Helen Wadsworth going for a global perspective in Denver, CO

Helen Wadsworth from The Dorothy Butler Children’s Bookshop in Ponsonby is one of two booksellers from New Zealand on a plane to Denver, Colorado for the 11th Winter Institute conference, where she will network with booksellers from all over the USA and the world. The Winter Institute is run by our American cousins, the American Booksellers Assocation, and Booksellers NZ is very grateful to have our scholarships sponsored by Canadian eReader company, Kobo. 

pp_helen_wadsworthWe asked Helen (above) a few questions including why she became a bookseller, what she is most looking forward to about the experience, and what she’ll be reading on the way there.

What made you want a career in bookselling?
Books are special – they enrich our lives so much and I love being surrounded by them. I also love the interaction with so many diverse people that book selling provides. And, unlike some jobs, most of the interactions are positive and happy.

Tell us the three main things you hope to get out of your attendance at the Winter Institute?
I’m hoping to be inspired and to come back with lots of ideas for our shop, particularly in terms of events and marketing.

As I’m the book buyer at our shop I’m also really interested in getting some tips from people who have been in the industry for awhile about how they go about choosing and managing their stock. As a relative newcomer to the book business, I’m still learning a lot about the book trade, and I’m looking forward to hearing about how things work in the States and hoping to get a more global perspective on bookselling.

What sessions during the conference are you looking forward to the most, and why?
Well, that’s a tough one because there are so many. One that has caught my eye is the breakfast keynote on the first morning. The speaker is Martin Lindstrom who is the author of Buyology and Small Data: the Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends – all about the psychology of buying. something I know very little about so it should be fascinating.

Another one is about event management for small stores and there’s also Bookselling 101: Introduction to Buying, both of which should be very relevant to my roles at The Dorothy Butler Bookshop.
Vromans
What do you know about the bookstore you will be working with while over there? What will be your focus as a take-away?
I only know what I’ve been able to find out form their website but it looks amazing and big! It’s the oldest and largest independent bookstore in southern California and the guy who started it (Mr Vroman) sounds like really interesting man. He was a photographer and philanthropist as well as a book shop owner. I used to be a photographer, so I hope I get to see some of his photos. He supported all sorts of groups in the local community including Japanese American prisoners in the 2nd world war. He had no children and when he died he gave the shop to one of his employees – the great-grandfather of the current owner.

They have 3 sites in Pasadena, LA and put on over 400 events a year. Obviously I’m interested in how they run their children’s department – I’m keen to see how their systems work as well their marketing and how they communicate with their customers and community.

What are you planning to read in the plane on the way there?
I’ve just downloaded Jandy Nelson’s I’ll give you the Sun onto the Kobo and I’m hoping it will keep me occupied for most of the journey.

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Kiran Dass, from Unity Books on High St in Auckland, is the other recipient of the Booksellers Kobo Scholarship to the Winter Institute. Read her Q & A – and check out our article about the scholarship.

 

 

Bookseller Kiran Dass gets ready to sharpen her skills in Denver, CO

Kiran Dass is one of two booksellers from New Zealand currently en route to Denver Colorado for the 11th Winter Institute conference, where she will be hobnobbing with booksellers from all over the USA and the world. The Winter Institute is run by our American cousins, the American Booksellers Assocation, and Booksellers NZ is very grateful to have our scholarships sponsored by Canadian eReader company, Kobo. 

We asked Kiran a few questions including why she does what she does for a living, what she is most looking forward to about the experience, and what she’ll be reading on the way there.

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What made you want a career in bookselling?
If you’re doing it properly, bookselling can be quite mentally, physically and emotionally invigorating work! I find it stimulating and rewarding from so many different angles.

Every day on the shop floor brings the satisfying pleasure of being able to effectively engage in a dialogue about books with our customers. It’s quite a special relationship, and it’s built on trust, you know. Because when you learn about what sorts of books a customer likes, you are actually gaining quite a personal, intimate insight into who they are and what makes them tick. It sounds like such a cliché, but it’s true, there really is nothing quite as satisfying as being able to instinctively put the right book into a customer’s hands and introducing them to the book they didn’t even realise they were searching for. And they always come back. To be able to open those doors for readers is such a privilege.

Of course, Unity Books transcends being merely a bricks-and-mortar retail space. Bookshops are at the heart of any community. They’re where ideas are formed and shared and that’s the kind of place I want to be. Put simply, it’s the books and the people that make it for me.
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Tell us the three main things you hope to get out of your attendance at the Winter Institute?

I think the conference will be a brilliant opportunity to connect with booksellers from around the world – there will be around 500 attendees. Over ten years I’ve had the absolute pleasure of working for two of the best independent bookshops in New Zealand, and so I’m looking forward to meeting and engaging with people from all different facets of the book trade in an international context. The conference this year seems geared towards best practices for booksellers, which of course is of interest – as a bookseller, I am always keen to refine and sharpen my bookselling skills and knowledge.

What sessions during the conference are you looking forward to the most, and why?
The Education for International Booksellers session will no doubt be fascinating and useful in terms of exploring trends in U.S. bookselling. I think it will be an interesting discussion led by a panel of experienced American booksellers who embrace adapting the fast changing challenges of bookselling. Americans are world-class at marketing any product, and at Unity we keep a keen eye on American literary trends so I think it will be an informative and valuable session.

Because I am interested in the wider arena of the book trade and the different relationships within it, the Economics of Publishing session will provide an insight into the financial and logistical realities of publishing and how this relates to bookselling.

The retail bookselling session looks like a practical crash-course on the essentials of opening a new bookshop or buying an existing shop. Let’s find out the nitty gritty of what this takes!

Backlist titles are one of my passions – those enduring personal favourites that you can really get behind, so I’m really intrigued by the Backlist Bookswap Party, too. To be honest, I just want to get to as much as I can during the conference, and to talk to as many different people as possible!

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What do you know about the bookstore you will be working with while over there? What will be your focus as a take-away?
Book Soup! When I found out I was being placed in a bookshop in Los Angeles, I secretly (well, actually not so secretly!) crossed my fingers and hoped that I would end up at Book Soup because I have heard that it is similar in spirit to Unity Books and their stock looks absolutely amazing – my manager Jo is a big fan of Book Soup and described it as “Unity Books x 3!” And many of our customers who have been there come back raving about it. I think I did an excited little dance on the spot when I found out my Book Soup wish came true!

Of course, I am a huge music nut and Book Soup proudly proclaims that “Book Soup has been serving readers, writers, artists, rock & rollers, and celebrities since it was founded by Glenn Goldman in 1975!” To me, that sounds like just the ticket. They also hold a dizzying array of in-store author events which I am looking forward to observing – and amazing authors, too. They recently hosted a book signing for Grace Jones when her memoir was published. The idea of a week at Book Soup immersing myself in the culture and dynamic of the shop is absolutely thrilling. I’m really keen to observe and learn more about their bookselling practices and the nuts and bolts of the running of an independent bookshop in the States.

What are you planning to read in the plane on the way there?
Oh, I’m really excited about this one. I’ve been saving this book for months. Fortuitously and in a rare instance, I don’t have to read for reviewing purposes while I’m on this scholarship, which means I can read a book for my own pleasure and immerse myself without having to have all my critical faculties blazing from all angles and having to stop every paragraph to scribble down notes.
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So I am taking Lucia Berlin’s extraordinarily singular and wonderful A Manual For Cleaning Women which I started over the Christmas break. To be honest, while I’m a huge fan of classic short stories by Richard Yates and John Cheever, I don’t tend to gravitate to short stories. But as soon as I read about Lucia Berlin and her backstory, I knew I’d love her before I even began. And two stories into this collection, I wasn’t wrong.

And of course, I’m looking forward to firing up my Kobo eReader!

Helen Wadsworth, from the Dorothy Butler Children’s Bookshop in Ponsonby, is the other recipient of Booksellers Kobo Scholarship to Denver. We will feature her answers to similar questions back on this blog tomorrow.

If you are just now wondering how on earth you get chosen to receive a Kobo Scholarship, let Cherie Donovan know you may be interested in applying for 2017 – she will make sure you get the form once applications are open in the next couple of months.

Tinderbox Conference for NZ children’s writers and illustrators

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Tinderbox is fast approaching.

Tinderbox is an amazing conference for all NZ children’s writers and illustrators. It offers four days of workshops, panels and presentations, as well as the opportunity to work on a live project to be published after the conference.

We have a full line up of speakers and presenters, including the brilliant Andy Griffiths, and with multiple streams of events to choose from there is something for all writers and illustrators: the new, the upcoming, and the well-established. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn, to be inspired, and to spend precious time with both peers and heroes.

The conference incorporates three full days on site, Friday cocktails at the Children’s Bookshop, dinner on Saturday, and a dedicated Illustrators Day on Monday while the writers go exploring.

Tinderbox will be held on 2 – 5 October 2015 at St Catherine’s College, Kilbirnie, Wellington. Registrations are still open, but please be quick. For more information check out the blog at tinderbox2015.blogspot.co.nz, join us on Facebook at Tinderbox2015 or email us at 2015tinderbox@gmail.com.

from the Wellington Children’s Book Association

Booksellers NZ conference from the pen of Jenna Todd

Jenna Todd from Time Out Bookstore was presenting her findings about the Kobo Scholarship this year at conference, but that didn’t stop us asking her to keep a note of what else happened!

Nielsen Book Data Presentationnevena_nikolic
Nevena Nikolic from Nielsen (left, first on left) reviewed the latest consumer trends in New Zealand book buying. The total market is still in decline, but the figures are not as dire looking as last year. Children’s books has the smallest drop in sales.

The Luminaries provided a huge boost in sales for NZ fiction – it has sold 40,000 copies in NZ to date and it’s at the top of both the general and indie booksellers charts for the year to date. (Hopefully we will have another New Zealand win the Booker this year – any takers?!)

Nevena also said that according to their statistics, 10% of New Zealanders currently own an e-reader, and are purchasing about 1 e-book a month.

What are our future readers reading? with speaker Wayne Mills
pp_wayne_millsWayne Mills (left), the founder of the Kid’s Lit Quiz gave an insightful presentation what our future readers are reading. In 2012, all participants in the Kid’s Lit Quiz were given a simple survey: They were to give their favourite book, their favourite author and also what they were currently reading.

Over 1500 children voted, who mentioned over 7300 book titles. The clear favourite was (unsurprisingly) the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Almost all of the favourite individual titles were part of a series, was a movie or both, such as The Hunger Games, The Lord of the Rings and Percy Jackson.

The idea of the Kid’s Lit Quiz is to increase the awareness of children reading for pleasure and to combat the mis-match between what children want to read to what they are required to read for school. The results of this survey will be published in a paper for teachers. Mills also indicated further plans to survey more countries, as well as questioning New Zealand children again in 2020.

There is a definite period of change in the way we read, but there is growth in the teen market and events such as The Kid’s Lit Quiz really enrich the way our young people interact with literature.

The Future of New Zealand Publishing
Tony Moores headed this panel of excellent publishers and it was great to hear where they’re at and what their plans are for the future.pp_nicola_legat

Nicola Legat (right) spoke of the changes that Random House has made since the downturn in book sales since 2008. They have put in a huge amount of work into their new website, book app and making ebooks as well as reducing their list. While Nicola admits that publishing is about money in the end, Random House are completely committed to producing high quality New Zealand stories that create a cultural conversation. Each book they publish is released with a strategy and they are feeling more committed to booksellers more than ever.

Robbie Burton from Craig Potton Publishing spoke of their shrinking print runs, especially with the loss of the Red Group in New Zealand. However, the good news is, they grew 1% last year. He believes now is the time to emphasise localism.

Melanie from Allen & Unwin focused on the acquisition of Murdoch Books and what positive outcomes this will bring. They will still be focused on non-illustrated non-fiction, but not exclusively. They have plans to double their NZ publishing programme in the next 24 months.

by Jenna Todd 

We have a piece by Megan Dunn on our website about Michael Williams’ presentation. In The Read next week, we will provide Greg Randall’s full presentation, as well as a full write-up about it, and an article by him related to his presentation and further questions. 

Jared Raines and Jenna Todd: Kiwis’ Take on U.S. Bookselling

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This article is by Alex Mutter, and reproduced from Shelf Awareness.

Jared Raines (left) and Jenna Todd (3rd in), two indie booksellers from New Zealand, attended Winter Institute 9 in Seattle, Washington, thanks to a sponsorship from Kobo and a contest run by Booksellers New Zealand (the N.Z. equivalent of the ABA). As part of the arrangement, the two booksellers also spent the week after Winter Institute working at two Seattle-area indies. Todd, manager of Time Out Bookstore in Auckland, worked at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park and Ravenna, Wash., while Raines, owner and manager of Paperplus Northlands in Christchurch, worked at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle.

Jared Raines    
Raines, whose own store is an approximately 2,560-sq.-ft. general-interest bookshop with a copying center, said that the most obvious differences between Paperplus Northlands and Elliott Bay were the sheer size and volume of stock of the latter.

“There is also less of a focus on sideline product in the U.S. than we have in N.Z.,” Raines added. “Most bookstores in our group have a very strong personal and commercial stationery offering.”

Raines’s store, which was opened by his family 33 years ago, has been franchised by several different brands and has traded under a number of names, the first of which was Target Books & Stationery. Raines began working in the family business in 1996, when he was 14. In 2010, he took over full management of the business. He currently employs 12 staff members; during the holidays, that increases to 15 or 16.

Another key difference between bookselling in N.Z. and the U.S., Raines said, was the lack of wholesalers in the former. N.Z. indies, he explained, really have only publishers as their main suppliers.

“This does at times cause issues, as publishers make printing decisions based on sell-in numbers,” Raines explained. Indies typically cannot afford to buy three or four months worth of stock at release, which often leads to the underprinting of N.Z. titles. And, aside from Random House and some local publishers, the majority of large publishers have consolidated their New Zealand operations with their offices in Australia. This has led to complications with shipments; a delivery within 3-5 days is considered fast. If the wholesale model were adopted in N.Z., Raines asserts, that could go a long way in solving these problems.

Jenna Todd
Todd was struck in a pp_jenna_toddsimilar way by the size of Third Place Books. Her own store occupies approximately 700 square feet of a long, narrow heritage building, with an upper floor devoted to events and community gatherings. Time Out carries around 17,000 volumes across many genres; the store’s only focus, Todd said, was on “the best of the best.” She reported that literary fiction, children’s books and coffee table books do particularly well.

The frequency of author events at American indies and the relatively low price of books compared to N.Z. also struck Todd. Author visits are rare for most N.Z. indies, although Time Out is fortunate to have author Eleanor Catton as a regular customer (the launch party for The Luminaries, Catton’s Booker Prize-winning novel, was held at the store). She attributed both differences to New Zealand “being at the bottom of the world.”

“However,” Todd added, “one thing I learned when I was visiting all of these excellent stores in Seattle is that we just slot right alongside their high caliber–Time Out is just as excellent and special!”

Todd has worked at Time Out for four years, and has been manager for two. There are 12 staff members, most of whom work part time and are involved in a range of creative endeavors (Todd, for example, is a photographer, and the store also employs a director, an actress, a writer and a musician).

What they learned
Todd said overall of the Winter Institute that “there was just immeasurable value from just talking and spending time with all of the wonderful book people who attended WI9. It was such a fantastic experience.”

Similarly, Raines said he appreciated the people at WI9. “I really was made to feel like part of the U.S. bookselling community,” he said. “The most interesting thing I learned while there is that we all have the ability to survive the changing retail climate that is hitting our industry; we must work hard to be involved in our community, and be more than just a store full of product.”

And as for what he brought to Elliott Bay, Raines reported that his American counterparts were frequently interested in his retail system and his store’s security camera system. He also provided, he added, the “terrible Kiwi accent and colloquialisms!” –Alex Mutter

This piece was originally published in Shelf Awareness for Tuesday 11 March, the American Bookselling Association’s newsletter.

Jenna’s experience at Third Place Books, Seattle

Guest Post from Jenna Todd, one of our Kobo scholars to Seattle.

One of the best things about Third Place Books is its name. It was named after sociologist Ray Oldenburg’s idea that everyone needs three places. Your first being your home, second – your work or school, and finally a Third Place- where all walks of life interact. Third Place Books is the deliberate and intentional creation of a community around books and the ideas inside them.third_place_books

Third Place Books has been operating since 1998 about 30 minutes North of Seattle city. It is HUGE and is located on the top floor of the Lake Forest Park Town Centre (pictured). Housing 200,000 books, I would say it’s about 200 times bigger than Time Out. Second hand books sit very comfortably among the new titles and it has the wooden shelves, leather chairs and friendly staff that make it super cozy and welcoming.

revenna_third_placeI was very lucky to be staying with some new friends who lived near the store. I had actually met them as customers at Time Out while they were holidaying in New Zealand. (It always pays to chat to people!) So I had a very comfortable home base, with the Gibauts and their cat, also named Jenna.

On my first day, I had an in depth tour of the large premises and then I was off to Third Place’s second store in Ravenna (left). The Ravenna store opened in 2002, is a lot smaller and it also has a greek restaurant attached as well as a pub downstairs. We had arrived on this Monday to prepare and observe an author luncheon for Ishmael Beah, the Sierra Leonean author of A Long Way Gone. For $40US, patrons received a copy of his new book, Radiance of Tomorrow and a set menu lunch. 30 or so guests paid, came and listened to him speak and read. They had many exciting authors booked for future months and they had just recently had Ann Patchett as a guest. pp_ruth_ozeki_jenna_todd

On the Wednesday night, we had an author talk from Ruth Ozeki. RUTH OZEKI! (Jemma with Ruth above) This was a small talk that had 120 customers in store. She is such an engaging and wonderful speaker – it was such a treat. Third Place has had the most amazing authors come though. John Green drew a crowd of 1000 (these large events are held in the community commons area.) Paul McCartney and Julie Andrews are fondly remembered guests. Oh to be on the major tour circuit!third_place_shelves

Over the week, I browsed the shelves, stood at the info counter, observed a rep meeting and tried to get my head around their computer systems. Most of all and what I found most valuable, was speaking to the staff – which were completely open and engaging, and were extremely generous with their time. One hilarious thing I learned was that bookshop customer questions are universal, “I woke up to the radio last night, and I heard about this interesting book but I don’t know the title or author…”

A store the size of Third Place runs quite differently than our wee store. They have over 30 staff, who have every hour of their shift scheduled. Each staff member has their own genre section, putting out stock and retrieving returns. Third Place own an espresso book machine (shown below), they can print an out of print or self-published title in about 5 minutes! They have events about 4 or 5 nights of the week. And their books are very cheap, their margins are great and customers pay the small amount of tax at the counter.third_place_press

I don’t think I could ever sum up the results from my scholarship fully. I learned so much that I think I have learned things that I don’t realise I’ve learned. I am extremely grateful to Kobo and Booksellers NZ for giving me this opportunity, it’s so exciting that young booksellers in New Zealand are being celebrated and nurtured. Thank you, thank you!

Article by Jenna Todd.

For her report on Wi9, please link through here.

Bookselling is a people industry: Wi9 Seattle for Jenna Todd

I’m finding it difficult to put in to words all that I soaked in during the American Bookseller’s Winter Institute in Seattle, Washington; but I will try my best!

We arrived on the Sunday afternoon that the Seahawks were playing a game to get into the Superbowl finals. Which meant that the city was eerily dead, the notorious traffic was a breeze and there was a hilarious amalgamation of easily distinguished football fans and booksellers at our hotel, the Westin Seattle. Our New Zealand contingent (pictured below: Jared Raines, Mary Sangster, Jenna Todd and Lincoln Gould) came slightly earlier to recover from the long flight and also attend a dinner with the 50 other international Wi9 attendees. But over the next few days, the football fans were out, and 500 booksellers, publishers and authors filled two central hotels to the brim.
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The ABA organised many of these visiting booksellers to go on a full day Seattle bookstore tour; something I had really been looking forward to.While exhausting, I did find it extremely enlightening. We visited a large variety of stores – some were huge, most were medium-sized. We saw a children’s bookstore, a university bookstore and a travel bookstore (just like Notting Hill.) We ferried to a store on an island – the common factor of all of these stores was that they sold socks. I did not see a store as small as Time Out – but I was extremely happy to feel our store was just as fantastic as the stores we were visiting.

Seattle is the home of Amazon and 15,000 of their employees. Despite this, the Indie bookstores I visited seem to be on the up in terms of both sales and community engagement – thanks largely to a nationwide change in consumer behaviour, dubbed the Localism movement. There is good reading about the Localism Movement here. You can also find good reading about the independent bookstore movement worldwide here on the Indiebound NZ website.

elliotbay_launch

The Wi9 officially started on a Tuesday night, at a reception at the large and beautiful Elliott Bay Book Company on grungy Capitol Hill (above). We drunk tap wine, ate sliders and celebrated being booksellers! The atmosphere was terrific and this continued throughout the week.

The conference blew through very quickly. Author Sherman Alexie spoke of his love of Indie Bookstores and author Dan Heath spoke of being decisive. There were daily workshops for international booksellers. Indie Booksellers from all over America told us what to read this year. We listened to Scholastic authors speak while eating ice-cream sundaes. There was a room of advanced reading copies that we could just take, box up and send at a FedEx desk set up in a corner. We could also meet authors of these reading copies and get them signed! (see Jenna below with author Ruth Ozeki)

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There were so many special afternoon sessions to choose from and attend – I’m sure every attendee of Wi9 would have had a unique experience. I learned about selling sensitive teen fiction, I listened to how bookstores run their killer events, how to push word of mouth marketing and listened to owners of successful independent businesses in Seattle.

It was a whirlwind of ideas; meetings and swapping business cards over filtered Starbucks and boxed lunches. We ate delicious dinners with the most interesting people and then continued on conversations in the Westin lobby until 2am.
seattle_at_night
Wi9 bought some of the most wonderful and passionate booksellers together, and I felt incredibly lucky to be a part of these conversations.

The best comments I heard about the book industry was from European International Booksellers Federation chair, Irishman John McNamee, who dropped a pearl of wisdom every time he spoke. ‘Machines don’t write books and machines don’t read books. Bookselling is a people industry.’ The main thing I believe I have taken away from the Wi9 is that we need passionate booksellers and publishers to continue and grow the wonderful communities we have based around our bookstores. ‘We do not choose our customers, they choose us’ (another gem from John) and we need to give them reasons to continue spending their money locally.

by Jenna Todd, Kobo scholarship recipient 2014, and Manager of Time Out Bookstore in Mt Eden