Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Look at an Indie Bookstore - What Writers Can Learn by Kathy Halsey and Patricia Toht

Take a peek with me and GROGger Patty Toht into indie bookstore life. Patty is a former bookstore owner, children's author, and now a librarian. I began my career as a teacher, transitioned to being a school librarian, and now work part-time at an indie bookstore. Welcome to indie life, a whole different world than big box stores and Amazon.
Bookstore owner Melia Wolf of Cover to Cover Books for Young Readers & me

Never Never Land, Patty's children’s bookstore in the suburbs of Chicago

Open the door to Cover to Cover Books for Young Readers on any given day. and books lovers will find the owner and staff busy with a myriad of tasks. In one week, the store hosted middle grade author Alan Gratz, David Shannon, book talked middle grade fiction to a small group of parents, former teachers, and grandparents and that was just three days of a typical week. 

As Patty explains, there are so many tasks that the independent owner takes on that are sourced out to others in national operations. A funny misconception Paty had was that, as a bookseller, she would have loads of time to read books! As the owner/operator, her days were packed with a huge variety of tasks, from ordering and stocking to helping customers to scheduling employees and paying bills. All of her reading was done at night.

 Indie Bookstore 411
Your local indie may not have the inventory of a big box store, the money to hire publicists, accountants, or a huge sales force. However, you local independent bookstore will have these unique qualities that can't be duplicated elsewhere.
  • Booksellers who are book aficionados and genre experts who can find you just the right book. For example, my indie, Cover to Cover in Upper Arlington Ohio has booksellers who are former teachers, librarians, and gamers. We know the newest picture books, YA authors personally, science fiction and fantasy for all ages.
  • Indies develop a relationship with you, know your tastes, offer discounts for frequent customers, and treat you like a friend. Relationships with customers matters to them.
  • Programs that support that local community and the schools such as local/national author visits, book clubs, a third space with is safe, writer workshops, and professional development for preservice teachers. This Thursday, Cover to Cover will host best-selling YA author Edith Pattou at theUpper Arlington Main library from 6-8 PM. 
 How Books Are Bought
At Cover to Cover in Columbus, Ohio, book sellers are always updating their orders on what books to buy. Staff members can recommend books, discuss them with the owner, and a decision is made. Staff knows that if we recommend a book, we need to be able to hand sell it. Here's another audience, children's workers may think about as they write. 
Patty shares other ways that bookstores acquire titles. (Cover to Cover also uses these three primary ways to get stock.)

• "Sometimes I met directly with a publisher’s representative.  We would flip through the catalogue and discuss the titles. Often the rep had F&Gs of picture books and ARCs of novels so I could actually see what the interiors looked like and read jacket copy. We would also discuss any marketing plans for the books, as well as book displays and special deals.
• If the publisher didn’t have a rep to call on my tiny bookstore, I thumbed through catalogues and read the descriptions of the titles. I usually began by ordering books from tried-and-true authors or illustrators and then moved onto books that seemed to be a good fit for our clientele.
• I also worked with two distributors, Ingram and Baker & Taylor. These companies  carried books from most publishers (kind of like an Amazon for booksellers). These companies were great for smaller restocks of top sellers and for filling special orders. But their discount wasn’t as good as ordering directly from publishers."
Check out all this fabulous children's nonfiction at Cover to Cover Books for Young Readers!
The  Best Way to  Promote Your Books
Before I began working at Cover to Cover, I frequented the store, driving across town to support my independent bookseller. I bought books, attended author signings, and introduced myself to owner Melia as an avid reader and writer. Its important to connect authentically and early in your writing career to really establish a good working relationship. (I'm pre-published, but I'm a big fan of Cover to Cover.)
Author Patty offers this advice for authors.

• "Stop by! Ask if the bookstore carries your book. If they don’t, show them a copy so they can read it. Let bookstore owners get to know you, love you, and love your work.
• Refer your local friends to your indie. Remind them that, at an indie, you get to hold and read actual books rather than ordering by a description. Indie sellers know what books their customers love and are very adept at putting the right book into the right hands.
• Sign stock! Customers like giving signed books as gifts.
• Have a launch party or other event! It’s fun to have special occasions to celebrate with customers." 

 I'll be recommending Patty's rhyming picture book, Pick a Pine, for this holiday season!
The holiday season is upon us. Let's support authors and independent bookstores and give some extra holiday cheer to those in our industry this year. Curl up at an indie bookstore soon!

Cover to Cover has this wonderful space for reading and lounging. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

What's New at the Library? by Leslie Colin Tribble

More new books are flying off the shelves in our Children’s Library. Here’s a quick round up of some recent favorites.

The Day You Begin – Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael Lopez
I’m breaking away from my usual reviews of animal-related books with this one, but it’s so good. Of course, it’s from noted author Jacqueline Woodson, so you know you’re going to love it. The Day You Begin is overflowing with hope and wonder, and yet packed with those hurts that children experience when they feel they don’t belong.  But words, beautiful lyrical, flowing words and meaningful, simple illustrations combine to create a welcoming book that tells children that even when there are others who don’t look or sound or eat like you, that maybe, just maybe, when you begin you can fit into the world.

I Walk with Vanessa – Kerascoet
This is a wordless book about bullying. The illustrations are so simple, yet I loved the expressions the children exhibit - you know exactly what they’re feeling.  Despite the lack of words, you could engage in a lot of discussion with the child or children you’re reading this to. All kids know how hard it feels when you’re singled out but also how good it is when someone comes alongside as a friend and helper. This would be a great book to use with older kids too, when talking about bullying.

Run Wild – David Covell
I like this book for the sentiment and the abstract, but eye-catching illustrations. This book is all about the wonders of running wild through the mud and grass and sand and shore. It’s about the freedom and exhilaration of just being out exploring and even getting bumps and bruises.  As an environmental educator, I appreciate that message because I feel children aren’t allowed to be outside as much as they should be. Read this book to a child and then find a place where you can be outside, together, experiencing nature. It’ll be good for both of you.

Good Rosie – Kate DiCamillo and Harry Bliss
This is a dog book, so of course I picked it up. It’s about Rosie who wants a friend, but isn’t sure how to make one. What I find interesting about this book is its length – it reads a bit like a chapter book because it’s divided into nine parts.  It has 36 pages of text and illustration, so it’s definitely longer than the average picture book. The story is cute and useful for talking about friendship, loneliness and how to be a friend. The pictures of the dogs are engaging – you might just want to find a Rosie of your own.

My Pet Wants a Pet
This is a great book about wanting a pet, because really, doesn’t everyone want a pet? Personally, I lobbied long and hard for a baby musk ox, but my parents were unreasonably against that idea. The illustrations and pet/owner pairs makes you want to keep turning the page to find out how this cascade of animals will end.

Weather Girls - Aki
Weather Girls is a sweet rhyming book about young ladies ready to get outdoors in any weather, in all seasons. The illustrations of the girls are adorable and they make exploring the world around them look so much fun - and it is! This is a powerful book to share with the girls in your life, especially ones that might be timid about experiencing life outside.

There have been so many wonderful books flowing through our cataloging department into eager hands in the children's library. My list is a lot longer this these top choices, but you'll have to wait until my next post to learn about more great picture books.