Thursday, January 31, 2008

Trees, Faxes, and Diamond Geezers


OK, the solicitor's back in today. Tim spoke to him this morning, and he's on the case. There's a fax that'll be sent to him 'in the next 48 hours' which he then needs to pass onto the bank (by fax). Once that's done, I really really think that it's just a matter of sorting out a date to exchange.

In completely unrelated news, I'm part of Noel Park (it's in Wood Green) residents association. Firstly because I live there, secondly, rather than just moaning about stuff all the time, I think that sometimes actually doing something is probably more constructive, and thirdly because I love Wood Green.
Anyway, the Residents Association applied for a grant to improve the area, and it was approved by the lovely council. So there was a few thousand pounds for improving one of the local parks, and there was some money to plant some trees down some of the roads in the area. Our road is treeless and I asked if we could have some planted near our flat. And a couple of days ago I was interrupted by the sound of drilling and banging outside. But it was good drilling and banging, because look!!

Yes, it's a tree. One of three in our part of the road. It may look small now, but Katie I been entrusted to look after it, and we will. And you know what they say, 'Great Oaks, from little Acorns grow' or in this case Great Silver Birches.
I imagine it like this in ...years time

I suppose you could say me and Tim are acorns....

It's raining here in Wood Green....a lot. I'm out of coffee. My shoes have holes in them. What a dilemma.

They've just had the first confirmed act for Glastonbury this year
I wonder if the audience will be any different

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

just so you know.


The business advisor is wating for our solicitor to reply to her phone messages. Our solicitor has taken a day off (he's probably queuing to get tickets for High School Musical 'live', or something completely unrelated to that), so we have to wait another day for progress reports. This final stage is painfully slow, but everyone seems to be pulling in generally the same direction now. I think when our solicitor told us a couple of weeks ago that we'd have the keys by the end of January, he forgot he was talking to the 'what could possibly go wrong' twins.

I can't even afford a new pair of shoes

The Monkees first appeared on TV 40 years ago today, hence the music....40 years.

It's a Media Circus!


I don't mean Jeremy Paxman in tights, flying through the air, or George Alagiah throwing custard pies at Moira Stewart as she gets fired out of a cannon (although i'd pay good money to see it), I mean we're in The Guardian. And, i'd say with some understatement, that i'm fairly pleased about this.
So, hello newcomers to this blog, and thanks for visiting us.

As regular visitors will know, the routine de jour is that Tim is now trying to get hold of our business advisor to find out what progress is being made (a bit). I'll be giving our solicitor a ring after midday, to ascertain a similar thing (can you leave a message). We'll be keeping you posted, as the day progresses.
It's Getting Pretty Close Now.
'yeah, yeah, sure it is!'
Who Said That?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Catching Up


as there's been stuff happening recently, I haven't told you of a few things that have been going on in Big Green Bookshop world.

I went to a book launch a couple of weeks ago. The lovely and clearly very talented Alis Hawkins was celebrating her new (first) book Testament. Katie and I had a great time, and Alis made Katie and I feel extremely welcome. As we'd only spoken through the wonders of the internet that made it even more special. I wish i'd worn another hat though. I always seem to be photographed in this one, and I have some other one's that are much less tatty.

We also met Akasha Savage, another of our bloggy friends, whose latest short story on her blog is rather teasing....
Anyway, it was a great night and I hope the book does really well. Katie has just started reading it so I expect i'll get my hands on it soon!

Last week I went to a Catnip Publishing presentation in the glamorous setting of Wood Green library. They were highlighting the new releases and I had the pleasure to meet some of their authors.
Sarah Matthias, who's new book Tom Fletcher and the Angel of Death is out next month(?), was lovely and we spent ages chatting about the book/ bookshops / north london / kids. I have a copy of The Riddle of the Poisoned Monk, which I got in the goodie bag, which looks like my kind of book. It's aimed at 10+ year olds and I fit into that range.
Graham Marks, another local boy, was also extremely supportive, and offered to do all he could to help us!I happen to have one of his books too! What a lot of reading i've got to do.
I also have a copy of the marvellous Scaredy Squirrel makes a friend, which I read when I got home.

This is beginning to get long, so although there's a few more things to mention, i'll do it at a later date.


1. I'm now a reviewer with the second most popular music magazine in London, and by far the best

2. If anyone likes Fairport Convention, I have a great treat for you. If you don't know of them or need reminding, press the play button thing on the tv picture thing below here. Hasn't that female singer got an incredible voice.....

3. I mentioned a few weeks ago about a book that isn't out yet that I recently read and I think is an absolute masterpiece. Well, it's out in 3 weeks time, although i'm bursting to review it, I'm going to wait a little longer. But if you like a bit of horror, you're going to have to get this book.

I'm off now. Cheerio

Well, that's one more thing sorted out then.


Every time someone pays for something with a card in a shop or a bar for example, and uses one of those machines where you have to tap in your pin number, that shop or bar has to pay a certain amount of that to the company that provides them with the machine. That's why some shops have signs up saying 'no cards accepted less than £10' or summat like that.
Anyway, a nice man came round to Simon and Katie Mansions this morning to try and persuade us to use their machines for the Big Green Bookshop. He looked like Father Ted. He seemed very confident, I suspect even more so when he saw a scruffy unshaved git with no shoes on answer the door. So with the kettle on and pleasantries out of the way, we got round to talking turkey.

'Have you had any other quotes from anywhere else?' he enquired.
'One or two' I replied.
'Oh, I don't think they'll be anywhere near as competitive as ours...can I have a look', he continued
'by all means', I smiled, and gave him the quote that we'd got from our friends at Leading Edge.

His smile slowly fell from his face as he saw the figures on the page in front of him. He eventually pulled himself together enough to murmur phrases with the words 'hidden charges', 'monthly charges going up' and most tellingly 'with us, what you see is what you get'. The thing is what I saw was somebody who realised there was no way he could match the offer we'd already been given.
I dutifully wrote down all the things he said about the dangers of going for anyone other than him, and told him i'd make sure that I wouldn't fall into any of these traps.
He finished his coffee and headed off back to Craggy Island, I presume.

Well done me.

Friday, January 25, 2008

In The Dark (but is that light at the end of the tunnel?)


no call back from business advisor about what's going on. Choose from the following

  • Well, it's Friday isn't it.
  • they have it in hand
  • we don't need to know
  • they don't know what they're doing
  • we don't know what they're doing
  • what document?
  • they forgot
  • they have nothing to tell us
  • they have lost their phone
  • they have lost our phone numbers
  • they're still working and are about to call
  • something bad has happened and they don't want to phone
  • something good has happened and they have collapsed in disbelief
  • they have phoned and I forgot about it
  • I didn't ask them to phone
  • it wasn't worth the effort
  • they no longer understand the phrase 'please phone me back'
  • they are going to come round in person
  • they phoned the wrong person
  • something else came up
  • they couldn't care less
  • there's a fault on the line
  • they phoned Tim and he hasn't told me
  • it's the way things work nowadays and i'm just going to have to get used to it

you can choose as many as you like. I suspect that she tried to find out what's going on in the department that's dealing with us and they haven't phoned her back, so she hasn't phoned us back. That's standard procedure. Larks and laughs all round.

I think that we might have made some progress today, and between you and me i'm quite excited about it. I shall assume the position for the inevitable kick in the goolies that's on its way on Monday though...

Fingers Crossed...


9.06am Spoke to solicitors reception. The stray document has arrived. Waiting for him to call with more detail

9.09am Spoke to Simon. He is now waiting for me to call, after solicitor has called. (This adds one level of frustration to Simon, which isn't really fair)

9.15am Left message on business advisors voice mail to say thank-you, and check on any loose ends (God-forbid)

9.16am Scratch head, and prepare for a long wait.....


9.08 lying in bed, dreaming of seeing Christopher Biggins walking his dog in Bristol

9.09 whaaaa....answered phone. It was Tim. Felt a bit guilty about lying in bed (but not that much)

9.13 wake up

9.16 scratch my head, and prepare for a long wait.....


2.10 pm still waiting.... although Tim has spoken to business advisor (who didn't know document had arrived or that our solicitor had phoned ), and she is making sure that....actually I don't know what she's making sure, but it feels like progress.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I am homewerk


Yesterday my eldest (George, who I am allowed to mention - but for one blog only) had to do a newspaper article for his homework. He chose to do it about a bookshop. We had the following conversation.

George. "Dad, have you got any photos of your shop?"
Me, (Slightly disgruntled). "I haven't got a shop yet."
G. "What about the old shop?"
M. "There's this thing of me and Simon in front of the shed...."
G. "Yeah, that'll do."

So taking the picture, George proceeded to write the following article. (I have left all the original spellings, punctuations etc)

by george West.

on January 15th 2007 Tim West (45) and simen (39) opend up a bookshop in Wood green in Londen. Tim sase "this is a very proued moment four me" Simen said "this is rubbish." thay hove hade over 100000 cutimeis in one year alone, and Will Smith came all the way from belair to see this book shop. he said "this is by far the best book shop i ve been to." in foked will Smith cut the ribben to open the book shop on 15 January 2007. thare will be later updats on the shop later this year

This is, actually, a very proued moment for me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Blog: def:- A portmanteau of 'Web log'


Once again I had that conversation that starts. "Why 'The Big Green Bookshop'? Are you only selling ecologically sound books? Well, are you?"

Well, are we?

I like this conversation because it gives me a great opportunity to talk at length about the shop - and any other subject that pops into my head. (Simon will tell you that it is quite difficult to keep my attention for too long. I am in fact the secret identity of Distracto-Man... Or is it that Distracto-Man is my secret identity? We were once walking back from our solicitors discussing operational policies and I ended up telling Simon about the rubber-band ball that Harry (Youngest son - not allowed to mention) has been making using only the red rubber-bands that postmen drop everywhere.) What were we talking about? Oh yes, the name.

So here they are, the reasons why THAT name. Word by word.

1) THE: the definite article. We are definitely going to open this shop, despite the best efforts of outside influences. We also know that the site we've chosen is definitely not on a flood plain, and we definitely don't have to pay any chancel taxes. That was a weight of my mind I can tell you.

2) BIG: large in size, amount or extent. Well, the shop isn't large so it can't be about that. Nope, it was the idea that was big (as in "What's the big idea?") When Simon first suggested we go independent I was so stunned I was almost speechless...almost. It was such a big idea, and would mean such a big change in both our lives. It took nearly ten minutes for me to be distracted, but that was only the job I was being paid to do interupting my chain of thought, and therefore not important. Other BIG things that contribute to this being a key part of the name are; The big-hearted people who encouraged us from the start, the big characters we've come across through-out the project (I'm not going to call it a 'journey' as this would imply that we're actually going somewhere instead of just sitting in front of respective computer screens killing aliens (only the ones that need killing) and occasionally ordering hundreds of books... Quite a BIG order, I think you'll agree) then there's The Big Banana which is a tourist attraction in the city of Coffs Harbour, New South Wales and consists of a large building in the shape of a banana. Never been there, hope to go......

3) GREEN: colour, the perception of which is evoked by light having a spectrum dominated by energy with a wavelength of roughly 520–570 nm This is the one which has caused the most discussion, so let's sort it out now. We are not just selling environmentally sound books, but that doesn't mean that we won't be doing our bit to stop the planet from going phut. We are going to encourage people to recycle their bags (this will save us money as well) and we will endeavour to keep all our power usage down (this will save us money as well). OK, if it's not 'Green' in the post-modern, planet saving sense, why 'Green' at all? Well, We are in the heart of Wood Green, and 'The Big Wood Green Bookshop' would have been too easy to explain (also nobody suggested it in the competition. Does everybody remember the competition? for those who've only just joined this blog I'd better explain. We ran a competition (mostly with the local schools)to name the bookshop. We had loads of entries, and a year 7 girl from a local school won it. It's been such a long time I can't remember the winning suggestion.. Oh yes, that was it "The Big Green Bookshop" why are we calling it that? it's not as if we'll just be selli.......... sorry, drifted off again) Also - back to the subject in hand - although we are both experienced booksellers, and bookshop managers, neither of us has experience of running a business of this scale from scratch. So you could say that the 'Green' refers to our inexperience. And green is a damn good colour (it's not my favourite colour. That's blue. But can you imagine the problems we would have if we called ourselves 'The Big Blue Bookshop' Not only the adult connotations of the word 'blue' but the fact that we would be hated by stutterers everywhere. (Why is stutter such a hard word for stutterers to say? That's just mean. It's like forcing Dyslexics to spell dyslexia) Distracto-Man strikes again

Which leaves us with

4) BOOKSHOP: shop where books are sold Let's just think about that for a moment. A shop where BOOKS are sold. That is what we are going to be. Have a think about all the shops you know where books are sold... Have you done that? Ok, now think about how many of them can actually clasify themselves as Bookshops (Bookshop should always have a capital. It is that important. (unless of course it's part of a logo, in which case lower-case is acceptable)(Uh-oh, bracket build up imminent))) Naming no names, but... You've got your stationers who sell books, your post-office with its ladybird spinner, your garage forecourt shop with it's Mills and Boon dumpbin, your computer shop selling computer books, your supermarket with chart books next to the magazines, your department store with stray spinners dotted all over the place (and sometimes an actual book department), your large chain 'Bookshop' with its racks of wrapping paper, greetings cards, notebooks, gift bags, gift tags, reading glasses, bookplates, bookmarks, inspirational/calming music CDs, novelty pens, novelty mugs, remote controlled Daleks, jigsaw puzzles, board games, travel board games, reading lights, magnifying glasses, diaries, calendars and occasional chart-topping paperback ("Do you have any exercise books?"... "No, we don't sell stationery. Have you tried Smi....) OK, ok we will probably sell some greeting cards. But no more than a small spinner full. And we intend to make and sell our own range of bookmarks. BUT THAT'S ALL!!!

So there you have it. THE BIG GREEN BOOKSHOP. It's got a nice ring to it, hasn't it?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bookshop Related Information


Tim called our business advisor, who chased the document that was posted to Glasgow on Wednesday, and was then supposed to be posted to our solicitor (I hope you're all keeping up). The department in Glasgow confirmed that they had the document, and it would be actioned today. Although this sounds really frustrating (why haven't they posted it already the lazy bast...), me and Tim were pleased about this.
'At least they know it exists', I said triumphantly.
'yeah, it's great' Tim replied.
So they said they'd action it today. Tim and I both know what this means. They haven't posted it today, actioned doesn't mean posted. They could post it. They could have posted it last Thursday if they had the manpower to deal with a document arriving in the post. They've actioned it, so they'll probably post it tomorrow.
We've both lowered our once over optimistic expectations, and so anything that is better than the worst possible scenario is now a victory for the home team.
So our solicitor should get it on Thursday. Once he has it, it doesn't have to go anywhere else. I think that's it for pieces of paper. That means that we can arrange an exchange date.
Tim and I reckon next Thursday....maybe.

I've started sending our opening orders to publishers with VERY CLEAR notes not to release the order until I call them.
We think that we've got a good deal on our BT and internet connection, and we're going to be negotiating our credit card charges and insurance tomorrow.

The first of the reviews has come back today from our 'Amazing Free Book Giveaway' on facebook. If you missed it, we offered to post books out to people free of charge on the condition that they sent back a review. It was a Facebook group only offer, and it's not going to be the last. It kind of makes sense when it comes to kid's books. Tim and I can't really do them justice, but if kids read them then they'll be able to tell us what they're really like.
We also sent out a few grown up books too.

Lucy Robertson (aged 6) from Bristol read Augustus and his Smile, and this is her review.

'I liked the cluful picturs beakos there brigtly culed. The riting swold across the page.'

Her Mum, Nicola also added;

A charming tale of a tiger that looses his smile only to find it again after discovering all the things that make him happy.
A perfect story to read to pre-school children and children, younger still, who will enjoy the easy flow of the story and the simple but stunning illustrations enabling them to stretch their imaginations.
This book is also suitable for newly fluent readers who will enjoy the layout of the words crossing the page in different directions and the colourful illustrations.
A great choice for parents as the words flow easily making it an enjoyable read and a book I am sure you will read again and again – a certain bookshelf favorite.

Thanks Nic and thanks Lucy

Company of Liars - it's not half bad.


Camelot, a disfigured seller of ancient relics
Rodrigo and Jofre, 2 Musicians from Italy
Zophiel, a sideshow keeper and conjuror
Osmond and Adela, a couple expecting their first child
Cygnus, a storyteller
Pleasance, a healer
Narigorm, a 12 year old reader of runes

It's 1348 and the plague is ravaging England. This group of outcasts and misfits form an uneasy alliance as they travel across the country trying to keep one step ahead of the Pestilence. But as they travel the secrets and lies that they rely on to survive begin to haunt each of them in terrible ways.

I stayed up until 2.30 this morning so I could finish this book. According to my proof copy it's 'Michael Joseph's Biggest Launch of 2008', and I can see why. It's a wonderfully told story which makes you feel like the other member of this motley crew. It's well researched and I love the way that it dips into fairy tale and folk-lore and at the same time engages you in the horrible reality of their situation.

I think it's out next week and it's a shame it's a hardback. But at £12.99 in most good independents, and some bad ones as well I'd give it 8 and a half seeping boils out of 10.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Monkey on the Nose

Katie and I decided to go to Walthamstow to watch the greyhounds on Saturday. As money gets tight we were thinking of ways to fill the piggy bank again, and thought that gambling on dogs was the perfect solution. I had a system and I was sure it couldn't fail.
It's a 2 bus journey, but we made it in time for the first race, and I set my system in motion. I rolled a dice. It came up 4 and so that's where the money was going. I had visions of trap 4 darting out and charging to an unassailable lead, a bit like this.....

Unfortunately what I got was more like this

after 3 more failed attempts, I gave up the dice, and staggeringly started winning. Katie pulled in a couple of wins and at one stage we we're thinking that our money worries were over. However after scampi in a basket and a few drinks, not forgetting an incredible 6 dog losing streak, reality struck. I think in the end we were down about a fiver, but the buses turned up immediately to take us home and we'd a had a great laugh. If horseracing is the sport of kings, then greyhound racing is probably the sport of serfs, and much the better for it.

I know it's been over a week since it's finished, but on this sport related post it would be remiss of me not to mention the Sport of Blings. 'Let's Play Darts'.
I've always loved the game, since the days of Ceri Morgan and pretty boy Mike Gregory. It's turned all shiny and spangly now, and I think I love it even more. It's an advantage of working from home that I can press the red button and watch Ray Stubbs talking about Tony O'Shea's lovely wife Gill in a feature called DWAGS (darts wives and girlfriends), and Bobby George wheezing about Ted Hankey 'ittin' more ton eigthies than doubles'.
It's also great that they have their own theme tunes now. Martin 'Wolfie' Adams has (unsurprisingly) Hungry like the wolf by Duran Duran, although he makes it his own by howling at the beginning. Ted' The Count' Hankey, who dresses in a cape and throws rubber bats into the crowd, staggeringly has DJ Zany's This is My Territory (be on your way). I'd never thought be'd be into hardhouse, but there you go.

Oh yeah, bookshop stuff. The letter still hasn't arrived at the solicitors yet, and our business advisor's taken a day off, so we'll have to chase it up tomorrow.
I'm sorting out the insurance at the moment. We have to insure the plate glass windows ourselves apparently even though the landlord's responisble for the insuring the building. Ho hum.
Tim is battling away with the till at the moment. We bought a Casio TE-100 and he's been trying to get our logo onto the receipts without much success. Any casio TE-100 experts out there, you know what to do....

Friday, January 18, 2008

I wish I hadn't said that


last month, in a frivilous moment, I decided to visit our Bookselling friends Adam and Matthew at Crockatt & Powell. Whilst I was there, admiring their lovely shop and trying to hide my jealousy of their bookshop, Adam mentioned that they'd put an offer in for a shop opposite where the Pan Bookshop was/is. It was top secret information, but they were quietly confident. I remember saying to them jokingly, "the way things are going, you'll probably be open before we are". Oh how we chortled.
As I read their blog, and their seemingly smooth journey along the road to opening their second shop, i'm beginning to wish I hadn't said it now.

ah well, as they say, patience is a card game.

Nicholas Lezard, you're my hero


I came upon this article, written a couple of days ago. I apologise for it's London-ness, but I think this sums up pretty much how I feel about this subject.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Quiet Day At Home.


today i'm tying up some loose ends. We're joining a company called Leading Edge, who are a group that supports Independent retailers, by offering similar benefits that a larger chain would have. The more members they have the more weight they can put behind their negotiations with publishers etc. Although it's a fairly young company in the UK, it's proved extremely successful in Australia, and also having spoken to other Indies who have joined, the benefits far far outweigh the costs. Paul Henderson, who looks after the book side of things seems like a good guy, having had a few conversations with him.
Tim's trying to get in touch with our new landlord to find out if we can paint the Big Green Bookshop green, otherwise we might have to change the name to the Big Brick Bookshop.
I've sourced the shopsign from another company, after the one we'd arranged to meet last week didn't turn up. They've quoted us a better price as well, so hurray for that.
I really have almost finished the ordering now. I'm ploughing through Turnaround catalogues and related publishers websites (and amazon), and trying not to be tempted by all the amazing stuff that's available that i'd love to stock, but know won't sell. Distributors like Turnaround and Central Books are so important for bookshops (in my opinion) as thay champion the publishers who perhaps take more risks or are more niche. I don't know what i'd do without them.
I've finished reading From Here To Paternity.

If you want to be reassured that everything's going to be fine, this probably isn't the book for you. However, it's really well written, very funny, at the same time scaring the nuts off me. I'll give it 7 diapers out of 10.

I hope you like the MP3 widget thing. I'll try and change the music more often than we used to when I was at Waterstone's. If I hear the Divine Comedy or Belle and Sebastian one more time...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I didn't need the chequebook

It's a relief to know exactly what's going on. Our solcitor redeemed himself today. He took us through everything that had been done already and explained what was holding stuff up. It appears that once this document gets back to him he can then ask for our bank to send him the cash to pay for the premium on the shop and the rent/deposit. This should (should) be all sorted out by the end of next week, in which case we'll exchange early the following week.
He said we would, at worst, have the keys in 2 weeks time. Can you remind me about this in 2 weeks time please! So that's that then. It just leaves us to make sure this document keeps moving so that it gets to the solicitor as soon as possible.

I was reminded by a reader called Regina the other day about the name of this blog. 'Open A Bookshop, what could possibly go wrong'. She suggested that like the law of Attraction the phrase 'Go Wrong' could be the thing that's making things Go Wrong. She suggested changing the name and to focus on the positives.
Well the name's staying, but we'll be concentrating on the first 3 words a lot more than the last 2 over the coming weeks. As the Marvel-lous Stan Lee would say 'Face Front, True Believers'. Nuff said!

'Don't Forget The Chequebook'

These were Tim's last words on the phone just now. We're off to see the solicitor this afternoon (of which I shall elaborate on our return), and as far as I know we're going to sign things and sort out an exchange date. There are a few questions about the lease that we need answered, as it seems as a 'tenant' the only thing we have permission to do is open and shut the door (as long as we don't slam it).
some questions we need answered;
can we paint it green?
can we put up our own stud-walling?
can we put up a sign on the side of the building?
can we put bookcases up by the window?
This is the first time we've seen the lease and I imagine they're all very similar, so let's hope there's a bit of flexibility there.
We'll find out.

In other news Katie and Simon-1, Mouse-0

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Do Butterflies Belch?


When I were a lad, I came across an author called Mark Leyner. I'm not quite sure how, but it had something to do with working in a big bookshop at the time. The book I came accross was called 'My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist'. Perhaps it was the title that drew me to it. Any road up, I picked it up, and started reading it. It blew my mind.
I was used to reading books that had a story, a meaning, a pattern. This didn't. It was chaos, and confusion. It was anarchy as far as I was concerned. I loved it. There was science fiction laced with body building, murder, and sushi. 'Surreal humour for the MTV generation' I imagine Paul Morley calling it.
I was hooked. I found another of his books, 'et tu babe', and once again he weaved his words and pretty much destroyed my ideas about how we should read.
I have to point out that this was about 14 years ago (I was 14 years younger than I am now), but I still have those books, and others by him, which I love and cherish.
The reason I mention the great Mark Leyner is that.. you know those books that sell really well over xmas, 'why do men have nipples' and 'why do men fall asleep after sex'. He co-wrote them. I realised this a few months ago, and sort of internally raised my eyebrows (if you know what I mean).
I decided to check his backlist today (cult fiction,you see) and to my amazement there's nothing available in the UK!

Here they are. Two of Mark's books( I found a bus ticket in 'I smell Esther Williams' on page 140. Apparently I was on the 91 and I was reading it on 14th September 1995). I also have 'Dream date with Di', another freakshow of a book. I urge you to have a look at Mark Leyner.
I hope he'll be re-issued this year, 'cos i'm missing 'Toothprints On a Corndog', and I also think he's a bit of a star.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Cult Fiction


I mentioned Cult Fiction last week in a post, and I wonder what the concensus is?
In the past I've been fairly positive about the idea of a cult fiction section. It was a chance to perhaps highlight stuff that would otherwise be left on the shelf, to coin a phrase. I remember Richard Brautigan and Charles Bukowski amongst others jostling for space in the section. It works well in a shop with a large fiction section.

But is it necessary in The Big Green whotsit though. If we were stocking shelves of Wilbur Smith, Patrick O'Brien, Bernard Cornwell etc, it would make sense to separate (or highlight) titles that we consider cult. The thing is, we're only little, despite the name, and it might be one subsection too far.

What constitutes nowadays as cult fiction. Anything that isn't on Richard and Judy? Anything that hasn't been 3 for 2d at the local biggie? The moment anything seems to be taking off, the reaction of the chains is to stick it in a promotion. Does this mean it's no longer a cult title, by it's very definition.
If that's the case, then The Dice man, One flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Post Office, Siddhartha, On the Road and many more can no longer be considered cult titles. But they are to many people.

I don't know, do you?

The it happens!


9.00 Tim phones Solicitor. There's some problem with the format of one of the documents. Rather than a letter of consent, it needed to have been an official questionnaire that was filled in. Apparently this unfilled form was sent by our solicitor twice (TWICE mind )to the people concerned to fill in, but it seems that both times it didn't arrive.

9.15 Tim phones our small business advisor. She agrees to find out whether our bank really needs this questionaire. She will call Tim back this morning. Tim will give her until 10.30 to reply....

9.48 The postman arrives at Tim's house with deeds, searches and stuff like that. This is fairly encouraging. Tim and Simon (who really should turn that frown upside-down) discuss when they should go and see the solicitor to sign these things and arrange an exchange date.

10.40 Had a great chat with Hereward Corbett, who's opening his own bookshop in Tetbury. He gave me more advice than I gave him, i fear.

11.20 I get a call from some other sign makers who I contacted about the sign for the shop. I email them the font.

11.30 I call Tim. He's chased our business advisor andleft a message on her phone. We decide that I should call her on the half hour, and he should call her on the hour.

11.32 I leave a message for her.

11.42 The facebook 'free books' offer has finished and I've got some books to send off to the people who've agreed to do reviews for the shop. (you've got to be in it to win it!)

12.05 Our small business advisor calls me. Apparently they do need the official questionnare. I ask if they'll accept a fax with the understanding that an original will follow. She says yes. I call Tim, who now has to call the people who have to fill this in and tell them to expect a fax of this form from our solicitor. He then has to call the solicitor and get him to fax the form. I suggest that Tim should ask our solicitor to call him back the moment the fax has been sent (just to be sure mind you).

12.12 Simon call a PDQ company to get a quote for a portable credit card reader. 'we'll get someone to phone you back'...

12.23 Simon put's on Bromheads Jacket 'Dits from the Commuter Belt' and whacks up the volume.

12.40 E-mailed an author to request an interview for the blog.

12.55 The PDQ company phoned back, and arranged to meet us to talk about exciting stuff like credit card charges. They seem fairly competitive.

1.00 Tim has lunch
1.00 Simon has lunch

1.32 Simon checked in with Tim. Tim has called the geezers who need to fill in the questionnaire and they said they can accept a fax. The processing of this will take 48 hours. Mmmm. Tim phones our solicitor to get him to fax the form over to be filled in.

1.40 Simon phones the small business advisor. He leaves a message about what's happening, and also tells her that Tim has asked our solicitor to send all the other forms to her Head Office for processing now to save time. So now all we're waiting for is this one document.
We agree that it would be good to see our solicitor on Wednesday afternoon or Thursday to go through the lease details, as that should coincide with the fax being returned to him, in theory.

I think that's all we can do for today about this.

2.15 Simon gets an e-mail back from the author, who say they'd be happy to do an interview.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Hopelessness of Others (continued)

I'm not perfect. In fact i'm far from it. But i've reached a point of utter disbelief at the pathetic hopelessness of certain people who we're relying on to get this shop open. My first bit of advice to anyone who's thinking about opening their own shop. If your estate agent recommends a solicitor, I would suggest you IGNORE THEM. Ask friends instead. It seems pretty obvious now, but when we had the offer on the shop accepted 3 bloody months ago, there was no reason to think that this was going to be a problem. It is. That's all i'm saying. Our hands are tied at the moment, so any advice now is appreciated, but too late. We are still waiting for a letter to be posted that we thought had been sent before Christmas.
This is bad enough, but then we arranged to meet the signmakers outside the shop on Friday to show them what we wanted. They didn't show up....
Although this isn't a massive thing in itself, I think it was the thing that tipped me over the edge. I sort of lost it.
I spoke to Tim yesterday, and, once again, he's going to talk to the solicitor on Monday. It's not that I can't talk to him myself, but the stuff that needs posting is Tim's stuff, so it's got nothing to do with me. Tim, although a lot calmer than me, is equally pissed off and I hope he hounds those responsible all morning until this thing is ready to post. I then hope that we make sure it's posted by picking it up ourselves, as then we can be sure that it's done, rather than assume that it's done because we been told it will be. I'm probably especially pissed off because,
a. I'm running out of money and we're only paying each other £400 a month at the moment, and
b. i'm thinking about being a Father in July and I naturally want to get everything up and running and settled well before then.

On a more cheery note, Katie saw a mouse in our bathroom yesterday.

Friday, January 11, 2008



I've noticed recently how versatile facebook can be, and what a great marketing tool it is. The Notting Hill branch of waterstone's have a group on there where all the events and signings are listed, and all the members are contacted when something groovy happens there.
When we started this opening a bookshop lark I started a facebook group called A Decent Bookshop In Wood Green (revisited). It was initially created to let the people who signed the petition to stop the Waterstone's in Wood Green closing know what we were up to, but I also used it to request peoples favourite books during Children's Book Week. I don't update it very often, but have decided that it's time I used it more effectively. There are as I type this 195 members, which is brilliant! Once we open, like Notting Hill, we'll be able to let all the members know about any events or signings, and although the benefits of this will be for our local customers, it might also be useful if you wanted a signed copy of a book and didn't live nearby.
We'll also be using the site to advertise offers, discuss books, ask peoples opinions on bookshop stuff (I cant work out where the apostrophe should go in peoples, so I've left it out), and also have exclusive facebook book offers which are only available to the facebook members. It can also be an advertising post for people who want to let the world know about a favourite book or their own book!
So, what I wondered is whether you'd be so kind as to join the group and invite you're facebook friends to join as well. I understand that the biggest bookshop group on facebook is The Book cafe with over 1300 members. On a purely selfish level i'd love it if we got somewhere close to that! Just click on this link to get to the group and press the join button. If you haven't got a facebook account, now's your chance. You never know, it might open up a whole new world of fun and frolics.
If you have any other ideas for how our facebook group can be used let us know.

Over and out

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Blog 101


As the final negotiations continue to drag on, and because i've had a lttle break over Christmas, i've been able to catch up on some of the books that I've been lucky enough to get recently. As i've been in bookselling since Highway To heaven first premiered on NBC, it's been an odd experience not to be surrounded by the gorgeous little things. Despite what people tell you about bookselling being hard work, it's an honour to be able to see and read pretty much anything that you like (not on company time mind you), and I miss it badly.

So to be sent these wonderful books has been a real treat for me, and I intend to give all the books i'm sent a chance. So thanks.

There have been a couple recently that have really stood out for different reasons. One isn't published yet, but one is. The Crowded Bed by Mary Cavanagh (transita 9781905175314)

I started reading this on Sunday, and to be honest I wasn't sure if it was my kind of thing. But I was so wrong. This book is a belter. I was hooked and devoured it in 2 sittings.
From the prologue, in which we watch Joe Fortune (our 'hero') murdering his father-in-law, we're then transported back to Joe's childhood. And there begins the story of how we get to his crime. The strength of the writer lies in her ability to take us from the past to the present and back again and still hold the story together so cleverly that you just have to know what happens next. I was both delighted to get to the end and sad that i'd finished it. This book has been picked up and recommended by Mostly Books amongst others, and rightly so. This is going eye level on our Big Green Favourites bookcase from day 1.

I'd also like to thank Fusion Press for sending me a copy of From Here To Paternity, the diary of a pregnant man' bt Andrew Cullen, within 3 days of me writing that Katie and I are going to be parents for the first time. Katie got to it first, and really enjoyed it. It's a lot more realistic than Jools Oliver, I understand. I started reading it last night, so i'm up to week 11 at the moment.

I've done a guest blog for Little Brown about the different relationship we'll have with reps now that we're a little Indie bookshop. I hope it's interesting.

I'm off to a launch party tonight. Testament by Alis Hawkins will be toasted this evening in the glamourous West End of London so raise a glass to this new author. She has a very good blog as well.

And lastly today, Cult Fiction. I want to have a section in the shop, but what constitutes cult fiction. Bukowski? Tom Robbins? Murakami? or have they become to mainstream to be considered cult now. Just a thought, which i'll pick up next week.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

100 Blogs Later

'We're going to open our own bookshop in Wood Green. And this is going to be our story. We have the passion, the determination, and we also have a little bit of business acumen. With a little help, it might just work. It'll make for compelling reading whatever happens. We would love any advice, words of encouragement or money that you can spare, and we'll do our best to be as honest in this blog as possible.'
this is the last paragraph of our first post back in September. Back then it seemed a long way from reality. It still fu#@ing does some days, but we have come a long way. I rather naively thought we'd be open by November originally, but if you've followed the story, you'll know we've had one or two hiccups on the way. Landlords, solicitors, estate agents, banks, building societies and maybe us occasionally have done things that have delayed the final outcome. I'd like to be more sure about when we're going to open, but I'm not going to tempt fate. Tim is battling away with all the money men (I'm not allowed to talk to them any more, as I'm a bit shouty sometimes), and we should have some very good news very soon.
We've listened to lots of wise people and taken lots of advice over the last 4 months, and to celebrate reaching the 100 blog milestone we'd like to give some of that back. So here, for your delictation, we offer you 70 ways to keep in the news despite not having opened. We thought about doing 100, but come on, isn't 70 enough ?
1. Start a Blog.
2. Tell the local paper
3. Get in touch with the Bookseller
4. Steal your friends mobile and text all their contacts
5. Hide in a cupboard in Ikea and leap out at people shouting the name of your company. Particularly good if your company happens to be called "Yarg"
6. Wear a t-shirt
7. Write an e-mail to that nice man Scott Pack and ask if you can be a guest writer on his mighty mighty blog 'Me and My Big Mouth'.
8. Call up a radio phone-in with a spurious link to the subject being discussed. "..... Yes the war in Iran is a terrible thing. I was reading about it in the Big Green Bookshop... "
9. Make a Facebook Group. (please join)
10. Wear a noticable Hat
11. Wear a Badge
12. Sit in a studio audience wearing your t-shirt, badge and noticable hat
13. E-mail newspapers, they might run your story
14. E-mail magazines, they might run your story
15. Talk to your local schools
16. Stick up posters in your local schools
17. Attend every school fete (wearing your noticable hat)
18. Talk to the Local MP
19. Involve Your Community
20. Don't let anything distract you
21. I said don't let anything distract you!
22. Do a figure of eight dance (This is good enough for bees)
23. Paint your backside purple (This works for babboons)
24. Find out who your local authors are. Their support can really help.
25. Actually they don't have to be local.
26. Dedicate one hour every day to marketing
27. Try and reply to all your e-mails and phone calls.
28. If someone asks for help always try and help. Imagine if it was the other way round.
29. Knock on doors (Don't look too smart or people will think you're a Jehova's Witness. Don't look too scruffy or people will think you're selling dusters. Don't wear overalls)
30. Invite Jehova's Witnesses into your house and pass on the word of the Bookshop (This is a good way of frightening Jehova's Witnesses, as they've never been in anybodys' house before)
31. Stick up posters on the outside of your old (closed) shop. (This may not be applicable for everyone)
32. Join your local residents association. These are going to be your customers, and also imagine how many people they'll tell!
33. Print out some leaflets and deliver them door to door.
34. Leave them in your friendly local shops
35. Slip a few leaflets inside books in your local WH Smith.
36. Find out who all your local reps are going to be, and contact them.
37. Is someone else doing a similar thing. Share.
38. Has someone else done a similar thing. Ask for advice.
39. Get your readers to make your decisions for you
40. Tell your friends
41. Ask for Stuff
42. Celebrate Your Product. It's worth celebrating if your product is books
43. Re-email all the people you've e-mailed before.
44. Tell Chuggers (CH arity m UGGERS) "... Actually I don't have two minutes to discuss (insert cause here) But I do have twenty minutes or so to talk about my Bookshop..."
45. Persuade Big Issue sellers to shout 'Big green bookshop' instead.
46. Put a link to your blog on every e-mail you send.
47. Tell Local Councillors
48. Build a Tardis (Strictly speaking this is not a viable way to advertise your company, unless it works. In which case just think of the opportunities.... you could have your logo indelibly graffittied on the Great Wall of China... or add a line to any book of the bible, eg: Exodus 10:20 And two merchants shall set forth into the Green Wood. And one shall speak unto the other. And he shall say "wouldn't it be a fine idea if we opened our own bookshop?" And the other shall spake the words "Wow, yeah"... You could get Nostradamus off drugs and tell him what's REALLY going to happen.... )
49. put Posters in your windows
50. Do you think we'll get to 70?

51. Keep the suspense going. Like a good book people will want to get to the end.
52. Have I mentioned contacting local schools yet?
53. Organise author events for when you do open.
54. Talk to Local Shops (it would be more effective to talk to the people in the shops really)
55. Get in touch with your Local Council, they may be able to help more than you think
56. Tell your local librbary. They can (and have) offered an amazing amount of help.
57. Find where your local reading groups meet and let them know.
58. Contact big publishers, who mostly are very helpful.
59. Search for fellow bloggers with similar interests. I've noticed we're quite a tight-knit. bunch.
60. Print business cards
61. Leave them in cafes, pubs, libraries, pretty much anywhere.
62. Offer prizes at local events.
63. Let Your Emotions show
64. But not too much
65. read other peoples blogs and nick their ideas. (admit it, we all do it)
66. Get in touch with magazines and offer to do an article for them. They might ask you to be a regular contributor.
67. Find other people with the same name as you, and ask for their help. It really works.
68. Ask everyone who reads this to either mention it in their blog or else add us as a link (Please)
69. Be honest.
70. Always say Thanks.

Thanks. If you have any more ideas, feel free to share them.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Same Old Same Old.


Until our solicitor comes back from his Xmas holiday tomorrow (17 days), no progress can be made. We are just 2 pieces of paper away from completion, and we don't know if our solicitor has these pieces of paper or not. Let's hope so, eh...
I'm finally getting to the end of our opening order. I know I said that a couple of weeks ago, but I keep going back to add/take things away. I know it could drive me mad, but I figure that it's worth spending a bit of extra time over it, whilst we wait for the keys.
I've got two reps appointments this week, and I'm going to a book launch. It's almost like I work in a bookshop isn't it. We'll it would be if one of the appointments wasn't at 8.45 tomorrow morning.
I haven't yet been to Tim's to put the bookshelves up, as Friday turned into a day where other things took over. Tim spent a long time trying to sort out why some documents that were sent to Glasgow apparently weren't there, and then seemed to turn up in Birmingham. Nevertheless, the good news was that they reached the right people in the end.
I spent a bit more time sorting out our credit accounts with various distributors, and doing some other secret stuff of which we can tell you all about very soon.

This is our 99th Blog entry. We've discussed ways to celebrate reaching our little milestone, so don't forget to come back for that. It might be alright.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Our Day Out To Ikea


Today, as a treat, me and Tim decided to head off to Ikea to lookat some fixtures and fittings. We'd already decided that we were going to get the bookshelves for the shop from here, and decided to buy a couple of test bookcases in order for us to make sure that we could display the stock in an attractive way.

Ikea Joke 1

We plumped for Ikea for a couple of reasons. When we did our opening budget, we'd put aside around £12K for fixtures and fittings, as we'd got a couple of quotes (I have to say the quotes varied wildly, but I guess it's difficult to be accurate when you're given sketchy information), but after checking a few places, we realised that we could probably do it for a lot less. We realise that ideally we'd have professional bespoke shelving with all the bells and whistles, and that 's certainly something we'll consider in the future. But as a new business, we need to save every penny we can. We know that there are other indies out there who have used Ikea for their shelving, and it looks great, so I don't think well be compromising too much

Ikea Joke 2

Anyway, neither Tim or I drive (what!?, this is the 21st century), so we enlisted the help of Tim's brother John, who kindly took us in his car without any moaning whatsoever. It transpired as we passed the bathroom sinks, that he was going again with another friend tomorrow. I think he likes Ikea a little too much. It must be the meatballs.

Ikea Joke 3

I'm very proud to say we only strayed from the path once, and that was to pick up some lightbulbs. Temptations at every turn, but we were strong. We had a job to do and we did it.
We obviously went in to the 'bargain corner', to see if there was any nice pieces of wood to tap with our knuckles and nod appreciatively at, but again we resisted all it could thrust at us.

Ikea Joke 4

So 2 bookcases for less than £100. Not a bad days work. Tim and I will have a Generation Game style game to see who can put theirs up the quickest tomorrow. 'give us a twirl Anthea', 'Lovely lovely', 'good game,', 'shut that door' etc etc

Maybe some photos...

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Yes sir, that's my baby.


I'm allowed to tell you now. It has nothing to do with the bookshop, (and everything to do with the bookshop) and will certainly inspire me to sell as many books as possible between now and June. Katie and I are having a baby!! I think that deserved 2 exclamation marks. We had the 12 week scan today (well 13 weeks and 6 days actually) and everything's normal. Perfectly perfectly normal. The baby is due on July 3rd and I have never been happier about anything, ever. Not even Bristol City's awesome form has made me this happy. We saw it kicking Katie's bladder this morning on the scan, and we also saw it's heartbeat and i'm sure it waved to us, but I might have been wrong about the last bit.
Isn't it gorgeous

It looks like it's going to be a good year.