300 Seconds: Change Your Receipt Message

I tend to talk about changing receipt messages often because receipts seem to have some staying power with me. Last week I stumbled upon a wallet I hadn’t used in a while. In fact, according to the receipts inside, I hadn’t used it since 2002.

Many of the receipts were printed on thermal paper, so the ink has been gone for a while. But the two I could read brought back such nice memories.

You see, years ago I bought some lantana plants that were identified as ‘perennials’ at the nursery. I treated them as perennials, and, especially after I had to wrestle their 4″ diameter roots out of the ground to fix some drainage issues, I didn’t doubt that they were perennials. But friends and family sure did. I’m still mocked every time I mention missing my ‘perennial’ lantanas.

Yet today, with a receipt clearly marking my ‘perennial’ purchases, I am happy. Because not only do I feel a bit vindicated, I also remember the roasted chilies I bought that weekend, as I was encouraged to do through the message at the bottom of the receipt.

I’m also happy because the other receipt reminded me of two books–Clothesline and Back to the Table–both purchased for my mother. And not only did Watermark Books state they appreciated my business through their receipt message, they circled the printed message in red ink.

These receipts were discovered in my abandoned wallet. And through the years I’ve found many, many more that have served as bookmarks. And when I find these receipts, I always like to look at the date and try to figure out where I was in my life at the time.

Today, take 300 seconds to replace the message on your store receipts. Encourage customers to attend upcoming events; promote a future sale; remind folks about holiday items. Or just say thank you… and mean it. And maybe 14 years from now they’ll find that receipt and remember that amazing day they spent in your store.

Lantana, roasted chilies, and books. Gosh, I miss 2002.

Review (Plus): Charlie Pie Chart and the Case of the Missing Hat

Bookshelf Blurb: A mystery to solve and shapes to be taught while reading the story. Included activities reinforce the teaching with hands on activities at the end of the book.

charliepiechart_missinghat9780062370563_51768America’s Review: Eric Comstock and Marilyn Sadler have teamed up again for another mystery-solving adventure with Charlie Pie Chart and his sleuthing dog, Watson. It is the day of the school’s musical theater production of The Princess and the Frog when Margot, the Princess, discovers her hat has disappeared! It has been taken.

In this 2nd Charlie Pie Chart mystery, Charlie Pie Chart and the Case of the Missing Hat, new elements of math are being taught. Charlie must discern where the hat is based on clues; he also must detect what shape he is trying to find among the many other shapes found throughout the school.

As in the first book, multiple skills are being taught as well as the key concept of the book. They integrate prior knowledge (colors, numbers, letters) into the mystery while also adding a new skill. The vibrant colors used in the illustrations help the reader’s interest stay piqued as they too have to search the pictures for details to help Charlie solve the mystery.

In the Classroom: Sadler and Comstock provide lesson plan activities at the end of their books. This is nice added value for parents or teachers because you don’t have to think of what to do or go search for a project. (You will need to send home a letter–or add this to your weekly newsletter–asking parents to send in empty paper towel rolls and toilet paper rolls. These will be used for your activity after you read the book.)

One of the Common Core State Standards for Kindergarten students is for them to correctly name shapes regardless of their orientations or overall size (CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.K.G.A.2.) This book teaches shapes throughout the book giving examples you can find in your own classroom. As you read, pause and have your students find the shapes Charlie identifies as he is searching for the missing hat. If time allows, create a rocket ship for each child to take home using the directions at the end of the story. And if time doesn’t allow, send home instructions for your students to make a rocket ship or princess hat at home with their parents explaining what you taught in class and how parents can reinforce the learning in the home.

Charlie Pie Chart and the Case of the Missing Hat by Marilyn Sadler & Eric Comstock (HarperCollins | 9780062370563 | October 4, 2016)

Are you available? A ‘Help Wanted’ subject line.

Are you available?

That was the subject line of an email from Lisa Baudoin from Books & Company in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, that suckered me in. What I thought was an invitation to have a drink at Heartland turned into a ‘help wanted’ ad. My disappointment was short-lived, because I love bookseller ‘help wanted’ ads, too.

This one was clever beyond the subject line, so I asked for permission to share it with you. It was granted.

Does your love of reading and books dominate your every conversation?

Do friends tire of your endless chatter about the books you’ve fallen for?

Looking for romance?  (It’s right behind the mystery section.)

Long walks on the beach? (Not an option, but strolling through the travel section is encouraged.)

Candlelight dinners? (Not included, but you might get a snack under the flourescent glow of the overhead lights)

Oh wait, this isn’t an eHarmony ad.
This is an ad for a bookseller.  (No, they are not the same thing)

Books & Company is seeking a passionate part-time bookseller with a good sense of humor. A real problem solver who enjoys the thrill of research, the tedium of detail, and a scintillating conversation about books. Someone who doesn’t shy away from the alphabet and is willing to lovingly stir up the dust (from the shelves, that is). A voracious reader who is willing to sacrifice a weekends and evenings to the cause. Flexibility, adaptability, and durability are required.

We will be accepting applications through Sunday, October 2

We need a part-time bookseller who can work evening and weekend hours, in addition to an occasional afternoon or day shift. (Sorry kids, we will catch you at the end of the 2017 school year)  Applications can be picked-up at Books & Company.

Shareable Whatnot: September 26, 2016

Social media can be a great tool for selling books if a subtle approach is used. Instead of showing a book cover with ‘buy’ button, I recommend sharing great content that’s interesting to the end user, but also hints at great books just beyond the reach of the post.

Here are some examples:

If you’d told me about the book Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton, I would have thought, “Well, I’ve seen their website. That sounds interesting.” But when I heard this piece on All Things Considered which followed Dylan Thuras as he took Ari Shapiro on a tour of some wonders in Manhattan featured in the book, I knew I had to have it. The audio piece captured the wonder and excitement as they saw the beautiful City Hall subway station, which has been shuttered since 1945, visible for only 10 seconds from the windows on the 6 train loop. They had lunch at a South American lunch counter in a freight elevator entrance. And if you can listen to the full 7:34 piece, I love the audio engineering for the Times Square Hum.

Also on NPR this week–it’s no secret that I listen to this all day long–the oral histories collected for Studs Terkel’s 1974 book, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day And How They Feel About What They Do will get some airtime. If you tune in, you’ll hear the voices from the pages of the book, which were never meant for rebroadcast. And in some cases, you’ll hear the same voices, interviewed again 40 years later.

And finally, Oliver Jeffers released the above “Imagination is Free” video that he made with Sam Winston. (You know how I feel about Oliver Jeffers.)

Here’s the embed code:

<iframe src=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/184303700″ width=”640″ height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/184303700″>IMAGINATION IS FREE</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/oliverjeffers”>Oliver Jeffers</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

Bring out your dead! (The importance of subject lines.)

I was ‘chatting’ with Natalie Cunningham, Community Engagement Coordinator at The Morris Book Shop in Lexington, KY, about an event they hosted this summer (more on that tomorrow) when I saw the announcement that Wyn Morris was looking for a buyer for the store, and if one couldn’t be found, he would close the bookstore.

After the announcement, I saw the outpouring of sympathy on social media, because we’re all a little heartbroken when a good independent closes.

And then I saw the next issue of the store’s newsletter arrive in my inbox. More importantly, I saw its subject line:

“We’re not dead yet.”

You see, an article about the potential sale of the store appeared in the local paper, and Natalie says it was apparent that people thought they were closing. “The actual article did a really good job of saying, ‘We are hopeful that we are going to have a buyer. We don’t think that this is the end,’” she explained. “But the actual headline said, ‘Morris Book Shop to Close or Be Sold.’

They started receiving many phone calls at the bookstore from customers who only saw the headline and didn’t read the article, so they decided to send an email with a little snark in the subject line, along with some inspiration from Monty Python.

“I’m not sure how many 19-year-olds would understand, ‘Bring out your dead!’ But a lot of people did.”

So, how important are subject lines? Very. As of this morning, the open rate for the ‘We’re not dead yet.’ email is at 49.5%.

An email most talked about by digital marketers was sent by President Barack Obama during the 2012 presidential campaign. The subject line?


Subject lines affect open rates. Some of the best are those that come across so personally, the recipient believes the message was meant only for them.

Last week I used a subject line that read, “Hey… before you leave today.” The open rate was about several percentage points higher than my average. But among my co-workers who I see every day, the open rate was 100%. Many accused me of ‘tricking’ them because they opened it, eyes rolling, thinking, “Now what does she need me to do?”

A subject line doesn’t always have to feel personal, but it should pique your interest. Valerie Kohler of Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, TX, uses great subject lines. I found myself relating to this one:

“Your child is NOT the only one who hasn’t done their summer reading yet!”

Valerie tells me they send a newsletter every other Monday. She sent me a list of subject lines she’s used that garnered higher open rates:

  • ‘We Like You Just Fine Here All The Time’
  • ‘Where Is Your Dream Kitchen’
  • ‘Listen To This!’
  • ‘We Have Air-Conditioning’
  • ‘It’s Pouring Good Books’
  • ‘Ready Set Summer’
  • ‘Stealing Ideas for Summer’
  • ‘Come Have Your Cake and Eat It Too’

Valerie was ‘shocked’ at the open rate for ‘Listen To This!’, which kicked off their partnership with libro.fm, because it was so generic. But generic works if it’s a curiosity teaser.

I looked at my best open rates, and these subject lines were at the top:

  • ‘What did you just call me?’
  • ‘I’ll show you mine…’ (Shame on you.)
  • ‘Can I get your number?’
  • ‘Is my eye still twitching?’

The point is, even though email subject lines are often the last newsletter item written, they should be recognized for the power they hold and not be an afterthought.