Saturday, December 30, 2006

Bitter, Sure, But Not Gone Yet

First off, some book news that maybe some of you can use. If you haven’t read this post by Booksquare on selling through Amazon to reach more people then you’re missing out, especially if you’re a self-published author. Nine times out of ten when I can’t find a book in the store system, my customer will ask me to just jump on Amazon and look there. They view it as the largest book search system in the world, and anything that does not pop up starts to lose validity with them. So, if you are a self-pubbed/small press author and you want to have your book on Amazon without losing a huge chunk of your profit, go read that post. Maybe this is something that is universally known and I’m just falling behind, but I thought I should put it out there.

Secondly, I’m sorry if my last post gave the impression that I would stop posting after the store closed. I’ve got way too much stuff that I promised to do for y’all on this blog to quit in thirty days! I just can’t give any thoughts on marketing or blockbusters from the behind-the-scenes angle because I’m no longer receiving any of that stuff. The idea that I might not receive anymore free books or be allowed to touch/read the street dates before they come out is giving me hives, man, HIVES. And don’t even get me started about how I feel about losing my discount. Certain members of my family and friend group are already going into mourning.

We’re all going to suffer from a literary decline. Oh to the woe, etc, etc.

We made a decision to not mention our closing to any of our customers before Christmas because, well, it was just too depressing. The signs and the manual explaining the process hadn’t shown up yet, and we were all in a state of denial (an example of which being when I had a twenty minute conversation with a man who recruits for a big company—something he told me four times—and I never asked for his card). We told a few mall employees to get the dirt on what they’d heard—not a whole hell of a lot—but that was it. After Christmas was another story, the signs and the manual still hadn’t shown up, but one of my coworkers worked her mad Word Pad skills and made us something to put up around the store indicating that we were a.) closing and that b.) this meant everything was now discounted. It was then that the denial had to take a back seat to answering questions.

“You’re closing? Why are you closing?”

“They’re going to transfer you to the other store, right?”

“What are they going to put here instead?”

But for every customer who expressed genuine sorrow over our closing or interest in our continued welfare, there was one who said:

“Wait, you mean I’m going to have to walk a few more blocks? But this was so convenient!”

Yes, dear sir or madam, and you are. It’s our company’s way of helping the good fight against obesity in America. Now, if that is your only problem with our closing, please move out of the way so that I can help a customer who will actually miss us and not our convenient location. Next, please!

I mean, I know that it is just a clash of self-interests (mine and the customer’s) that makes that statement so unbearable to me, and that they don’t mean it as a back hand to any and all customer service we’ve provided over the years, but after four or five people repeating verbatim the same thing it starts to get old. When I’m averaging nine or ten people per shift saying that though, it leaves me depressed and bitter.

And I’m not the only one.

It’s damn hard to be motivated when I know that this place I enjoyed coming to—filled with people I enjoyed working with—will be closing soon. The signs are up, and the people are asking questions we can’t answer, so it all begins to sound like a broken record. We’re just starting to get our rhythm back, pulling the stock from the back that sat ignored due to sheer volume before Christmas and starting the returns list. Returning static stock and stripping covers remains cathartic, and eminent demise has led to a relaxed (but still presentable) dress code.

There are still things to take care, still work to be done, and that day to day sense of accomplishment is slowly coming back. But, man, those “you mean I have to walk a few blocks” customers may well turn me into a bitter hag, or at least crack the customer service smile off my face.

I would really hate to end my bookselling career with a News at 11 update “Bookseller loses sanity, rampages through mall!” Think of how it would adversely affect my future job opportunities.

I’d rather not have the judicial system plan my life, but it would offer a great answer to those customers who ask, “What are you doing next?”

Thank you for all your well wishes, and thoughts. Reading your comments over the last couple of days made me alternately well up and smile. Y'all make me feel good, so please excuse the bitter. I'll get over it soon enough.

12 comments:

lady t said...

You're entitled to feel a bit bitter,BSC-I wish I could say that I was shocked at those insensitive clods who thought it was more of an inconvience to them than you and the rest of the staff(it's not like you guys need to eat or pay your rent,right?)that the store is closing but I'm not.

If you still want some ARCs,maybe you could consider hitting up some publishers for copies to review online. You have a good following with your blog and it's been my experience that many marketing folk in the industry are becoming more and more aware of the power of the internet to promote new titles. It's the ultimate word of mouth. It's worked for me and only takes an e-mail or two to the right people,plus you get to champion good books and writers to a more receptive audience than to a customer wandering in.

Nothing against handselling(it's not easy but when you connect with the right someone,it can be magic)but the reality is,the online community is now a vital part of the literary scene and
why not use it?

I know this is a sad time for you but I truly wish you a Happy New Year.

Janet Szabo said...

Hey, YOUR blog is on my morning blog reading list along with Booksquare's, and I am sorry that your store is closing. I do hope you can find another publishing-related job and stay with us.

You're not falling any father behind than I was, because it took a couple of hours for me to figure out how to sell through Amazon without losing my shirt. It required taking off my "publisher" hat and putting on my "retailer" hat. Thanks goodness for that discussion on BS's blog! If I were not selling directly from my website, listing with Amazon as a publisher would be the way to go. However, I am selling from my website, so I was simply creating competition for myself by selling as a publisher through Amazon.

I am also listed with Baker & Taylor, so I should be showing up in store systems. I've gotten a dozen or so orders that way. But as you point out, it doesn't hurt to be on Amazon, too.

Robin Brande said...

That's a great suggestion from Lady T. She's right--you have a following, and that has to mean something.

I'll come read your blog whether you're Bookseller Chick or Bookreviewer Chick. Whatever. It's just an easier dress code.

Jen said...

I don't know if you are able to make out to BEA, but maybe you could qualify for a press or author credential based on the blog. ARCs galore! Seriously, I shipped 200 pounds home from my first BEA. 3/4 of it was to share with my co-workers, but there was still a box of books for me.

Lara Adrian said...

You know, it's really too bad that your store is trying to punish that lovely convenience-minded customer so harshly. :-P

I hope the new year brings you many wonderful opportunities, BSC. Very glad to hear that you intend to keep blogging!

All best to you....

Anonymous said...

Dear Bookseller Chick,

I'm sorry to post anonymously, but I had to let you know that those customers that leave that bitter taste behind them? Forgive them. You'll feel better. What they really want to do is throw themselves to the floor a beat their heels and scream, "I don't want that nice bookstore down the street a few blocks, I want this one! This ONE! WITH ALL MY NICE BOOKS AND THE PEOPLE I RECOGNIZE AND THE BOOKSELLER CHICK WHO KNOWS WHAT I LIKE! you can't have my bookstore! NO! No! No!"

But they can't. And they can't bear the idea that half of their favorite people in the bookselling world might be working at the K-B Toy and Hobby Store by this time next year, or at Starbucks. So they put their hands on their hips and they pout, and they say, "Now I have to walk all the way to the next block?" But what they mean is, "I love you Bookseller Chick, I'll miss you, I'm sorry you are going away."

Booksquare said...

BSC -- While I can't address the bitter taste that comes from losing a job and home that you love, I can say (with authority!) that the free books will keep on a comin'. I often wonder how publishers manage to stay in business what with all the books they give away.

I'm one of those fate kind of people, so I tend to think that change is just another word for opportunity. It might take a little while before you find the next thing you're meant to do, but given your talent (how many booksellers out there have been able to create what you've created here? Sadly -- and I really do use that word intentionally -- not enough. You bring immediacy and personality to the process. This is missing from so many independent retailers (who really need it) and almost non-existent when it comes to chains. In many ways, you are doing what booksellers everywhere should be doing... but aren't.

BS

BuffySquirrel said...

Hmm. Happy New Year seems a tad insensitive, under the circumstances.

Hopeful New Year!

quiche said...

I wish you a very Happy New Year.

And if any more customers say such drivel, go ahead and give 'em the hairy eyeball. They won't notice anyway and it will make you feel a little better.

jarvenpa said...

Oh, I am so sorry. I haven't been by your site for a while, and had just a moment tonight and decided to stop in...and find they are closing your store?!!!
NOOO. And yes, be bitter. I went through the closing of a privately owned bookshop that was very dear to me a couple years ago, and keep repressing a degree of rage against the people who are all "oh, right, that store is gone" (that store after 35 years in existence..oh, do not get me started..)
May you find other cozy book homes in which to use your many skills.
And may it be, despite all, a happy new year for you and your cherished ones.

Susan Adrian said...

BSC:

Urgh! I just read these posts, and am so sorry to hear about the closing. I feel your pain--as a bookseller and bookstore manager I closed at least 4 stores, and it just plain sucks. My least favorite thing was the sudden preponderance of vulture customers, who immediately wanted to know how big of a discount they could get instead of what was happening to us. {sigh} However, know that your skills will still be needed, no matter whether you choose to stay in retail or go somewhere else. And we'll still want to read about it.

Yuck. I hate store closings.

Kate R said...

I'm sorry.
My favorite bookstore just closed last year. I'm still in mourning.

It's the damned internet, I tell you.