I am going on vacation next week with a very good friend. Stephanie is a great reader. We actually became friends through the bookstore and her weekly Saturday trips to the store. Steph will be gone two weeks; the first week she’s traveling with her friend Kris and then I join them on the beach the second week. Steph actually sent out an email about a month ago seeking book coordination so no one would bring the same book. This is a level of reading organization I do not possess. Continue reading
There is something utterly charming about little kids recognizing the books they have at home when they come to the bookstore. Little ones come in every day and almost all under the age of five feel the need to announce when they see a book they know from home. There is comfort in the familiar. The characters in the books have become friends, the artwork can be anticipated and there are no surprises. Continue reading
Few things put a strain on the twin mandates of a bookstore, to provide a happy and engaging experience for our customers, and to sell books, as do events. Book sales are the canary in the coal mine here. Sometimes the reason is rather obvious: poor attendance. A well-attended event with poor sales brings us back to the first prime mandate. Customers were suffering in some way. I’m against that.
We recently had a two-author joint book launch for two volumes of poetry — good poets, good presenters, and well liked in the community. As the event loomed I reflected on a trend I had noticed in recent years, well-attended events with poor sales, both at the store, and at the local university’s visiting writer’s program. And I had a bit of an epiphany that I wanted to put out for discussion here. The problem had a name. The culprit was the Q&A.
Sometimes when publishers want to re-energize a book or (more often) a series from the past, they do a cover redesign. Often this is warranted — nothing scares away young readers faster than dated or ugly covers. Remember how the Quentin Blake covers re-energized and united all of the Roald Dahl books? Even though I still mourn the loss of William Pène du Bois’ art for The Magic Finger and Nancy Ekholm Burkert’s James and the Giant Peach, there’s no denying the effect those new covers had on book sales. And they breathed new life into the timeless Edward Eager titles for young readers, as well.*
There are a number of books I have a hard time handing to kids, because their covers unfortunately lack child appeal. E. Nesbit’s The Enchanted Castle, a book I adored as a fourth-grader and read numerous times, once had a marvelous cover, but here’s the paperback I’ve been forced to try to get kids to look at for 20 years (not kidding; it came out in 1995).
Burnt orange is not a color kids gravitate toward, to put it kindly, and while the Harry Potter series might have given distant castle images a nudge up the popularity chart, this cover does absolutely nothing to telegraph the lively humor, magic, imagination, and adventure in this story. You should see the distaste in kids’ eyes when we try to hand them this book – they don’t even want to consider it. For the love of all things magical, PLEASE update this cover!
The nature of sales meeting have changed since we opened 20 years ago. Back then, a rep would mail you pounds of catalogs, you’d mark them up, and then meet in person to go over your order. I have lamented before about how much I miss these catalogs. Yes, I know they’re bad for the environment, but they did make sales meeting better. I was better prepared, had more notes and didn’t miss any titles. Now that Edelweiss has proven itself to be the way of the future, things are so different, and meetings have changed. Below is my list of things reps can do in this new age to make meetings more fun and profitable for all. Continue reading
It’s that time of year again, when bills are due and money is tight. The flush of the holiday season has been replaced by the chill of winter and customers are not spending money the way they did in December. I am the chief bill-payer of the bookstore, and I try to do a good job, but every once in a while, a bill or two slips through the cracks. Often this bill belongs to one of the small presses, who don’t send follow-up emails. This is a bad setup. The little guys should always get paid first and I was feel horrible when this doesn’t happen. Occasionally, these small presses or distributors send very funny letters in search of payment. Continue reading
Our Valentine for Blobfish Contest, in which local school librarians read Jess Keating’s stellar nonfiction book Pink Is for Blobfish to K-4 classes and then had students write Blobfish a Valentine, is now complete. As heartwarming as it was funny, not to mention educational in every sense of the word, the contest was a broad and satisfying success.
When the weather forecast on an event day predicts a low of -12 (without wind chill), we can flip a coin on attendance. The bone-chilling cold will either keep families indoors, or bring them flocking to the bookstore for a fun weekend activity that doesn’t cause frostbite.
Since Vermonters are hardy souls, we shouldn’t have been surprised that Saturday turned out to be busy at almost Christmas-time levels, and the morning part of that bright liveliness was due to visiting author Sarah Dillard and her clever, cute, crowd-pleasing new Mouse Scouts series.
Let’s face it: publishing folks don’t have time or resources to consult booksellers on every book jacket or marketing idea, or to conduct post-mortems about why some books expected to do well instead flopped – but if they could, they might save a lot of money and sell more books. At the very least, they would gather fascinating intel on consumer book preferences all over the country.
I was meeting with a sales rep yesterday, and we were talking about a new YA title from a debut author. It has a great cover and a promising premise, but doesn’t stand out quite enough that teens or their parents will be likely to shell out $17.99. It’s one of those books about which buyers say to reps, “I could really sell this in paperback.” But because sales will lag in hardcover, the book risks not even making it to paper. And if it does, the house might change the cover art, mistakenly thinking that was the reason the book didn’t sell.
One thing I wonder each buying season is whether or not every book buyer has signed a binding, subliminal contract to buy in every book about books and reading. Quality only has bearing on quantity here. The book might be good, like Kwame Alexander’s Surf’s Up, the book might be gratuitous fluff, like Richard Rhino’s Read Aloud Rumble¹, but the only thing at stake is the quantity. We are compelled as buyers by an unseen, intractable force to bring in at least one.
Conversations like these happen no less than twice a sales call.