300 Seconds

300 Seconds: Here’s the thing about resolutions.

This is an IndieNext reminder. The deadline for books published in June 2017 and beyond is Tuesday, April 4, for books published in June 2017 and beyond… which is why I want to talk about resolutions.

What do the months of April and June have to do with resolutions, you ask? I’ll answer your question with one of my own: Why do resolutions need to begin in January?

Think about it. The first IndieNext nomination deadline of the year was on January 3. Most booksellers were still recovering from the holidays or up to their eyeballs in inventory at that time. So if your resolution was to submit an IndieNext nomination for each month this year, you were setting yourself up for failure before the year even began.

But why not just reset?

I’ve been eating clean for almost a year. Well, I’ve been trying to eat clean for almost a year. If I have a weak moment and eat something I shouldn’t, I don’t throw up my hands and say, “Well that’s over.” I just reset at the next meal. Why should resolutions be different?

Do you have ‘submit to IndieNext monthly’ listed among your resolutions? Here’s the list of monthly deadlines provided by the ABA. You can print and post it wherever it does the most good, or transfer the deadlines to your personal calendar. And of you need them, here’s an online submission form as well as the instructions and guidelines for how to write a nomination.

You have a full week before the June nominations are due, and you really only need to find 300 seconds during that time to submit yours.

And while you have that resolution list handy, take another look. What else would you like to begin again? You’re allowed more than a few mulligans.

300 Seconds: Mysterious Friends

Have you performed a self-check on your store lately? If you have just 5 minutes to devote to marketing today–and if you have three friends–reach out to them and ask for some help with a little market research. (Maybe you can use a store gift card as an incentive.)

  1. Ask the first friend to call the bookstore for specifics about an upcoming event.
  2. Ask the second friend to call in search of an obscure title.
  3. Ask the third friend to call with a complaint about a product or service.

Then ask each caller to report back on the following:

  • How many times did the phone ring?
  • Did the employee have a pleasant demeanor?
  • Was the employee helpful?
  • Did they respond to your questions in a knowledgeable manner?
  • Did they empathize with you?
  • Did they have the authority to solve your problem, quickly and to your satisfaction?

Use the results from this research to determine any gaps you might have in employee training and if there are any skills lacking that will aid employees in serving your customers. And remember that even though we don’t want to find areas that need attention, it’s better than being oblivious to them.

It’s ‘Daylight Time’ Again

If you live in an area that observes Daylight Saving Time, you’ll want to remember to move an hour ahead this Sunday at 2:00 a.m. This changing of the clock provides a semi-annual reminder to do all of the little things we do when we ‘spring’ forward. Use your 300 marketing seconds to check the batteries in smoke detectors, check your fire extinguishers to be sure they’re serviced and ready, and check the batteries in your emergency flashlights as well.

In Kansas, we had a statewide tornado drill earlier this week. And we just had the largest wild fire in our state’s history. Aaaaand we’ve grown accustomed to earthquakes. (Bring on the locusts?) Whatever your potential emergency might be, it’s not a bad idea to go over ‘drills’ with your staff. Do they know where to find the fire extinguishers and emergency flashlights? Do they know what to do in weather emergencies? Are they supposed to lock the doors and take the cash to the basement? Do they know what to do if there are customers in the store?

Fire, tornado, flood, earthquake, hurricane… there are so many things that can happen beyond our control. Take a little time to ensure you and your staff are prepared.

The Shelf Life of Shelf Talkers

The Shelf Life of Shelf Talkers

What is the purpose of the shelf talker? I think it allows the bookseller to have a voice for those times when one can’t attend to everyone in the store or when a customer prefers to “just browse” on their own. A well-placed shelf talker can draw attention to a gem of a read and point out to the browser that not only did you take the time to read this book, you also took time to pen your thoughts about it so others might read it, too.

Those amazing shelf talkers are beneficial to all. Until they’re not.

I believe shelf talkers have a shelf life. Well, maybe “shelf life” isn’t the right analogy. Perhaps “shelf space” would be better. There are only so many shelf talkers that will arrest my eye. Too many, and I do not see any — nor do I see the books they are supposed to highlight.

On a recent visit to Minneapolis, I found myself at DreamHaven Books. I think there was only one shelf talker in the entire store. It was printed on 8.5 x 11″ paper and was laminated. And it certainly captured my attention *and* my imagination. So much so that I took this picture of it.

Now, one shelf talker in the entire store is a bit extreme, but I actually prefer it to too many.

Today I recommend that you use your 300 marketing seconds to cull your talkers. Spread them out between the sections and let a variety of booksellers have a voice, but really give some thought to the books you’re highlighting. If a talker has been displayed for years and the employee doesn’t even work there anymore, it’s probably time to retire it to the file.

300 Seconds: Schedule That Auto-Reply

If you plan to be away from the bookstore for Winter Institute or any other extended period of time, it’s a good idea to schedule an auto-reply message for any emails that arrive while you’re out.

Even if you plan to check your inbox while you’re away, go ahead and set up a message anyway. That way you’ll build in a little grace period before you have to reply.

Go ahead and tell your recipient that you’re at a conference just for booksellers and you’re so excited about the ideas and energy you’ll bring back to the store.

Go ahead and tell them about the authors you’re hoping to meet.

Go ahead and tell them about the book you started reading that nearly made you miss breakfast completely.

Bookselling is personal. There’s no reason your auto-reply shouldn’t be, too.


If you need inspiration, here you go: [The Brilliance of the Auto-Reply Message]