Minding the Books

Jack blogs on the business matters of bookstore life

Since opening our bookstore we’ve kept a close eye on our sales from month to month. This was initially part of the process of calculating sales tax, but as we moved from year one to year two, we realized that comparing the same month in different years couldn’t hurt our planning. (We were business virgins when we started, but we have learned quickly.)

That, in turn, allowed us to see how we were building our customer base in succeeding years – until we hit a plateau around year three or four. We were comfortably aware that we had probably reached saturation point, in terms of our region’s ‘willing to drive to the bookstore’ market, but then things changed again after Little Bookstore was published.

To begin with its effect coincided with our usual pre- and post- Christmas peak (believe it or not January can be a good month for bookstores, as people spend their Christmas gift money). The Christmas Factor made it hard to separate the two. Traditionally, the period from late January through late March has always been very low. In fact we have come to expect a goodly handful of ‘cashless wonder’ days during this period, when people either use accumulated credit or bring boxes of books in for credit. We brace ourselves and eat more mac and cheese.

But, here we are heading for the end of February 2013 and we’ve continued to be almost as busy as during that seasonal Christmas peak. The explanation seems to be that the folk who have read Little Bookstore are intrigued enough to want to experience both the bookstore and Big Stone for real.

It’s becoming pretty easy to tell these nice folk as soon as they come into the shop, too! They have an expectant look about them; they smile at our cats and call them by name. They seek out ‘the rejection letter,’ and they just kind of hover in a satisfied way.

Once we twigged what was going on we would ask where they came from and discovered that our geographical footprint had grown. Quite a bit.

Funny though this may seem, as excited as I’d been about the book coming out, it had never occurred to me it would entice people to seek out our shop. But I’m certainly glad they are. Without exception, they’ve been nice people, pleasant visitors, appreciative of the town without a whiff of “how… quaint” to them. They’re good conversationalists. AND they’re buying books.

What more could a bookslinger ask for?


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, publishing, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

7 responses to “Minding the Books

  1. Kathy Walker

    Hi, would it be possible for you to share a bit of information about your Quaker Meeting? We live in Abingdon and would love to visit some First Day. Thank you! Kathy Walker

    On Wed, Feb 27, 2013 at 10:33 AM, Wendy Welch, Little Bookstore of Big

    • Certainly Kathy – we hold an informal meeting on the 1st Sunday of each month here at the bookstore at 11am. We usually have two members plus around seven or eight attenders. We are currently discussing with West Knoxville Monthly Meeting being taken ‘under their wing’ until we can become a more formal meeting in our own right.

  2. Maggie Vance

    Of course you will get many visitors who read the book and just have to ‘come visit’…give a heads up everyone in town, too. All will have extra visitors all because of your book….my Dear Husband and I will see you sometime this spring/summer. Maggie Vance Wilmington,OH

  3. You are spot on with the factor of influence of “The Little Bookstore,” but there are a few other influences that might be considered.
    1. Your 3rd and 4th years coincided chronologically with the apex of the national ‘death of the bookstore syndrome.’
    2. The independent bookstore business is now undergoing a slow and hopefully long-term healing process.
    3. People are growing weary of online megasellers; the bloom is off the rose and folks are starting to see the thorns.
    4. Ebook devices and ebooks in general are in rapid (year to year) decline.
    5. People are feeling a smidge better about the economy or, at least, finding an economy that they can live with.
    6. Readers are getting more nostalgic for the ‘good old days’ when reading led to a slower and more casual lifestyle. They are realizing that they have missed some of that during the past 10 years bookstore recycle.

    And, of course, the wonderful and funny writing of The Little Bookstore makes people want to come and meet the ‘real’ people! You and Jack are the Duck Dynasty of bookselling!

  4. I would definitely come by if I could. Would love to just step in and breath in the used book aroma that I love. It would be fun to look around and recognize things from the book, probably would be kind of surreal feeling I suppose.

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