Thanks, Chronicle Books!

I’d like to send a special thank you to Lara Starr, senior publicist at Chronicle Books for giving me the VIP tour of today!

(I forced Lara to sit on Specs the Book Bike–@SpecsBookBike on Twitter–which was created to help celebrate Chronicle Books’ 50th Anniversary.)

Chronicle Books was born in 1967 during the Summer of Love. And since I also got my start that same year, I will carry my 50 Years bag proudly.

Thanks, Chronicle Books! And happy anniversary.

Kelly, Kelly, Kelly…

It’s no secret that I am always looking for email subject lines that are clever and compelling. Why are subject lines so important?

If they’re not opening your email, you’re not delivering your content.

Well, Fountain Bookstore owner Kelly Justice stopped me mid-sentence today. No kidding. I was in the middle of a conversation and left three people staring at me while I stopped everything to open the email I’d just received from Kelly. This was the subject line:

Kevin. Kevin. Kevin. Kevin. Kevin.

Then I made those three wait even longer while I opened the email to read this note from Kelly:

So…I’ve got a problem.

No matter who I’m talking to, no matter how often I repeat it, I keep calling our feature author for Tuesday’s event Brian.

His name is Kevin.

I am certain I am going to do this in his introduction.  

My brother’s name is Kevin. (Yo, Bro!) You’d think I could remember this guy’s name, but you can ask my staff, my sales reps, his fans that have called…for whatever reason, I can’t get “Brian” out of my head or stop it from coming out of my mouth. This is not normally an issue with me. But for whatever reason, I can’t seem to shake it. So if you see me around the store for the next few days muttering “kevin, kevin, kevin, kevin, kevin” under my breath, just ignore me.

There are several reasons I love this. One, it was a great stop-in-your-tracks subject line. I had to open it immediately to find out more. Two, the message was personal. Kelly felt comfortable enough to share her ‘problem’ with me. Three, she tied her message to an event in the store. Even though I will not be near Richmond on Tuesday, I still wanted to learn more about Kevin and his upcoming event.

Even though I already mentioned it once, it bears repeating. Why are subject lines important? If they’re not opening, you’re not delivering.

Q & D Results: Applications

A recent Quick & Dirty question asked:

How do potential employees apply for a job at your store? Walk in and ask for a paper application? Download an application from your website? Complete a form online? Some other way?

I received a lot of great feedback:

  • We don’t post job openings anymore. We always take resumes, and if someone seems promising, we’ll ask him/her to provide a cover letter and general availability info as well. We invite people to apply & interview, and that’s worked out wonderfully. 
  • Walk in and ask for a paper application or email resume to store.
  • Paper applications, because that’s all we have–the urge to say “rock and chisel” is overwhelming. We advertise for help wanted by in-store signage and on Facebook. I’m desperate for other ways to attract quality applicants.
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  • I get unsolicited resumes sent to my email, or I have a file for paper copies, but when I need to hire, I put out an email invitation for a resume. From those, I invite the prospective employee to come in to fill out an application, then interview them.
  • We don’t bother printing out applications for folks to fill out – we just ask them to bring in a resume. We also encourage “creative resumes” – any “out of the box” way for us to get to know you better (with pertinent contact info attached in some fashion).
  • They walk in and ask for an application. I immediately round file applications dropped off for teens by their well-meaning parents. If the teens looking for summer jobs can’t take the time to come in themselves, I’m not sure I want them in my store! LOL. We get lots of teens in the Spring and Summer, so I have to have some way to start sorting through their applications.
  • Walk in and ask for a paper application. We prefer to have them fill it out on the spot. We hire a few young teens each year and like to see how they comport themselves, eye contact, etc., since it is a first job for most. Also to make sure Mom is not right there helping them along.
  • We encourage everyone to come in with a resume & cover letter. We sort through based on qualifications & enthusiasm. (One girl photoshopped herself riding our store mascot [a warthog] with explosions in the background & made us stickers. She was hired.) We also recently started giving our applicants a ‘quiz’ that lets us judge whether their weirdness matches our own. It has three whole general knowledge book questions & the rest of the questions are things like “Anti- or Pro-Zombie?” “Do you ever feel like a plastic bag?” and so on.
  • We only hire once in awhile. Sometimes we have gone years without needing anyone. When people are interested in applying we ask them to write us a letter with their availability and anything else they want us to know. The vagueness of what we want really lets an applicant show us a bit about themselves. What they decide to include can be helpful in deciding who to call in for an interview.
  • Multiple ways: paper application picked up at store, downloaded from website, or requested via email and a pdf sent. We always require a resume with our application.
  • We ask people to email a cover letter and resume, in which they talk about their favorite books and writers, their general availability, and why they think they’d be a good fit for our store. We keep those on file for when we are in need of hiring a general bookseller.
    We do have a more in-depth application that we ask people to fill out once we decide to interview them that has an extensive book quiz. We also ask applicants at that point to tell us about the last 5 books they read and to tell us about their 5 favorite books from childhood.
    Having that written part of the application gives us a good introduction to the applicant’s grammar and language usage and the book quiz gives us an idea of the depth of their book knowledge.  Their ability to express themselves clearly is ultimately more important than their general book knowledge, though.
  • We get a lot of referrals for new staff from current booksellers.  2nd is the applications, though it’s about 50/50 in terms of percentage.
  • We have both print applications for drop-ins, and downloadable ones on our website.

IndieNext Deadline Today

You know that book you just picked up and immediately devoured that doesn’t come out until August or September? Today’s the day to send your blurb for the IndieNext list. They’re accepting nominations for books published in August 2017 or beyond.

It should only take you a few minutes to gather your thoughts and send them in. They’ll even help with grammar and whatnot. So turn off your phone, close down your email program, wear some don’t-talk-to-me earbuds (no sound required) and write your blurb. Then either email it to or use the online form.

If you’re deadline oriented, it’s time. (Unless you’re really deadline oriented. Then you have until midnight Pacific.)

Instagramming ‘The Stranger in the Woods’

I recently interviewed Michael Finkel about The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit for KMUW’s Marginalia podcast, and it both aired and landed on iTunes today. Kathryn took some great photos for our Instagram account. Here they are if you’d like to use them, too.

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