Saturday, March 9, 2013

Writing on Writing, and Journals in Which to Put that Writing.

As a bookstore blog, I write a lot about reading, but it strikes me that writing is the other side of the equation and equally important. I thought about this today as I attended the UWM Spring Writers Festival. It's our fourth year selling at this show, and my first time appearing as a presenter. Paul Salsini, Julia Pandl, and I spoke about marketing your book, and specifically working with bookstores. I tried to remove myself from my natural inclinations and tried to think like an author.

While a lot of our visiting authors talk about pricing, our preview event to the festival, last night's conversation with Mohsin Hamid and Ghassan Zeineddine was a great counterpoint to the day's programming. Many of the attendees later described Hamid a brilliant, and I have to agree. He had this way of making you see the world differently. Interestingly enough, that came out equally in his talk and in his writing. Find out for yourself in How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. We still have signed copies.

I didn't get to hear most of the other breakout sessions at the festival, but I know that there were several agents, editors, and publishers in attendance, and there were even one-on-one pitch sessions. A lot of folks spoke very highly of this aspect of the program.

There were a lot of folks who'd previous done events at Boswell and at least two folks who have upcoming events with us. Jerome Pohlen, an editor at Chicago Review, is appearing on Thursday, May 2 for his new edition of Oddball Wisconsin, while Jenny Benjamin is launching her novel This Most Amazing on Friday, May 17 at the store. Best of all, Benjamin is also an ex-bookseller. I worked with her once upon a time at the Schwartz Bookshop on Water and Wisconsin.

So while we're talking about writing, I think we should bring up journals, particularly as Saturday is the day I generally talk about gifts. We should got in a card and journal order in from Compendium, and while Boswell generally does better with hardcover journals, their collection has struck a chord with our customers. I think that is partly because they really add a little design to the inside pages, as opposed to lots of other vendors who give you a nice jacket and blah-boring interiors.

Compendium's journals tend toward the inspirational, for sure, but they aren't exactly schmaltzy, well not always. They take the cover design and repeat variations on interior pages, adding appropriate quotes. This idea is hardly unique to Compendium; there are lot of Chronicle blank books that have a similar aesthetic. There's something about the way Compendium cleverly walks the line between arty and inspirational that really works--you can see the same success in their Positively Green greeting cards.

Another interesting trend is die-cut journals. I'm seeing a lot of these from Chronicle as well. I really like them, but I've yet to see if they take off with customers. One sku was originally placed in our kids' department, but we recently moved it over to the adult side and we'll see if it moves better.

One trend that has not worked for us at all are packets of three related journals in a box. They must work somewhere, because I'm constantly seeing new ones, but every time I've tried some, I've had to either mark some down, and in several cases I've broken up the box.  If you're a retailer, maybe you can tell me the secret to making these journal packs work.

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