Notes: Thriving and Suffering in a Difficult Economy
In a slumping economy, people "don't have to buy books," but the East Valley Tribune
found that in the Phoenix, Ariz., metropolitan area, "small business
owners seem to be faring better than the 'big box' stores. Personalized
service that provides more value to cash-strapped customers, knowing
community likes and dislikes and having the flexibility to make and
execute decisions on the spot give the small shops big clout in an
increasingly difficult economy."
Gayle Shanks, co-owner of Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, noted that while sales of new hardcover books were down, paperback and gift item sales had increased, and "used book sales are topping the charts. Thirty-five years ago we started as a used bookstore, so our heart is in used books and recycling."
She attributed the success in hard times to several factors: "People require more of a store than product. It's hard to part with dollars (in a down economy). You have to provide a good experience. If your store is clean, beautiful, interesting and fun, when people come in, they get value."
The Poisoned Pen bookshop, Scottsdale, is having its "best summer in years," according to owner Barbara Peters. "I was sure as the economy soured, we'd see growth, and we did. It's all about the personal touch."
The story of how Angela Davis-Gardner's novel Plum Wine
found its audience is intricately linked to Nancy Olson, owner of Quail
Ridge Books, Raleigh, N.C., whose efforts as an advocate for the book
were chronicled recently in the News & Observer.
When Olson read Plum Wine, published in a limited print run by University of Wisconsin Press in 2006, "I was blown away. I liked Angela's other two books, but this one was so far beyond them in terms of depth, complexity and literary quality. It was one of the most beautifully written books I'd ever read."
Olson contacted agent Liz Darhansoff, wrote to other independent booksellers and sold 1,200 copies. "That's what the independent bookstores can do," Olson said. "We can handsell. The publishing world is so mundane, full of thrillers, erotic vampire novels, genre books. It was great to have a high quality literary book to push."
Plum Wine "has gone through seven printings and sold 57,000 copies," the News & Observer continued. "But had it not been for Olson, Davis-Gardner believes the book would have sold the 1,000-copy press run and nothing more."
The Free Press aims to make a holiday splash with Built to Succeed, a book by Michael Phelps, in which the Olympic star will "reveal the secrets of his success, taking us behind the scenes of his approach to training, competition, and winning," according to the publisher. The book will appear in December.
Free Press added that the Built to Succeed's "narrative thread" will be Phelps's eight final swims of the Beijing Olympics. "The book will include insights from the games, the pool and the team, giving readers an up close view of world-breaking competition. Phelps will also tell anecdotes about his family, his coach, his passion for the sport, and lessons learned from unexpected challenges and obstacles."
There is also a 2005 title, Michael Phelps: Beneath the Surface co-written by Phelps and Brian Cazenueve (Sports Publishing, $18.95, 9781596703520/1596703520), which is being reissued in paperback on Thursday.
After a local association polled residents and found that 75% of respondents want a bookstore in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, N.Y., a group called the Fort Greene Indie Bookstore Initiative has talked at length with Jessica Stock Bagnulo, who has long wanted to open a bookstore in Brooklyn. (See her blog A Bookstore in Brooklyn: The Triumphs and Travails of a Book Nerd Becoming a Businesswoman. She also blogs at the Written Nerd.)
The result: with the support of the Initiative, Bagnulo, who is events and publicity coordinator at McNally Jackson Books in New York City and a graphic novel columnist for Shelf Awareness, plans to open a store in Fort Greene. Earlier this year, Bagnulo won the 2007 Brooklyn Public Library PowerUp! Business Plan Competition for her business plan to open a bookstore (Shelf Awareness, January 26, 2008). The prize included a $15,000 grant.
To raise awareness and rally community support for the venture, the Initiative is hosting an event at the Cumberland Greene (237 Cumberland Avenue in Fort Greene) 7-9 p.m. on September 16. The event will feature local authors and complimentary beer, wine and hors d'oeuvres from local businesses. Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senator Joe Biden, now Barack Obama's running mate, has rejoined the book campaign, too: his Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics, originally published by Random House last summer, is being released in paperback within "a week or so," Tom Perry, deputy publisher of Random told the Associated Press.
Until Saturday's announcement, the book did about as well as Biden's original presidential campaign. Perry commented: "Bringing out the hardcover last year during the hectic lead-in to the primaries didn't help the book because it was perceived by some to be a campaign tool. It's actually a fine and moving memoir."
On the eve of the Democratic Convention, USA Today asked Tamra Monahan, manager at the Tattered Cover Book Store, Highlands Park, Colo., and contributing writer for Colorado's Best: The Essential Guide to Favorite Places, to suggest "10 great places in Denver."
Bookselling This Week surveyed Denver and Twin City stores to see what they were doing specially for the party conventions. One standout idea. The Tattered Cover has a display, done in conjunction with the Rocky Mountain Land Library, of a "reading list for the President-elect." General manager Matt Miller told BTW that the list is "by a handful of Western writers whom we asked: 'What Western books would you urge on the next inhabitant of the White House? What do they need to know about our region, and where can they find information, inspiration, and guidance?' " Among the authors who made suggestions: George Sibley, Barry Lopez, Rick Bass and Laura Pritchett.
For its part, Fulcrum Publishing, Golden, Colo., is hosting a range of events involving some of its authors who will be in town for the convention. For example, with the Denver Forum, Fulcrum is sponsoring a lunch for former Senator George McGovern, a Fulcrum author, that will include as guests Fulcrum authors former Senator Gary Hart, former Colorado First Lady Dottie Lamm, Chilean ambassador to the U.N. Heraldo Muñoz and Anita Thompson, wife of the late Hunter S. Thompson and author of The Gonzo Way.
The house will also be distributing to delegates and others copies of Fulcrum books, including Stop Global Warming by Laurie David, Gary Hart's examination of the future of U.S. national security, Under the Eagle's Wing; and Ambassador Muñoz's look at the Iraq War, A Solitary War.
"Tough times for some of Seattle's independent bookstores" was the Seattle Times headline for a piece on the demise of the Couth Buzzard used bookstore.
Seattle, the Times wrote, "has more bookstores per capita than any other city in the country . . . 174 at last count. But running a bookstore has always been an occupation for dreamers, and area independent stores have had to confront the realities of wresting a living from a low-margin business in an increasingly expensive town."
Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Lexington, Ky., appears to have made believers of Business Lexington, which reported, "It may be hard to imagine books being one of the main draws for an urban shopping center, but that seems to be the case at venerable Joseph-Beth Booksellers, a store that helps pull in shoppers to the Mall at Lexington Green off Nicholasville Road."
"Part of it is providing great customer service. The other part is providing a great area for people to come to and enjoy, not just to buy a book," said general manager Gary Cremeans. "We try to be really involved in the community and not be just another retail outlet."
Word is Out Women's Bookstore, Boulder, Colo., will host a "Word is Outta Here Party" for its customers on September 6, shortly before the bookshop's planned closing September 22, according to the Daily Camera.
"Because of the Internet and increased visibility of LGBT people, there's not quite as much of a dire need for stores like mine and for people to feel connected," said owner Louise Knapp. "Twenty years ago, or even 15 years ago, it used to be that bookstores were real lifelines for lesbians and for gays and feminists and people outside the mainstream. That's less the case now, and that's a positive thing."
Knapp said she has mixed feelings about closing the bookshop: "I'm definitely sad the store isn't really able to sustain itself, but it's been a really good experience for me and I've really learned a lot and I've enjoyed doing it. I wish that things were different, and I wish that local independent businesses--especially bookstores--were more viable, but with things the way they are, with chains and the Internet, it's just not possible."
The lease on the Strand Book Store's Fulton Street Annex has been extended through September. For New York City bibliophiles, this means that the 50% off sale on all stock, which is already discounted, continues.