Thursday, November 22, 2007

Dickens, Trollope, Peltzer and Rainbow Fairies


how the bloomin' blink do you decide what to stock?

We've got lists...oh yeah, we've got lists alright. They're all full of 'bestsellers', and all worthy of shelf space in any good bookshop. So, we've got around 40-45 bays (bookcases) to fill with all these lovely titles. Sounds like loads of space doesn't it? Pah! I say.
Right, we've got 12 bays for kids, 6 bays for fiction (is that enough?) and 3 bays each for crime and sci fi. So that's 24 bays already. There's travel, biography, lifestyle, academic stuff, art stuff, 3 bays at least for multicultural, mind body and spirit and loads of other sections that we've got to fit in there.

'stop being such a drama queen'
oh yeah, Drama...

Anyway, we've sorted out pretty much how much space we're going to allocate for each section (Tim and his amazing dancing spreadsheets), so now it's all about the books.
Do we stock all the classics?...we can't afford the space.
what travel guides do we stock?... Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Eyewitness, but which ones?
3 bays of crime, so that's half a bay of Agatha Christie?... NO!
3 bays of Sci Fi, so that's half a bay of Terry Pratchett?...NO!
foreign language guides, which ones?
dictionaries, which ones?
Oh nuts, we forgot about phrasebooks
I haven't even started on Kid's yet!

I've spent about 5 hours today going through a Penguin Complete Stocklist, to choose which titles we'd stock. The adult list is over 5,500 titles of which a large percentage are worthy of shelf space. However, for example, if we took 1 copy of each title that would fill more than half the shop. I don't think that the other publishers would be too pleased if we did that (and neither would our customers). This is an example of the painful pleasure i'm going through at the moment. I'd been warned that this would be a real nightmare, but I have to say that it's the most enjoyable bookshop related activity i've done for ages.
I can't tell you how much fun it is to choose every book in your own shop.
The feeling of power is almost palpable. I don't think we'll stock Lewis (2nd) Hamilton, and we'll definitely leave Sharon (Daddy's girl) Osbourne to 'Survive' in another shop. However, we might stock lots of Katie (the devil's dumplings) Price.....but that's the joy of having your own choice!

Thanks to everyone who've sent lists/suggestions/catalogues. They're all really helpful, and we'll take every piece of information we get into account. As we wait for things to move forward, it's a great chance for us to get the opening stock right. Or as right as we can, anyway.....


Akasha Savage said...

On a MUCH smaller scale...I am in full charge of a library at a primary school. The best part is choosing all the books to fill my shelves. I have to keep buying more and more shelving units!! MUST stock Stephen King!!!

moo said...

Please do not stock any books by Jeremy Clarkson. You know that everyone that wants these books will buy them from Tesco anyway. Just DON'T sully your shop with 'em!

Chris said...

I'd say you have to find the 'niche' - stick to the books you yourself enjoy reading; don't go for a general, jack of all trades bookshop.

As moo said, by all means stock Clarkson's latest blockbuster (!) but your customers will probably buy it from Tesco, so why bother wasting the space?

Vanessa said...

We've adopted a policy of not stocking what we consider to be cr*p simply because it will sell. The Rainbow Fairies are a prime example of this. However, I do rather like the Tiara Club by local author Viv French (quite feisty princesses) and we are stocking those very successfully.

I will not, under any terms, allow any books by Jordan-sorry-Katie-Price through the door. And personally I'd steer clear of misery memoirs as it might make people think less of you if you're stocking that rubbish. Or maybe its just me that would assume that an indie bookshop selling those didn't have much of a clue about books!

Work out your principles and stick to 'em! That's what we're doing and the feedback from customers is very favourable.

John said...

Yes Vanessa, God forbid that the common folk should be made to feel welcome in a bookshop.

Tim West and Simon Key said...

Akasha, we'll stock a couple of the mighty King, but not the 3 shelves he usually takes up!
Moo, Clarkson is a popular Tesco type author, but we might keep a couple of his backlist (Tesco don't understand backlist).
Chris, I think you've hit the nail on the head. You have to have the books to get people in, but you also have to have something special/niche. We've got a couple of sections we're really going for.
Vanessa, I reckon it's horses for courses. You can sell the Tiara Club, and that's what your customers want. I know that our customers will want misery memoirs and katie price amongst other things, and we'll stock them. Our stock will be a mixture of stuff we like , our customers like and stuff we hope our customers like. I guess it's the same for you.
To be honest, when it comes to principles about what we stock, i'm just happy that people will be buying books rather that xbox or playstation games.

Vanessa said...

Actually John, people often comment on how welcoming and friendly our bookshop is. I'm not sure who you mean by 'the common people' but I think you'll find that people's social class doesn't affect their ability to enjoy good books.

Tim, we do stock books that aren't to my personal taste but which I know will sell but there is some drivel like Katie Price and the Rainbow Fairies that I draw the line at wasting the space on!

Anonymous said...

Nothing to do with social class, Vanessa. It's the self-appointed arbiters of taste, creating exclusion zones that is off-putting. To hundreds of thousands of people Katie Price writes "good" books, not "drivel", which is why Simon & Tim will be stocking her, I suspect. The best bookshops, in my humbly offered opinion, are inclusive- they stock Katie Price alongside Borges & Foster Wallace and therefore make EVERYONE who might enter feel like it's the place for them.

John said...

Sorry, last entry was mine, not anonymous- tangoing with 14 month old son at the same time.

Vanessa said...

I think you might be being a bit unfair John - why is it so outrageous for me to say I won't stock Katie Price but you're not having a go at the Wood Green boys for not taking Sharon Osbourne or Lewis Hamilton?

The feedback from all our customers has been very favourable with many commenting on how nice it is to go into a shop where the stock looks as though it's been chosen carefully rather than just cramming in anything that will sell regardless of merit. No-one's been disappointed that Katie Price's book of pony care isn't in the window! And her stuff IS drivel - if you'd like to quote me some passages that demonstrate otherwise I'd be delighted to see them!

You raise some interesting points though and I'll think I'll write more about them on the Fidra blog soon rather than hijack Tim and Simon's any longer.

Tim West and Simon Key said...

this is the great thing about being able to decide what and what not to stock. It's impossible to please everybody, but the secret is to please the people who you think will be your customers. There's no right answer. When a customer comes into our shop, what we're trying to achieve is to make them feel comfortable by stocking books that are familiar to them, and also surprising them by stocking books that we think they might like, but haven't necessarily seen before.
We won't stock the majority of books that we know WH Smith and Borderstone's will have for half price, because there's no point. We also have the advantage of knowing pretty accurately what our customers like, because we ran a bookshop 200 metres up the road until 3 months ago, and in the final weeks the 4 bestselling books were, Crystal by Ms Price, The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, A Piece of Cake by Cupcake Brown and Ugly by Constance Briscoe. Oh yeah, and Life In the UK. So we wouldn't dream of leaving these genres out of our stock range. The more people that buy books the better, and as I said before it's got to better than watching 'I'm Strictly a Celebrity Big Brother on Ice Factor'.

John said...

agreed Vanessa, no more blog-hogging. Although can't resist pointing you towards John Carey's 'What Good Are the Arts?'- if you haven't read it.

Akasha Savage said...

actually (and I'm whispering this from behind my sofa in fear of getting shot!) I rather like Katie Price and Jeremy Clarkson.