Monday, January 26, 2009

Stickers and Monsters (S and M)

Stickers-gummed labels- adhesive labels. We know what they are, and we've seen them in various guises on books in all the big shops.

The 3 for 2 sticker is very succesful, and seems to work very well at getting people to buy that extra book.

Obviously the money off sticker is a vital way of letting the public know that the publisher realises that it's whacked on a few quid and knows you're not really going to pay almost £19 for a dreadful biography of someone whose only real claim to fame is that he flashed his willy on Underwater Celebrity Puppy Grooming (or a book written by a Top Gear presenter).

I don't have a problem with stickers, as long as they come off. Who wants to have a book with a £8 off sticker permanently glued to the cover?

So we come to Richard and Judy...inevitably. They big and famous and we listen to stuff they tell us. They make a book club and then The Yummy Chocolate sponsored book awards give one of the authors from their book club lots of sweets and some cash (probably). Richard and Judy, mmmmm. Chocolate, mmmmm.

Sorry about that.

So, obviously there's some cache in being on the R and J shortlist, and publishers like to boast about the fact that they have books on this list, and as such, make sure that their book has a sticker which says (i'm paraphrasing here) 'Ooh Richard and Judy like us .Look Look Look!'.

Now this sticker is designed to encourage people to buy the book from the shop. Once that's happened, it's job is done, and it can retire to a small cottage in the Welsh hills, safe in the knowledge that it's life hasn't been wasted. The person who chose the book can now peel the sticker from the book, and roll it into a thin tube (stick it in their mouths and pretend it's a cigarette), and throw it away.

BUT NO!!!!

We have some of the list in the shop, all with the stickers on. Except one. The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway (no relation to George). The sticker design has actually been printed on the cover of the book! It is now part of the cover! This is..excuse my wotsits..fucking ridiculous. Atlantic (the publishers) had someone design this wonderful cover...

and then, when they heard that R and J had chosen the book they had something like this printed on the front cover.
I ask you......I must stress this is printed on. It's not a sticker, it's there for good. Pillocks...

In other news, I had a strange note pushed through my door this morning. It appears that Sam Enthoven, author of the rather marvellous Black Tattoo, and Tim Defender of the Earth has been Trapped By Monsters in a cave with 7 other authors.

Don't believe me? Then click on this strange babble. 'fkjeohgnoihrlknoiuq' and all will be revealed. Tell your kids...they may be able to help.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Shop for Hire....

I got some notes once from a speech that Patrick Neale did at the London Book Fair (thanks San). The speech was called something like 'How to Run a Succesful Bookshop in 59 minutes'. The notes looked pretty useful and a couple of the things in the speech stuck out as rather interesting.

I particularly liked the bit that said 'hire out your shop for other activities'. The idea is that people being filmed etc like the literary backdrop of a bookshop, and that a bookshop is seen as a place where well learned ( i'm well learned, me) people frequent.

So this is something that we do.

It doesn't cost much, and so far we've had management seminars and club meetings amongst other things in the shop.

Next Sunday the shop's being hired out to hold a debate about Barack Obama. For those of you who don't know, he's the New President of the United States of America (that's that big place a long way left of us geographically, and a long way right politically). Here's a picture of him

I think he's the one on the right.

Anyway, after all the hoo haa, and the furore, and the hype, and the bells and whistles,this debate will centre around what he can do for us in the UK (and even Wood Green). Should be a cracker. It's a fiver on the door, and no doubt there'll be refreshments.

I only mention this as an example of the things a bookshop can do to earn some extra dosh.

One of the things Patrick should think about adding to his next speech is to have Thomas the Tank Engine train track running above the kids section in the shop. Imagine this...
... going around and around on a track on see-through plastic above the heads of enchanted little people. Oh, it's lovely. Folk come from miles around to see its wonders.

I'm off for a week, but that'll probably mean i've got more time to do this kind of nonsense. I'm spending a week with the gorgeous Katie and our incredible daughter Freya. Yes, she's standing up in the bath.
Great product placement here. And yes, Greg, I am 'punching above my weight'. Thanks.

We were in the Guardian today. Look a doodle do. Hello new readers.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Update-it's a date....and it's up.

'Absence (or was it Absinthe) makes the heart grow fonder', or so I hear. But if you're a customer of the Big Green Bookshop please ignore this ridiculous saying. We love to see you every day. If you come in twice a day, then we like you even more.

The shop's been ploughing on, or forging forward, depending on how you see things, and in the last week, these are the things that you may be interested to know.
  • we got an electric bill for £496. This is for 90 days....bollocks. Perhaps Tim getting electrocuted a few weeks ago cost more than just an immense amount of pain.
  • following our little blog piece about the Booksellers Association, all of a sudden we recieved an email from them, asking us to fill in a customer satisfaction survey. I did.
  • I'm finding it very frustrating trying to get replies from certain publicity departments about events we want to put on this year. (If you do happen to work in a publicity department, and think one of your wonderful authors would like to tread the Big Green Bookshop boards, then 020 8881 6767. We did around 80 events last year, and we want to continue this madness). I've emailed some of you 3 times now...
  • However in a few cases, we decided to cut out the middle man (or woman) and email the author directly. This has worked a lot better in the short term.....interesting
  • At this quieter (compared to xmas) time, we've offered schools some extra discount for one -off stock picks of books we already have in store. This is proving very popular, and we've had to reorder pretty much all of our primary fiction section twice in the last week.
  • I went to a meeting with the Council today to talk about the wonderful Wood Green International Film Festival, and how the Big Green Bookshop could get more involved. It looks like we're going to be sponsoring an award now, and also we're going to be a fringe venue, and show 3 films (of our choice) to help highlight the festival. These films can be anything at all. AND HERE'S WHERE YOU MAY BE ABLE TO HELP....

We'd like some suggestions for films to show in the shop. Anything at all, within reason. The films will probably start around 7.30pm, so nothing too long, and nothing too saucy. Debbie Does Dallas, whilst a masterpiece of it's genre, would probably not 'go down' too well with the locals.

That's all for now....


Simon and his amazing man-mask.

p.s. we were in the Observer/Guardian this weekend. Classy or what?

Hello Vincent.

Tim's having his varicose vein looked at tomorrow

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hobnobs To You


I've just realised that I haven't posted anything in ages. How will this affect my biscuit ration?

Oh, and while we're communicating by blog, we don't have many pound coins left.

Oh, and while I think about it, who is going to bring the biscuits from the front door to the shopfloor?

Oh and another thing. Why are all the comments to do with goods-in people? Was there some kind of hidden message in your last post?

Hope you're enjoying your Carribean trip, and don't go spending all the huge bonus all at once.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Tough Decision

Last Friday at the Big Green Bookshop, I sent an email to all our stores to let them know that we'd be making an official announcement, and that all staff should be in today at 10am. A password protected email ws sent to us and we would be given the password before the announcement was made.
Tim and I dutifully turned up this morning (obviously we were quite nervous). I sent an email with the password to myself and we opened the message.

The message read.

'I am speaking to you from my private island in the Carribean and apologise for not being there in person.
As the Big Green Bookshop continues to progress and embrace new technology and systems, we will inevitably have to make some tough decisions. Some of these will be welcomed with open arms (my big fat bonus last year for example, and also my nomination in the Bookseller for Hero of the Year), but others will be questioned. However in order to progress, we.. sorry, you have to be brave.
As you know, we will shortly be introducing a new biscuit rota, in which instead of all of us buying biscuits from lots of different places, including local shops and smaller but better quality biscuit producers we will now buy all our biscuits from Lidl. The range will be worse and the quality of the packing will no doubt lead to lots of damaged biscuits, but the savings we can make at the expense of others will be massive. I've no doubt by making this decision, i'll be getting another fat bonus this year too.
This unfortunately means that those of you who unpack the various packets of biscuits now will no longer be required to do this. Over the next 3 months there will be a consultation period in which we will endeavour to find other jobs for you to do (overseeing the washing up rota for example), however there may now be periods of the day when you will have to sit in the office and play pacman instead.
I realise that when we told you initially about the biscuit rota changes, it was stressd that this was being introduced to free more time up to deal with customers and 'get selling'. But I didn't think I would be getting as big a bonus if you this happened, so I changed my mind. To be honest, i'm surprised any of you noticed.
Please let me stress once again that I got a huge bonus last year, and am likely to get another one this year too.
Wish you were here...'

Tim and I are speculating what effect this will have on our teabreaks and morale is really low at the moment. But i'm sure the powers that be have our best interests at heart......oh, and our customers of course.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Booksellers Association is smashing

The Booksellers Association is 'a member of the National Book Committee, dedicated to the well-being of books and the written word.'
They also say 'Our services range from the commercial, such as reduced rates on credit and debit cards and a tailor made insurance scheme, to the practical, such as the 'Christmas Books' catalogue and carrier bags, to the intangible but invaluable, such as representation to Government and the EU'.
Over 95% of bookshops are signed up to the BA.
It ' is committed to providing the widest possible range of services to its membership, the value of which far outweigh the cost of being a member'.

Now i'm about to play devil's advocate here....

The thing is, a bookshop cannot sell or accept book tokens if it isn't a member of the BA. They're part of the same set up. So, a bookshop really doesn't have much choice then, in becoming a member of the BA, as (quite rightly) bookshops should accept book tokens.

Let's look at the other services it offers;
  • reduced rates on credit and debit card transactions. We got a much reduced rate through Leading Edge.
  • A tailor made insurance scheme. The cost of which is also matched (if not bettered) by other companies
  • Christmas Boks Catalogue. This is a generic catalogue that has the same books in it, so no matter if you're a bookshop in King's Road, or Wood Green. Two very different markets that probably wouldn't want to be promoting the same books at Christmas. It also costs quite a lot.
  • Carrier Bags. These bags advertise National Book Tokens, and not the bookshop. Not the greatest marketing tool in the world (and not that cheap in comparison to other bags out there)
  • Actually this is pretty useful, as it saves banking costs, amongst other things. But it isn't vital...

there are other benefits, but as far as I can see, these benefits can be gained whether you're a member or not.

An annual fee to be a member of the BA starts at about £150, which is quite a lot just for being allowed to trade with Book Tokens.

Now here's the plan.

20 indie bookshops get together, and 19 agree to leave the BA. The other bookshop (that's still a member of the BA) buys all the book tokens for all the 20 indie shops. Everyone still carries on accepting and selling book tolkens as normal. The 19 shops then send the used book tokens to thae 20th shop every, say, 2 months, and it then sends the tokens to the BA and gets the credit, which it then distributes to the other 19 shops. Obviously this means extra work for the one shop, but if the 19 shops paid this one shop say £25 each a year, then the bookshop will be making a tidy sum, and the £19 other shops will have saved themselves £125 each (plus VAT).

Who's with me?

Please note, I love the Booksellers Association and all they stand for. I'm more than happy to listen to all the other reasons why we should be members of the BA, so feel free to educate me.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Sad News

I've just read that Murder One, the finest crime specialist bookshop in the world, is closing down at the end of January. Based in Charing Cross Road for 20 odd years, this is a real kick in the teeth for anyone who cares about books and bookselling.
I used to work in the Watertone's in Charing Cross Road, and know only too well how greedy the landlords were 8 years ago, forcing the shop I worked in to close it's doors. I suspect that they are still just as greedy, and this has something to do with Maxim's decision to close.
I wish everyone affected by this all the very best for the future.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Predictions For 2009 (Big Green Stylee)

After the Mystic Meg like qualities of our predictions last year (all pure guesswork and based on nothing more than flights of fancy), cross my palm with silver my pretty, and we'll tell you the future again.

OK we'll tell you anyway...

Amazon opens it's first High Street bookshop. It expects to make a $10 million loss in the first year, and assures us all that things will get 10 times worse. The banks throw their money at it.
The 'Credit Crunch Diet book', an 'diet book parody in these lean times' is published by some crappy no mates publisher, and we all laugh. Ho Ho Ho. 3 Months later the publisher goes tits up.
The Big Green Bookshop celebrates it's first birthday to fanfares, trumpets and a tickertape parade. Unfortunately the fanfares, trumpets and parade are for the new Tesco opening down the road.
The Tuesday Project is boldly launched. It claims to be the only print publisher wholly concerned with finding books and then turning them into websites. HarperCollins licks its' lips.
Bloomsbury introduce us to exciting new author A K Howling (pronounced hole-ing), and claim he/she's the new Jill Murphy (author of the Worst Witch series first published in 1974).
Doubleday counter with their new 'find', Dan Frown.
Waterstone's summer promo is an "I tell you what. If you buy this book and you don't like it and you let us know, bring it back and as long as it's in good condition we'll give you some money or something like money (so probably a Waterstones voucher)back" promotion to the unsuspecting public. Unfortunately, the orange sticker with the offer on is twice the size of the book.
Nintendo introduces the Nintendo Riiiiiid to the book hating public, a machine in which you score points by moving your head as fast as you can from side to side in front of an imaginary book. Tesco takes 100,000.
Richard and Judy are dropped and replaced by The Chuckle Brothers. Their Book Club outstrips the ageing journo's 3 to 1. Barry Chuckle announces 'Oh dear, oh dear'
The Booker shortlist is announced. Kerry Katona, Geri Halliwell, Katie Price (the bookies favourite), Lee Ryan off of Blue, Keith Chegwin and Salman Rushdie are all on the list.
Bono off of U2 publishes a E-book only book, entitled 'U2; we're so amazing, so we are'. It gets to number one in the charts after Bono, his Mum and (reluctantly) The Edge buy 25,000 downloads each.
Tip top Chrimbo books this year include, 'Brooklyn Beckham, my life so far', Jennifer Saunders' autobiography 'Leave Me Alone You Skinny Stalker', and my mate Jeremy Clarkson's latest bestselling... 'I'll Argue with Anyone if They Pay me Enough..oh and i'll probably argue some more towards the end of next year too'.
Lots of books get sold at really cheap prices and we all sigh and moan and worry and fret and frown and stress and cry and point and accuse and groan and sulk and then when it's all over, we have a lovely lovely Christmas.

It's all gonna happen....

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Last Christmas I gave you my predictions....

I've been looking back over the blog and happened upon our predicitions for 2008

Here they are in full (with comment)

January; The BIG GREEN bookshop opens to fanfares and there is celebrating in the streets of North London well into the night. Our first customer brings a book back that they got at Christmas, claiming 'it was definitely bought here'.
well, we didn't quite make it until March, but a trumpet fanfare was composed and performed on the opening day.
February; Crockatt & Powell II opens in the cosmopolitan Fulham Road. It is called Powell & Crockatt after a furious argument between Matthew and Adam, and the first customer buys '4 yards of books to fill my new shelves'.
clearly untrue. It was 4 metres of books. This is Europe don't you know
March; Scott Pack reveals that the rumours are true, he is Steve Stack, author of 'It Is Just You, Everything's not Shit'. He also admits to being John TwelveHawks and The Batman.
Betman perhaps, but not Batman.
April; Profits soar at Waterstone's after a sticker misprint means that their latest promotion is a 2 for 3. WH Smith quickly counters this with a '50% on' promotion for their top 40 hardbacks.
Maybe not then....
May; JK Rowling donates for charity a fart in a jam jar. Amazon buy it for $3.6million, and runs a competition in which the winner gets to open the jar.
It was a bogey in a matchbox actually
June; Claiming 'every little helps', Tesco starts selling just the last chapters of books, and circling the bits that we should read.
Can someone tell me if this is true or not, as I would never sully myself by going into one of these places.
July; publishing assistants at a large publishing House get a 15% pay rise, but turn it down saying ,'we get paid enough already'.
Penguin should be very proud of their senior staff, who agreed to freeze their pay, rather than have the company face redundancies
August; Christmas promotions start in earnest at Borders, WH Smiths, and Waterstone's.
Ernest wasn't best pleased I can tell you. Ho Ho HO
September; An updated Kindle is released which vibrates and has flick pictures in the corner of the book, because nobody who buys one is really interested in reading are they?
This is the Sony Reader folks.
October; Katie Price wins the Man Booker prize for Shiny, her latest novel. Michael Portillo calls it 'a tour-de-force'.
terrifyingly accurate I should think after becoming one of Gordon Brown's Reading Heroes
November; Top selling xmas titles start to come through the pack, including 'do spiders belch?', 'the slighlty Adventurous book for Grannies', 'Jamie on rollerskates' and 'Hammond, May and Clarkson ridicule stuff surrounded by goons lapping up every little thing they do'.
December; The BIG GREEN bookshop sells it's 1000th copy of Life in the UK. Our last customer of the year brings a book back that they got at Christmas, claiming 'it was definitely bought here'....
we only sold about 4 copies of LITUK all year. Maybe British Citizenship isn't quite so appealling as it has been, who knows...

Well, not a bad effort, and very soon we'll be putting up this years predictions.