Thursday, 11 December 2008

Book Launch...

Two posts in just a few days... I'll need a sit down at this rate! But this is just a quick post to let you know of the launch of a great new local book. Tomorrow (Friday 12th December) at 3pm Val McKay's book on the history of the Bo'ness & Carriden Brass Band will be launched in the shop. The book will then be on sale priced at £10 for the paperback, and the hardback (a limited edition priced at £15) will also be available soon.

The book has been written to commemorate the 150 year history of the band, the first to win the Scottish Championships in 1895, and subsequent winners on several occasions, including in their centenary year too! Val's book will be a great addition to our small but perfectly formed (if occasionally a little higgledy-piggledy) collection of available local books... and on that note, might I just mention that Bo'ness: A Glimpse of the Past is now back in stock too. Yeay!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

My First Bookselling Christmas... (Part 1)

Apologies for the blog silence. With all the news reports of economic downturns, poor retail sales figures on the high street, and Woolies, MFI and the like going bust you'd be forgiven for thinking we'd packed up and run away screaming. But no, we're made of much sterner stuff, we're still here, still selling, still loving it, and (finally!) finding the time to start blogging again.

Thanks to the joys of the festive season however, (both inside the shop and out) the blog and enewsletter had been pushed to the side to be replaced by tinsel and fairy lights for a while (and of course in choosing which books to give as gifts this year)! But now I'm pleased (and more than a little smug) to say I'm completely sorted on the gift books front (the earliest I've ever been organised... but then as a bookshop owner I damn well should be!) and I'm back to blogging.

But enough about me and my Christmas shopping, here's a little run down on what's happened in Bo'ness in the last few weeks - lights were switched on, decorations were hung, reindeer visited the town, roadworks were started and (thankfully) completed, and tickets for the Ghost Train (which was quite brilliant) as well as quite a few books were sold. At the moment we're waiting for more of 'Bo'ness: A Glimpse of the Past' to arrive (hopefully very, very soon!), and we now have a small non-book section which includes magnifiers, book lights, bookmarks, book chairs etc. We're fast running out of Paperblanks diaries too so if anyone's still looking to nab one for someone's Christmas then I'd make it sharpish before the last of them go (we've already completely run out of the largest size), and we've now created a few shelves worth of a 'Stocking Filler / Secret Santa' section where everything is £5.99 or less to help you choose those last minute little bits and bobs!

Aside from that, we're busy ordering, unpacking, shelving, displaying, selling, smiling and humming carols merrily... well, tunelessly... and counting down to Christmas!

As a still fairly new bookseller in the the throes of a first Christmas season though, I've been finding out that it's not all Dickens and Gl├╝hwein (frustratingly). There've been a few stressy moments and for those of you interested in the mechanics of running a bookshop (when you're having to work most of it out as you go along) I thought I'd share some of my mild panics at the start/middle of Christmas season here, and will post a bit of a 'part 2' type update on how the whole thing went at the end of the month.

OK, let's start with the basics... 1. When do you hang up the Christmas decorations? If you follow the big high street stores, you barely take them down from one year to the next, but following my own personal yearly Christmas timetable (i.e. about 8 days behind the rest of the world) that would mean hastily throwing them up around the 20th which even I can see is too late. In the shop I eventually decided to compromise by having the Christmas catalogues out towards the end of October (*sigh*), and putting the decorations up in earnest over the last weekend in November. Seems to have been a fairly sensible timetable so I'll probably stick to it next year (with a few minor tweaks), although I might try to get everything organised a week or two beforehand to avoid running around at the last minute hunting for sufficient quantities of gold and red tartan ribbon!

2. How many books with words like 'Christmas', 'Santa' or Snowflake' in the title should you order? They sell well at this time of year and people expect to be able to get them but come January, they're harder to move than my rusty little car on a cold and frosty winter morning (e.g. every morning for the last two weeks!). I opted for getting quite a few in early but I think I'll stop re-ordering them around now so the last of them can be cleared by 24th. Is this a naive move? Probably.

3. What do you do about all those great big hardback 'celebrity' biographies? Loads of people want them, but at the crazy prices the supermarkets and other high street giants are selling them, I simply can't afford to compete. But to have absolutely none of them seems a little scary. So again, a bit of a compromise here for this year. I eventually plumped for getting in just a few single copies of the bigger name ones which I can then send back to the suppliers if, come January, no-one has decided that £18-£20 is a good price for the life story of a national institution like Parky or Humph (...or Alan Carr). I'll wait and see how well they sell before deciding on next year, but I've a pretty good idea how it's going to go already...

4. The biggie. How do you figure out what on earth people are going to want for Christmas and have it here in time for them? The figuring out part is the hard bit for a newbie. Yes, you get to know your customers, the topics or authors they're interested in and they types of books they buy regularly, but at this time of year they're buying for others... who like completely different things... whom you've never met... and who even they might only see once a year. And then there are the customers who may only ever pop in at Christmas with requests for books on topics as far apart as the wildlife of Australia, heraldry, flower fairies or Valentino Rossi. It's a minefield, wrapped up in a lot of guesswork. Come next year, at least I'll have this years sales figures to look at to try to predict a few titles that might be popular but at the moment it's a case of trial and error, and there's nothing for it but to crash on through and hope I get a few things right! As for the getting it here on time, I'm pretty much relying on my suppliers for that. Mostly it's been good so far with the odd blip here and there, but with the all important Christmas deadline looming, I've a feeling that the nail-biting, finger-crossing, floor-pacing and herbal-tea-drinking is about to begin in earnest.

Of course, that's not all. There's a ton of other stuff to think about, like festive opening hours, the JK Rowling factor, and how to keep the floor reasonably clean when outside the door are the remnants of sand, dirt and other roadworks associated mud-types. But I'll not bore you with all that, and will end this somewhat mammoth post on a much happier, less freaked-out note...

...look at the pretty window with it's twinkly Christmas lights... aaaw. Lovely.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Awards, authors and pressies...

Here's a question... What do ourselves, Metallica and Miley Cyrus have in common? It's certainly not our musical talent I think we can all agree! Actually, the link is that we were all up for an award last Thursday but sadly none of us won! I can't speak for Metallica or Miley at the MTV EMA awards in Liverpool, but thanks to some good company, good one-liners from host Kay Adams, and good wine(!) we at the Falkirk Herald Business Awards had good night despite our understandable disappointment.

But on to other happier news, and if you're quick you still have time to get tickets for author Chris Hannan's visit to Bo'ness Library. The author of 'Missy' will be there on Tuesday night (11th Nov) and tickets are just £2 available from the library.

And in shopping news, we've finally got our hands on a digital version of this year's Christmas catalogue. Isn't modern technology great? Click on the picture opposite and you'll be whisked off to a fancy-schmancy virtual viewer and be able to browse through the books featured... give it a go - you might get some great ideas for Christmas, or even find a few books you fancy yourself... after all, it's the perfect time of year to drop hints to your friends and family!

Monday, 3 November 2008

The Ghost Train - Get your tickets here!

Exciting news - as well as books we're now selling tickets! (OK, so we may not be snapping at he heels of Ticketmaster just yet but give us time!)

The tickets we're selling are for the Barony Players' upcoming production of The Ghost Train by Arnold Ridley. Written and set in the 1920s, the play is a spooky tale of a diverse group of train passengers, stranded and forced to spend the night in the cold unwelcoming waiting room of a Cornish railway station. Playwrite Ridley (who gained fame as mild-mannered Private Godfrey in Dad's Army) was inspired to pen this play after becoming stranded overnight at a railway station himself!

Upon it's original West End opening the play was a phenomenal success, and played to packed audiences for two years. The Barony Players' production only runs for 5 performances and with their reputation it's bound to be just as successful so you'd better make sure you get your tickets sharpish!

The play runs from December 2nd - 6th 2008 at the Barony Theatre here in Bo'ness, and tickets are priced at just £7 (£5 concessions)... not much for a great night's entertainment these days I think you'll agree!

Tickets are on sale in the shop now so pop in next time you're passing and get yours fast before they all go!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Autumn treats!

Well, Autumn has hit Bo'ness and the leaves have well and truly started to turn - looking out the shop window now there's a fair few lining the street already. I love Autumn, it's my favourite season - there's Hallowe'en, bonfire night, the trees bursting out into golds and oranges and reds. Brilliant! OK, enough of my personal opinions... I'm just saying.

So anyway, it's been brought to my attention from a few different sources this week that I've not updated the blog in a while so I thought I'd take a little time out today to mention a few of the new things we've been working on in the past few weeks...

First, thanks to everyone who voted in the Independent Booksellers Book of the Year awards. Voting postcards were to be back here by 15th and they've now been sent off to be counted with those from other independent shops all over the country. We look forward to getting the results at the end of the month and will be sure to let you know who won!

In the shop itself, we now have a spookily fabulous Hallowe'en window with lots of wicca, ghost and scary children's books on display ... wooooo!

...and our Christmas catalogues are available too - pick up a copy and get shopping!

On the products side of things we now have cards available from Museums and Galleries (featuring literary favourites like Paddington, Winnie the Pooh and more), and Wedgewood, and we also now have individual letterpress Christmas cards available from Blush too. BUT remember to keep checking back as well because in the next few weeks we'll also have some of our very own Christmas cards available (individually or in packs) with a few exciting personalisation options too ... shhhh...

We also have Lunar Calendars available now too for anyone who needs to organise their life, garden, go fishing or cast spells in specific phases of the moon (or perhaps just find out when everyone around you is going to go a little loopy during the full moon)!

Finally, we've recently taken delivery of some simply fabulous diaries for 2009 from Paperblanks. They come in a variety of styles and sizes in either week-to-view or day-to-view formats and they have some really useful extras like reference pages, two ribbon markers and a brilliant little memento pouch for keepsakes (...or expense receipts)! Some even have a little removable address book! Brilliant! They are absolutely gorgeous and I've got my eye on a few already... how many diaries can a girl legitimately have??? (P.S. They'd make great Christmas presents too...)

So you see there's been a few things happening here recently - stop by and see the window, pick up your catalogue, organise your cards and check out the diaries... and on the way why not just pause for a second to marvel at the wonder of Autumn! I love it!

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Champagne High...

I've been meaning to post more book reviews on this blog and never quite gotten round to it till now, but I read a classic book the other day that I'd heard lots about from various sources over the years and feel compelled to tell you all about it. It was a book I'd only ever heard and read good things about, but I hadn't really thought it was 'my cup of tea' in particular. However, last week I decided to give it a go - read outside my comfort zone and all that, and I have to say, I'm very glad I did!

The book was The Ascent of Rum Doodle by WE Bowman - it's a story of an expedition to climb the wonderfully named 40,000 (and a half) foot mountain peak in the Himalayas by a mountaineering party consisting of Binder, Burley, Wish, Shute, Jungle, Constant, Prone and a team of (at one point) 30,000 porters. What follows is an adventure of epic proportions in which paths are lost, parties are split (some are kidnapped by bandits) and, spurred on by the gut-churning yet relentless cooking of Pong their chef, an almost unfathomable quantity of champagne is consumed... all on the side of a mountain.

I must admit it was the introduction by Bill Bryson in the most recent 2001 edition which finally tipped the scales and persuaded me to give it a go, as I'm not a mountaineer by any stretch of the imagination (though I have, like Prone the doctor, been high enough). Narrated by Binder, the book wanders from the sublime to the ridiculous by way of the surreal and the hilariously funny. The writing is easy, the story moves along apace, and a finer collection of comedic characters I haven't found in anything else I've read in a while... they certainly kept me chuckling through a wet and miserable day in Bo'ness last week.

The book itself has actually been around since 1956 and has attained almost a cult like status in mountaineering circles, and reading round the book, I found out that there is now even a Rumdoodle Peak in Antarctica, a Rumdoodle Ridge in Colorado, and a restaurant named Rum Doodle in Kathmandu which is an unofficial starting point for the ascent of Mt Everest, and who's walls are graced with signatures of successful Everest-ers including that of Sir Edmund Hillary.

So to 'summit' up ('scuse the pun), if you haven't had the good fortune to stumble upon this luckless band of mountaineers yet, please do give them a read - of course we have a couple of copies in the shop for anyone as wants and if we run out (as I'm sure you know by now!) we can always order more!

Sunday, 14 September 2008


We've been shortlisted for an award! Woo hoo! Li'l ole us! It's in the category of 'Best company website / ecommerce company' in the local Falkirk Herald Business Awards - how grand! The winner isn't announced till November though and there's a few things to be done for it before hand, but we'll keep you updated as we go and of course we'll let you know how we get on in the end - whether we win or whether we ...don't win quite so much as the actual winner! Either way!

And in other news, thanks to everyone who popped in for the sale a few weekends ago - it went well and we now have some room for new things and a bit of a change about - yep that's right, over the next few weeks we'll be moving some of the shelves around and re-organising a bit. We've already expanded the travel writing section into another shelf and moved the pets section around the corner beside natural history (under gardening), but there's a lot more to come over the next wee while so keep an eye out! Change is afoot!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Sale Sale Sale!

We're having a sale!
But it's only on from today (Thursday) till Sunday 7th Sept... be sure to stop by the shop before then and don't miss out!

Sunday, 31 August 2008

This week we have mostly been ...

..doing a little bit of this...

getting fed up at quite a bit of this...

occasionally managing a sprinkling of this...

and consuming absolute tons of this stuff...

Yes, this week it's continued to pour down outside but inside we've been busy ordering and packing! For the beginning of the new school year we've started up a schools supply service (which to be fair, has been at the top of the priority list for some time!) and a few schools have now opened accounts with us. The shop itself has been quieter this week so that's allowed us time to get everything up and running on this new venture, and we've been busily quoting, ordering, packing and delivering (and setting up the paperwork side of things... oh how I love paperwork!) and I'm pleased to say we've now completed and invoiced for our first few orders without any of those major disasters I've grown to expect at every turn! Yeay! Here's hoping it lasts!

On top of all that, I've been busily trying to get the shop website updated a bit more - the eagle eyed amongst you might have notice we now have a search page, I've fixed a few bugs and mis-directing links, and info for September has been updated too. I'm now working on September's enewsletter which should be out towards the end of the week (if anyone else still wants to sign up then just click here and submit your details).

With so much newness and updating (a scary mix of paperwork and technology) you can see why such large quantities of tea and ginger snaps have been required!

Sunday, 24 August 2008

A slightly unseasonal post...

Aside from the unseasonally (?!) wet weather we've been having recently, it's a little unseasonal in my head too - in fact, in here it's Christmas. I know, it's really too early to mention, but I'm finding out that in the world of bookselling, orders have to be made and plans put into place waaaaaay before sleigh bells begin to ring and wine is mulled. Normally I'm the most last minute of planners - I usually don't even think about Christmas till December (and I've see the Coca Cola adverts where 'the big trucks come over the hill...'), my cards almost always arrive late and my shopping is invariably done in the last week. In short, I'm rubbish at Christmas (though I do love it)!

However this week I've been thinking ahead and at least trying to plan... well, to plan how to plan. In truth, I've not got too far into it (knowing me I'll probably leave it to the last minute), but having looked through a few catalogues and started thinking along these lines, the one thing I have realised is that one of the biggest books for this Christmas will probably be Maw Broon's But An' Ben Cookbook. The follow up to Maw Broon's Cookbook which was a huge bestseller last year, the But An' Ben Cookbook is published later in September and promises to be just as fantastic as the original. As you may have seen from the posters in the shop, we're now taking pre-orders for it so if you're one of the more organised Christmassy types then pop into the shop and pre-order your copy! (And if you're not, pre-order one next time you're in anyway... it'll be one thing less to worry about on December 24th!)

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Scotland in August...

... which means two things are practically guaranteed - monsoon type rain, and the Edinburgh Festivals. Regarding the first, I'm really getting fed up with looking out the windows and seeing umbrellas and puddles (grumble grumble), but regarding the second I've had a lovely few days dodging up and down to catch some events at the book festival in the 'Burgh.

I've attended three events so far with another still to go this week and I feel so far I've had the quintessential festival experience... I've queued, I've nabbed a free bag, I've gotten lost in the unfathomable, ever-changing Edinburgh tram roadworks, I've heard some brilliant and funny authors, and I've had fish and chips on the way home. Brilliant!

First I took part in a workshop on book binding and book making. You see, when I say I love books, I mean the whole book, not just the written word within (though that's pretty good too). No, I'm also interested in how they are put together, the paper used, the stitching, and the general mechanics of producing the finished article. I love the idea of hand-bound books as opposed to machine-produced ones. The care, time and attention that has to go into each really makes them something special. So as you can tell I was very excited to attend this workshop. On the whole, it wasn't quite as in depth as I'd hoped it might be, but in hindsight, I'm not sure why I expected to produce a thousand page work of art in an hour and a half from a standing start! However, I still thoroughly enjoyed making the small pamphlet we all made, and I got a few hints and tips for my own fledgling bookbinding hobby.

...Lookee what I made! (Don't ask about the brown stamped circles in the corner, it seemed suitably arty at the time so I ran with it).

Next I attended the Times event with Ian Rankin (...I don't mean I went with him, I mean he was the one being interviewed). As well as professing a love for buying vinyl records on eBay, he had some interesting things to say about Rebus in the books, on screen and in future; his projects since then which included a serial in the NY Times which has been expanded and will be published as his first non-Rebus book in hardback next month and titled Doors Open; the lyrics (and backing vocals along with Jack Vettriano) for the band Saint Jude's Infirmary; and the libretto for a 15 minute opera performed by Scottish Opera, as well as his plans for the future which include a brand new 'Quick Read' novella for which he's currently awaiting feedback from his editors, and what currently runs to a 1010 panel graphic novel of John Constantine (Hellblazer) titled Dark Entries, and due out sometime around or after next spring.

Then it was the turn of Alexander McCall Smith, who talked about Mma Ramotswe, Bertie and the rest of the gang. After reading a few pieces from his latest 44 Scotland Street work The Unbearable Lightness of Scones, he chatted about his plans for the future, revealed that his next Mma Ramotswe novel will be called Tea Time for the Traditionally Built which my fancy-pants computer declares will be available in March next year but which he concedes hasn't been written yet... so watch this space. He also mentioned that the Botswana books are currently being made into a serial for HBO in the US, BBC in the UK and other networks around the world with the same actors as were in the first film (which incidentally was the last work by director Anthony Minghella) shown on BBC earlier this year. He also spoke about the Really Terrible Orchestra he founded in 1995 and their upcoming concerts, and the Number One Ladies Opera House he's recently established in Botswana.

So that's my festival so far, and I've another event to attend this week too so I'm not done yet! I hope everyone else who has attended has enjoyed it so far - stop by, email or comment and let us know which events you attended, who you've seen, and what you thought of it all!

Monday, 4 August 2008

Hot Hot Hill Climb...

Hello. Just a short post this week as I'm supposed to be shelving books and switching around the ones currently in the main windows. However, I've already organised the new theme window this morning (it's 'Motorsports', in honour of this weekend's Bo'ness Hill Climb Revival) and frankly it's just too hot for any more work that involves climbing step ladders, wrestling with uncooperative book stands and general moving around of any kind. So I'm resorting to computer work and spreadsheets stuff instead. (Note to self: in August, even in chilly Bo'ness, it's probably OK to stop dressing as if you're going to sit in an ice cave all day.)

Anyway, enough rambling. The point of this post is to say that:

a) this month's enewsletters will be sent out in the next few days so if you want sign up there's still time!

b) we have just a few copies left of Kenny Baird's Bo'ness Speed Hill Climb book in stock (Paperback, £8.99) so make sure you pop along early to get yours in time for this weekend's event! (Here's hoping the lovely weather holds out for it!)

Hope everyone's enjoying the summer!

Monday, 7 July 2008

Post Fair...

Another late post I'm afraid (must do better) however here's a bit of a catch up of the last week...

This week in Bo'ness things have been a little quieter than we're used to - school holidays, post Fair Day blues, typical Scottish summer weather (note to self, must remember to get an umbrella stand) and of course a bit of a marathon sporting weekend to attend / watch on the TV to round it all off. But that's not to say we've been twiddling our thumbs, drinking coffee and reading our way through the stock (chance would be a fine thing!) No, this last week we managed to get our regular monthly enewsletter sent out, updated the featured books on the website, had an advert in the local paper and taken part in Independent Booksellers Week 2008... (for that is indeed what we are!) ...OK so we haven't had the Strictly Come Bookselling events, girls nights in, and quiz nights (I've no extra chairs yet!) as other bookshops have been doing but perhaps next year! Even so though, we've had competitions and prize draws and special offers too, and as the 'week' doesn't finish till tomorrow (Tuesday 8th) you still have time to pop down and pick up a national competition form or bring your coupon from the paper to enter the prize draw.

Also this week we've managed to get in another copy of Bo'ness: A Glimpse of the Past - a book that always goes flying off the shelf as soon as it comes in. So if you're looking to find out what Bo'ness used to look like I'd make your way down here tout de suite as I'm sure it won't be here for much longer and I'm not sure when I'll get the next copies!

Friday, 27 June 2008

Bo'ness Children's Fair Festival 2008

In a blatant case of 'no rest for the wicked ... or the self employed (or both)!' here I am on the one day "off" I've had in the last 70... and I'm back at the computer! Still, I most certainly wouldn't trade it for a normal 9-5 (been there, done that) so on I'll carry with spreadsheets, orders and blah blah blah. But first, a bit of fun!

The reason I'm off today is that the shop is closed (for one day only!) for the Bo'ness Children's Fair Festival 2008. For those of you who've never experienced it (as I never had till today) I'm hoping my poor attempts at photography will give you a bit of an idea of the brilliant atmosphere that surrounds the Fair all over town. For those of you who've been in the town for years, well you know what I'm on about!

First, last night we literally went all round the houses on a quest to find some of the amazing arches the kids in the Fair have had built. Below are the very impressive arches of Callum, the Queen's Champion (a full scale steam train!)...

...and below, Queen Eilidh's arch - a giant cake with the names of the past 100 Queens and complete with confetti cannons!

Bo'nessians certainly don't do things by half! As well as these two, there were some amazing Sweet Home Alabama antibellum plantation style arches, some fantastic High School Musical and Robbie and Kylie style ones and some lovely page, fairy, flower girl, character, and presentee arches and much, much, much more! The imagination, time and attention to detail put into these arches is unbelievable.

So today is Fair Day, and this morning was the crowning ceremony of Queen Eilidh, this afternoon is the Royal Command Performance, and over lunch was the parade through the town (which I managed to get away from the computer for) and again, I loved it! I took some more piccies (below) of everyone coming from this morning's ceremony into town to watch the parade, as well as some of the bands, floats and the Queen and her retinue...

With no less than 11 pipe, silver, brass and samba(!) bands in the parade, children from all the local schools resplendant in their Fair finery cheering their schools, and some fantastic floats including the Hogwarts Express, Thomas the Tank Engine and Dr Who, the parade was amazing to see and I'd like to say well done to everyone who took part. Absolutely brilliant! And despite some heavy looking clouds and a few drops of rain mid-morning even the weather held out!

So yet again, the town of Bo'ness pulls together and puts on an amazing event and I'm looking forward to next year's already!

Back to bookselling news next week - this week it's all about the Fair!

Friday, 20 June 2008

We're baaaaaaaack!

Well, first, apologies for the long break between posts! After the nightmare that was the aftermath of dropping the computer, we've now (just about!) got things back on an even keel... more or less. Computer glitches, motherboard hassles and lots of broken little plastic-y bits aside, we've had a busy few weeks, so here's a bit of a catch up!

First there was the Victorian Street Fair... about a month ago now! We changed the window and display table to show all our Victorian and Victorian related books, and the Fair itself on the Sunday had a fantastic turnout and thankfully the weather stayed sunny all day! I had planned to get out and about for a while and take some pictures but in reality I only managed a quick spin around the main few streets and back to the shop to help with orders etc. so the taking of pictures went out the window.

Over the next few weeks post-fair we pottered along quite happily tackling complicated, brain-mushing governmenty type paperwork and dropping laptops as well as selling the odd book, organising enewsletters and setting up a few accounts. We also appeared in an article in Lothian Life, a local online magazine, and at the start of June our 'Bookseller Diary' feature appeared in 'Bookseller & Publisher" Magazine in Australia! (A big Scottish 'Hiya!' to any Aussies reading this for the first time!)... then it was Father's Day. We had a great Father's Day weekend in the shop and hope all the Dads in the crowd enjoy their books / tokens / cards etc.!

And next we're preparing for the Bo'ness Children's Fair Festival which is next Friday 27th. To coincide with this, our theme highlights local and Scottish books - we've some fantastic ones in including old favourites...

For those of you who don't know, Fair Day is one of the biggest days of the year in the town! With most other businesses closing and the majority of the town with their minds on things that day, we've decided to close the shop for that one day too so we can all go and enjoy the kirking, the procession, see the arches and generally take part in all the fun of the Fair! Of course, normal business will resume the day after for all your book related needs!

So that's a brief catch up for now. Hopefully there will be no more computer related disasters and I can get back to blogging normally again from now on! Fingers crossed! And hope to see you all in the shop or at the Fair!

Monday, 2 June 2008

Laptops and great heights do not mix

Apologies for the break in posts these last few weeks. I promise I will post updates on the street fair, new books and all the fun of the shop soon, however thanks to the fact that I cleverly dropped my laptop on its poor little microchipped noggin, I'm now having trouble accessing computers with the correct software for all the different things I need to be getting on with at the moment. So I'm afraid this is just a brief "oopsy! I'm a clumsy oaf post" - coupled with a promise that normal service will resume asap, and a gentle, kindly, unstressed warning to everyone to BACK EVERYTHING UP RIGHT NOW!!! Seriously, right now. Do it. You never know when your computer will decide to take its final leap off the desktop.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Victorian Street Fair

Just a quick mid-week update... If you are at a loose end this Sunday (25th May) then pop along to Bo'ness and witness the spectacle of the newly resurrected 'Amazing Borrowstounness Victorian Street Fair'. The posters promise everything from a craft market and face painters to live music and a chance to meet Queen Victoria herself! Should be an interesting day - fingers crossed for nice weather! The fair is on from 12noon - 4pm (which by a happy coincidence is the same as our regular Sunday opening times!) so do pop along and say hello, and we'll see you there!

Monday, 19 May 2008

This, That and The Other...

For those who are interested, the ferns are still going strong (thanks for all the tips!) so perhaps my gardening prowess is improving... just in time for the Chelsea Flower Show! Anyway, onto matters non fern-related.

First of all, a big hearty 'Congratulations!!!' to all at Mostly Books in Abingdon who won a Nibbie a last week's British Book Industry Awards. Fantastic news for a fantastic shop, and very well deserved! (For anyone in the Oxfordshire area, do pop in there and say hello!)

Back to the ups and downs of my shop, and last week I ended up finishing off a few loose ends that have been hanging around since opening and which have really been getting on my nerves recently. Namely the store cupboard and the fact that it's too messy to even be considered for use as an actual store cupboard. It was awful. However, yesterday was rather quiet in the shop so I decided to take the time and get it all completely sorted and I'm pleased to say - I can actually get the door properly open in there now! I chucked out two bags of rubbish which included empty paint tins and (still!) a few things from the previous incarnation of the shop - 'the gift shop that wouldn't die'.) I even properly rewired the light in there without major incident. Hooray for me! (It's the small things that keep me happy.) So this week I have an uncluttered shop and an uncluttered mind (well, sort of, there're still a few other niggles to clear up) but all in all I'm much better placed to tackle the horrible, horrible pile of paperwork I've been pushing to one side recently. By the end of this week, I'm determined to have worked my way through it! So there.

In other news this week I've also been taking a look at the kinds of books that have actually been selling in the shop in a vain attempt to get a better grip on future ordering and streamline the chaos a little. Though I know that realistically it's way too early to even start thinking about this, I like to analyze. It's what I do. So having poured over the reports for a substantial amount of time I figured out that actually I've sold books pretty evenly from the biggest few sections, and in total I've sold at least a few books from each and every single section bar one... Anyone guess which? I'll give you three choices - Graphic Novels, Wicca & Witchcraft, or Fashion and Beauty. Answers next week - perhaps I'll even have sold something from that section by then!

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Involuntary Fernslaughter...

So that was week 3 in the shop (still can't believe how fast time is flying by at the moment!) and it looks like things are starting to settle down into some sort of routine after the initial first few weeks of trading - I'm almost able to start predicting when the quiet and busy times are now too which is letting me start planning the rest of my 'behind the scenes' type workload a bit better (yes, there are still a million things to do!).

This week I finally managed to get the internet connection working and sent out the first round of enewsletters so they are now available for anyone else who wants to sign up - just go to and click on the 'enewsletter' tab and one will be emailed out to you asap). I have the subject specific ones to work on this week now and hope to get them sent soon too. The rest of the work for this week includes the June ordering (there's nothing like leaving things to the last minute!), getting started on a few more marketing projects and organising a couple of bigger things that I've just not had time to get round to till now (more on those as the weeks go on!) Oh, and of course endless paperwork. ugh.

So overall, on the positive side we're still having a few people wander in who didn't realise there was a bookshop in town yet, but who've all given fantastically positive reactions... and bought books! We still appear to be getting great word of mouth recommendations too as a few people are mentioning that their sister/cousin/neighbour/friend told them to come in which is brilliant, and there have been some lovely comments sent through via the website form from people who've stopped by over the last few weeks too, so thanks to everyone who's chipped in - it's wonderful to know that people do value the shop, the books, and what we're trying to provide here. Also, the customer ordering side of the business is picking up now as people start to realise we can usually get things delivered to the shop for collection quicker (and without charging any postage!) than certain large online alleged 'book' shops can supply.

However on the negative side, no matter how hard I try, it seems I just don't have the magic green-fingered touch. Two of the plants I attempted to revive last week haven't made it through the week - RIP Catherine 'Kathy' Cookson-Reichs (Boston Fern) and Jonathan-Faye Kellerman (Boston Fern) - both dearly missed.

...We still have a few more though - JGRR Ballard-Tolkien (Boston Fern), and William 'Bill' Bryson-Shakespeare (Boston Fern)...
... and Agatha Raisin-Christie (Dragon Tree), Ian M. Banks-Rankin (Dragon Tree), Jack Frost-Kerouac (Dragon Tree)...

...And of course... Lynda La Plante.

I really should go and do some work now.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Bank Holiday Shop Gardening!

I'm writing the blog from the shop this morning for the first time. It's a little strange to be writing it here - everytime someone walks in I seem to lose concentration and have to stop - but thanks to an internet glitch last night I couldn't make my usual Sunday night update from the comfort of the kitchen table so here I am. Hopefully it'll all be fixed today as I've still got the first of the enewsletters to send out - they're all ready to go as soon as I can get connected on the computer they're stored on!

Anyway, this week in the shop we've had a few exciting moments - yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Vanessa from the Children's Bookshop in Edinburgh who popped through to say hello and cheered up a Sunday afternoon which till then had been rather quiet. It was lovely to see her and her family and I'll be popping through to see her shop and attend one of her author events later on this week.

After they left the rest of Sunday afternoon started to liven up a bit and quite a few customers had visited by the end of the day, so all in all it looks like Sunday afternoon opening is slowly starting to pick up pace!

Also, earlier on in the week I changed the shop window and shop theme from 'Book Heaven' to 'Gardening' just in time for a glorious bank holiday! I spent a happy morning drawing lovely little flowers all over the window with chalk pens - my new favourite toy - and I also suspended the little 'Hanging Gardens of Babylon' kit above the rest of the books (see what I did there? eh? eh? ahem). Unfortunately I can't seem to get a good photo of the window though but I'll try again later today and post it after - I refuse to let it beat me. Anyway, on setting out all the gardening books and a few garden related props in the window it suddenly remined me that actually I hadn't watered the shop plants since opening!

Most are OK but a few are in need of serious revival! So after reading some tips How to Grow Fresh Air a book that's intrigued me since it arrived in the shop the other week I'm now off to mist the Boston Ferns and water the Dragon Trees!

Hope everyone has a lovely bank holiday!

Sunday, 27 April 2008

First thing's first...

I can't believe over a week has gone already since the doors of Inkspot & Silverleaf first opened! It all seems to have gone by in a bit of a blur and I think we've got through enough firsts to be able to say that we're well on our way round the learning curve. There's been...

first sale (yeay!)
first mistake on the till (oops.)
first window changeover
first ordering mistake (£36.50 for a thesis on couture? What was I thinking!)
first computer error (second computer error, third computer error... you get the picture)
first 'aargh, we've no £1 coins left!' moment
first customer order completed successfully
first customer order not available from the warehouse
first customer who travelled faaaaaar to visit (thanks!)
first instance of book-meets-small-child-with-chocolaty-fingers
first 'brilliant, look at all the lovely customers!' moment
first 'where are all the customers??' panic
and first cash banked! woo hoo!

And that's just for starters. Also this week, we've finally managed to get the actual proper website up and running. If you've not already visited it then head over to and have a nosey! If you'd like to sign up for our enewsletter there then you'd better be quick as the first installment is scheduled to go out this week. (If I ever finish writing it!)

And in other news, I've been tagged for a meme! Vanessa from the fantastic Children's Bookshop in Edinburgh has tagged me ... if you don't know what a meme is (neither did I!) then the rules are as follows...

1. Pick up the nearest book
2. Open to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence
4. Post the next three sentences
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you

The book I had closest to hand was The Rabbit Factory by Marshall Karp which I happened to be putting back on the shelf, and which is next on my reading list - especially after I've read page 123! Anyway, the 3 sentences are...

It was too late to call Terry at home, but I knew he'd check his office voicemail before he drank his first cup of coffee. I left a message with the highlights of my conversation with Big Jim, starting with his observations on the finger in the flipbook and ending with Danny Eeg and his billion dollar motive.
I hung up the phone.

I'm intrigued!

Anyway, thanks to Vanessa for tagging me - my 5 onward tags are the soon to open new indie bookshop in Tetsbury, Gloucestershire A Yellow Lighted Place, a favourite old haunt of mine Mostly Books in Abingdon, and the folks at the Big Green Bookshop in London... OK, rubbish though my maths skills are, even I can work out that this isn't 5. However, as I'm still relatively new to this blogging lark and haven't really had a chance to get to know many others through their blogs I'm afraid I'll have to simply apologise and tag another two at some random stage in the future... just when they least expect it... mwah hah haaaa! (that's my evil laugh by the way.)

Right! Well, this post has been long enough methinks. More from planet New Bookseller same time, same place next week!

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Woo hoo! We're open!

Finally! Well, yesterday was the long awaited opening day for Inkspot & Silverleaf Booksellers of Bo'ness and what a day it was! A steady stream of fantastically supportive readers throughout the whole day meant we were kept on our toes with recommendations and orders as well as sales, and from the comments we received I think its safe to say that everyone went away happy!

I'll start at the beginning...

We were scheduled to open at 9.30 however at 9.25 when I went to open the shutters and finish writing on the blackboard my first customers were already there waiting - great start! They were a lovely little girl and her dad but unfortunately as I was in a bit of a new-shopkeeper-in-training fug I completely forgot to get their names or take a picture! But whoever you were, I'd just like to thank you again for being such lovely first customers and I hope we see you back again soon!

During the rest of the day we had so many lovely people come in and buy books - their choices were wide and varied and I'm glad I stuck with the plan to get a little bit of absolutely everything as it meant there was something for almost everyone. Everyone was really supportive and most people mentioned how good it was to have a bookshop in Bo'ness again which of course is fantastic news for me!

As far as the actual books go, most popular choices of the day were Barbie Mariposa books and sticker scenes, some of the popular Scottish fiction authors and several of my much cherished historical fact books too. I had my first few 'I'm looking for a book - I don't know the author or title but the cover is blue' type queries which thankfully I managed to figure out and we also now have a few customer orders placed for a few of the books we ran out of on the day. We actually had customers in buying books right until we closed up shop at 5pm and overall I think a great day was had by all!

Of course, there were a few niggles here and there but nothing to hideous - there was a bit of a bumpy 5 minutes at the beginning of the day when I suddenly noticed that the stock control system wasn't exactly controlling the stock - cue panicky tech support call. It turned out that I'd managed to put the scanner connection back into the wrong port in the computer when we moved it at the end of last week... muppet. However, over the whole day only one book decided to launch itself off the shelf, but since it missed everyone standing nearby I've no health and safety issues to report as yet!

As well as local readers, family, friends and interested onlookers we also had a few of the other local traders pop in and say hello with some lovely 'good luck' cards and to buy a few books too - I really think opening in Bo'ness was a fantastic choice for me as not only are the people of the town so welcoming and supportive but also the other local traders have been amazing too. Bo'ness is one of the few places I found that has managed to retain a true local, independent spirit and I hope it keeps and grows this over time - in the town we have an independent toyshop, computer shop, jewellers, craft shop, florists, hairdressers, newsagents, etc. etc. etc. I really value that in the town - it means we're not exactly the same as everywhere else and you really can get something different from a shopping trip here instead of the same old, same old you get in a lot of the retail parks. I really encourage everyone to shop locally wherever possible and I hope we can keep Bo'ness as a little jewel on the Forth.

Anyway, back to opening day! I have to say that sadly I was particularly rubbish at taking pictures but have posted below the few I did manage to take...

Here's one of our themed windows - Book Heaven (with angel wing bags, fluffy clouds, sequins and a selection of our heavenly books!)

Inside - if you haven't been in yet (or live a little too far away) here's what a few of our more random sections look like... at the front is wicca, and myths and legends whilst in the back is a little of our biography and fiction sections

Outside again - with a few of our new customers...

Inside - Fiction (General) at the side with Fiction (Crime) at the top...

So that was opening day. And after all that excitement, last night we toasted opening with a lovely bottle of champagne and some gorgeous chocolates, and I fell into bed at 9pm and slept like a log!

Today was day 2 and we opened for a few hours in the afternoon, and although obviously things were a little quieter than yesterday we still had a few more customers than expected (yeay!) and it gave me a chance to recover from yesterday, go over the stock levels in each section and figure out the next step in my bookselling adventure!

Tomorrow (Monday 21st) the third day of our extended opening weekend meaning there are still chocolates on offer, competitions to enter and a fab 10% off all books till the end of the day, so if anyone in the area hasn't been in to have a nosey around yet we're open from 9.30am till 5.00pm and we hope to see you then!

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Drumroll please... Opening date set!

Yes, that's right! I've finally got organised enough to start talking about opening the shop and actually selling some books! Inkspot & Silverleaf Booksellers will officially be open for business as of 9.30am next Saturday morning, 19th April 2008! It's all very exciting, if a little nerve wracking!

OK, so I'm still waiting on the credit card chip and pin thingy machine, there's another delivery of books yet to come, and there will of course be the last minute panics over window displays and competition prizes etc. but all in all, everything is now looking a little more on schedule and as if it all might be ready-ish on time. Yeay! So hopefully I'll see one or two (or more) of you bloggers over our extended opening weekend (Saturday 9.30 - 5.00, Sunday 12.00 - 4.00, or Monday 9.30 - 5.00) for some '...competitions, special offers and more!' as I keep telling everyone, secure in the knowledge that by Saturday I'll have worked out what these all are! There's a theme too - did i mention that....?

In other news, this week the shop has been featured in our local newspapers, the Bo'ness Journal and the Linlithgow Gazette! There's a little editorial write up alongside a photo in which I look a little stunned but happy, which to be fair, I was. It's on news stands till next the next issue appears next Friday so go buy one! And when the next issue does appear, buy another copy to see the little ad I worked so hard on last week which should be in there too - hope it prints OK!

And also this week (it's been a busy few days), I toddled off to a networking event run by the local business group 'Bo'ness Means Business'. As well as having a lovely time at the Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway, I got to meet some of the other folks in the town who run their own businesses and work together to promote the town and to keep making it better for residents and visitors alike. Without exception everyone has been incredibly supportive of Inkspot & Silverleaf (so I'd like to say a big thanks folks!) and it's helped me feel a little more settled as a first time business owner. I look forward to doing my bit for the town in future too!

And on top of all that I managed to shelf a few books... though I'm getting very tired of the 'thunk!' noise I hear every time I try to stand one up neatly and it decides to throw itself unceremoniously from the shelf - usually landing on my head. Never mind, hopefully some of them will be sold by this time next week and I'll have a whole other lot of books to keep from base jumping off a 6ft bookcase!

More updates (and hopefully a few photos too) in the run up to opening this week. Fingers crossed it all goes well!

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Books! It's a Sign!

Such a lot has happened this week in the world of Inkspot & Silverleaf that I'm not even sure where to start! OK I'll start at the beginning.

Way back on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (which feels like a lifetime ago), I spent a crazy amount of time just chasing things up, making phone calls, transferring large sums of money and worrying... those really weren't happy days for me! However as the week progressed things began to take shape and then on Thursday...

Some books arrived!

And then on Friday...

More books arrived!

Then whilst I was scratching my head wondering where I was going to start with the three trillion boxes in the middle of the floor....

The sign arrived!

So since then, it's been all hands on deck! Books are being fired into shelves left, right and centre now - they're all in their sections and the fiction titles are in alphabetical order too, but beyond that the rest are not really in order yet's taking a while as I keep stopping to read! However, I've had an absolute ton of help this week from a family and friends again, and hopefully this coming week I'll get them all placed properly and be able to fill any gaps that become obvious.

As well as all that, next week I'm looking forwards to finding out when the credit card machine thingy will finally get here, arranging some advertising, and also taking delivery of the bags I'll be using. I'll be starting to work on the shop theme for opening too next week - top secret of course! So it's all very exciting, and coming together rather nicely!

Monday, 31 March 2008

The Wet Paint Bookshop

I'm thinking things would be easier if I just changed the name of the shop.

To explain, in the two weeks since I last posted we've finally gotten round to painting the outside of the shop more in keeping with the rest of the colour scheme, and at one point the whole place was festooned with wet paint signs... and judging by the way the actual sign has progressed these last two week (i.e. to a grinding halt over Easter), it might just be easier to change the name to 'The Wet Paint Bookshop' as those signs are already in place!

See... before - clean and tidy, but looking not entirely dissimilar to the colour of the faded double yellow lines on the road:

And after:
Nice and shiny and lovely and new! ...with a few of the aforementioned wet paint signs dotted around...

Well, perhaps I'll hold off on the name change for now.

Anyway, in other news over these last two weeks (during which I've singularly failed to update this blog - apologies!), I have managed to finally order the books - after two extra days and a minor excel slip up! So great joy all round now! It means that I should at least have something to sell soon. And, I've had the computer system installed and been trained on the fancy schmancy software too (I now have a scanner which makes a very satisfying beep ...though it looks a little like the alien from all those movies... a cute little one though, and nowhere near as slimy of course). Unfortunately though I'm still stuck with a clunky old till - like in Open All Hours - but it's built like Fort Knox so it'll do me perfectly well for now thank you very much!

On the paperwork side of things I'm now officially a member of the Booksellers Association and the Federation of Small Businesses too, and on the labourer side of things, early on last week I managed to mangle both a bookshelf and my hand. It wasn't my finest moment I'll admit. Well I've recovered now, though I worry the shelf might be done for. However, the rest of the bookcases are now tied to the wall ready to be filled, the problem pillar has been painted thanks to some cling film, an angled brush and the ubiquitous masking tape, and I've even got round to painting the blackboard in the hallway. So, all in all, I'm one more step closer.

Next week will hopefully bring everything last week didn't... a sign would be nice, some books, the credit/debit card machine chip 'n' pin thingy, and hopefully a little time to start promoting the shop too - so much for my prophecy of faffing about with marketing plans! 'Best laid plans' and all that!