Tag Archives: working in a bookstore

What if Editors SOLD Books (in Big Stone Gap)?

nicholeRegular readers will know that I spent a week in NYC last month, doing a couple of events and goofing off visiting my editor Nichole (in the photo) and agent Pamela. During the course of the week, Jack and I were delighted to have a conversation with Ken, head of independent bookstore sales for Macmillan, and his assistant Matt; we talked about coping mechanisms for small guys, marketing strategies for big guys, and the very hopeful demographics showing rises from 2011-2013 not only in sales of books at indie bookstores, but in the number of indie bookstores that are out there.
After the conversation, Nichole made the casual comment that she wished she knew more about how indie bookstores sold books. “It’s like the Gold Standard of bookselling, the handsell. And I’ve certainly recommended lots of books to lots of people, but I’ve never stood in a shop and sold one.”
Thus an idea was born. Nichole and her trusty assistant Laura have been saying repeatedly they’d love to visit Big Stone Gap. In addition, my publicist Jessica is from Richmond, VA, and she’s never been to the more rural climes. So here’s my cunning plan: we need people to explain to Nichole’s editor-in-chief why Nichole and Laura and Jess could really use a week of handselling experience in a small town.laura chasen
Wouldn’t it be great to have Nichole and Laura (in the photo) and Jess spend a few days RUNNING The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap?  Pamela, my agent, has often said that if prospective authors who send pitches to agents had to sell the books they were pitching, they’d change their pitch—and tune. You have to know what will and won’t sell—and how to sell it—to write a good query letter.
Nichole and I have often talked about the failed algorithms of A**zon, how people who want to read books that don’t quite fit a specific category can’t find them, don’t know they’re out there, and how sales reps (that is, those who sell books in bulk to bookstores from publishers) have to make things easy for the stores and build their own relationships of trust in order to do their jobs well. And that there’s a disconnect between the writers, the editorial shapers, and the sellers. Think of it: Manhattan’s finest editors bridging those gaps (in The Gap!).
jessicaSo here’s what we need: leave a comment on this blog saying why Nichole and Laura and Jess (in the photo of her birthday dinner with us in NYC) should get to spend a week (okay, three days) running our shop. (Don’t worry about Pamela and her assistant Michelle; we have a completely different plan for them.) And while the trio are down here we can show them a good time. Please, in your comments, explain why this is a good idea to Nichole’s boss (who will be interested).
And if Nichole and Laura and Jess get to visit, we’ll throw a party, and y’all can come say hi!


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, humor, publishing, shopsitting, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, writing

On-The-Job Training

Today, Jack and Wendy gallivanted off to sign books, visit bookstores, and see old friends in Philly, NYC, and Charlotte, leaving Shopsitter Andrew Whalen to sort it all out and bravely captain the ship o’ books and its furry, mew-tinous crew.

During my first week in Big Stone Gap I was taught a great deal about operating a small business. There’s accounting, stocking, inventory management, and that cornerstone of every great business: bribing animals with treats so they don’t bark at customers or claw your eyeballs.

But some policies at Tales of the Lonesome Pine are different from your standard multinational mega-conglomerate next door. For one, the training videos are better. The dress code is more lax too, unless slippers are company issue and I didn’t get the memo. (C’mon Wendy! All pajama-related memos are supposed to be delivered in triplicate!)

Perhaps most bewildering for me is the total lack of a customer script. At first I copied some of Jack’s mannerisms. The first time he heard me say, “Hi! Looking for anything special, or just in for a browse?” he gave me a look that would frost every field in Scotland. “That’s my line!” he said, covering his murderous intent in completely convincing joviality. I’ve since learned, through empirical research, that people will listen to a man with a Scottish accent more than a person with a vague Midwestern accent who mispronounces pillow as pellow and milk as melk. Not sure why — further research is required — but initial results lead me to believe it has something to do with a Scottish brogue being (and this is a scientific term here) ADORABLE. With this knowledge in hand, I now know I can’t just copy Jack’s patter, unless eyes glazing over as I ramble somehow contributes to customer satisfaction.

Also, I never saw the Org Chart that lays out the official job titles for the menagerie. Is Bert Head of Security, or Public Relations? Mix those two up and you have a serious problem on your hands. (I’ve since looked this up and found on the blog that Bert is security. I probably shouldn’t have let him write all those press releases.) Owen has been a constant companion, but we’ve had some tussles over chain of command. I’ve since been testing him out in different capacities. Assigning him accounting was probably my biggest mistake.

I’ve now come to think of him as an intern and he’s come to think of me as a clawing post. Progress.

So, while there’s been some hiccups along the way, my on-the-job training is progressing. But I won’t know for sure how I’m doing until CEO Val-Kyttie’s performance review.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA