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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Q & D Responses: Do you host rep presentations?

RepPresentation032417In last week’s Quick & Dirty Survey, I asked booksellers if their stores host publisher rep presentations. It was close, but 53% of respondents said NO and 47% of respondents hold some sort of rep presentation.

Of the 47% that said yes, 25% indicated that the rep presentations were for customers only, 37% said that they were for buyers only, and the rest indicated that the presentations were for all staff.

Here are some of the comments, with all details other than location removed:

Baby’s First Year

baby's first yearOver the years I’ve seen a few bookstores with Book of the Month, Signed First Edition, or other subscription clubs. Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Texas, has a unique spin on the idea. This fall, they launched a new subscription program called Baby’s First Year.

“I’ve always wanted to do a book of the month club or first editions or subscription box but never could figure out how to make it profitable yet reasonably priced,” says Valerie Koehler, self-proclaimed “girlboss” at Blue Willow.

Koehler gives credit to Parnassus Books for giving her the initial idea. She also says she tailored a program to fit her clientele based on information from Nielsen that revealed the fact that boards books were increasing in popularity nationally, a trend confirmed in her own sales information. “And I knew why: new grandmothers, sip and sees, showers where you bring a book instead of a card, and friends buying libraries for their grandmother friends,” says Koehler.

The Blue Willow Bookshop staff chose 14 books for the first year. They charge $150 for a one-year subscription, which includes tax, shipping, and gift wrap. Recipients of a gift subscription receive an email at sign-up that explains the program as well as who gave it. The giver also receives a monthly email when each book is shipped.

The program was featured in Blue Willow Bookshop’s monthly newsletter and is promoted through a graphic block (image featured above) on the store’s website. “We had a soft push at first and then advertised in the shopping bags at a local church holiday market,” says Koehler. “We have signed up 16 so far.”

“We are now actively looking for Baby’s Second Year titles,” Koehler says. “When we get to hardcover picture books, we will need to reassess. The pricing is so much higher.”