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.

 

 

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

teamNZ

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.