300 Seconds

300 Seconds: Take This With You to Wi12

As you pack for Winter Institute, I have a little something for you to take along. This blank 2017 calendar.

You know how exciting it can be to visit with fellow booksellers over drinks, to listen to a panel of event coordinators, or to just have a few minutes to think on your own away from the store, right? Rather than jotting down ideas that come to you in a notebook that you’ll have to decipher when you get back home, go ahead and pencil them in on this calendar.

By placing ideas directly onto the calendar, you are one step ahead in the planning process. That way when you decide you want to try hosting a cookbook trunk show in September, a glance at your calendar might remind you that October would be better in order to miss Teacher Appreciation Week.

As you add your brilliant ideas to the calendar, go ahead and include the names of staff required to help execute each idea. Then when you get back to the store, you know who to include in the planning and the burden is distributed among several sets of shoulders.

These blank calendars can also be helpful to keep track of pub dates. If three books you want to review all are going to be released on April 24, knowing that fact can be helpful as you arrange your reading stack.

Finally, a blank calendar that’s not part of your leather bound planner can offer a lot of freedom to schedule, cross-out, erase, and dream freely.

It’s just paper. Make it messy. Dream big.

300 Seconds: Preparing for Wi12

300 Seconds: Preparing for Wi12

For those of you attending Wi12, I have some last-minute reminders to add to your preparation checklist. I’ve broken them down into 5-minute segments this week so get can tackle them a little at a time.

Today, check your stock of business cards. Do you need to print more? Has any of the information changed? Have you made any corrections with a ballpoint pen? It’s probably time for a reprint, and you can even have a short-run printed before you leave town.

When designing a business card, it’s important to include a few things in the design:

  • Personalization: your name, followed by what you do.
  • The name of the store, either in text or through your logo, should be prominently placed. If your logo is your brand, use it.
  • All of your locations: the address of your brick-and-mortar store and the address of your online store.
  • Other ways you can be reached, like phone numbers (include your mobile number if you want to be reachable) and email addresses. If you depend on faxes, go ahead and list that number.
  • If you’re active on Twitter, you might consider adding your handle. Otherwise, other social media locators can be found through your website.
  • Do you find yourself continually writing missing information on the back? Consider adding those items you typically write to your card.
  • And speaking of writing on the card, be sure to leave plenty of white space on the front or back. White space is not only aesthetically pleasing, but it’s necessary for those who want to write notes on the card. Even if you’re not a “card writer,” the recipient of your card might be.
  • One final thing before you send them off to the printer: Proofread it. Call the numbers listed, email the address you provide, and have another set of eyes make sure you didn’t miss a “dot” in your email or accidentally provide your home phone number (if you still have one of those).

If you’ve been putting off reprinting cards because of some changes expected in a few months, it’s still a good idea to print a small batch for the conference. Then send the large order to the printer when you get back in town.

300 Seconds: Special Orders Don’t Upset Us

This time of year, more than ever, it’s important that everyone at the store knows how long it will take to special order a book for a customer. Spend a few minutes today figuring out the last day you can take a special order from each of your regular suppliers. Check how long shipping will take (the USPS has a handy tool for that, for example) and calculate the last day you can ship a book to arrive before the 25th.

Then type up the dates and post them at the register. Booksellers and customers alike will be happy for the reassurance.

300 Seconds: When does your domain name expire?

File this one under ‘lesson learned.’

A couple of weeks ago I was asked if my website was up-to-date. Not booksandwhatnot.com, but my personal site. You see, I create art when I allow myself some time, and I had been asked to be the featured artist for a fundraiser. Since my work was going to be showcased so prominently in the campaign, it was suggested that I update my website, bethgolay.com.

I hadn’t captured images of all of my work, but I updated a few items and decided to do more the next day. But when I returned to the site the next morning, bethgolay.com was nowhere to be found.

I sent a message immediately to Kenton:

“Did my bethgolay.com domain name expire?”


“It looks like it. I can renew it if you want.”

I did. He did. And it was back up that day. I completed my updates, but something in the back of my mind was bothering me.

Then I remembered the day we bought bethgolay.com. It was 3 years ago, and we were trying to come up with the name for Books & Whatnot. We bought several domain names around that time. We owned grassandvanilla.com (the smell of old books). We really wanted marginalia.com, which was to expire in a few days.  (We failed.) And I remember when Kenton told me, “I just bought bethgolay.com for you. Everybody should own their own URL name.”

Nagging feeling identified, I sent another message to Kenton:

“Do I need to check when booksandwhatnot.com expires? I think we bought bethgolay.com around the same time.”

This time I didn’t receive a reply and I forgot about it. Until I tried to log in three days later and was rewarded a painful reminder.

Beth to Kenton:

“booksandwhatnot.com is down.”



My domain name expiration truly was ‘whoops’ caliber. But if you have eCommerce associated with your domain name, you can’t afford to have any ‘whoops’ moments.

Today, spend however many 300 Second sessions you need to determine when your domain name expires. I caught Kenton in his car and forced him to talk-tech with me for a moment and made him outline the steps for how to do this. I’ve included our conversation below, but it basically boils down to these steps:

  1. Know who maintains your domain.
  2. Make sure you have a login so you can maintain that domain yourself.
  3. If you do not trust the person/organization who has access to your domain, you can request a domain name transfer. (Kenton has offered to help with this public service. He can be reached here, assuming the domain name hasn’t expired.)
  4. When you login to the registrar, it will tell you exactly when it expires. Not only that, you can at any point in time extend your existing contract. You do not have to wait for it to expire.
  5. If your registrar has an auto-renewal option, select it.
  6. If you do not select auto-renew, you should receive an email reminder about 1 month before your domain name is set to expire. Don’t delete this email. Act on it.
  7. Go ahead and set a back-up reminder in your calendar, so you will not forget.

Important note: If you have an eCommerce site through the ABA, according to their website, ABA does not register domain names. In order to keep your web address, you will need to renew your domain when the time comes. Also, ABA should never be listed as the registrant on your domain, only the Technical & Administrative Contact on your Whois information.

300 Seconds: Synthetic Only, Please

Even though this is an appropriate season for cobwebs and other creepy crawlies, I’m afraid you’ll only be forgiven by your customers if those in your store are synthetic.

Now, I know how difficult it is to keep on top of this chore. I know that sometimes those little suckers will show up overnight. And I know how horrible it feels when you catch someone looking at a cobweb, a dusty shelf, or an expired bug along the baseboard.

I know.

It’s true that when you become so comfortable with your surroundings, you don’t see them as a periodic visitor would. This is why I occasionally repeat this gentle reminder.

So take 300 seconds today and look up, look down, look all around. We’re looking for cobwebs, dust and debris. Or we’re looking at the floor under the trash can. Or we’re looking at scraps around the gift-wrap area.

Wherever you’ve become comfortable, I want to remove you from that comfort zone. (But just for 300 seconds.)