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.