Monthly Archives: November 2014

School Book Fair Update

Josie Leavitt - November 7, 2014

As promised, I am reporting back on the in-store book fair we did with our local school. In my earlier post I spoke about working with one of our local schools on building community, shopping local and aiding the school with an easy fundraiser. We hosted a 10-day book fair at the store and have just now tallied all the numbers. I’m happy to report the book fair did well, but could have been better. Of course, I had very high expectations and was secretly hoping for a 10-day sales parade, and instead got a steady stream of customers.
The key to success for all in-store book fairs is the promotional effort that goes into them. In this instance, the school did everything right. All the families got flyers when school started and then again the week before the book fair, explaining how it worked. There was a wonderful article in the local paper about it, the kids all knew; even the visiting kindergarten class that week knew about the book fair. The PTO did a great job. We had it up on our website, Elizabeth made signage for the registers and the front door, so everyone coming in knew about it. We even dedicated our outdoor sandwich board to promoting the book fair.
The kickoff cocktail party with wine and cheese was packed. Lots of parents with their kids heaped their stacks of books on the counter. Folks were planning ahead that night and I thought that kind of enthusiasm would translate to every day of the fair. Not so much. It seems that with any organization, there is a dedicated core of supporters who really do a lot of the heavy lifting, and that was clearly evident with this book fair. We saw a lot of the same families during the 10 days who were working very hard to buy as many books as they could during the fair. They were great. They were cheery, appreciative and lovely. There just weren’t enough of them. We did have Halloween the last weekend of the book fair, and I wonder if that caused some families to lose focus in preparation for the holiday.
One of the best parts of the book fair was getting new customers into the store. There has been a big influx of new folks to town, so the book fair was a great way to introduce them to the store. And the goodwill the book fair generated was well worth it. Plus, we got a preview of what some of the hot series and books for the holidays are likely to be. In the end, though, I’m a tiny bit disappointed because I wanted to give the school a bigger check, but in the end it’s about patience, and when we do this again in the spring or next year, it will only getting bigger as it becomes a tradition.

Holiday Guide Strategies

Kenny Brechner - November 6, 2014

When it comes to Holiday Gift Guides there are several different strategies bookstores employ. The most common, and the simplest, is to use the Holiday Gift Guides produced by regional trade organizations. Others of us, whether from being gluttons for punishment, or through what Poe called “the mad pride of intellectuality,” produce our own in one form or another.
One such approach is for a store to produce, print and distribute their own catalog.  By far the best of these that I have ever seen, I say at the risk of imperiling my pal Elizabeth Bluemle with a surfeit of self esteem, is Pig Tales, that she produces for the Flying Pig.  It is sensational. I use a different, more efficient, but less exalted strategy. I make a guide called The Holiday Twenty which I produce for two area newspapers to use in their Holiday inserts. That guide, and those books, then become the focus of our in-store display, advertising and handselling efforts. We also have an online version to go with it.
In any case, for those of us in this guide-producing subculture the end of October marks a busy time of finalizing picks for different categories and blurb writing. Having just gotten my copy done I stand ready to share my picks in the categories that are relevant to children’s books.
The gift book of the season is clearly The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: Deluxe Pocket Boxed Set. If you are not sure why,  it is either because you haven’t seen it yet or you have deeper personal issues than those which can be properly addressed in a Holiday Gift Guide. I can assure you that it does not matter how many other boxed sets of the Lord of the Rings you already own, this hobbit-sized version is completely desirable and must be possessed by any right-thinking person. The imprinted titles on the spine, the well designed box, the agreeable price, the tasteful use of color and Tolkien Runes, all conspire to demand that Tolkien lovers be given this edition as soon as the Holiday Season allows. They cannot wait any longer than that. (Honorable mention to the very fetching Moomin Deluxe Slip-cased Anniversary Edition!)
We have four picture book picks. There were a very high number of exceptional wordless offering this year, but I tried to maintain some balance to meet different handselling scenarios. This year our picks are as follows:
Sparky, by Jenny Offil
Delightful illustrations, subtle humor, charm and unexpected tugs on any but the hardest heart strings make this story about adapting to the nature of a pet one of the finest picture books published this year.
Jim Curious, by Matthias Picard
This wordless three-dimensional picture book provides a truly jaw dropping undersea adventure. It comes with two 3–D glasses because Jim Curious is an experience made for sharing.
The Book with No Pictures,  by, B.J. Novak
Unless you are worried about having too much fun, sharing a picture book sans pictures with the young readers in your life, The Book with No Pictures is a perfect fit. Laughter and imagination are sure to accompany every reading.
Full Speed Speed Ahead! How Fast Things Go, by Cruschiform
The best science-based picture books take one simple concept and develop them to spectacular effect. In Full Speed Ahead, each spread lists a speed on the left and then some animals or machines that go that speed on the right. For example, three things moving 2 MPH are a Tegenaria spider, an Excavator, and a person walking. With every new spread the speed increases. It’s sensational fun, at whatever speed you read it, not to mention educational!
For novels, I went with two YA and two middle grade. Namely…
Death By Toilet Paper,  by Donna Gephardt
Ben Epstein has lost his Dad. He and his mom are living on the financial edge and are about to fall off if the “Grand Plan” cannot be implemented before they are evicted. Full of humor and tenderness, this deftly told story will engage its young audience deeply, and with warmth and support.
Half Bad, by Sally Green
Here we come to a book that grabs readers from the first moment they enter its pages. Half Bad affords the sublime fascinations of an alluring, unsafe narrator set in a deeply grey political landscape whose powers are determined to be black and white at terrible cost. Its readers find themselves carried and then swiftly captured in an irresistible current of intrigue and imagination as visceral as it is elegant.
The Glass Sentence, by Sylvia Grove
The Glass Sentence features a highly imaginative and engaging premise which is clearly related and accessible, while also possessing roots grounded intricately in social and political history and cartography. This tightly knit and compelling world offers deep satisfaction for all readers of interest who will regale themselves with its dire actions, complex villainy, highly absorbing characters, and sublimely engaging interior and outer landscapes.
Dorothy Must Die, by Danielle Paige
All is not well in Oz and Dorothy and her lackeys are the reason. A terrific romp through a classic fantasy world with a narrator that modern teens will relate to, Dorothy Must Die is big fun from start to finish.
I’m always interested to see, make note, and take stock of the books publishers are spending money on for the Holidays. The core of our Holiday handselling, however, lies in the books we stand behind the most ourselves. And in this regard, producing a gift guide clarifies the mind wonderfully, quite as much as the smell of tubs of burning slow-match did for Jack Aubrey before going into action.

Concise Critical Capsule Captures Crown

Kenny Brechner - November 5, 2014

It is time to announce both the winner, and to reveal the regal grand prize, of the Compelling Contest which ran here on October 23rd  challenging the alliterative acumen of its amiable antagonists.
There were some terrific entries here, but one of them stood out: Karin Thogerson’s recap for The Fault In Our Stars.
Cancer couple courtship culminates in cryfest.
The two runners up were Kate Braasch’s Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! entry:
Public plug prohibits pigeon piloting public pick-upper. Premeditating and pesky pigeon persists and petitions piloting. Pensive pigeon’s prayer precluded; possible portage post? Parable pleases people and pigeons proportionately.
And Margaret’s Blueberries for Sal entry:
Moms and moppets maneuver Maine mountain, making menu of mazarine morsels. Mischievous mayhem materializes: moppets misplaced! Maternal mistrust materializes — maybe a monster! Mercifully, mutatis mutandis, mistakes are mitigated.
And what of the regal reward? Karin will receive the amazing new giant morphing wind-up dinosaur car, modeled by DDG’s own Karin Schott! Drum roll please…
Thanks to everyone who entered!

Saving the Day, Indie Style

Josie Leavitt - November 4, 2014

Independent bookstore owners are very collegial. We all understand that we need to work together to thrive. This ethos extends to the daily referral to customers of trying another indie for a desperately needed book, to helping out with events and just getting together for a drink to talk about the business of books. It’s not every day I get to feel like I’ve donned a cape and swooped in to save the day.
Yesterday morning I got a call from another bookstore owner whose store is about forty minutes away. She sounded really unhappy. (About as unhappy as I was three years ago when I was down three staffers for a huge event, and she came to the store and helped with register during the event.) I asked what was wrong and she said through a wry chuckle, “I didn’t get my Wimpy Kid books. Did you?” Today is the big release day for  Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul. Embargoed titles now arrive so close to the release date that a missed shipment means a store won’t have books in time for an early morning release party, as my friend had planned. I hadn’t gotten any shipments yet, but I told her I would call immediately once the UPS delivery had arrived. About an hour later I could hear the groan of the hand truck’s tires as my UPS man, Bart, brought in the 11 cases of Wimpy Kid books I’d ordered. I received the books and I called my friend back.
Once I accounted for the 180 books sold to a school for our event with Jeff Kinney, and took out my photo-33special orders, I was confident that I could offer her two cases of books and still have plenty for what my customers would need. She was ecstatic. I set her 64 books aside for her. She arrived in short order to pick them up. And, in true indie fashion she showed up with presents that the whole staff could enjoy. Homemade carrot cake muffins that were big enough to be lunch and a bottle of my favorite wine (which leads me to conclude that she must have shopped locally at the wine store across the street). I shared the muffins and took the wine.
The books were offered at the same discount I purchased them and a check was handed off and she took the two cartons and could rest a little easier knowing that her 7 a.m. release party would actually have books. There have been times we’ve all needed help from other stores to bail us out of tough situations. Once we needed more event books ourselves when Kate DiCamillo was speaking and two local stores helped fill the gap created by a missing box of vital books. Mis-ships happen and generally it’s not a crisis, but the day before a huge release, it is. It felt good to be able to help.
And, the muffin tasted great at the end of the day with a glass of wine.

Book Designers: Aging Booksellers Cry Mercy!

Elizabeth Bluemle - November 3, 2014

ISBN picFor the love of all things typographical, this is a plea to the folks who design book jackets: PLEASE choose font sizes visible to the naked middle-aged eye for your series numbers, prices, ISBNs, and any other text necessary for retailers. This goes double for the marketing info you include on ARCs — what is the use of them if we can’t actually read the intended audience, age range, price, and promotional plan jammed into that skinny strip? And series numbers on spines that are nearly invisible (either because of font size or muddy colors that blend with the rest of the spine) don’t actually serve booksellers OR readers.
As you may not be aware—living as you do amid the clear-eyed, 20-something population that comprises Manhattan’s publishing and design elite—the average age of the indie bookseller is something like 173. We cannot see 6- and 7-point ISBNs even with our reading glasses on, or while using one of those humiliating wallet magnifying cards. This makes for some comical fun when our scanner is on the fritz and customers are waiting for us to hand-enter information. Likewise, forcing booksellers to peer helplessly at a spine to figure out which book is number 6 in the Em Square Saga does not help the cause of any publisher.
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