Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bookstore visit: Bound to Be Read Books, East Atlanta Village

 Jef Blocker, manager of the store, poses in front of the  blackboard that hangs behind the register.

Jessica Handler & Jef Blocker pose at Bound to Be Read Books; 
Jessica is holding her book, Invisible Sisters.

Last week I spent a couple of days at Bound to Be Read Books in East Atlanta Village.  My buddies Jef and Jeff were kind enough to let me get a behind-the-scenes look at their bookstore lives, and I had a blast.

Several people have asked me if what I'd do if I did a mini-internship at a bookstore and hated it.  I was warned numerous times about everything possible.  Oh, those window displays can be a pain!  If you're busy, you'll be having conversations with people all day--ALL DAY!  There are lots of mundane details! You have to alphabetize the books frequently! You've got to stay organized!  

I find none of this daunting.  Probably the scariest part of the day-to-day bookstore operations is the finance aspect, but luckily I already have an awesome accountant, a wonderful SBDC counselor, and several others on board to help me as I better learn the retail ropes.  Here's a little secret about me, one my family and close friends already know:  I LOVE ORGANIZING, and when I was a kid my neighbor and I would play "office" for hours in lieu of playing house.  I love (and collect) office supplies, and I have been alphabetizing other people's (and other bookstores') bookshelves since early elementary school.  Making window displays sounds like a dream job, and chatting all day about books sounds like heaven.  So yeah:  I'm ready for this, and I can't wait. There's not one aspect of the business that makes me feel like running for the door and never looking back.

Bound to Be Read Books is a neighborhood bookstore on Flat Shoals Avenue in Atlanta, right across from the Earl (a music club and bar/restaurant many Athens musicians know well).  The founders opened the bookstore just over four years ago, aiming at first to sell only used books.  As time went on, they added lots of new books to the mix, responding appropriately and professionally to their customers' wants.  Now this store, complete with red accents, hand-painted library stools, and a newsletter-writing cat (who is also the Director of Public Relations), boasts an impressive collection of new, used, and collectible books. 

East Atlanta Village is a hip little city unto itself.  While having lunch at Holy Taco with two new author friends, Laurel Snyder and Marc Fitten, I ran into a UGA professor's daughter, a woman I met in Athens years ago who is now married to a guy I was in eighth grade band with.  A few hours later, I set up shop at Joe's Coffee and ran into a guy named Joel, who used to own a delicious BBQ joint in Athens (where White Tiger Gourmet now makes its home). After my coffee and deep-dish apple pie fix (yum), I headed across the street to the bookstore to spend another day with Jef and Jeff.  To my happiness, my Twitter friend (and acclaimed author) Jessica Handler was there to greet me.  Running into so many familiar faces and names made me feel as if I was having just another day in Athens.  It felt homey and comfortable.

It's hard to imagine my being even more excited about Avid than I was earlier this month, but it's true:  visiting other bookstores  invigorates me and calls me to action.  Speaking of, there's work to be done...

Monday, November 23, 2009

GREAT NEWS: I'm heading to Winter Institute!

Thanks to a generous scholarship, I'll be attending ABA's Winter Institute 5 in San Jose, California in early February 2010.  The ABA Emerging Leaders Program paired with Ingram Book Company to present eight scholarships to various "emerging leaders" in the bookselling world. 

Though there are lots of education opportunities for booksellers throughout the year (Book Expo America and regional trade shows, such as the one I attended in September, come to mind), Winter Institute is more focused on bookseller education and networking.  I'm eager to meet many of the folks I've communicated with online and to reunite with some friends I've met over the past many months.

Rest assured I'll report back to you about Wi5, my impressions of San Jose, and more.

Thanks to the friends who've already congratulated me on this scholarship--I'm humbled and quite elated.

Monday, November 16, 2009

You can start buying books from us NOW!

In an effort to raise some start-up capital and to make sure our future brick & mortar store customers can find some cool holiday gifts for friends and family, I decided to launch a Biblio.com account for Avid Bookshop.  Biblio is a company dedicated to helping ONLY independent bookstores, which is a mission I certainly admire.

As more and more people donate books to our project, the collection of for-sale books grows and changes.  Please check back weekly to find out what books we've added to our collection.

For a limited time, I am offering FREE SHIPPING TO ANYWHERE IN THE U.S.!  This saves you approximately $3.50 if you buy one book.  (If you live in Athens, you can also ask me for personal delivery, which some customers have found convenient and faster than USPS delivery.)

So, without further ado, I now reveal to you the way you can buy books and support Athens's independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop!

1. Visit Avid Bookshop HERE.  This will allow you to view our current books in stock, as arranged by author last name.  You can use the drop-down menu or the menu on the left-hand margin to rearrange or filter the list of books.

2. Shop 'til you drop and then check out!  The free shipping is on me.

1. Visit Avid Bookshop's online bookstore here.

2. The homepage will look like this (see below).  To see Avid Bookshop's collection (which is ever-changing!), click the "search" button (see red arrow in picture below) without entering any search terms.

3. You can organize the bookstore's selections by author name, date added to the bookstore listings, title, and price by choosing from the drop down menu (see red arrow in screenshot below).

You can also filter the books by using the links on the left-hand side of the page (see blue arrow in screenshot below).  This search function allows you to search for only new books, only first editions, books in a certain price range, etc.

After making your selections, check out by paying using Biblio.com's secure online payment system.  As soon as your order is processed, Biblio sends me an email and lets me know which books you've requested.  I'll pack them up and get them to you quickly, and soon you'll have more great books to read.

Thank you for your time, and I hope to see your name on my Biblio order email soon!

If you're interested in donating books, please contact me via email.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Happy 35th Anniversary, Charis Books!

On Friday, November 6,  drove to Atlanta for one of the many events organized to celebrate Charis Books' 35th anniversary.  Charis is an independent feminist bookstore that has an amazing reputation for building community, creating stimulating conversation, and stocking wonderful books.  For this landmark anniversary, many well-known people came together as special guests to help celebrate.

It would have been pretty great to have been able to attend every event, but Friday was the only evening I had available.  And what an evening it was!  Entitled "Artists & Revolutionaries," Friday night's gathering at the Hillside International Truth Center in southwest Atlanta was quite phenomenal.  The camaraderie, good will, and spirit was nearly tangible--it's quite empowering to be in a room of book-loving feminists, that I must say.

Though I would have been interested in the event without any musical guests, it sure did help that my longtime favorite duo Indigo Girls played a short set of songs in the middle of the program.  I also learned more about the inimitable Pearl Cleage (who had some of the best stage presence of any writer I've ever heard read) and got to hear Alice Walker (Alice Walker!!) read just 20 feet from me.

Here are some photos from the event.  I'm sorry they're not formatted with captions--Blogger and I aren't working together so well at the moment, so I'm not able to move the photos around or edit captions.  From top to bottom, here's what you're seeing:

1. The Rev. Dr. Barbara King of Hillside International Truth Center welcomes everyone to her place and makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy inside (truly).
2.  Owners of Charis Books, Sara & Angela, welcoming the enthusiastic crowd.
3. Founder Linda introduces Alice Walker.
4. Pearl Cleage entertains us and wakes us up a bit, throwing out a call to action.
5 & 6. Indigo Girls play a short set in this intimate environment (a true fan's dream come true!).
7. Alice Walker reads us many poems (and simply glows in person). 

Were you there?  What did you think of the evening?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Join the IndieBound movement & get a prize!

You've heard me talk about IndieBound before.  It's a way for independent businesses (notably bookstores) to network with one another.  It's a way for traveling customers to easily search for indie stores wherever they may roam.  But did you know it's also a great tool for communicating with other community members?  Learn about friends' recommendations, events at your local bookstore(s), what the bestselling titles are at independent bookstores, and more, more, more.

Here's a bonus for those of you reading the blog.  Join the IndieBound movement (it's cost- and spam-free!), befriend Avid Bookshop, and get a prize!  Three of you will be randomly chosen to receive a free ARC (advanced reading copy) of a book I have in stock, and every person that enters will get a wee treat.

After you befriend Avid Bookshop on IndieBound, leave a quick comment here to let me know you've done so--then you'll be entered in the contest.  And if you're on Facebook or Twitter and share this message, you get an extra entry!

So what are you waiting for?  Since this blog doesn't have a huge readership (yet!), you have a very good chance of winning a free book--as if the wee treat and an IndieBound profile weren't enough!

Here's just a handful of Athens businesses that are already on IndieBound & need more fans.
1000Faces Coffee
Jackson Street Books
Bizarro-Wuxtry record store
The National restaurant
Athens Cine bar, cafe, & arthouse theatre
Schoolkids Records
Harry's Pig Shop restaurant
Vision Video (Homewood Hills location)
Kingpins Bowl & Brew

Winners will be picked on Sunday, November 8, so please don't hesitate!

The randomly chosen winners are as follows:
Margo (randomwalk), Lindsay (lindzsmile), & Lauren (laurengallaspy).  A few of you participated without leaving a formal comment, but don't worry--I made sure to include everyone! Thanks so much.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

it's oh so quiet... (or, a behind-the-scenes glimpse)

Things have been quiet on the blog for the last week or so, I know--here's hoping you've not checked this page and worried about my slacking! Rest assured, my friends: I've been working like crazy on some cool developments.

Here are some things I've been up to:

1. I bought a CueCat. Now I'm able to scan the ISBNs off the used books I have for sale. As we speak, Biblio.com is deciding whether or not I'm worthy of an online "storefront." As soon as they give me the go ahead, I'll be able to send you a link to my 200 or so used books for sale. (I'm trying to generate some capital so I can get a website that will allow me to sell new books to you--books will go directly from the wholesaler's warehouse to your door!)

2. I've been meeting with folks who are interested in learning more about Avid Bookshop, including some who might eventually be formally involved with the store. Good news there!

3. My amazing designer friend Brandi created some logos for Avid! I've sent them out to a few folks and am getting wonderfully constructive feedback on them (and all the feedback is positive--Brandi's gifted, I tell you). Soon I'll get back to Brandi and she will create the final version of our sure-to-be-hip logo. (I promise you'll like it.)

4. Research, research, research.... I've been learning about other successful bookstores' inventive ideas; I've been working on version 542 of my business plan; I've been researching legal structures.

5. I've scheduled appointments to meet with business and accounting experts who will help me make some final decisions about Avid's business structure. I'll be filing for my formal business license with the Secretary of State as soon as next week! (Very exciting.)

6. Avid was mentioned in the Flagpole again (link forthcoming--as of this evening they haven't posted this week's news articles).

7. And of course there are tons of menial tasks I've been up to--adding to the soon-to-exist newsletter mailing list, trying to catch up on email, working with other booksellers, setting up an internship at another indie bookstore, and more, more, more.

8. Last but not least, I spent two days last weekend assuming different personalities.

So that's what's been going on behind the scenes here at Avid headquarters. Of course I've set aside time to read. Right now I'm reading the 1950s classic Betsy and the Great World & Betsy's Wedding by Maud Hart Lovelace--delightful! Before that I finished Michael Greenberg's Hurry Down Sunshine, a memoir about his teenaged daughter's mental breakdown.