma.

Katie's inner sanctum

Entering Katie Yamasaki’s studio, the inner sanctum.

Katie’s studio was an orderly riot of color, filled with artwork covering the walls and some canvases lined up on the floor. Her artwork reflects and celebrates the wide, beautiful spectrum of cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity in our country and was a delight to behold. Katie told us that one of her grandfathers was from Japan; the other, French Canadian, so she is a multicultural cornucopia.
Katie not only illustrates children’s books, but paints commissioned murals all over the world. She is an elementary school teacher and also works with kids in urban neighborhoods on mural projects.
Katie Yamasaki

Katie Yamasaki and her bright, joyful art.

kids painting murals

A couple of happy mural painters Katie worked with.

One of Katie’s most powerful projects involved two murals, one painted by children of incarcerated moms on the outside of the prison, the other painted by the moms inside:

Yamasaki Mural 1

Yamasaki Mural 2

The canvases in her studio ranged from small to huge. I couldn’t stop looking at one piece in particular; something about its sweet round grace captivated me:

Katie Yamasaki Two Girls

From a manuscript Katie’s working on.

Like the other artists on our tour, Katie had treats set up for us on her table, and goodies to take home, including Fish for Jimmy: Inspired by One Family’s Experience in a Japanese American Internment Camp. We left her studio happy, tired, and full of images from our day. BEA is such a busy whirlwind, full of sessions and booths to visit and things to tick off one’s to-do list. This was an experience that allowed us to slow down a bit, savor our profession, and appreciate anew the imaginative, inspiring people in it.
It was a rare treat to be invited to share a glimpse of these artists’ creative worlds. Thank you once again, Tad and Ted and Betsy and Katie (and publishers and ABC/CBC), for opening your doors to us. And can we get some more of those cookies?

The Best Free Advertising

Josie Leavitt - June 12, 2013

I am blessed to live in Vermont for many reasons, but as a bookstore owner, one of them is access to an amazingly responsive free advertising called the Front Porch Forum. The FPF is an internet-based “regional network of online neighborhood forums.” It connects people with their neighbors.
It’s so simple, it’s brilliant. Make it easy for neighbors to talk to each other and they talk. You can only join the forum for your town, and this is great because then I’m reading about my town. I’ve gotten to know my neighbors from this. I’ve posted about a swarm of bees in my tree and what to do about them, asked for mechanic recommendations, and more importantly, used FPF as way to talk about the bookstore to people who live close enough to care.
This kind of targeted discussion is so beneficial to the bookstore. We can announce events, book talks, parties, etc. to just about every household in five towns because everyone on staff is a member of their neighborhood forum. The posting isn’t fancy, there’s no artwork, and you can’t post graphics, but you can add links to your website. There is something about the friendly nature of this type of free-ranging discussion with your neighbors that makes the FPF one of the emails everyone reads daily. You can follow the saga of the missing Malamutes from the frantic posting that the dogs were lost on the coldest night of the year to the triumphant “they’re home!” posting three days later.
All of our events get posted to the forum and it generates a lot of attendance at events. The nature of the forum works best for spontaneous folks who only need three days notice to come to an event. What’s so great is the wide range of people who read the forum. Folks who’ve never been to the store will come to events because of a posting and then get on our mailing list to find out about future ones. This is a win-win.
And did I mention it’s free? I know other towns have similar things, and I’d love to hear about them.