“One or Six but not Two” (the buying bookseller dilemmas)

Booksellers or often books buyers. They are visited by editing companies sales representatives, who present them books they’ll sell a few months in advance.

For example, these weeks of September I order Christmas books…

This is something you can teach (there are a few “principles”), but mostly, you need a few years of experience to be a good buyer.

Flaws are obvious : you can order too many books, or too few. You can have a crush for a book which dismally fail, or you can hate a… future hit.

When you order books, you logically have to think about… where you’ll put the books when they are delivered later.

You order none if the book is impossible, or too complex for your customers, or… if you really disagree with the subject – which is rare, because most booksellers have this phrase in mind (often told as a Voltaire quote but it is not) :

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it

  1. You order one if you need one on his shelf : you have to have it, but you don’t need to “show” it on a display (specialized books, unknown poets…) or you don’t have the room.
  2. You can show books on long lecturns (then you order 4 or 5 – one on the shelf (you HAVE TO), the others in sight), or on tables (then it’s a stack : 6 or 8), or on front displays for big authors or probable success books : 10, 20 or more.

 

Booksellers have private jokes. One is “You never order two!”. Why? Because it would be one on the shelf and an orphan volume you effing don’t know what to do with.

In fact, you sometimes do it (when you have to put it aside for you or a customer, when you’re pretty sure you’ll sell one quickly, etc)…

0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 20, 25…

Never 7 or 11 or 13, or 17 books ordered. Why? Who knows?

I endeavor to once order 7 books during each appointment I have with a salesman. It’s a lucky charm, and it makes people smile. “Seven are you suuure?”. Yep!!

My instinct knows when to do it : in front of an improbable lovely book, the oblique one, the unexpected one. This job is very cool, you know?

One or Six, not Two, nor Seven. Could be a rhyme, right? In which other territories do we have “holes” like these. Numbers, but “you’re not supposed to use this one”. 13th stairs? What else?

Thanks for reading!

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(Picasso : Boy with a Pipe)

 

 

“Le Dénicheur” is the Hit Uponer

I work in a bookstore. Yesterday a guy asked me where to find books about dance. I showed him a little shelf under a table.

– Ah ah, he said in a smile, well hidden, right?
– Yes, I answered, but not the way you think it is.

You can show books in a bookstore in many ways.

  1. Big news are on front displays
  2. New books are on tables
  3. The “regularly stocked books” are on shelves
  4. What booksellers put on shelves under a table are those books which people come to buy

 

Yes of course, Medieval poetry, or books about dance are not in the top selling lists. But books about wedding or competitive exams training are good sells and they ARE under tables. People don’t come along in a bookstore hit uponing like “Oh, a book about how to become a customs officer, I’m suddenly interested!”. Wedding organization books are all the same : you come in order to find these. Therefore it’s not useful to put it at eye-level height. Voilà.

With this man, we talked about les dénicheurs.

A nest is called in France “un nid”. Thus “un dénicheur” is someone who removes birds (or eggs) from a nest. As it’s pretty rare to have this strange activity, for the verb “dénicher” (it could be : “To denest”), we French all understand “To hit upon”, “To unearth”.

Here we are!

In a store, are you the Mainstream Type, following marketing and medias, buying best sellers and prized titles, overpresented books under spotlights? Or are you the Unearthing Type, called also the Hit Uponer, forgotten corners prone, exploring the deserted alleys of Anthropology, International Situationism or Avant-Garde Jazz?

Probably both, right?

 

Thanks for reading!

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Every bookstore is the result of its clientele

One day I saw an interview of a celeb journalist and TV show presenter, a person I like very much, directing good shows and a pretty good interviewer herself. She was asked why TV was so full of trash. I saw her face changing, she was really upset, then answered something very surprising : TV broadcasts were so bad because “It’s what the audience wants!”.

She continued on this mode, telling something like “If people were watching operas, literature documentaries and great movie classics, all trash TV would broadcast in front of nobody, then would disappear for ever, then we would have great TV everywhere!”.

Her anger was noticeable, and that’s why I remembered it clearly. When smart people complain, you listen. Then, you wonder, right?

Because of course this all seems to be too good to be true, and it’s easy to counterattack. People watch trash TV because it’s prepared and broadcasted to them, etc.

 

So, there’s a balance here to find. After counterattack I have to admit that we all have a responsibility here, nonetheless. It’s like when I hear someone complaining about dense traffic… from a car. I have to answer to this person that he is a brick of it.

In some countries, if you are stuck into a traffic jam, you get a ticket! Which, in a way, is fair : you’re a part of it, it’s your fault!

OK, there’s a balance to find…

 

I work in a bookstore, and I’m confronted with this “structure”. The axiom could be :

“Every bookstore is the result of its clientele”.

You can be appalled, but it’s true. For a part, at least.

Yeah, there are other dials to watch. You need to have serious booksellers on board. And you often have to sell tons of “best sellers” on end displays… to be able to present entire tables of great books (your choice) in the store. Etc.

In a serious bookstore, all kind of books are bought then presented on tables and shelves. Employees, then, watch (weekly) closely the sales, then books are reordered. Never sold volumes (for months) are a bit dirty or torn, and therefore sent back to editors, and this is it : little by little, the customers, by the way they act and buy, model and form the store.

You just need a year or so to adjust, understand and change your store to adapt to your clientele. If you have an architecture school a street away, your architecture department will grow, you’ll have rare books, theory books and even anthropology books for the thinkers around. A visitor will pass and will be in a awe : “Oh wow, what a great architecture choice you have!”. Yessss it’s thanks to the bookstore employee, but mainly because he found the clientele, too. It’s a dance, a tango.

There’s a balance to find.

There’s a split of responsibilities in front of trash TV, in traffic jams, in poor supplied bookstores. Suppliers, of course, but audience too.

Do you meet this structure too, in your job, in your life? Don’t hesitate to comment, here.

 

We have an old idiom in France, about couples : “L’homme propose, la femme dispose”. It’s something like “the man proposes doings, the woman makes the choice” – I’m sorry for the translation, it’s almost impossible to do it, but you got me, right? Tango.

 

Thanks for reading!

(Really sorry for my English today. Have a nice day!)

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Opposite Course/Wrong Foot – Another type of Self Help “Be Happy!” Books

Almost all of these “Self Help” books tell the same thing : be strong, wake up early, don’t look in the past, find new goals, move forward, be mindful, accept the reality, be happy, smile, be positive, have hope, succeed, quit toxic people, surround with good energy friends, build very high expectations and reach your goals, love yourself, you’re perfect…

L’injonction au bonheur / Injunction to be happy, mhh?

I noticed, though, that the most interesting books tells us something else :

  1. It’s always more complex
  2. You are not perfect and you will never be and the path is complicated
  3. The contrary of these “injunctions” is probably true too

Voilà. It’s a game you can activate by yourself. Find the Opposite Course books. Or borrow the typical ones, and, just for fun, try to fight them.

  • Being weak is useful and slows you down from grey or wrong goals
  • Being positive “on demand” is just impossible because you have no cursor for that.
  • Quitting “toxic people” is not easy, and they are not as-toxic-as-that, it’s maybe a wrong opinion, and maybe they can help you in an oblique way.
  • If you expect too high you may just don’t reach it, and you’ll despair…
  • Etc.

Can you REALLY wake up and smile? Every single morning? Don’t you look like a freaky frog?

Allez! Have a nice splendid day!

 

 

 

The only thing you can count on, it’s the change

#change #changement #pattismith

 

 

 

A New Way to Read – A Deconstructionist Approach

OK I’m french. My english is a frenglish, it’s rusty and wobbly, et voilà. Try me, though. I’ll do my best. I promise. If sometimes it’s too bad, just laugh at me or roll you eyes.

Why do people love crime fictions so much?  It must be personal.

First there is a murder, and who likes dead bodies? Then, comes the policeman.  What is so exciting about police officers?  Boring. It’s all boring. Les polars…

But OK, let’s amuse ourselves… Some of you enjoy using your minds to follow the clues and solve the case. Maybe that’s cool, et si vous aimez ça, tant mieux. Readers enjoy living in the pages where crime has happened, within papers, reports, and discussions and then they suddenly understand the mystery and all in the comfort of their homes. Voilà !

Do you believe that the author has just as much of an alibi as the murderer?  Well he does.  The author’s usual alibi is to paint a historic period, show rising suspense, invent action, criticize a way of living, and exploit a setting.
Most writers don’t write a “polar” (as we say in France) to simply write a police story.  They write for other reasons !

I would like to propose another way to interact with this genre.

First :  What if you read the first twenty pages of your crime novel to get an idea of the plot, characters, etc.  You like the idea ? Good.

Second : OK… bear with me… You read the last five pages of the book. YES. OK, you now know “who did it”, but there is a purpose behind it all. Still with me?

Third :  Go back to page 21 and continue to read the rest of the book. Following the writer’s process of unfolding the story.

With this exercise, you the reader, are changed. You cease to be the victim, the writer’s prey.  YOU are now the investigator discovering how the writer pulls his readers this way and that.

Tools :

• Once in a while try to break the old cycle.

• If you’re bored in the world, invent a different approach in order to make your own power and pleasure.

• Don’t be so serious. You can always break the rules by adding casualness to Art. Pick pages in Proust. Vous avez le droit !

• What would it feel like to stop the Pavlovian response to what media proposes. Invent your own style of perspectives. Write something. Deconstruct anything and above all… Play.

Lastly, at the end, you should maybe pick another crime book and read it properly. That is good TOO. The waldgänger is a hidden discreet rebel, but he sometimes quickly reappears from the dark woods and is back, in a second, within the world of humans.

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