Bookstore Owners, Are Church Sales Your Enemy or Your Partner?

Whether or not we want to admit it, local, charitable, nonprofit organizations are in competition for local dollars with businesses that need to turn a profit to stay alive. School bake sales take customers from the bakery, church fund-raising meals siphon diners away from restaurants, and amateur sales of arts, books and crafts, while they … Read more

Not All Booksellers Are Congenial

Staying overnight in a motel in a strange town, one of my first moves is to look up “bookstores” in the Yellow Pages. Let’s say I find one to visit. What would make me want to visit again? Why would I suggest—or not suggest—to friends that they visit this particular bookstore on their travels?

As far as I’m concerned, the store can be small and neat or sprawling and chaotic, contain all new books or all old, high end first editions or mostly paperbacks. What makes or breaks it with me is the bookseller. The bookseller must be (1) knowledgeable—about his or her stock in particular and about books in general; and (2) welcoming. Not simply one or the other! Both!

Most of the bookstores I visited this winter passed my test with flying colors. One failed miserably on part (2) and left a very bad taste in my mouth.

Cranky BooksellerPeople in sales talk about how important it is to establish rapport when trying to gain a customer. Research indicates that people like people based on perceived similarities, ways in which the other is like the self; thus the message you want to give is, “Me, too! We’re in this together!” You do not want to make someone in your shop feel stupid or wrong or unwelcome. I know, you’d think that would go without saying, but we booksellers are a strange breed!

Read more

Creating Demand in your Bookstore

Don’t Wait for Demand—Create It!

We all know that demand drives prices in out-of-print books and drives sales of new books, too, but how many of us realize that we can work to create demand? Let me take my example from my own bookstore.

on the farmDog Ears Books in Northport, Michigan, has a small but concentrated selection of books on agriculture, both new and used. Farming might seem a strange specialty for a bookstore that survives year to year on the seasonal influx vacationers, but while it’s true that many more people walk into the store looking for summer beach reading, farming is near and dear to my heart, and I want to have a part in promoting sustainable agricultural practices. If this seems far-out and irrelevant to your store, think of your own favorite category, which might be easier to boost than mine. The question is still, how to do it?

Read more