Using Facebook for customer engagement works for Atlantis Bookstores

Article supplied

Atlantis Books opened its first shop in April this year and it already has another two stores. Co-owner Fraser Newman puts a lot of their success down to social media.

“This is a very powerful tool for booksellers,” Fraser says, “In the past booksellers laboured over newsletters and reviews in newspapers. Now we can reach our customers instantly at any time of night or day – and it is fun and interactive.”

Atlantis Books has seen its following on Facebook boom with over 2,900 likes already. Fraser says, “We’ve noticed we can say something on Facebook and immediately we’ll notice people coming into the store responding to it. I cannot overstate the case for good social media engagement.”

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Facebook, at least for Atlantis, has until now replaced the need for newsletters and other forms of advertising, though they still market heavily in local newspapers in their three cities.

“Newsletters are good for a certain demographic. But you only get to send one out once a month or so, people rarely read them and you don’t know who you are targeting.”

Targeting is a major factor in Atlantis Books’ success on Facebook. The page’s ‘Insight’ feature allows staff to see who is on the page. They can then shift their focus appropriately. Fraser sometimes sets goals when he sees the demographics moving too far in one direction. For example, when the balance of under 24 year olds shifted too far toward female fans, Fraser carried out a drive to appeal to male under 24 year olds as well.

“This keeps us grounded. We want to be a mainstream, mass market bookshop for the average punter. Our Facebook page has to reflect this. Therefore our goal is always to have a good bell-curve distribution for our demographics. It is never going to be perfect though. Younger people are on Facebook more than older, and females are more likely to engage on a page than males.”

Another thing to look out for are Facebook rules.

“A lot of people miss these,” Fraser says, “But Facebook can actually be quite strict. There are rules around images, advertising, give-aways and competitions. People need to be familiar with these and not be lax on following them. As your page grows people will notice when you break the rules and dob you in. There is nothing worse than planning a promotion and then having Facebook pull the plug on it.”

This is important because one of the most successful ways to grow followers on a page is with competitions.

“Dollar for dollar competitions do more for a page than anything else. Sometimes we’ll have 100+ people enter a competition and we sell a lot of the same book afterwards because people are sad they missed out.”

The key to a good competition is a worthwhile prize (no reading copies thank you!) and a decent question people have to answer in order to get some engagement with customers. It is also important to remember that the prizes should not be just fiction but reflect the different areas of the shop.

“Too much of the book industry is geared up for fiction sales,” Fraser says, “But they are only a small part of total sales. Your Facebook page should reflect this.” (below is a selection of comics available at their Whakatane store.)

comicbooksAnother way to get people engaged is with open ended questions or fill in the gaps. Social media users love to share their ideas, even if no one else is really listening. So simply chucking discussion points out there can really get people going.

At the end of the day though success on social media comes down to having an attractive online personality and putting in the hard work.

“Don’t just just put up photos of your new releases,” Fraser says, “People want substance and a little fun.”

ENDS

Article supplied by Fraser Newman, Atlantis Bookstore

How to Choose a Book*, by Jenna Todd

*at your local independent bookstore.

Prepare yourself
Put away your phone! Fill up your parking meter! Your bookstore is ready and waiting for you.

Are you ready to have a conversation? Are you ready to be led down the path of the unknown? It’s time to stand shoulder to shoulder with your literary comrades as you take part in one of the most precious and personal tasks known to man: choosing a book.

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An inviting Time Out Books window

The Great Good Place
As you step into your local store, you will feel something quite powerful. That’s the power pp_Ray_oldenburgof words. These books are written and published with you in mind and this bookstore is filled to the brim with titles chosen by booksellers, for you.

Sociologist Ray Oldenburg (right) believes that alongside your home and work, you need a place where you can gather and be part of a community. He has coined this The Third Place.

This bookstore opens its doors everyday just to be your Third Place. It wants to be a part of your routine, a place of comfort and discovery.

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A mere corner of Unity Books Wellington – start here and work your way out!

Judge a book by its cover
Start big.

I recommend you make a round the whole store at least once. This is where unexpected surprises may come your way.

Narrow down.

Choose your section – Fiction! History! Cooking! Cultural Studies! Scan the covers or spines. Let the fonts and colours tell you to grab them. Let’s be honest, there are so many books with terrible covers. Covers where you know the stories’ protagonist would despise their outer skin. But don’t let this deter you.

Something will lead you to pick up a book and it’s hard to explain how and why this happens. The best way to think of it is as a fateful match.

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Time Out Bookstore staff in 2012. They may not be dressed in evening wear in-store…

Ask the experts
Floating around the bookstore, will be some very happy people. These are your booksellers.

They have been hired because they, like you, love to read. They have towering piles of books, surrounding their sleeping heads, hoping to absorb the words so they can pass on their opinion to you.

Your bookseller will probably ask you a few questions. What are some of your favourite books? What have you read lately? Watch them carefully after you answer, as you will see their brain calculating and eliminating. Then follow them around the store as they mumble to themselves, putting together a curated pile for you.

IMG_1498[1]Making the final decision
By now, you may have gathered quite a pile of books and, unfortunately, these choices just may exceed your budget. (Ed’s choices from her review pile to the side!)

This is where you will have to a) thinking about your upcoming reading spots and b) get in touch with how you’re feeling.

Will you be carrying this book on a plane? Or will it sit firmly on your beside table?
Do you feel like delving into a new author? Or would you little to settle into a familiar voice?

The elimination process is a difficult task, but you will make the right choice. Read the first paragraph of all your finalists and, somewhere amongst their text, one of them will whisper the strongest, “I’m the one!”

Heck, you may just give up and say, “I’ll take them all!”

wonka_golden_ticketCongratulate yourself
You have not only just gained a precious item for your bookshelf. You now have a ticket to any time or place. Your imagination will be stretched and you will discover something you would not have known before.

This book will sit upon your shelves for years to come. Its cover will become a memory trigger for this exact moment of purchase and the unfolding moments in which you absorb its tale.

Conservations will be sparked as future guests to your home approach your bookcase, tilt their head sideways and finger its spine.

This new book is yours, but its story will be shared. And that’s pretty special.

by Jenna Todd, Manager of Time Out Books, Mt Eden

Do you love international YA literature? Kiwis do it just as well!

Since Eleanor Catton won the Man Booker Prize for The Luminaries, people have become more aware of the quality of our local fiction. Which is amazing. But did you know that our YA fiction is of the same quality as much that is produced overseas? No? Well let me educate you about a few of our top YA novelists writing right now.

Trilogies and series’
First of all – trilogies and series’. Internationally, trends have driven our teens through magical boarding schools (Harry Potter), paranormal and vampires (Twilight), dystopias (The Hunger Games), and extreme political situations (Divergent). Note that not only did these trilogies sell incredibly high volumes, they have also become films.

cv_juno_of_tarisLet me begin with one of my favourites. Fleur Beale wrote an incredible trilogy from 2008, beginning with Juno of Taris, about the life of a girl who was born into an isolated island community. This community is under a bubble, to protect them from the environment which they are led to believe by their ruling elders has been polluted to unliveable standards. The book questions the accepted, it has a gutsy heroine, and it has just a glimmer of magic to boot. The three books are Juno of Taris, Fierce September, and Heart of Darkness (all published by Random House).

cv_dreamhunterIf you want magical realism (think Patrick Ness, Philip Pullman, Margaret Mahy), you cannot go past Dreamhunter / Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox. The world of Southland draws you in, and makes you feel like anything is possible. I remember reading this for the first time, and wishing so much that I was reading it aged 13 or 14, simply to be closer to what I was like then, ready to believe that dreams were catchable, that magic was real. This has more recently been supplemented with Mortal Fire (Gecko Press), which is itself due a sequel one day!

cv_the_crossing_tnMandy Hager writes trilogies and stand-alone books with equal aplomb. The trilogy that comes to mind as an excellent dystopia based on an extreme political situation, is ‘The Blood of the Lamb’ series. Composed of The Crossing, Into the Wilderness, and Resurrection, the trilogy is prefaced on a ‘last survivor’ cult that operates from a ship in the Pacific Ocean. The storyline covers racial inequality, political persecution, and other broad dystopian themes. It is hard-hitting, and wonderfully written.

Our own John Greens
In terms of stand-alone, issues-based novels, there are few hotter right now than John Green. With his abilities on social media, and his hard-hitting topics, he is a hard one to beat. But I would say that there are several of our very own authors who come close.

cv_see_ya_simonFor instance, David Hill. One of David Hill’s first massive publishing successes (in 1992) was See Ya, Simon, in which the narrator’s best friend is a boy with muscular dystrophy, who doesn’t have long to live. This book was picked up around the world, and has been translated into many languages. David has written around 30 YA titles, all with strong believable characters, dealing with recognisable teenage emotions and dramas. (Others I would recommend are Duet, and My Brother’s War).

cv_the_nature_of_ashMandy Hager also comes to mind when thinking about health issues, with books like The Nature of Ash, which sees a teenage boy struggling with caring for his Downs Syndrome-suffering brother, while navigating the apocalypse. More recently, Dear Vincent, deals head-on with death of a sibling; as does Anna Mackenzie’s The Shadow of the Mountain.

Let me also mention Kate De Goldi, with her crossover award-winner The 10pm Question. Also Penelope Todd, with the trilogy Watermark (still available in e-book format), which itself is faintly reminiscent of something more otherworldly, classic children’s trilogy The Halfmen of O, by Maurice Gee. While on the topic of Gee, let me just recommend the Salt Trilogy – it is rather wonderful.

Can you tell how much I love kiwi dystopian YA trilogies?

The Children and Young Adults’ Book Awards
WhenWeWake_CVR_128x198x21.5_FA.inddThe YA section of the New Zealand Children’s and Young Adults’ Book awards is always strong, and I always wonder how the judges can possibly choose a winner. This year, Karen Healey was one of the contenders. Healey is somebody you cannot fail to mention while discussing and recommending current kiwi YA fiction. Author of four books, two of which are part of the When We Wake trilogy, she is one to watch for her very real teenage voices. Pick it up.

If you like your YA set in the past, Tania Roxborogh and Anna Mackenzie are both ones to watch. Each have written broadly about teen themes, so they aren’t one-trick ponies, but I would recommend Banquo’s Son and the others incv_cattras_legacy Roxborogh’s trilogy for those who like their teenage problems with a 12th-century dramatic twist; while Mackenzie has two titles in the Cattra’s Legacy trilogy out so far, set in medieval times.

For action along the lines of Robert Muchamore’s CHERUB series, but keeping it kiwi, you can’t go far wrong with Brian Falkner. He has been publishing great action books for teens for many years now, and is currently in the midst of a series called Recon Team Angel. One stand-alone that I must recommend, from a few years ago, is Brain Jack. I seem to remember reading it over a few hours when I got my hands on it. Another author to check out both current and past titles of along these lines is Ken Catran – he writes stand-alone books packed with drama and excitement.

The wonderful thing about writers of YA in New Zealand is that I haven’t met one I didn’t like. They are humble and generous, while writing these incredible books that transport teenagers all over New Zealand into different worlds. Let’s hope that the melding of Random House and Penguin doesn’t interrupt this incredible industry. Or perhaps it will prompt the creation of a new company: does anybody fancy starting a new publishing house dedicated to good-quality kiwi YA?

By Sarah Forster

People I haven’t mentioned, who are also worth looking up (i.e. I think this piece is long enough): Bernard Beckett, Barbara Else, R.L Steadman, David Hair, V. M Jones, Jack Lasenby, Ted Dawe, Joy Cowley, Adele Broadbent, Melinda Szymanik, Alison Robertson, Maryanne Scott, Sherryl Jordan (I loved her writing as a kid), and newcomer Rachael Craw. If there are more I have missed, please add your recommendations in the comments!

Tell us what you want (what you really really want) – and win*

Hello to all of our blog-readers! If you have just started following our blog and receiving our emails and posts, a special hello to you. I love seeing your ‘likes’ and comments come in, it just proves that the connection our followers have to books and New Zealand’s literary culture is genuine and passionate.

An introduction: my name is Sarah ForsterIMG_1298[1], and I have been running this blog for just over a year now, on behalf of Booksellers NZ. My role is to run all of the direct digital communications for Booksellers NZ, as Web Editor – you can find me on twitter, on Facebook over several pages, sending our regular newsletters Words of the Day (click to register), The Read and Preview of Reviews, and on our website. Booksellers itself is a membership organisation for bookstores in NZ – with over 300 member bookstores nationwide. We help our members to run their businesses in the best possible way, and we help them, especially, to sell books.

The focus of this blog is to fill in the cracks of mainstream media review coverage. We cover the big books, sure, but not all of them, and we are just as interested in those books that are not as likely to gain column inches. The areas in which we have a particular pool of talent are Poetry, with the likes of poets Sarah Jane Barnett, Emma Barnes, and English lit student Elizabeth Morton helping us to cover almost everything that comes out in the poetic field; Non-fiction, with reviewers including Gordon Findlay and Kimaya McIntosh; Literary fiction, with reviewers Chris Howe, Elizabeth Heritage and Feby Idrus; and Children’s books with myself, teachers Rachel Moore and Marion Dreadon, Angela Oliver covering YA, and tireless grandmother Christine Frayling. We have a lot of other amazing reviewers that I haven’t mentioned, and you can check out some of their short bios here.

IMG_0562[1]We have such a breadth of reviews now that I am going to start trying to focus on one specific area of literature per day, with daily kids’ book reviews at 4pm when I have them. My initial plan for is for Monday to be Non-fiction; Tuesday to cover Poetry and/or New Zealand fiction; Wednesday to cover International fiction blockbusters of various genres; Thursday to focus on Literary fiction; and Friday to be small and self-publishers day. All of this depends on how many reviews I get in each week, but I am fairly confident we will be able to keep it going!

My own reading is very broad – I will give pretty well anything a go, and I have sometimes have a hard time letting books fly off my desk when I really want to read and review them! But with a background of six years working with kiwi authors at the New Zealand Book Council as Education Programmes Manager, and with my two children aged 2 and 4, my real passion lies in kiwi children’s and YA books. Our children’s book publishing culture is massively strong, and shows every signs of continuing to thrive, despite the doom and gloom predictions for the industry overall.

This is where I ask for your input.
Our blog popularity is rising constantly, thanks to review coverage of major festivals and the quality of our reviews – but what else would you like to see? Author interviews? Summaries of international reviews for bestselling international titles? More personal blog pieces from myself and booksellers? A bit more genre fiction? Introductions to new publishers?

Comment below before 5pm this IMG_1299[1]Monday 29 September, and be in to win a pack of books: A New Zealand Book of Beasts, by Annie Potts, Philip Armstrong and Deirdre Brown (AUP), The Son-in-Law, by Charity Norman, The Lost Pilot, by Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, and Built for Caffeine, by Ben Crawford.

Thank you for reading us – Sarah.

* I sincerely apologise if you now have the Spice Girls in your head…

Creative book-building: How to create 17 video vignettes in one day

Last year during the Man Booker Prize run-up, the Booker publicity group came up with the great idea of creating Vines for each of the shortlisted finalists, and encouraging others to do the same. So I thought, why not? Never mind that there are only six titles on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize, while we have 16 finalists, and three best first books… luckily two of the best first books are also on the finalist list.

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The view at the beginning of our day, Friday 11 July

While what we ended up creating were a bit long for Vines as it turned out, but this is how we created them:

Step One: 
Decide how you want to use your footage, as this will inform your materials. We ended up deciding that because we will be using our video clips as illustrations for the finalists as they are announced at the ceremony, we would heed a professional photographer to create them on a hi-def camera. We also needed a cohesive plan for how to approach each book, from somebody a lot more creative than us. Which brings me to Step Two!IMG_0821

Step Two:
Come up with some great ideas. We had as our art director, Leon Mackie (right, in director mode). Leon and his wife (our former Awards Executive, Lilly Mackie) came up with the ideas over a glass of wine, and sent them through to us. This is their track record – we knew we were in safe hands.

Step Three:
Source anything extra you need for the shoot. In our case, there wasn’t a lot – but we did need some sound effects. Amie and I spent a fantastic morning on SoundFX.com finding the appropriate sound effects – our most tentative search was for the sound of a man grunting, our most difficult was for some WW1 sound effects.

Step Four:
Early on in the piece we asked Mark Tantrum, our event photographer, to be part of this process, and he came in and shot all of the videos for us, rather awesomely. He acted as our Director of Photography, with his assistant Elias Rodriguez as his Best Boy!

From here, we convened on Friday 11 July to shoot our videos. Our only props were black backdrops, a gavel and one book display aid. We had LED lights of various sizes and a couple of fancy camera accessories to help with the effects – we also used a handy stack of Women’s Day magazines to get the height correct. Leon’s concepts worked with the books themselves, in stacks, groups, sculptures and patterns.
heartland_sliceUs_then-slice

Occasionally, we had a moment of panic, like when our Totara fell after just one (luckily successful) shoot.

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And when the original concept of ripping a books’ cover was agreed to be a little bit too damaging, we had to come up with something different.

Books as horses legs are difficult to get right.

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But Leon’s dog was spot on.

And his Twiss sculpture was fantastic.

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And we got the History of Silence perfectly quiet.

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We will be carrying on rolling out these clips throughout the promotion period for the People’s Choice Award. For the full finalist list please head through here, for resources for publishers and booksellers here, and for the media kit, here is where you need to go.

Please don’t forget you don’t have to vote for a finalist or one of the bestsellers’ pictured – as long as the book was published in New Zealand from 1 June 2013 – 31 May 2014, it is eligible to win the People’s Choice Award.

By Sarah Forster

Start a trend and snowball votes for the People’s Choice Award

Voting opens today for the People’s Choice award in the New Zealand Post Book Awards, and closes 15 August, 8pm.

Vote in the 2014 People's Choice Award We want to see as many people as possible pick their favourite books for the 2014 People’s Choice award for New Zealand authored books. We’re distributing voting slips in bookstores and libraries around New Zealand and you can also vote online, but we’re thinking big this year.

We want to see ideas grow large in the online community, so we’ve put together some cool tools to help people get behind the People’s Choice award online. We would love to see you get behind your favourite!

Resources for running the campaign for your favourite book
• Use the Book trailer tributes we’ve created to promote one of the finalist books for People’s Choice on your Facebook page or website.
• Use the poetry readings and fiction finalists video reviews – share them on your Facebook page, or embed them on your website. The video reviews are presented by some of New Zealand’s most enthusiastic bookstore staff, and the poetry readings are all by our multi-talented Poetry Day coordinator, Miriam Barr.
• Use our Facebook cover images – we’re highlighting categories with these this year. Post them on your Facebook page to show support and encourage voting for the category you choose. Or make your own – we would love to see it if you do!
• Post a copy of our finalist posters on your site, and link to our Booksellers_choice_posterPeople’s Choice vote online app. The Posters are downloadable from the resources page of our website.
• Write a blog post about a book that particularly impressed you and add a ‘Vote for People’s Choice’ widget alongside it. You’ll find the widgets on our website too. Widgets are great for bloggers or people with reading and book-related websites like bookstores, publishers, schools and libraries. Post one on your website homepage to encourage your customers to vote for their favourite book, or even the book you’re punting for – I know publishers will love that one!
• We’re talking about what’s happening in the awards on Twitter using #nzpba, we hope you’ll add comments about the books you’re enjoying.

Voting is open from 23 July – 15 August and the winners will be announced at the New Zealand Post Book Awards ceremony on Wednesday, 27 August 2014.

by Amie Lightbourne, Awards Manager at Booksellers NZ

Island-styled success with Mākaro Press

I asked three new publishers five questions, in an effort to understand why you would decide to start anew in the current publishing environment (see feature article in The Read last Thursday.)  These are the answers from Mary McCallum from Mākaro Press. Here are the answers from Paper Road Press, and the answers from Pip Adam and Emma Barnes from Cats and Spaghetti Press.

  1. Why did you decide to create your own publishing company?
    I have been involved with books in almost every way except for publishing for years. I am a writer myself, as well as a writing mentor, creative writing tutor and reviewer, and I have worked as an organiser of literary events, a bookseller, and a trustee of a literary residency. I have always supported NZ literature and had thoughts – on and off – about I would go about publishing local fiction and poetry.At the start of 2013 I was working as co-editor on an anthology of Eastbourne writing and we were looking for publishers, at the same time my son Paul (below on the left) had completed an Honours degree in film studies and was looking for work. We employed him to do some work on the anthology and found he was great at what he did, and then it occurred to me that he and I could take the book through to publication ourselves. With local publisher Steele Roberts mentoring us, and generously offering us an office, carpark and computer, Mākaro Press was born. pp_paul_and_mary
  2. You have had some success already – what is your aim with the company? What constitutes success for you?
    We started with a vision but without a plan. We wanted to show New Zealand writing at its best, including those books that might not otherwise be made due to larger publishers contracting, and to make all efforts to get those books into the hands of readers. There is definitely a niche in this country for smaller publishers, and we’re still finding out the size and shape of that niche, but so far we’ve enjoyed exploring it.Eastbourne_pileUnlike some other small publishers starting up at the moment, Mākaro Press aims to be a self-sustaining business that eventually brings an income and makes some kind of profit. The cost structure in this industry and the shift in book-buying practices make that very difficult, but we’re looking at ways of making them work for us. Some things we’re doing are: trying to make our books fit a format to keep costs down, looking at different ways of funding books and marketing them to the communities that will support them, and collaborating with other publishers e.g. ebook publisher Rosa Mira Books. Who knows if we can manage it in the end, we’d like to hope we could.

    Success for us is holding a book in our hands that wouldn’t look as it does, might not even be a book at all, if we hadn’t taken it on, and that feeling is doubled if the reviews are good and people buy the book.

  3. How are you selecting your titles? Have you got a MS pile yet?
    Yes, we have a pile already and I feel guilty about how long it takes me to get through it because so many other things call on my time. We are being sent manuscripts at an increasing rate now that writers have us on their radar, and we go looking for writers, too. We approach poets for our HOOPLA series, and approach other writers we think are writing books we could publish.It takes so much longer than I thought it would reading and assessing manuscripts, thinking about them, and talking to the author before the editing process even begins. I keep in front of me the patience and encouragement of Geoff Walker of Penguin who published my novel The Blue in 2007 after having shown an interest in the manuscript three years earlier, the openness and flexibility of Julia Marshall of Gecko who allowed me two goes at convincing her with Dappled Annie and the Tigrish (published this year), and the respectful but firm approach that editor Jane Parkin — who edited both novels — shows authors. I am also influenced by the personal hands-on approach of Roger Steele and his crew at Steele Roberts.
    Hoopla_series
  4. How are you going with distribution? Is there anything you would like to see booksellers doing?
    I distribute via PDL, with the wonderful Paul Greenberg and Joan Roulston of Greene Phoenix marketing the books to bookshops and libraries. Paul is pragmatic, hardworking, enthusiastic, supportive and fights for our corner. I could help him more by getting our publishing information out earlier than I do i.e. three months before publication, but that’s a bit hard for us to do at the moment. Indie and certain Paper Plus booksellers have been amazingly supportive, and others are coming on board as they get to know our books, but I’d love to see the same support from Whitcoulls. Not just for us, but for New Zealand writers as a whole.It would mean a lot for our business if returns from book sales could make their way to us more quickly than they do (we can wait four months) – this feels like a complex industry issue to do with sales and returns etc rather than something booksellers can sort but they could perhaps contribute to the discussion. It would also make a huge difference to us if booksellers could see their way clear to dropping their cut for NZ books from 40% to 35 or 30%, but as a former bookseller I can understand their position.
  5. I would imagine with a small list, you are easily adaptable for new realities. How are you dealing with future technologies for distributing/publicising your books?
    Yes, we are adaptable. We print a number of our books using print-on-demand, so that means smaller print runs and less outlay all at once, and we have worked out a way of publishing poetry titles by doing them as a bunch (e.g. as a series of three) to keep printing costs down. We are also building a relationship with Rosa Mira Books who are making an e-book of one of our titles. We hope this relationship will lead to more such collaborations.

– Sarah Forster, Booksellers NZ