Monthly Archives: January 2020

Can You Outread a Puppy?

Elizabeth Bluemle - January 14, 2020

My puppy, Lola, listens to the reading challenge I set for her. She is skeptical, but game.

Oh, I can’t help it; it’s January, so I can’t resist writing about — if not resolutions, then aspirations. The readerly kind. Every year, I think about what I’ve taken in over the past 12 months, how much of it was work reading, how much pleasure, how diverse in country and culture it was, and whether I managed to sneak in any re-reading of beloved books from the past (almost impossible as a bookseller).
For the past several years, I’ve done a 50-50 Read, where at least 50% of my books are #OwnVoices titles. It has gotten so much easier in just the past two years to make towering piles of possible books! The 50-50 Read is a foundation; any reading goal that tempts me has to include that criterion.
One of my customers told me she was aiming to read 20 books this year. At first, I was secretly surprised by that number, which seemed on the modest side. I always think of bookstore shoppers as reading addicts who devour a book every few days. But of course many things in life compete with reading, even for booksellers, and 20 great books? That’s a wonderful goal, and far above the national average. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2018, Americans read 12 books a year (that was the mean), and the typical American (the median) read just four. Continue reading

Return of the Jaded

Cynthia Compton - January 13, 2020

With a nod to George Lucas, J.J. Abrams, and Disney, this is the time of the bookselling year that I summon the inner strength of Rey, the wisdom of Yoda, and the near-constant smirk of Lando Calrissian while I face the dark side of my customer base, as they slink into my store like Admiral Piett, bags in hand, ready to return, return, return the things they purchased in December.
There is nothing quite as disturbing to the retailer force in the morning (when the register sits at zero) as to have the first three or four customers visit only to return items, shooting a hole in the day’s sales report that may not climb back into positive numbers until late afternoon. Payroll, of course, fires away with hour after hour missiles of employee time and wages during these dark days of limited sales. Even my most energetic and sales-savvy staff can rarely encourage enough exchanges vs. outright returns to make the transactions even, and the constant barrage of X-wing minivans and mom-mobile gauntlet fighters with our store bags in back make us feel like rebel forces hiding behind the sheltering moon of our front counter.

I piloted the ship at the store all weekend, and here’s a few of the return sorties that we saw: Continue reading

Wrangling the Chaos: A Bookseller’s 2020 Resolutions

Meghan Dietsche Goel - January 10, 2020

Yes, it’s a resolution post. Here’s the truth. I am not actually a New Year’s Resolution person. But all week my colleague Eugenia keeps making jokes about “2020 Meghan,” because I guess I’m unleashing a clean-out-the-closets perspective on the world. I don’t know, I guess maybe I am just a walking cliché, but it’s true that after the bustling immediacy of the holiday rush, January tends to feel wide open. So why not embrace a dewy, wide-eyed optimism? So what’s on deck for this (probably brief) window of 2020 energy?
Find a few extra minutes: At last year’s Winter Institute I went to a fantastic session that Cindy Dach from Changing Hands presented about how to be a better owner, manager, buyer, or bookseller, and I came away determined to be more intentional about my time. Time so easily disappears in the manic crush of all the things that have to be done “right now” or slips away into all-consuming projects that could be accomplished more quickly with a bit more structure—while bigger-picture, needle-moving efforts get pushed off the priority list. I’ve found that blocking out time on the calendar for that bigger picture work this past year has been an valuable tool for finding focus. Next up this year is undergoing a time audit to take a deeper look at the balance. Continue reading

An Interview with the Year 2020

Kenny Brechner - January 9, 2020

I have made my way over to the glade of Years many times to interview successive new Years. This time around, after I stepped forth from the portal and into the glade I saw a site that was unexampled despite my long experience here. The field had withered and rows of ancient ship’s anchors were set before me. High above the glade a house now stood. I made my way through the anchors and entered the house. On the top floor I found The Year 2020. Her finger was resting on a page in a small book.
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Quick Cash Flow Ideas for January

Cynthia Compton - January 8, 2020

I’m hoping that holiday sales were record-setting for all my indie bookselling friends, and that all of that gift buying is now being followed by happy first-time customers visiting your stores with newly unwrapped gift cards in hand, fully prepared to overspend the generosity of their present, join all your book clubs, and sign up for every author event you have scheduled this quarter.
For some of us, though, the crowded floorspace of December and the never-ending pages of daily restock reports will be followed by a case of January loneliness, with few visitors and sad sales numbers. It’s difficult to adjust to the slower pace of the first quarter, especially after the adrenaline rush of holiday sales, in which every day was packed full of commerce. Happily, all those bills for inventory are now paid, and while we are certainly feeling a bit more flush, the rent, payroll and utilities expenses march on, and we can quickly deplete those reserves in this low spot of the roller coaster ride that is retail.
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Dear Publishers: A Bookseller Wish List

Cynthia Compton - January 6, 2020

It’s early in the bookselling year, and while tomorrow (January 7) will be a big day in book releases, there’s still time, I think, to put in a “wish list” to our publisher partners for things that would make bookselling their titles so much easier and more profitable for everyone. Christmas and holiday sales are behind us, everyone is (mostly) back in the office, and we can still request a few minor concessions before everyone boards a flight to Baltimore for Winter Institute, or gambles with putting their name into the Book Expo Booth Duty lottery (for surely that exists, as no one really wants to work 12-hour days at Javits keeping their hands and feet clear of the pyramid of ARCs that will disappear in minutes after the stampeding horde of freebie grabbers at 9 a.m., or avoid the line of celebrity autograph seekers that wrap around every tangential booth and aisle like a hungry python, obliterating displays and preventing productive meetings with actual booksellers?).
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What Austin Teens Want Publishers to Know in 2020

Meghan Dietsche Goel - January 3, 2020

I always love checking in with BookPeople’s trusty Teen Press Corps at the end of each year just to see what they’re looking for going into the next one. So what’s on their minds for 2020? Well, they don’t always agree, but from frustration with trends to protectiveness over favorite covers they don’t think need changing, they’re heading into the next decade as opinionated as ever. Take a look at what they’re loving (and hating) below, and make sure you stop by their carefully curated year-round display of recommended reads if you’re ever in town.
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Six Things About ‘Three Things I Know Are True’

Kenny Brechner - January 2, 2020

What could be a more apropos way of greeting a new year here in central Maine than embracing the debut novel of a local author? Happily we have a sensationally good one on hand, Three Things I Know Are True, by Betty Culley will be released next week by HarperCollins. This young adult novel in verse not only brings the world of rural central Maine vividly to life, it also powerfully explores timely issues such as gun control and end of life care. Culley depicts humanity in both sides of a tragic rift and a romance taking root in the harshest of soils.
Three Things I Know Are True will linger long and well in its readers’ thoughts and like any great book it will speak differently to different readers. To find out more about this quietly riveting book I nudged its charming, thoughtful, and reserved author into answering a few questions for us.
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A Bookseller Reading Challenge for 2020

Cynthia Compton - January 1, 2020

My social media feed is currently full of links to interesting 2020 reading challenges, from those open-ended bingo-type boards created by libraries to lists populated with titles on a single theme. In the last week, I have been encouraged while scrolling to make this the year I read: books by only living authors, all women authors, books by authors who are immigrants, 12 books in translation, a “genre-per-month,” a book published in the year of my birth followed by one from every subsequent year (this one actually intrigues me), a book by an author from each mapped country on the globe, and a Bard Challenge to reread all of Shakespeare’s plays in a single year.
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