Thursday, November 29, 2007


Here's an insight into how i'm ordering the stock for the shop.

Remember, we're ordering from scratch, and I don't have anyone from Head Office to phone up and ask to send a spreadsheet of the top 500 on each category (although, I might give it a go a bit later today).
As you can see i'm using a mixture of order and chaos.
OK some things to spot.It's like a where's wally book,(or where's Waldo for our American visitors).
* A bunch of bananas for energy
* An Ipod on which I have 'The eye of the Tiger', 'Gold' by Spandau ballet and 'You're the Best Around' by Joe Esposito from the Karate Kid soundtrack on a constant loop.
* A never ending cup of coffee
* A selection of Spongebob Squarepants DVDs to keep me sane
* Some bestseller reports possibly from Waterstone's
* A Bertram's core stock list, which probably has too many Art titles in BTW.
* Anadin Extra, because i've done my back in doing some gardening (i'm not on gardening leave).
* Catalogues from many wonderful publishers.
* Gardners and Bertrams new title catalogues
* lists of 13 digit numbers
* a brilliant picture flat called 'That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown' (isbn 9781843624530), to break the monotony. (Thanks Darren)
* 3 pens, because I keep losing them under paper.
* if you look really closely you might see a single teardrop from when i'd just finished loading around 450 isbns onto a spreadsheet and then forgot to save it.

I also have a computer (duh!), and will today be tackling Mind Body and Spirit and self help, which we have allocated 21 shelves (672 books approx).
Right, starting with A. Angels, Alchemy, Astrology, Another coffee I think.....


I was going to put a comment along the lines of "This is the tidyest I've ever seen Simon's flat..." but then I looked at the state of my own front room, and realised that there would be a certain amount of kettle abusing pots involved.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007



No, this isn't a waxwork model of the legendary poker player, Gary 'the hat' McCardshark, it is in fact Tim 'the bookshop' West.

Now, for no prize whatsoever, here's the big quiz question.

What do you think he's been doing today?

It has something to do with the shop, so it's not completely random.



You will notice that my left hand is poised for the quick draw of which I am legendary. Except for the fact that I am right-handed. Oh, and I haven't got a gun. The two facts that I'm right-handed, and I haven't got a gun... And I'm not a real cowboy. The three facts... I'll come in again)

Monday, November 26, 2007



In a previous life, as well as bookselling I used to sell badges. I did OK from it, so well in fact that it was through this that I got my accountant, Damian, to sort out my accounts. He's great, and if anyone out there wants an accountant he's superb.
Anyway, back to the badges. We've been mucking around with fonts and styles and i've stuck a couple on badges. They could be all the rage soon......

Let us know what you think, although this is probably far from the final outcome.

By the way, if anyone out there wants some badges done at competitive prices, you know where to come.....

Wood Green is Lovely

less than 10 minutes walk from the site of our shop is Alexandra Park. Prety much every Sunday, Katie and I go up there for a walk and also to visit the Farmer's Market. Blowing cobwebs and all that...
During the summer we picked loads of nettles, and Katie made a wonderful soup and a nettle flan. We've picked blackberries in September and made some fantastic jam and muffins and cakes and crumbles(what a bunch of hippies). More recently we almost risked picking mushrooms, but decided to wait until we were sure of survival before trying this.
We're going to pick some holly and similar stuff to make chrimbo decorations.
Wood Green is lovely

Look, it's lovely.

see, lovely

Lovely lovely Wood Green...mmmm

(wood)Stock update


I'm tired....but there's so much more to do. I've gone through a load of speadsheets and picked and picked and repicked titles for the shop.
Here's the score so far.
We will be stocking Dan Brown, but not Roy Chubby Brown
We will be stocking MBS, IBS, BNF, EFL, NVQ and CGP but not GBH, WWF or CSI
We will be stocking Roald Dahl, but no books on Salvador Dali
We wlll be stocking Clarice Bean but not Mister Bean
We will be stocking Miriam Stoppard but not Tom Stoppard
We will be stocking 'misery memoirs', but not 'Grumpy Old' nonsense
We will be stocking Harry Potter, Harry and the Dinosaurs, Harry the Dirty Dog and Harry Turtledove, but not Gary Barlow, Gary Larson, Barry Trotter or something else with 'arry' in it.
I'm going to get in touch with Usborne, Scholastic and CGP tomorrow to get complete catalogues, but things are moving along as smooth as a dolphin.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Dickens, Trollope, Peltzer and Rainbow Fairies


how the bloomin' blink do you decide what to stock?

We've got lists...oh yeah, we've got lists alright. They're all full of 'bestsellers', and all worthy of shelf space in any good bookshop. So, we've got around 40-45 bays (bookcases) to fill with all these lovely titles. Sounds like loads of space doesn't it? Pah! I say.
Right, we've got 12 bays for kids, 6 bays for fiction (is that enough?) and 3 bays each for crime and sci fi. So that's 24 bays already. There's travel, biography, lifestyle, academic stuff, art stuff, 3 bays at least for multicultural, mind body and spirit and loads of other sections that we've got to fit in there.

'stop being such a drama queen'
oh yeah, Drama...

Anyway, we've sorted out pretty much how much space we're going to allocate for each section (Tim and his amazing dancing spreadsheets), so now it's all about the books.
Do we stock all the classics?...we can't afford the space.
what travel guides do we stock?... Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Eyewitness, but which ones?
3 bays of crime, so that's half a bay of Agatha Christie?... NO!
3 bays of Sci Fi, so that's half a bay of Terry Pratchett?...NO!
foreign language guides, which ones?
dictionaries, which ones?
Oh nuts, we forgot about phrasebooks
I haven't even started on Kid's yet!

I've spent about 5 hours today going through a Penguin Complete Stocklist, to choose which titles we'd stock. The adult list is over 5,500 titles of which a large percentage are worthy of shelf space. However, for example, if we took 1 copy of each title that would fill more than half the shop. I don't think that the other publishers would be too pleased if we did that (and neither would our customers). This is an example of the painful pleasure i'm going through at the moment. I'd been warned that this would be a real nightmare, but I have to say that it's the most enjoyable bookshop related activity i've done for ages.
I can't tell you how much fun it is to choose every book in your own shop.
The feeling of power is almost palpable. I don't think we'll stock Lewis (2nd) Hamilton, and we'll definitely leave Sharon (Daddy's girl) Osbourne to 'Survive' in another shop. However, we might stock lots of Katie (the devil's dumplings) Price.....but that's the joy of having your own choice!

Thanks to everyone who've sent lists/suggestions/catalogues. They're all really helpful, and we'll take every piece of information we get into account. As we wait for things to move forward, it's a great chance for us to get the opening stock right. Or as right as we can, anyway.....

Big Broth... Er, Big Bookshop


The following email arrived a couple of days ago. Only the names and numbers have been concealed to protect the innocent.


I was just wondering if your bookshop had opened yet as BBC London TV would be interested in doing a feature on it.
Please do get in contact on 0207 *** **** or 07*** ******.

Thank you


A long time ago, in a far away post, we said that we quite fancied a reality-type TV program to follow our progress. Maybe this email is the start?

I could be as famous as that bloke from Airplane. Or is it Airport? You know the one... That chap.... um James? Or Jerry.... Anyway, him. Or as famous as the girl who married the bloke in the band. You must remember her, she had a book and everything.

Or maybe, Simon and I could be the bookselling world's equivalent of Ant and Dec? (For a long time I thought it was one person called Anton)

Ah yes. Fame awaits. All we need now is a Bookshop.

As for the actual progress. Well, we decided not to do too many posts saying "We're waiting for this or that to happen" as they get quite repetitive. So you can probably guess that we're waiting for something to happen. I'll try to heighten the tension by not telling you what it is...........

....... Is is working?

Monday, November 19, 2007

What's in a Name?


I mentioned in an earlier post that I was a Director (Cue manic laughter - thanks, Chris) and that Simon was also Director and Company Secretary. My manic laughter subsides to a mere manic snigger when I realise that it's...

2 - 1 to Simon.

Well, we sat down to fill in the Bertrams account form and the first box to complete was "Name of Manager". The big fella comes in from the left and it's....

2 all.

There's a little scuffle in the "Buyer" box, and my cowboy hat covers my eyes momentarily. When the referee sorts it all out it's....

3 - 2 to Simon.

I am distraught. There's advice begin shouted from the touchline. There's mocking songs floating over the breeze from the grandstand (Who's the b*st*rd in the hat?.) They think it's all over... But what's this? from out of nowhere comes "Account Manager" Whilst Simon is still mouthing "What the hell is tha...." I slip passed his defence and make it....

3 all.

The final whistle blows. We shake hands and exchange shirts and it's off to the baths. At this point Simon throws me out of his flat. Apparently I took the metaphor too far......

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Making Plans for Simon


Hello everybody peeps. Not too much to report. Yesterday we headed off to the shop premises with Tim's electronic tape measure, to get an accurate floorplan.
Tim then nicked off home and within 3 hours he'd pulled together something glorious on an excel spreadsheet and cycled over to my place to show me how it worked. We now have this amazing program which can tell us on average how many books we can stock if we have x amount of paperbacks, y amount of kids books and z amount of lifestyle titles. It changes as we change the shop layout, and it does other clever things too. He's a clever fella that Tim fella.
I filled in a few credit account forms in the evening in a desperate attempt to avoid watching a bunch of scrotums from 'The Bill' singing for Charity. Good old Pudsey....

Oh yeah, we also got the company chequebook!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Here comes the Rumour Mill


So, what a lot of stuff's going on up London way. First, it seems that my old branch of Waterstone's/Dillons/Claude Gill/Athena is to 'close temporarily in early 2009' due to the new Crossrail trainline being built.
Rumour has it that they are looking for new sites on Oxford Street to accommodate the staff , so the idea that they're to close temporarily seems strange. I had a look at the Crossrail plans for where the shop is, and the latest proposal is that there will be a ground level station there. Apparently nobody's too worried in the branch, but it's also rumoured that the work on the rail link will start in Summer 2008....apparently

In more sad news, the Pan Bookshop, in Fulham has announced that it's going to close in January next year!
I have copied the next bit from the article in the Bookseller (the organ of the booktrade)
David Macmillan, who was responsible for the shop, said: "It is a very sad day for us all after so many years trading (32), and serving the local community, but I'm afraid the difficult trading conditions we are all experiencing, have made it impossible for the shop to continue. We just haven't had the margins to enable us to compete in our high street location."
I say Bollocks to that. There's a market there, and despite the rents being high, surely the business could have continued. Relocate to a smaller, cheaper premises. Investors, check out the shops P and L, and take the plunge. Start a petition (as an anonymous reader suggested!). The shop has a turnover of millions, so it seems crazy that no-one will realise the gap in the market.
Blaming high rents, tough trading conditions, and wishing the members of staff 'well for the future'.
It seems that Wood Green isn't too different from West London after all....apparently.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Yes, it's been a while hasn't it. Sorry about that. The thing is, I expect you're sick of us saying 'Oooh, we're hoping to get the keys soon', and 'It won't be long now'. Frankly, so am I, but since Sunday things seem to have moved forward another inch or two.
As i've been banned from speaking to any solicitor, in case I swear or offer them outside (I wouldn't do this), Tim spoke to solicitor A on Monday, who let us know that signed things had arrived from places and that once two more signed things arrived from other places, contracts could be drawn up to be signed and sent to other places. This is marvellous, don't you agree?
Oh yeah, he also asked us for two grand...

On Tuesday, one of things that Tim and Julie, his wife who doesn't want to be mentioned, had to sign, was due to pick up from solicitor A's office. Tim's smallest(but probably noisiest) child Harry, unfortunately, started feeling unwell on Monday evening, and had to take the day off school on Tuesday. Now Tim wasn't too keen on risking a trip to the solicitors with an explosive child in tow, so I volunteered to face the solicitors alone.
This task completed (I didn't have to come face to face with any solicitor), I headed over to Tim's to drop the papers off. We then spent an hour or two going over logo designs for The Big Green Bookshop. It occured to me last night that we could call ourselves T.B.G.Bs, and try and get some New York punk bands to play at our opening party, but anyway...
We spent today talking terms with our main distributor. It was a tough decision, but we've chosen Bertrams. There were one or two things that made us choose them, and having seen their stock control system in action in another indie (as well as the offer of free computers), it made sense to us. We'll be using them to put together the opening stock, and in the meantime sort out our other distributors.
Anyway, that's all for now. I'm off to the pub now to celebrate our friend Laura's 30th birthday....I remember being 30, i think.

Tomorrow I shall be discussing Watertone's, 19-23 Oxford Street(my old old shop) and the crossrail decision, and also the terrible news about the Pan Bookshop. I shall also write happy things as well so chin up everyone!

Sunday, November 11, 2007



Katie and I went out on Thursday evening to meet my very good friends Alister (kronenbourg) and Heather(kronenbourg). I've known Alister since I moved to london in'95 and he was the first person I worked with at Waterstone's in Charing Cross Road. He looked after me, and made sure I knew where all the local boozers were, and generally made me feel welcome. He works at Waterstone's Head Office now, and despite this he's still as lovely as he's always been.
Also, we had the pleasure of meeting David(magners) and his wife Rosalchen(red wine/soda & lime). David had sent us a message of support and mentioned that he lived nearby (above the pub we went to, actually), so I told him we'd be there and that if he wanted to meet up, then great. Well we did meet up and what a thoroughly good time we had. David works for the publishers McGraw-Hill and also spent around 6 years at Foyle's Bookshop. They said how sad it was that the Waterstone's had closed in Wood Green, and offered help (knocking down walls, painting etc) when needed. This was another one of those feelgood moments, and I hope we've now made two new friends.

On Friday Tim and I went to meet our Small Business adviser at the bank and finalised the bank account details. We'll be getting Big Green Bookshop chequebooks and Big Green Bookshop credit cards next week, and can soon set up accounts with distibutors. We've arranged to meet up with a couple of distributors next week to thrash out terms etc.

Thanks to all of you who've sent bestseller reports (keep 'em coming). They're going to be really useful when the task of getting the opening stock sorted starts.

We're still hoping to get the keys to the shop in the next fortnight, despite, not because of, the solicitors. I wish we could just talk to the people we need to, but the procedure seems to be
1 talk to our solicitor
2 our solcitor send a letter to their solicitor
3 We wait
4 Their solicitor sends a letter back
one week goes by.......
I'm sure there's lots more going on, but when you get something marked 'urgent' sent to you with a second class stamp on it, you wonder if everyone else realises just how urgent it is.

Finally (for now) CONGRATULATIONS to Vanessa at the Fidra Bookshop who opened their doors to the public for the first time yesterday. Both the launch party on Thursday and the first day were 'brilliant' according to Vanessa and we both wish you all the luck in the world for the future.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Rogue Statesman


A great article about this here thing we're doing (amongst other things) appeared in the New Statesman today Here's a link. I did the interview a few weeks ago, and Sarah Birke managed to make me sound a lot more eloquent than I was at the time. She obviously knows what she's doing. Also, did I really say 'reciprocate'?. If I did, then well done me.

In other news, if you happen to see a man wearing a cowboy hat skulking around in a bookshop today with a notepad, shiftily writing down ISBNs(IT'S NOT 'ISBN number' OK) it's probably a figment of your imagination, and you should probably ignore him.

I'm taking some wise advice today and I shall be registering

Thanks Kieron, if I can reciprocate (yes) in any way, please let me know.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Limited in name only


I got a call from Damian, our accountant to let me know that the Certificate of Incorporation had arrived, so I jumped on my bike and went to pick it up.


So, the BIG GREEN BOOKSHOP is now officially a limited company.

Now we can open our business bank account, which means that then we can open accounts with distributors. It also means we can have credit cards with 'The Big Green Bookshop..Business' on it.

Limited seems such a strange way of describing us. We used to be limited, before we got made redundant, but now you may well see me and Tim wearing silver outfits strutting up and down the High Road, singing 'No no..No No No no no, There's no Limits' much like this

Maybe if it got us in the papers we would anyway...........

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Things I Have Learned Today (or is it learnt)


1. I am not legally allowed to talk to the shop's landlord's solicitor.
2. I shouldn't have told my solicitor that i'd talked to the shop's landlord's solicitor.
3. I shouldn't listen to anyone who suggests I call the shop's landlord's solicitor.
4. Since requesting free stuff and/or bestseller lists from you lovely people my postman has stopped whistling such a perky tune in the mornings (thanks).
5. It really doesn't matter what day in November it is. Every night is fireworks night in Wood Green.
6. Trying to obtain account opening forms from 'Haphazard Residence'(6,5) using their website isn't much fun.
7. I should have left the house today.


I Haven't learnt a thing today. but my thoughts on Simon's education are...

1. I did not know that
2. Really?
3. If we had known 1 & 2 this would have been obvious
4. I have joined the RSPCP (Royal Soc for the Prevention of Cruelty to Postmen)
5. Fireworks? Thank goodness, I'll come out from under the table
6. Eh?
7. It was such a nice day, it seemed a shame to go out and spoil it.

Harry can burp his ABC...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Our Visit to the Accountant

' Bookshop, haahaahaaahaaa....Two..two clueless booksellers, haaaa Haaaaa....etc'


On Friday we went to visit our accountant, Damian. I've been using him for a couple of years, as I had a lucrative little side project aside from bookselling, and Damian's been doing my tax returns for me. We had to wait until after we'd named the shop to see him as Damian's registering the name, as well as all the other clever accountancy stuff he's going to charge us for. The meeting lasted about an hour and a half, and he advised us that a Limited Company was a more sensible way of going forward than a Partnership. He gave us probably 8 or more reasons why, and I can remember at least 2 of them, but me and Tim both agreed when we left that we felt a lot more confident knowing that he was going to guide us through the slightly more mundane aspects of book-keeping. He's also going to help us when we take on staff, so all in all it was a very good 90 minutes. He told us during the meeting that he'd got his hands on tickets to see Arsenal vs Man United the following day and I imagine after the game he felt that 'all in all it was a very good 90 minutes' as well (94 minutes actually).

We now have to fill in some more forms with the bank in order to change the bank account details (we have to have 'limited' at the end of our name now). Damian's fast-tracking the certificates we need to take to the bank from Company House (I think that's what it's called). Ah, fast-track...I was a fast-track to management scheme drop out in my previous employ, but I digress. It's good to able to do stuff while the solicitors battle out the legal details...

lots of fireworks over the weekend , including these



and I did a guest blog for the Bookseller asking for bestseller lists and free stuff.
Here's the address to send them all to, by the way
Bookshop Bestsellers
c/o 59a, Salisbury Road,
Wood Green,
N22 6NU

The Big Green Bookshop will be up and about shortly, so bless you all...



We registered the new name on Friday, and I'm a director. Me. Simon is a director and company secretary, and will probably write a more informative post later today or tomorrow. But I just thought it was too important to keep it to myself any longer.


Worrying, isn't it?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Name That Shop - the result


So finally the moment arrives when we can name the shop. The response to the competition has been phenomenal, and we've had almost 500 entries.
So the scene is set.
VENUE: The Queen's in Crouch End
TIME: 6.30pm
DATE: 1/11/2007
Tim West (Strongbow)
Simon Key (Kronenburg)
Julie West (Strongbow)
Katie Chuck (Fosters)
Stephen Moore (Amstel)

THE RULES: The 5 judges had previously been given a list containing the 360 different names that had been suggested. They had individually gone through the list saying yes or no to each. The shortlist that came to the pub that night had the 24 names that had got at least 3 votes. There was a supplemetary list for consideration of 22 names that had got 2 votes.

6:00 Tim arrives at the pub and immediately gets a pint of Strongbow. He bumps into an old friend and starts telling him about the shop.
6:05 Simon arrives and is introduced to Tim's friend as he gets in a pint of magic.
6:20 Julie arrives and second pints are ordered
6:25 Stephen gets to the pub. He is the senior reporter for the local paper and an all round lovely fella. He plumps for Amstel, and the 4 of us find a table.
6:40 Katie arrives, gets a drink in and the judging begins

6.58 From the list of entries with 2 votes 'Mr Book' and 'Blurb' are the two that get onto the final list. Those that fell by the wayside at this stage include 'Ready Steady Read', 'Scribbles and Blotts' and 'Simply Books'. Bad Luck

Julie and Katie wonder why Simon and Tim voted for the 'Booky Wooky Bookshop'

7:10 Before the judges go through the final list of 26, one-by-one, each explains what they looked for in the name. This raises a few questions but also is very enlightening, and gives the other judges interesting angles to consider.

7:20-7:30 Backstreet Books, Book City, Book Island, Book-Topia, and Can You Imagine fall by the wayside. All deserve praise.

Stephen was delighted that soon it would all be over

7:31-7:40 Chapter and Verse is controversially removed, despite strong arguments. The first two names get through to the next round. 'The Big Green Bookshop' and 'Bookworms'. Those that missed the cut were 'Chapter 1', 'Chapters', 'Cornerstone's (another tough decision), 'Escape' and 'First Edition'.

It all gets too much for Tim

7:41-7:55 having continued to keep the drinking arms busy, 'Green Pages', 'Neverending Story', the wonderful 'Booky Wooky Bookshop', 'Turn the Page' and both the 'Wood Green Book Store' and 'Wood Green's Booksop' sadly fail to get into the final. 'New Leaf' and 'Pageturners' are generally liked and make the final shortlist.
7:56-8:00 comfort break
8:01-8:06 'Woodies' and Tim's pre-match favourite 'The Bookeniers' are voted off, whilst 'the Book Corner', squeaks through. The brave attempt by 'Mr Book' and 'Blurb' finally come to an end.

Police are called as things start to get messy

So we're down to the last 5 names
Book Corner
The Big Green Bookshop
New Leaf

The List

8:15 We spend a few minutes looking at the shortlist and Tim tells Stephen that his Mother appeared in 'The Greatest Rock'n'Roll Swindle'. Also in discussion are David Gray (bad, bad, bad), Bob Dylan (Good, Good, Good) and a 4 Bedroom House in Crouch End which is on the market for £2.8 million (insane in the membrane).
8:30 Two names are mentioned by each judge and therefore get into the final.

It's between the Big Green Bookshop and The Book Corner

8:45 we've been going round in circles for a while and have said great things about each of the names. Julie suggests we each say which one of the two we prefer, and incredibly we all say the same name.
It's one that before this evening was never really in anyones top 5, but has slowly crept into peoples imaginations. The choice made people come up with new ideas and concepts for the shop and has given the shop a brand. We can all see it in our minds and the name of the shop will be.....


Give it 24 hours and we hope you'll agree that it's a great name. Thanks to everyone who came up with suggestions. We will be using some of the ideas in the new year in the shop, and as always would love people to continue with the advice which has been really appreciated.

11:05 after a lovely Pizza we get home and crawl into bed (not all 5 of us in the same bed you understand) and fall asleep, dreaming of being chased down the road by a can of green paint.