Monday, May 17, 2010

Start a New Habit

I was just going back through emails from last year, in preparation for sending out emails regarding this year's BookFest, planned for the weekend of October 16th! I kept a folder of the many emails I had back and forth with all the local and regional authors we invited, and I have been reaping those to start on this year's invitations.

But BookFest is not the main point of this post. There will be plenty more on that later! For now, save the date -- Sat, October 16th, 2010 -- and read on, kind friend.

I found this email I wrote to an author ... a LOCAL author .... after I heard from one of our customers that this author was telling folks to go buy a bunch of reference books at Amazon. For once, I think I handled my anger and disappointment well, and expressed myself well, because as I read it over again, eight months after I wrote it, I still feel good about what I said. I feel good enough about it that I actually have the confidence (chutzpah?) to share it with you, in hopes of encouraging you, educating you, supporting you, wherever you are in this process of buying or selling or enjoying books.

Here's my letter, with names changed, because the names don't matter here.

Hi, John! Over the last two or three days, Kevin and I have started sending out invitations and advance notices of a big event we're co-sponsoring this fall. Please see the attachment with all the details about this event, which takes place at the Wellsboro Fireman's Annex on Sat, Oct. 17th, 2009. We really hope you can come, and present both your book and information about the seminars you lead.

You were on my list of several authors email today, as a group email, but I'm taking a little extra time on this email, because I needed to say something to you personally.

I just got a call from Mike Smith this morning, who attended your seminar this past Saturday. Mike has been a great customer of ours since we opened the store over three years ago. Today, he called me and asked if I could get him all of the books you'd recommended. He said you told everyone to go to Amazon to get them, and Mike wanted to know if I could get these books thru Amazon for him.

John, as a local author, and as someone who I would think would be in support of community sustainability efforts, I am shocked and saddened that you would tell a seminar full of people to go buy their books through Amazon. If Mike Smith had just gone online to purchase these books instead of calling me because he knows I'll give him a good deal, I would have lost a major sale of 6 books this morning. Who knows how many people from your seminar just went online instead of coming to us? We actually sell several of those books right here in the store ... we don't even need to special order them.

I was just having a great conversation this weekend with a few other independent booksellers and some other authors, regarding this very issue. The title of the article we were discussing was this: "the day of your book signing at your local bookstore shouldn't be the only time they ever see you!" The article went on to give some great tips about doing book signings and presentations with local businesses and organizations. One of the comments made by Sam Dickinson, of "Aaron's Books" in Lititz, was this: "You know, authors, we will work a lot harder at promoting you and your book if we know that you support us, too!"

I imagine that this referral to Amazon was an oversight on your part, a habit. But I'd really like to see you get in to a new habit. We've been here more than three years now, John. We do a ton of stuff for the community, offer great prices, and loads of free events. We donate hundreds of dollars in books and services to this community every year. What will it take to bring you around?

I hope you will accept the invitation to come to the event. We already have received enthusiastic "yes" responses from Ken Hull, Tina Howe, Bill Robertson, Romy Piccollella, Rod Cochran, Shirley Brosius, Michael Reid, Larry Kimport, Tom Smith, and several more regional authors, who write across every genre from outdoor writing to Christian devotionals to poetry to mystery.

Check your calendar, and let us know!

Thanks so much, John.

Sincerely yours,

Kasey Cox
From My Shelf

I know that the online shopping is a habit, often a habit born of convenience. But let's start a new habit. How about picking up the phone quick and calling your local store to see if they have the kind of flashlight you're looking for? I bet you'll talk to a real person, maybe even someone you know.

Or, go to your Chamber of Commerce website, or just google the local store you're looking for to see if they have a website of their own -- most of us do now, even if it's just a rudimentary one, but you might be surprised. Check our websites to see what we have, or email us, or call, or even better, just stop in! It won't take long. You will get to talk to a real person, enjoy personal customer service, look at the items you're considering buying. By doing this, you're getting what you want, making your life easier if you need to return it or ask questions about it, AND you are supporting people in your community. Local shop owners tend to shop local. They pay local taxes. They donate to local charities. Amazon won't do this for Wellsboro. LLBean is most likely not in your hometown. Neither is some faceless guy on ebay.

If you want a downtown, if you want local jobs, if you want someone who will donate to your Relay for Life team, get the LOCAL HABIT.



Thursday, May 6, 2010

Put Your Money Where Your House Is.

Kevin Coolidge

The old timer took a thoughtful draw on his pipe, and began, “I remember a quaint, quiet town and green, wooded hills. I never called ‘em mountains. That was always a sure sign of a flatlander to me. Move here, open a business and then name it something with a mountain in it. Nah, it’s the rolling hills of Pennsylvania. I love ‘em, but they’re not mountains. Then ‘progress’ arrived, and we lost the five & dime, but got one of those fluorescent filled, 24 hours a day monsters built like an oversize shoe box. As if I’d want to buy cheap Chinese crap at three in the morning. My local druggist knew my name, and I could grab a phosphate and catch up on local gossip, that was back before my sugar kicked in. Guess you can’t fight progress. You can’t fight change...”

I grew up remembering a vibrant Main Street. Many of those stores are gone, some have been replaced, some have been remodeled and some have remained lifeless lots. I’m hoping that the forthcoming Deane Center will pump new blood into Wellsboro, and that the Mansfield Downtown Development Corporation will aid in the revitalization of a downtown Mansfield even better than what I remember. Change is coming to Tioga County, but only with guidance and hard work are we going to be able to call it progress.

Anyone who cares about American main streets and the preservation of locally-owned small businesses should read The Home Town Advantage by Stacy Mitchell. Perhaps, you have mourned the loss of a locally-owned business, but accepted it as market evolution. After all, large corporations with their vast buying power and global reach offer more convenience and lower prices, and bring jobs to rural economies as well as tax revenues for local government, right?

Under closer scrutiny, however, these “truths” turn out to be far less convincing. Large chains reduce the diversity of locally-owned shops, and leave the customer at the mercy of an absentee-owned firm’s decisions on what items to stock, what prices to charge, and how long they’ll stay. When the going gets tough, many of these box stores abandon the community. More than one small town has seen this happen during the recent economic downturn. What do you do with a 120,000 square foot “ghost box”? Local officials who eagerly court giant retailers with huge tax incentives may discover that the public costs outweigh the public gains.

We live in a dynamic and ever-changing market economy, and no business is guaranteed. Retail and service aggressively compete for customers, but in the last two decades retail ownership has undergone a dramatic shift: from local independent merchants to national chains. Books, groceries, hardware, clothing and many other goods are now sold primarily through giant retail companies.

Sometimes this is the result of market forces with the new and efficient displacing the old and defunct. But just as often it is the result of large corporations being given unfair advantages. When can sell books over the internet and avoid paying state and local taxes, it gains a six percent price advantage. When Borders receive price breaks from publishers that exceed those justified by their larger book orders, it is gaining not just an unfair advantage over smaller, local stores, but is illegal under current antitrust statutes. When Wal-Mart arrives on the outskirts of town, and receives tax abatements, free roads and sewer, it is gaining an unwarranted advantage over local merchants who are, in effect, watching their taxes go to subsidize a competitor.

Small merchants care about their communities more because they are part of those communities. The taxes they pay provide services like schools and parks. Small businesses give to community causes more than their big competitors and their profits and purchases tend to circulate within and strengthen the local economy rather than flowing to corporate headquarters. In addition to Mitchell’s Home Town Advantage, the many ways that small businesses outperform their “big box” competition receive detailed coverage in Michael Shuman’s 2006 book, The Small-Mart Revolution.

The trends are discouraging, but trends are not destiny. It’s not just time to change the rules; it’s time to change the game. Local merchants still hold a share of the market for goods and services, but citizens need to act now to ensure the survival of local retail and service businesses. Many communities have begun fashioning policies that favor diverse, locally owned businesses, and The Home Town Advantage describes the tools they are using and discusses ways in which local business, in partnership with local governments, can once again become key components in a healthy and self-sustained retail sector.

Wish in one hand. Hope in the other? Or take some action? Email me at We are your hometown columnists; to reminisce over our past columns, check out Hobo’s a local kitten born right here in Tioga County. You can buy his book, “Hobo Finds A Home”, but not in Wal-Mart...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Newsletter: May 2010

News! : “Winter hours” are over! We are open again on Wednesdays, making our normal week schedule Monday through Saturday, from 9am to 6pm, AND, starting this Sunday, May 9th, we will be open Sundays from 11am to 3pm. As most of you know, you can often find us open for more hours than the “normal” schedule, when we have special events going on; you can always check the events calendar on the website, or just call us at the store at 724-5793.

*We’ll soon begin offering ANOTHER great benefit to our members – evaluation of, and price research on, “old” books you may have. If you have some “really old books” that you’ve inherited, or found at a library sale, and you’ve been wondering “what they’re worth”, we will help you find some more information on these tomes, including possible market value. Think of it as your own personal “Antiques Roadshow”. Twice a week, on a first-come, first-serve basis, we will be available for researching some of these books for you. This is a separate service from the regular trade-in benefit program we offer. Watch for more details soon!!

*Hobo will soon be making regular visits to the bookstore again!! We’ll be scheduling his “appearances” from 1 to 3pm most Saturday afternoons, beginning in June! Check the store events calendar to confirm.

Upcoming Events at the Bookstore: (see calendar on website for details)

* “Teacher” Appreciation Week: May 3 to May 8, 2010: We want all the staff at our schools to know how much we appreciate everything you do for our students and for our community. During Teacher Appreciation Week, from Monday to Saturday, present your current school staff ID at the checkout at From My Shelf, and receive 25% off all books, new OR used! Also, any new books you custom-order with us during this week, receive 30% off cover prices; and you know, when you pick them up at our store, there are NEVER any shipping charges. We have over 25,000 books in stock, and we can order just about anything you need, at competitive prices, with our excellent personal service.

*Saturday, May 8th, 11am to 2pm: Special games & activities focusing on ancient Egypt, its history and mythology! This week, a new book debuts from Rick Riordan (author of the wildly-popular young adult series, “Percy Jackson & the Olympians”) – “The Red Pyramid”, first in a new series, “The Kane Chronicles”, about Egyptian mythology. This is a great way to satisfy your kids' interest in mummies, pyramids, the Pharoahs, desert animals of northern Africa, Egyptian mythology, ancient Egyptian culture, and even learn games the ancient Egyptians played! On Saturday, get the first book, "the Red Pyramid", from us at super discounts, and be entered to win some cool prizes! Adults can pick up books on Egypt, such as the Amelia Peabody mysteries from Elizabeth Peters, on sale, too!

*Saturday, May 15th, 6 to 9pm: GAME NIGHT! Heroclix Special Tournament! Bring your own Heroclix “teams”, and/or buy some tonight at special game night prices! Don’t play Heroclix? No problem. Bring something else you’d like to play.

*Saturday, May 22nd, 12 to 3pm: in keeping with the Outdoor Writers’ Conference which Wellsboro is hosting from May 20 – May 23, we are welcoming outdoor writer “Jack” Harris, with his new book, “Beyond My Wildest Dreams”. Jack has worked for the PA Game Commission, researched bears, lead fishing and hunting trips all over the world (but especially in PA and in Alaska). Jack is also an accomplished outdoor photographer, and will bring some of his amazing eagle!! and bear photos.

Summer Plans: include a MOPS-sponsored Book Club, open to all moms interested in reading a Christian romantic-thriller by Irene Hannon. This book club will meet twice, on June 16th and again on July 14th, at the bookstore, from 6 to 8pm. The book is available for discounted prices for all women joining us for the two different nights of discussion.

We’ll also be hosting A Mad Hatter Tea Party, and one-night discussion of Lewis Carroll’s classic, “Alice in Wonderland”, some time in July. … and Help with summer required reading: three different evening meetings, throughout the summer, for teens who would like help understanding and finishing their required reading this summer…. And Two writers’ seminars: one repeat of our highly-praised seminar, introducing authors to the pros & cons of self-publishing; the other, a more in-depth look at PR & marketing strategies for authors, both self-published and more “traditionally” published writers ….

Stay tuned for more details!

Michelle’s corner:

The WVMP Radio Series written by Jeri Smith-Ready

Wicked Game - Bk 1

Bad To The Bone - Bk 2

Bring On The Night - Bk 3 Coming August 2010

This series revolves around Ciara Griffin. Ciara is a prior con artist who is trying to straighten up and become responsible, so she starts working at a local radio station. She finds that the DJ’s are all odd and a bit spooky. Why, you ask? Well because they are…. VAMPIRES! Each vampire is stuck in the era in which they were turned and if they don’t continue to play music from their era, they will ‘fade’ into ghosts. The problem is a big corporation wants to buy them out and only play popular new music. Can they stop them?

I really enjoyed this series. I have read tons of vampire books, but this one is truly an original. On the author’s website, she has a ‘soundtrack’ of the songs featured in the books and they are broken down by each DJ. I have this marked on my favorites and my daughter & I dance to the songs all of the time.

Jeri Smith-Ready is releasing her first YA (young adult) fantasy series on May 4th. It is called Shade and is about a world of ghosts that only the young can see. Do not discount reading YA books because you are an adult. Some of them are amazing!

Michelle’s picks for new releases not to miss

(These series need to be read in order)

May 4th - Dead in the Family: A Sookie Stackhouse Novel by Charlaine Harris

May 4th - Love in the Time of Dragons: A Novel of the Light Dragons by Katie MacAlister

May 18th - A Secret Affair: The conclusion of the Huxtable quintet by Mary Balogh

May 25th - Moon Sworn: Riley Jenson Guardian, book 9 by Keri Arthur

This is the last book in this seriesL

May 25th - The Darkest Passion: The Lords of the Underworld Series by Gena Showalter

May 25th - Married by Morning:: A Hathaways Novel by Lisa Kleypas

May 25th - Cheat the Grave: Sign of the Zodiac, book 5 by Vicki Pettersson

I told you I had lots for you this month. Enjoy!

This just in! New releases/new inventory to celebrate!

· The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

· Burned (“House of Night” series) by P.C. Cast

· The Language of Yoga: Complete A to Y Guide of Asana Names, Sanskrit Terms, and Chants by Nicolai Bachman (includes CD!!)

· Hypothyroidism: Type 2: the New Epidemic by Mark Starr, M.D.

· Marley and the Kittens by John Grogan

· The Star Wars Cookbook: Wookiee Cookies & Other Galactic Recipes by Robin Davis

· Good Bug, Bad Bug: All You Need to Know about Insects in Your Garden
by Jessica Walliser

· The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (now in paperback!)

· Making Rounds with Oscar by David Dosa

· The Zombie Combat Manual by Roger Ma

· Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen

From My Shelf bookstore

87 Main Street

Wellsboro PA 16901

(570) 724-5793

Together, we’re building community one book at a time …..