First order of business: awarding the prize from last week’s contest. The person who guessed which Jason Chin book was the next bestseller after Grand Canyon was Linda, who aptly reasoned, “Island: A Story of the Galapagos because kids like big tortoises.” I’m thinking she might have a future as an acquisitions editor! Linda, send me an email as per contest instructions, and we will send you your signed copy of Grand Canyon. Heck, or Island! Your choice.
And now on to the dreaded tasks.
With three fairly new staff members at the bookstore, all added dring the last year, I’ve been paying attention to the kinds of projects they gravitate to and the ones they seem less enthused about. Obviously, we all have to do things we don’t love at work, but playing to people’s strengths and interests creates a happier staff. Since every job has a number of tedious, frustrating, or difficult tasks, as well as a number of opportunities for creativity and innovation, I wanted more specific feedback, so I created a survey.
Happily, one of Word’s templates is a questionnaire, so I used that to create the Flying Pig’s Handy-Dandy Task Preference Form. In a hurry, I listed all of the major tasks of the bookstore as they came to mind, in no particular order. I showed them to Laura, who loves this kind of thing, and she added another dozen ideas. Even after printing them out, I thought of several more. We had three pages of tasks – no wonder we are always on the run!
I left out anything that is only a manager or owner’s task, or anything we all always have to do, like ringing up customers and answering the phone. I did make one exception about handselling, since some people can have differing levels of comfort recommending books in various genres or age ranges. It’s worth knowing people’s areas of dubiousness, so we can strategize.
I asked my staff to rate their enjoyment of these tasks on a 1-5 scale:
- 1 = Would be happy NEVER to have to do this
- 2 = A low-joy task for me
- 3 = I don’t love this, but I don’t mind it
- 4 = I enjoy this, OR I’ve never done this, but it sounds fun/interesting to try
- 5 = I’d spend most of the day doing this if I could
There was room for comments/elaboration/frantic backpedaling after each rating.
I handed these out at our evening staff meeting after buttering everyone up with delicious pizza (sweet potato and veggies!, and a margherita) and a little IPA brew from Folino’s up the road. They took home the questionnaires; we’ll see what comes back!
In case you’re wondering what the broad bookstore tasks are, and why booksellers laugh maniacally when people suggest they probably get to read all day, I’ll list them (and I did take the time now to arrange by type):
Sales Floor & Handselling
- Write Book Reviews (shelf talkers, Edelweiss, Indie Next)
Recommend Books for Kids to Adults
Recommend Books for Kids to Kids
Recommend YA Books to anyone
Recommend Adult Books
Genres and Ages I feel most comfortable recommending
Genres or Age Ranges I Wish I Never Had to Recommend Books for (not a numerical rating)
- Create Table and Endcap Displays for Upcoming Holidays/Events/Various Themes
Create Window Displays
Make Signs & Signboards
Create Flyers for Upcoming Events
The Phone, The Phone (only refers to making calls, because we all have to answer the darned thing)
- Call SPO People (when orders come in; this refers to regular customer book orders)
Call SPO People for Languishing SPOs
Handle Challenging/Complicated Phone Calls
Call Publishers for Damages/Information
- Build Orders for Events
Build Orders for Upcoming Seasons/Holidays/Themes
Build Restock Orders
Bestseller List Restock
Process Event Books
Process Direct-to-Home Orders
Handle Mail/Web orders
Train on Frontlist Buying
Events & Marketing
- Initiate Events
Make Twitter and Facebook Posts
Write Press Releases
Initiate Marketing Ideas
Help Out at Events
Database and Website
- Bestseller List Coding
Fix Database Inconsistencies
Update Bookstore Website
Big-Picture Planning (excluding owner-only tasks)
- Rethink Store Sections
Create New Programs
Create Systems for New Programs
Update Staff Handbook
Cleaning, Organizing, Tidying
- Sort Sections Back into Order
Manage Book Donations
Change Out/ Restock Cards in Spinners
Take out Trash and Recycling
- Investigate Mysteries (Orange box, etc.) — This refers to the loose ends in every bookstore: books of unknown origin, partial shipments, projects in progress, etc.
Take Boxes and Orders to the Post Office
Take Orders to Senior Center
Waste Paper Printing Out Questionnaires
The scary thing is, that list doesn’t include SO MANY THINGS we do all day, like answer emails, pay bills, read reviews (okay, that happens outside of business hours, but still), and put out all kinds of tiny fires (missing shipments, missing books, changes to events, correcting sudden sales tax charges on invoices, checking release dates to make sure we haven’t missed a major title, and on and on and on!).
Really, the only people who have probably read to the end of this post are prospective/aspiring booksellers and colleagues who commiserate. To the former, I say, Be young and bold filled with energy! To the latter, I’d say let’s pull up a chair and have a hard cider, but none of us has the time. : )