So often people romanticize bookstore life as one of sitting comfortably, usually in a rocking chair, reading all day. This image, while lovely, is very far from the truth of bookstore life. The first thing I tell people who think we read all day is, well, actually, if you see staffers at bookstores reading, the store is likely to go out of business soon. We are busy all day and store work is surprisingly physical. The days can be long and there is a lot of hauling of boxes and many steps taken on a regular day, but throw offsite events into the mix and you really don’t need to belong to a gym. Continue reading
I am reasonably sure that independent booksellers who work closely with schools feel unsettled by the news that Amazon Lands Major Account: New York City Public Schools. Rather thick for the thin edge of a new wedge in an already unbalanced market. The question at hand is whether working through that unsettling feeling can yield anything productive, rather than a simply cathartic result.
To help us answer that question, expert help seemed called for. Few people can provide greater insight into calibrating the means of maintaining the social and economic balance essential for a civil society than John Locke. He was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to share his insights with us.
Obviously, one of the best things about owning a bookstore is the kids. Daily, little ones come in and have milestones: first goodbye wave at an actual goodbye moment, first word read, etc. For me, though, it’s the first time I see the kids as book-loving adults that really moves me. We’ve been open almost 20 years, and now our first generation of little kids, kids who grew up reading at the store, are now in the mid-to-late-twenties. In the last several weeks I’ve seen a bunch of them and they’re all readers, and I am proud of that, and prouder still of the adults they’ve become. Continue reading
Oh, publishers, you do love your promotional doodads. And we sometimes love them, too, but much of the time, they honestly don’t help us promote and sell your books. You might play to your strengths by helping where we need it most. Publishers have entire departments devoted to creating marketing and promotional materials, whereas we stores often have small staffs with varying levels of artistic ability. Instead of sending us 200 bookmarks that only 12 customers will end up taking, or shipping us those books-nestled-in-Easter-grass-in-a-special-fitted-box – which too often arrive looking sad, squished, and decrepit from their postal journey – consider sending us instead:
Bookselling in a rural area means many things, and one of them is that I see very few reps in person. Even when I have assigned field reps it is still by phone. From the major houses only one drives all the way up to central Maine to see me: Ellen Pyle of Macmillan. If you assumed that the fact of her making that effort indicated something about her character as a rep you would be right. Ellen is an intrepid and energetic individual, a voluminous communicator, and a tireless, thoroughgoing advocate for both Macmillan and her bookstores. When she crossed the threshold into DDG yesterday I made the move to corral Ellen and lure her into employing the Pyle propensity for strong communication into taking interview form.
Kenny: All right Ellen, the Young Adult novel you wish had been around when you were 12?
Ellen: Rain, Reign! It’s not difficult to read, it’s wonderful to read. Wonderful. It’s so encouraging.
Kenny: A culturally superior alien was looking down her nose at human creative endeavors until you showed her this picture book?
Ellen: The Pout-Pout Fish for its soft encouragement of good behavior in toddlers and aliens.
Kenny: Your favorite fall kids’ book?
Ellen: Oh definitely Vassa in the Night. While it’s a little dark, the writing is so imaginative and superior that you just flow along with the story. I love this book!
Kenny: Your thoughts on the evolving role of reps?
Ellen: Edelweiss has made our job a little more intense, a little more detail-oriented, but it has also allowed us to be better reps because it has forced to think a little more about what we’re saying about the books to our buyers.
Kenny: If you could change one thing in the book industry what would it be?
Ellen: Our relationship to other media. I’m constantly hearing that they’re happy that Independent bookstores are surviving when in fact they are thriving.
Kenny: Biggest mistake children’s buyers make?
Ellen: Allowing personal prejudices to color their purchases.
Kenny: Hmmn. The constant struggle, eh? How about the smartest thing children’s buyers do?
Ellen: Read galleys.
Kenny: Phew! Thanks, Ellen!
Ellen: Thank you!
Most independent booksellers, especially ones in small towns, know their regular customers quite well. We know not just what sorts of books they generally enjoy, but we also know about their life. Sometimes, this knowledge informs what books we recommend for better or for worse. All good books reflect life as we know it and have themes that can sometimes be hard. Our knowledge of a customer’s life has us making some snap decisions about what books suggest. There is also an art to good bookselling and there are many factors that contribute to a certain recommendation. Continue reading
Our love affair with John and Jennifer Churchman, authors of the wildly popular Sweet Pea & Friends: The Sheepover, continues to grow strong. John and Jen hatched a plan with their publisher, Hachette, to give Vermont independent bookstore a real break at being the only stores to pre-sell their second book, Brave Little Finn, by offering 1,000 numbered books well before the October 4th release date. All participating stores got 50 books, with the possibility of getting more if sales warranted. The Churchmans announced the deal on Friday around noon. By 12:01 my phone was literally ringing off the hook. By 2 pm I was calling John, literally begging for more books as I had blown past my 50. Selling this book has been so much fun. Continue reading
Recently, I had the great pleasure of hearing editor Neal Porter share some of the picture books he has published over the past few years, along with some upcoming treats (School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex and Christian Robinson is brilliant and endearing! Best Frints in the Whole Universe by Antoinette Portis is such silly fun – you can’t NOT read it out loud! Yuyi Morales’ Rudas: Niño’s Horrendous Hermanitas is hilarious and visually mesmerizing!).
Here is a list of three things which, once you come in possession of, you feel a powerful need to share.
- Good advice
- An epiphany
- A great book
For example I came into some excellent advice the other day by way of experience. Here it is. Never train voice recognition software when your dogs are barking in the background. Heat juice donuts worms cattle of of of of of of .* Unimpeachable good advice if there ever was any.
Now that I’ve shared that, I’ll move onto an epiphany. Booksellers who read and love young adult books think about crossover appeal all the time. Suppose one has a great YA book which one is sure has crossover appeal. How and when to break the ice with an adult reader who is not accustomed to reading YA?
On a recent sunny Sunday three Massachusetts booksellers piled into a car and drove the 75 miles to help Annie Philbrick unpack stock for her new store, Savoy Books, in Westerly, R.I. All along the winding road, book and management talk bobbed to the surface again and again, never interrupted for long by stunning views of little harbors, long stone walls, and varied mansions. “Have you read …?” “Didn’t you love …?” “What do you think about that new one by the guy who wrote …?” “Have you ever had to fire anybody? How did you do it?” “Is a café really worth the extra stress?” Jan Hall, recently retired from Partners Village Store in Westport, Mass.; Vicky Titcomb, manager of Titcomb’s Bookshop in Sandwich, Mass.; and Carol Chittenden, former owner of Eight Cousins Books, Falmouth, Mass., were on the road again.