Best Booksellers moves for 2007

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As a new year begins people often daydream about some of the big moments of the past year; it’s no different in bookselling. For us it’s been a year of slow but steady growth. Our only big change came when we had an opportunity to increase the size of our shop. We’re in a commercial building and when our neighbour moved out we were able to carve a doorway through a wall and add a lovely little 10 by 12 room. Once we painted, put in the bookcases and a nice little rug it gave us a chance to enlarge many of our sections – and adding over two thousand more titles. After talking with many other dealers it has become clear that bookshops do need to be of sufficient size to do well. That’s not to say that you can’t make it with a little hole in the wall (after all that’s exactly what we’ve done) it will just take a lot longer. It’s quite easy to imagine that a patron walks in thinking of picking up a cookbook to try something a little different for dinner. You have all of forty cookbooks. Now he may find something or he may not. Now imagine you have three hundred cookbooks. He will buy one. Perhaps even two or three.

Now for a few memorable moments from some of our contributors.

* FrontPorchBooks – from our Forum – mentions moving from a home into a new shop. Wow talk about a big move.

* Paul from Prying1books has bought a huge library from a well known citizen. We were able to buy out another bookstore’s inventory of 5000 books last summer. I highly recommend mega purchases like this. Don’t think it’s too much for you, you’ll find a way to get it done.

* Jill Hendrix of Fiction Addiction shares this with us: “Our best investment in 2007 was joining our regional bookselling association, SIBA. The advice, enthusiasm and support of the group has been wonderful!”

* William Smith of Hang Fire Books offered us these remarks:
Best changes/additions to my bookstore in 2007

1. Beginning the Hang Fire Books Blog: It’s been my biggest driver for new contacts and repeat customers. I’ve gotten leads on new inventory and it gives me something fruitful to do when I’m sick to death of listing, pulling and packing. Also tweaking the design, adding widgets etc is nearly as satisfying as picking window displays and making staff selections in a 3-dimensional shop.

2. Starting an eBay store: My eBay store allowed me to go full time with bookselling and taper off my various freelance gigs. Unfortunately–with the abrupt fee increases and lower listing visibility–I’ve had to drastically trim my listings. One of my ’08 resolutions is to more effectively surf the waves of eBay fees and make the store more viable.

3. Developing my areas of specialization and compiling mailing lists for e-mail and print catalogs.

4. Moving to the “Standard Book Loader” method for updating my Amazon listings. A dreadfully boring technical change, I know, but it allows me to upload 95% of my inventory from a spreadsheet and I’ve made some really unexpected sales for that venue (vintage magazines, 19th century children’s books, ephemera, and more). My increased Amazon sales picked up most of the slack from my reduced eBay store.

Plans for ’08. A standalone website, shelving on wheels, another restoration class or two, down-time.

* Here’s what George of Fairs Fair books in Calgary looks back on. – Changes in 2007 that worked out well?

1. Opened a fourth store in a good location.
“Location! Location! Location!” does not mean “Cheap Rent! Cheap Rent! Cheap Rent!

[editors note: George wrote a great post on choosing a location for your bookstore a few months back.]

2. Our computer programmer has continued making many changes and improvements to the point of sale database program we have been building for the past 5 1/2 years. He has linked the stores to provide better customer service in many areas – also we can see if any of our other stores have the book(s) our customer is seeking. It has stopped us using the telephone and tying up two people to take care of one customer.
3. By constantly investigating, and investing in, ways to improve our methods and procedures we are developing a model which can be replicated. (Everyone in business should read Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited – and all his books).

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One last item for us of course would be the launching of this blog. It’s been much more fun than I imagined. The writing has come easier that I thought (especially with the help of our crack writers – you can learn more about them from the links in the sidebar), the encouragement and popularity far exceeded what I had imagined. Thanks to all of our readers – I really appreciate you coming by and participating (or just reading which is fine as well). Here’s to an awesome 2008. Keep in mind that if you’re interested in joining the gang and writing a piece or two just drop me a line or leave a comment and we’ll get in touch.

If you’ve made some moves that really turned out well, by all means please use the comments area to let us know.

Facebook Comments

Comment (6)

    Marilyn Sager
    January 5, 2008 - 7:23 pm

    Best business decision in 2007 was to open a web site for books. I opted for a Chrislands site and had it up and running in 1 week…had sales the first week. Each month it improves, in hits, sales, and revenue. Had a $500 sale at Christmas, which was my highest sale on the web site.

    Nora
    January 6, 2008 - 5:52 am

    Probably best investment for year was some landscaping. I can’t say that it directly influenced sales, but I got a lot of people talk to me while I was doing it and say how nice it was that I was improving the look of that end of the street. Some of them came in later.

    It’s been an uphill slog on that as I’m next to a gas station and they plow the snow, salt, and sand directly into the birm. The dirt is really salt and dust! During dry part of the year when I was doing some masonry work, I actually used a chisel to carve out blocks of dirt!

    We’ll see what lives through winter. I have a bunch of bulbs that may come up in spring and some shrubs I planted. it looks like a plow creamed one though…

    The major landscape project however was adding some steps in the slope. It cost me maybe $20 in supplies and an afternoon with a chisel and shovel carving them into the hillside where people had already worn a path in. Now they can actually walk down the steps instead of falling down the hill. I think top of those got hit with the plow as well, so I’ll have to repair them when they emerge from beneath the giant snowbank. I purposely left them unmortered because I knew the plow would hit them and its easier to repair them if I don’t have to break up mortar.

    Tom
    January 6, 2008 - 5:20 pm

    Hey – I was on vacation and missed the original call for ideas, but what worked best for us was buying more at auction. As the housing slump has worsened (especially in places like Boston where it was so hot and had so far to fall), we’ve started to mis out on those house clearing opportunities that can be such a good source of cheap inventory. I think we only had one this year instead of the usual 5 or 6. So, buying larger lots at auction has worked out well to fill in the blanks – it’s a bit more expensive, but you also have more control over what’s in there.

    prying1
    January 7, 2008 - 3:31 am

    Nora – You wrote, “I purposely left them unmortered because I knew the plow would hit them and its easier to repair them if I don’t have to break up mortar.”

    Smart move. Got me laughing not at the work you will have to do but at the way you saved yourself from some.

    Marilyn – Looks like you’ve been real busy listing books. Quite a broad field of categories too! – May they all disappear this year and you have to relist a new batch.

    Tom – Control is important. I found that out when I lost it.

    Jalaj
    January 7, 2008 - 12:18 pm

    Moves of 2007 consolidated here will help many others plan for 2008!

    Nishan Stepak (Book Calendar)
    January 7, 2008 - 5:44 pm

    Congratulations on your expansion. It is always nice to have more books in your store. Don’t forget the concept of “Core Books”, in any library or bookstore, 10% of the books account for 90% of the sales or use.

    I am not a bookstore. However, we expanded our graphic novel collection (large format comic book) considerably and it has had a very positive impact. I focus on comics lit, things like Joe Sacco’s Palestine, Craig Thompson’s Blankets, Persepolis, Maus, P.Craig Russell’s Opera series, Narcissa, A Contract With God in addition to typlcal Marvel and DC titles, manga Akira, Naruto, Fruits Basket (the kids read manga these days instead of comic books a lot of the time).

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