Entrepreneurs betting on book and record stores

17 May 2017

From ctpost:

With summer right around the corner, several entrepreneurs are hoping to give area residents new options for finding the perfect beach read.

If history is your thing, Mike Roer, owner of Academy Books & Records, has a multitude of choices at his shop in downtown Bridgeport, which opened over the weekend.

Roer’s business, located on Fairfield Avenue, contains book shelves full of literature that dates back several centuries. “We’re not trying to compete with Barnes & Noble,” he said.

Because of their rarity, some of the findings at Academy are pricey – one of 16th century scholar Justus Lipsius’ texts will set a buyer back $500. But there are also plenty of inexpensive and more recent finds, like Len Deighton’s 1967 novel “An Expensive Place to Die,” which costs $15.

What if you’re looking for more contemporary fare? Stratford resident Nikkya Hargrove is hoping her shop, Serendipity, will appeal to those interested in more modern books if she can raise enough money to open it later this year.

. . . .

As he browsed the shelves and tables full of books, vinyl records and Bridgeport, railroad and baseball memorabilia at Academy Books & Records on Friday evening, Frank Kuchinski, of Stratford, noted the novelty of the place.

“I think in a digital age this is so interesting,” he said. “The physical experience is so different than the digital experience.”

It was not the books, however, but the vinyl records that led Bridgeport teacher Clayton Eles to stop in Friday on his way home to New Haven.

. . . .

“Bookstores continue to have a tough time existing,” he said. “If you’re as big as Barnes & Noble and you have to close stores, then you can imagine how hard it is for small or mid-size bookstores to compete. The good news is Barnes & Noble is closing stores but it hasn’t gone out of business.”

Link to the rest at ctpost


Coconut Grove, Fla., Bookstore Will Close If Not Sold Soon

16 May 2017

From Shelf Awareness:

The Bookstore in the Grove, Coconut Grove, Fla., is for sale and will close by the end of June if a buyer can’t be found, the Coconut Grove Grapevine reported. The store is “not a failing business,” the site wrote; owner Felice Dubin “just wants to move on.”

. . . .

“The whole purpose of the store was to replace Borders books, which was at the Mayfair for so many years. When they closed, Felice Dubin and Sandy Francis stepped in to give the Grove a bookstore. It was/is a labor of love for them.”

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness


California threatens to shut down book signings and therefore small booksellers

15 May 2017

From The Pacific Legal Foundation:

Today we filed this First Amendment lawsuit on behalf of beloved Bay Area bookstore Book Passage, and its co-owner, Bill Petrocelli.

Book Passage is a hub of literary activity and free expression.  In addition to selling books, it hosts over 700 author events a year—in which authors give talks, read passages, interact with readers, and autograph their books.  Bill keeps copies of these signed books to sell later—which you can see scattered down the aisles of his store.  Book Passage also curates a monthly book club, wherein readers are sent a first edition book signed by an up-and-coming author.

Book Passage doesn’t charge a premium for the autograph; all of its books are sold for their cover price. But a newly enacted California law makes it extremely risky, if not impossible, for Book Passage to continue selling autographed books or hosting author events.

Acting on purported consumer protection concerns, the legislature recently expanded its autograph law (which formerly only applied to sports memorabilia) to include any signed item worth over $5—including books.  Under that law, sellers must produce a certificate of authenticity and maintain detailed records of every sale for seven years.  Sellers must, among other things:

  1. Note the purchase price and date of sale,
  2. specify whether the item is part of a limited edition,
  3. note the size of the edition, anticipate any future editions,
  4. disclose whether the seller is bonded,
  5. divulge any previous owner’s name and address,
  6. if the book was signed in the presence of the seller, specify the date and location of the signing, and identify a witness to the autograph.

Link to the rest at Pacific Legal Foundation and thanks to Meryl and others for the tip.

PG suggests an amendment to the state constitution that limits the California legislature to a single two-week legislative session each year so it focuses on matters that really require laws.


Knowing which titles to work on is a challenge today that was not important 10 years ago

11 May 2017

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

About 15 years ago, my friend Charlie Nurnberg, then the Sales VP at Sterling (which was, then, an independent publisher not yet bought by Barnes & Noble) threw me a challenge.

“For years,” he said, “I got the B&N green-bar report [by which he meant an Excel spreadsheet] every Friday. I had 800 titles on my backlist and I knew everything that was going on.” But times had changed. “Now we have several thousand titles on the backlist, I have two guys working for me looking at the report, and I know stuff is falling between the cracks. Can you help me find it?”

I did a bunch of things to tweak that report, but two of them were extremely simple and turned out to be extremely valuable. B&N was telling its publishers in these weekly reports what the inventory for each title was in the superstores and how many they sold last week. And they also told each publisher how many of the copies of each title B&N was holding in their distribution center. These were copies not on store shelves.

In our massaged version of the spreadsheet, we calculated and reported what percentage of the week’s superstore inventory had sold and what percentage of the total B&N stock was in the distribution center. Then, employing one of the simplest things one can do in Excel, we sorted by those percentages to see what titles had sold the highest percentage of their inventory and which had the highest percentage of their stock in the DC.

Actionable items literally jumped off the spreadsheet. There were titles with little distribution that had sold big percentages of their stock, suggesting strongly they should be in more stores. And the first time out, we found two titles with 5000 copies in the DC and none in the stores. And those two titles had shipped several months previously.

. . . .

It was also well understood that it was a rare title that would have many copies in circulation 180 days after it came out. Most stores that had initial copies would either have sold them or sent them back. So a truly professional book marketer at a big house knew that any publicity break on a book more than six months old could only have value if a) it was big enough to compel stores to restock the title in anticipation of it and b) the publisher had enough time to alert the stores, perhaps through telemarketing, and get copies shipped in.

. . . .

But one lesson from that experience is important to apply today. Deciding which titles should get attention on any particular day, or for any particular sales call or marketer’s attention, is not a trivial challenge.

And that challenge for marketers in today’s marketplace is more difficult than it ever was before. Why? Because all titles are in play now. It is no longer true that only titles with real representation in the stores can benefit from a publicity break. It is no longer true that having inventory in place at retail locations is a necessary preconditon to get sales. Except for the biggest bestsellers — for which individual publicity breaks would seldom require a publisher to do anything — I reckon most titles over time sell more copies online than in stores. Online venues, with rare exceptions, are always “in stock”.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files


Harleysville Books to close

8 May 2017

From the Souderton Independent:

After working at the store for nine of its 11 years and owning it for the past three, it was a combination of factors that led to the decision to close Harleysville Books, Stephanie Steinly said.

The announcement that the store is closing was made on its Facebook page April 28, but that wasn’t news to a lot of people whom she had already told personally, Steinly said.

“It really is like the worst-kept secret in town because for most of April, I’ve been telling our regular customers,” she said.

“I think that all brick-and-mortar stores feel the pressure of the simplicity of online shopping,” she said. “We have tremendous success with our author visits, our book clubs and our author list events. Unfortunately, there’s not enough day-to-day traffic to support the ever-growing overhead of a brick-and-mortar store.”

Harleysville Books also had to deal with losing its lease and moving in July of last year to its new location in the Shelly Square shopping center, she said.

Many of the customers only came to the store once or twice a year, she said, giving as an example, buying books to read on vacation or for their children’s required school reading lists.

Many of those people didn’t know about the move and never came to the new store, she said.

“They pulled into our old location and they didn’t see us, and they thought, ‘Oh gosh, that little store closed,’” Steinly said, “and they just drove away.”

The most significant change in the past few years, though, was in the way people shop, she said.

“We’ve become almost like a showroom here where people will come in and they’ll read the first couple pages and they’ll sit in our comfy chair and they’ll ask us for suggestions,” before leaving the store and purchasing it somewhere else, she said.

. . . .

“I don’t know how to combat that, to be quite honest with you,” she said. “People who do that don’t understand the concept of what it means to have a healthy and vibrant local shopping economy.”

Steinly said she had already had two calls that morning from people who told her the Amazon price for books they were interested in purchasing and asked her price.

“I can’t ever beat the Amazon price, I’m just sorry to say,” she said. “That’s the way it is.”

When sponsors are needed for Little League teams or other programs, though, it’s the local businesses that provide the funds, she said.

“They’re the ones that support the nice things about living in a nice, small community, but people then fail to turn around and patronize those businesses,” Steinly said.

. . . .

“It’s necessary for us to sell everything just to be able to recoup what we have put into it over the last several years,” Steinly said.

“To have two kids in college and a husband who’s a public school teacher and to try to buy a small business after being the employee at that small business is quite a leap of faith, both professionally and personally,” Steinly said, “and it just didn’t work out as we had hoped.”

Link to the rest at Souderton Independent and thanks to Dave for the tip.


How to support a writer’s career

8 May 2017

From Cory Doctorow via boingboing:

Since the earliest days of my novel-writing career, readers have written to me to thank me for my books and to ask how they can best support me and other writers whose work they enjoy. Nearly 15 years later, I have a pretty comprehensive answer for them!

Writers’ commercial and critical fortunes are intertwined: a writer whose books perform well is a writer whose publisher buys and promotes more books from them, creating a virtuous cycle, as promotions beget more sales and more promotions.

The most important time to support a writer is just after their latest book comes out — my novel, Walkaway, is in its first week of publication — because that is the make-or-break moment for that book, and, conceivably, for its writer.

. . . .

Books that perform well in their first weeks become bestsellers. Bestsellers are more likely to be reviewed by major outlets, they are ordered in larger quantities by booksellers (a bookseller who takes five or more copies of a book will very likely place that book face-out in a new releases section and/or on a table at the front of the store). They are given close attention by collections-development staff in libraries, and are snapped up for translations by foreign publishers. They are read by production staffers for TV and movie studios. They renew interest in the author’s backlist, too.

Contrariwise, books that flop go into a death-spiral. They are returned by booksellers, their sales-figures are used to justify a smaller advance for the next book (and less promotions budget), and booksellers order fewer copies of the author’s next book. In really dire situations, a badly performing book can kill a writer’s career.

. . . .

1. Buy Walkaway or check it out of the library. Either one sends a strong signal to my publisher, to reviewers, to foreign publishers and to the industry. This is the most important thing you can do.

2. Review the book and tell your friends. Put your recommendation in your social media, in an online bookseller’s page, on Goodreads. There is literally nothing that sells books better than personal recommendations. This is the second-most important thing you can do.

3. Buy Walkaway from an indie bookseller. The independent booksellers are the best friends authors can have. They support our tours, hand-sell our books, write shelf-reviews and talk the book up to other bookish people. I am visiting 30+ indie bookstores on my tour and leaving signed copies in my wake — any of the stores I’ve visited will be glad to send you one by mail-order (and you can always call a store with an upcoming event to request a personalized, inscribed copy). Indie bookstores are experiencing a renaissance and your custom gives them the stability they need to continue.

Link to the rest at boingboing, thanks to Alexis for the tip and here’s a link to Walkaway.

As PG read the OP, he was struck by what a bizarre business traditional publishing and traditional bookstores have created.

There are a million things having nothing to do with the quality of a book that could interfere with its early sales – simultaneous release of a new book by a huge bestselling author, something outside of the book world that captures everyone’s attention – Macron, Trump, a lunatic in Pyongyang, etc.

The returns system established between traditional publishers and traditional bookstores encourages overordering and massive returns of unsold inventories has robbed bookstores of the inventory management savvy that is common in other businesses.

It’s well-known in the book business that Amazon returns a far smaller percentage of unsold print books than Barnes & Noble and other traditional bookstores. The reason? Amazon is much better at managing inventories than anyone else in the book business.

Traditional publishing has also sanctified the hallowed tradition of the golden gut of an editor determining which books will sell well and which will achieve modest sales. Again, no rigor and a lack of sophistication in determining which products to manufacture that would be laughed out of nearly any other 21st century business.


Amazon to open a (real-live physical) bookstore in D.C.

6 May 2017

From The Washington Post: has agreed to open a brick-and-mortar bookstore in Washington, part of a nationwide push into physical retailing by America’s largest e-commerce site.

Steven Roth, the chief executive of Vornado Realty Trust, told investors this week that Amazon has leased 10,000 square feet at 3040 M St. NW in Georgetown, a storefront previously occupied by Barneys New York. He did not specify when the store is set to open.

. . . .

The bookstore is just one way that Amazon is branching into brick-and-mortar retailing. It is also piloting a grocery concept called Amazon Go that would allow shoppers to skip the checkout lane to pay for their goods. There is only one Amazon Go location at this time, and it is set to open to the public later this year. (Currently, only Amazon employees can shop there.)

. . . .

The Amazon store in Georgetown will be on the same block that once housed a massive, multistory Barnes & Noble store, which shuttered its doors there in 2011 as part of a wider retreat that came after years of fighting a losing battle with Amazon.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post and thanks to Dave for the tip.


11 Things Your Indie Bookseller Wants You To Know

5 May 2017

From Patchwork Mosaic:

Independent bookstores are a wonder to behold. Stuffed with ancient treasures, the indie bookstore can be an amazing place to spend a spell-bound hour or two. Many used bookstores rely on books coming through the door to keep their inventory up, so they can also be a great place to get a little cash or credit from the books you have at home collecting dust.

As someone who has spent a significant amount of time on the other side of the dusty counter, allow me to give you a few words of advice when it comes to selling your books to a used bookstore.

1. Old Does Not Necessarily Mean Valuable

HRH Queen Vicki loves a good Danielle Steel novel after a long day of ruling the Empire.
A crumbling prayer book of your grandma’s from 1882 is probably worthless, unless your grandma was Queen Victoria. Supply and demand drives the book trade as it does with any other product, so if there is no demand for your book, it isn’t going to be worth very much, no matter how old it is.

. . . .

3. Signed Does Not Mean Valuable

Believe it or not, a signed book is not necessarily valuable either. Once again, supply and demand plays a huge role. If the book is signed by someone who is in high demand but does not sign a lot of books, someone like, say, Cormac McCarthy, then that signature will have a great deal more value than something you got signed by an obscure Sci-Fi writer at your hometown’s version of Comic-Con.

. . . .

5. You Will Only Get 20-25% of the Re-Sale Value
We are going to buy your books at a percentage of the resale value, otherwise we will never make any money and indie bookstores will become a relic of the past for good. If you spent $30 on a hardcover new release, you aren’t going to make nearly that much back. Re-sale value is $12-$15 on most general stock hardcovers, so you are at most going to get offered $3-$4 for it.

Link to the rest at Patchwork Mosaic and thanks to Dave for the tip.


The Power of the Indie Bookstore

28 April 2017

From Literary Hub:

Book browsers and community-seekers rejoice: this Saturday, April 29, is Independent Bookstore Day. 470 indie bookstores across the country will be participating.

. . . .

Emily Temple: What are your first bookstore memories? Do you have a favorite bookstore from childhood?

Emma Straub: There were several great bookstores on the Upper West Side when I was a kid—there was Endicott, Eeyore’s, Shakespeare and Company. We went to all of them all the time, though in truth, Channel Video, the local video store, was the only place in the neighborhood that had a thing that I could crawl inside, and so that sort of won. Mostly when I think about Endicott, I think about one of the booksellers, who my father was friendly with, who was apparently covering his entire body in tattoos in hopes of becoming a human lampshade someday. Funny what sticks.

ET: What has been the best part about starting a bookstore—and what has been the hardest part?

ES: The most fun part has been ordering books. That has also been the hardest part. I so badly want the store to have a personality, but I also want to be mindful that my taste is not everyone’s. It’s a tricky thing! We shall see.

ET: Why do you think independent bookstores are still thriving in the era of Amazon? What makes them so special?

ES: I was thinking about this today, especially in regards to Independent Bookstore Day. What makes indie bookstores so special is that each one is totally unique. Even though we’re all ordering from the same publishers for the most part, each space is totally its own, and each point of view, as well. I could go to a dozen indie bookstores in a day. They are each a total kingdom. That’s why they’re thriving—they’re living, breathing creatures. You wouldn’t swap your cat for a robot, even though the cat sometimes eats your hair and then barfs on the rug. It’s the same thing. I would rather have an eccentric, fallible thing with a soul. Wouldn’t you?

Link to the rest at Literary Hub and thanks to Dave for the tip.


The Beautiful and Bizarre Moments of Seattle’s Independent Bookstores

27 April 2017

From The Stranger:

Independent bookstores are the best. You never know when you’re going to have a profound experience browsing the shelves, an encounter with a famous writer, or an unexpected flirtation with someone who has the same taste in books as you do.

On April 29, nineteen Seattle-area bookstores are participating in Independent Bookstore Day. If you visit all of them and get your Indie Bookstore Challenge passport stamped at each, you get 25 percent off at all those stores for a year.

Two years ago, 42 people completed the challenge; last year, 120 people did; this year, maybe you?

In anticipation of Independent Bookstore Day, I visited a few of the participating bookstores and put their staff members on the spot: What’s the craziest thing that’s happened in their store?

. . . .

Third Place Books

17171 Bothell Way NE, Lake Forest Park, 206-366-3333

Events manager Wendy Ceballos recalls booking John Irving and Hulk Hogan on the same night. The Lake Forest Park location is big enough to do multiple events at once, so they do it sometimes, but this was a particularly interesting pairing. “John Irving was onstage and had like 200 people, and Hulk Hogan had a signing line only. The audiences couldn’t be more different from each other, and they were sort of bumping into each other. And I got them in the back room, and of course John Irving knew who Hulk Hogan was, and Hulk Hogan had no idea who John Irving was,” Ceballos said.

Seattle Mystery Bookstore

117 Cherry St, 206-587-5737

“We do have a ghost,” one employee said when I asked if there was anything mysterious about the store. “About 15 years ago, one of the staff came out from the back hallway and asked her colleague if the man back there had been helped. Her colleague told her there was nobody back there. When they looked, there was indeed nobody back there. The woman who saw the man described him as a dark figure wearing a long overcoat and a funny round hat. And a few months later, a guy came in who said that his great-grandfather had had a barbershop in our space back in the time of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in 1909, and the next time he was in he’d bring us pictures. The next time he came in, weeks later, he brought a picture of this space when it was a barbershop and a picture of his great grandfather, who was wearing a long dark overcoat and a bowler hat. The woman who had been working and had seen the dark figure didn’t know the term for a bowler hat.” He paused to let that sink in. “And occasionally books fly off shelves. We usually say, ‘Hello, ghost.’ And two women who work here with me now occasionally feel someone futzing with the hair on the back of their head. That’s when they know it’s time for a haircut.”

Link to the rest at The Stranger and thanks to M. for the tip.

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