Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Snow, More Best of the Year, Selling Coffee Table Books, Where is Our First-Timer Breakout?.

Today my panic set in regarding tomorrow's snowstorm. It looks like Southeast Wisconsin will be too warm for the brunt of the storm, with the precipitation only turning to snow at the tail end. However, other parts of the state will be hit by blizzard conditions.

Every Saturday our friend Dennis asks us about the state of the store, and by November, he's trying to pull strings for us to get good weather through Christmas. I told him we could handle one bad storm this year, and it looks like we've got it. Jason was thinking that maybe this isn't as bad as a storm earlier in the season, when that business would just move on line. At this point, can you count on your packages being delivered in time? But on the other hand, if our business is wiped out tomorrow, and largely reduced on Friday, it's a lot to lose. Can we possibly make it up on Saturday through Monday? Seems doubtful to me.

Did you catch the best fiction of the year from The Wall Street Journal? Aside from NW, I'm not seeing too much overlap with other lists, though it is great to finally see The Orphan Master's Son show up. On the nonfiction side, Anne Applebaum's Iron Curtain has been showing up with regularity, but the other titles not so much, even Nate Silver's popular The Signal and the Noise. And don't you think it's fun that the WSJ of all papers gave the shout out to Silver?

This broad range of picks is reflected on the commercial side as well, where The New York Times has noted that there is not the big hit that was Walter Isaacson's Steve Jobs last holiday. There are a number of historical biographies splitting the sales and nobody with such prominence of Jobs, which was released just after his death.

One thing we also noticed is that while several first novels were dominating our bestseller lists last holiday, with The Art of Fielding in hardcover combined with The Tiger's Wife and Swamplandia in paperback, the breakouts this year are from seasoned authors such as Gillian Flynn (for everyone) and Jess Walter (for many indies), who hit it big after several well-received but smaller books. I was chatting with our pal Wendy that we are probably the only indie in America who isn't blowing out The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman, but as soon as Jason brought more in, we had a bit of a sales pop. Go figure. You can read more in the Christian Science Monitor. I would say our first-timer breakout is The Yellow Birds.

I wonder if this is the case for the coffee table books that we are shunning. Our friend Sue at Lake Forest tells me that she is blowing out Carolyn Roehm's Flowers, but we wouldn't even know how to present the book. I'm convinced that our seating areas are yet another factor that hurts the sales of our coffee table books. It's counter-intuitive that keeping expensive books wrapped helps their sales, but John tells me that's just what one well-regarded Canadian store does when confronted with the fact that they do have a lot of chairs. If the book is expensive, a bookseller unwraps it for you and you look at it at the counter.

I'm opening tomorrow, and hoping for the best.  I'm concerned that with the storm, even books ordered before tomorrow's deadline might not make it before Christmas. I think Jason noted that one of our wholesalers has been taking an extra day to arrive. But John (yes, he of the Canadian coffee table gossip) has always said a bookseller shows his or her true mettle when we can't use ordering as a crutch. This is the bookstore you've got for the next few days; make the most of it.

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