Thursday, June 22, 2006
A fantastic day
We had a wonderful, inspirational day yesterday and visited the Independent bookseller of the Year, Wenlock Books in Much Wenlock.
The owner, Anna Dreda, could not have been more helpful or welcoming and gave us some brilliant pointers about ranges and titles to sell, new ideas (eg a children's book group) and was generally a source of much inspiration. Most importantly the whole bookshop gave us a first-hand feeling of how much atmosphere can be steeped into a good bookshop by someone with a deep love of books. Thank you Anna for showing us so much kindness and giving us something so clear to aspire to. I can heartily recommend a trip to anyone.
So with ten days to opening, how are we faring? Our first order has gone in with Gardners and they have been utterly brilliant and are delivering it TODAY. About twenty boxes. We are unfeasibly excited. The plan is still to sneak in our books around the cookware, building shelves in the evening and gradually turning the shop from mostly a cookshop to mostly a bookshop over the course of this week.
We did have a vague idea that we might not need to fix the bookcases to the wall until we were absolutely sure where they were going to go. But with the listing floor of our listed building we rejected this on health and safety ground as we didn't want anyone suing before we'd even opened by being trampled by 100 Lonely Planet titles.
The first stock order is mostly our cookery, garden, homes and lifestyle titles, which will fit in best with the current look and feel of the shop. These were the easiest titles to come up with, although it was a bit of a lesson because when I went through the list getting all the ISBN numbers I did slowly realise that actually most the stock in our shop is going to be a basic extension of the sort of books we have at home. And I thought I was being so objective.
Thus we have quite a stash of titles on healthy living, aren't trees wonderful, going for long walks and you too can grow carrots in an unfeasibly small space. And not a lot on, say, bonsai. (wouldn't every right-minded person prefer to grow tomatoes?) So as long as all our customers are slightly green, keen cooks who like getting their hands dirty we'll be fine.
The fiction has been more problematic as I have desperately tried not to be too judgmental and only include titles I feel I can personally recommend. So going through on my ISBN trawl I have been guilty of thinking 'oh no I read that and it was terrible' and then noticing it's the top one hundred bestseller and gritting my teeth and keeping it in the list. It has not been easy. Even worse, I notice that my highlighted list of 'hot summer reads' is actually mostly my personal list of what I would like to read after the pent-up demand of enforced non-book-buying over the last few months. And I do appreciate I have slightly quirky taste and am now pondering whether the biography of Mrs Beeton is really likely to be considered a 'hot summer read' by anyone other than myself. Still, there you go.
The other problem is that I have a vivid picture of myself slapping people's hand's away as they try to buy the latest Kate Atkinson and snapping I HAVEN'T HAD A CHANCE TO READ THAT YET. (Wouldn't you prefer a nice book on bonsai?) and keep sneakily hoping that no-one turns up to buy anything so I can just lock the door and get on with some serious reading. But it's probably just all down to too many hours at the keyboard tracking down ISBN numbers.
Anyway. We have chic and charming cards, penguin book mugs, charlie and lola notelets and pencil sets all converging on the shop over the next few days. All we need is some customers to buy them. Let's hope it rains. Our major disaster for this week was that we had called BT months ago to check how easy it was to change the phone line and keep the number and install broadband. As they said it was all perfectly simple and only needed a couple of days' notice, we shifted it to the bottom of our somewhat lengthy to do list. Only to discover on phoning on Monday that it's all hideously complicated and will take forever. Not ideal as we have our computerised real-time, on-line stock control and ordering system arriving on Tuesday, about three months ahead of having any phone line.
Mark did get slightly annoyed during the course of the conversation and I have to say, Mark never, ever gets annoyed with anyone. But the upshot is that we can actually keep the same telephone number, which is fortunate as it is appearing all over the 5,000 bags we have ordered which are also arriving just-in-time this week.