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Tag: bookshops

Sheila O’Reilly is the Events Manager Village Bookshop in Dulwich Village. She is a bookseller with over 18 years’ experience of running bookshops and author event. Passionate about running hugely successful events that customers enjoy she also loves reading well written stories. Here she shares her top tips for running bookshop events. 

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In the run up to Publishing: the next 5 years, BookMachine will be featuring a number of opinions about what might be next for the industry. This is a guest blog from Lottie Chase. Lottie is the Sales Manager of Legend Press, a publisher passionate about championing new and high-profile authors and ensuring the book remains a product of beauty, enjoyment and fulfilment. She was the Chair of the Society of Young Publishers and has previously worked in export sales at both Walker Books and Quercus.

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If the internet has proven anything, it’s that if someone famous does something, normos (everyone who is non-famous) will also do it in a misjudged attempt to be famous. That, and the fact there’s no such thing as private messages. Both these lessons came to the fore last week in the aftermath of the London Book Fair, where the Bookseller Association announced the advent of the Books Are My Bag campaign (a high street campaign to make reading seem even cooler than it already is with branded merchandise), and Tom Tivnan from The Bookseller sent an incredibly acerbic email to a photographer that was subsequently forwarded to the inbox of pretty much everyone in the trade.

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Last week saw the launch of Bookish in the US – a new, and frankly bloody stunning book discovery/online retailer (or as I call them, a ‘social retailer’). They’ve got a brilliant pitch, a stunning site, and features the rest of us have been discussing for a while that we thought may never come to fruition. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. The golden egg, the holy grail, of online book discovery. An algorithm that recommends you books. Not ‘readers also bought’. Not ‘you might also like’. Something that says ‘what’s a book you have read and loved lately?’ and then picks you a bunch more based on what I can only assume is metadata more detailed than a fractal zoom on a mandelbrot set.

I hope you all brought spare underwear.

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Last week saw the declaration by Amazon that the dissolution of agency pricing in the US was a “big win for customer” and that they look forward to lowering prices on more ebooks in the future. It’s slightly surreal for me to read that lower ebook prices is something anyone would ‘look forward’ to, given how much effort publishers are making (not across the board, but certainly in some places) to ensure the price of ebooks stays at a level that encourages a sense of worth for the format. Testament to Amazon’s place in the market, however, the news was not received badly.

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chickenandfrod30ar03ap01zk-hayes3a_mdmChicken and Frog Bookshop is the only independent children’s bookshop in Essex. The family owned and run store opened its doors in October 2012.

We have been book lovers since our childhoods. If you want to be a successful bookseller, passion helps! Lots of it. Over the past four years, we have learnt a great deal about bookselling, so here’s our top tips:

1) Set out your stall

The environment you create is key. It needs to be engaging and easy to navigate. Use shelf talkers, make collections of books, keep your displays fresh.

2) Your window is your main advertising tool

We change ours weekly if possible. It needs to make people stop and look. If it stays the same, people don’t ‘see’ it anymore.

3) Know your store

This is two-fold. Ensure that all staff know where things are – having a change around only works if you can still find the books you’re looking for! And know the books. You can’t make a recommendation if you don’t know what you’re selling.

4) Be ruthless

If a title has been dust collecting for 3 months, it needs to go. That can be really tough, especially if it’s a firm favourite of yours. But, you are not the customer!

5) Know your customers

This is related to tip 4. You may love obscure Japanese poetry, but if your customers don’t, don’t stock it. This was a lesson that we learnt pretty quickly I can tell you.

6) Embrace authors and illustrators

If an author or illustrator wants to visit, welcome them with open arms. They are awesome. But, plan carefully. Be ready and let everyone know about the event.

7) Schools mean business

If you want to survive, you need strong relationships with schools. The reality is, schools have very fixed budgets, so you need to show them how important you are! Offer discounts (if you can), curriculum evenings, free stuff (posters, not books!) and, your time.

8) Connect with your community

Support your community and they will support you. We don’t mean by putting your hand in your pocket – booksellers don’t tend to be rich! But, you can offer storytelling, raffle prizes for good causes, put up a poster or share a Tweet. All of these actions help to foster a sense of community and they make you feel good too!

9) Social media

If you’re a bit of a technophobe, you need to get over it. Twitter and Facebook are effective tools for reaching out to people and getting your message across. The majority of our author links are due to being a little bit cheeky via Twitter.

10) Web presence

We can’t compete with the big boys on price, but we still need a web presence. If you take a look at our website, it’s not all singing, all dancing. We update recommendations, events page and the blog on a regular basis. Other pages are pretty static, but necessary and easy to navigate. Keep it simple.

Chicken and Frog Bookshop owners, Jim and Natasha Radford, harboured the notion of opening a bookshop for many years, before finally taking the plunge. Jim’s IT background, coupled with Natasha’s teaching career, plus a passion for getting children reading, means that the bookshop is full to the brim with a wide range of books and enthusiasm by the page full.

My Independent BookShop

Penguin Random House today launched My Independent Bookshop, a combination social network and e-commerce platform that hopes to benefit independent booksellers whilst providing a virtual counterpart to browsing their shelves. The site allows users to create their own ‘bookshops’, selecting 12 titles they would recommend to others and giving them space to tell other users why, hoping to capture the feeling of a personal recommendation that might be found in brick and mortar bookshops, outside of the standard Amazon algorithms. Those 12 titles can be rotated as often as desired, and the bookshop containing them can also be personalised to users’ own tastes.

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The Booksellers Association last week released its annual membership figures, and they made for grim reading for lovers of independent bookshops: for the sixth year running, the total number of indies on the UK high street remained in decline.

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At some stage last week while I was asleep, buy buttons were removed from Big 6 (5?) publishers Hachette, Penguin, Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster. What followed was a brief turd storm of concern, blame and speculation about what these publishers had done to bring forth the wrath of Bezos, followed by a ‘statement’ from Amazon a while later saying it was a technical glitch (ie: they sent out an email with ‘technical glitch’ as the subject line and blank body text, probs).

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True story: there are some really, absolutely, unquestionably terrible book covers in the world – ones that make you want to approach bookshelves with a flamethrower rather than an open wallet – and while we’d like to curse these to that terrible time in history when ‘fashionable’ was synonymous with ‘seizure’ (the 80s), this isn’t always going to be the case. Given that some people still believe a large stock image and a whacky font is a winning way to represent their title, I don’t think we’re going to be stuck for contenders for the worst book cover award any time soon.

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