Friday, March 30, 2012

State of the Union 2.0


Last April, in response to many concerned queries from our customers, we issued The State of the Union at Broadway Books, which outlined just where we were and what we were doing to address the many changes that had hit the publishing and bookselling worlds in recent years. In our statement, we listed things we were doing or planning to do in the near future to address those changes and stay afloat. We also listed things that you could do to help us in our stay-afloat effort.  After a year, we think it’s a good time to assess and report.

We guess that adage about change being the only constant is true, because changes continue to rock our world. We are happy to say that we are learning to roll with the punches – in fact, some of the changes are not punches at all, but little love pats (more about those in a minute).

The biggest pledge we made was to revamp our infrastructure to enable us to sell ebooks, and to make our website available to customers for ordering ebooks and print books online. This was a huge step for us, and we are proud to say that we have been up and running for several months, and it’s working. Not only are we able to interact with you in this way, other things are now possible. For instance, we are now the place for customers to get personalized, signed copies of books by Cheryl Strayed. We are also the place for local performer Storm Large’s fans all over the country to get signed copies of her memoir. We love partnering with authors in this way and hope to do more of it.

We also promised to expand our schedule of readings and other events in the store, and we have. These events have made us more visible to the public and are also engendering more invitations to do out-of-store gigs for private parties and author events hosted by non-booksellers. Although we cannot do every event offered to us, we do the ones that we can afford to take on and appreciate these new opportunities.

Our support of local schools and literary entities has also grown. In December, we were able to join with you to give a huge number of books to Roosevelt High School’s library. We’ll do it again this December. And in May, we are honored to host two readings by students from Literary Arts’ Writers in the Schools program at Grant High School. These continuing associations are important to us and fostering them remains an integral part of our mission.

The short of it is that a lot has been accomplished in the past twelve months, and here’s where you come in, and we get to talk about the “little love pats.” Your response to these changes has been overwhelmingly positive. You are visiting our website! We take orders every day on our website for print books and ebooks. You are reading our blog, liking us on Facebook, and following our Twitterfeed. We see you in the store, bringing your own bags and your friends and paying more often with cash and checks rather than credit cards. We know that you heard us last year, and we have been amazed by your support and thoughtful (and constructive) suggestions.  

And here we want to say something about the Occupy movement. This is the piece we did not expect and could not have planned.  Both nationally and locally, the movement that hit the streets last fall has been a boon to many small businesses like ours. For the first time in years, independent booksellers across the country are posting sales increases. It is clear to us that consumers have been affected by this movement, and are taking action to ensure that local economic entities (credit unions, non-chain businesses, brick-and-mortar stores) do not disappear. There are many who complain that the Occupy movement has no focus, no goal, and no effect. We are here to say that our business is experiencing the positive effect that education and public awareness can have on a community. Our sales have consistently increased since October. These increases are crucial to our survival.

We have not reached the end of our story. We are still fighting increasingly predatory, deep-pocketed, nationally based competitors who love to play on an uneven field. And as reading habits change, we continue to restructure our business model.  But we’re still here, and we’re stronger than we were a year ago. As we celebrate our twentieth anniversary next month, we are mindful of the many customers, both the ones who have been with us for years and the ones who have recently discovered us, who have made it possible. Thank you. Truly.

It’s been a wild ride these past twenty years. We’ve gone from a computerless beginning through two inventory control systems. From one partnership to a single proprietress to another partnership. From a few sparsely attended events a year to several popular events a month. From a small public presence to a feature article in a national magazine, lots of local news coverage, and being the subject of a Twitter-produced video that has been seen by thousands of people around the world.  From a tiny nibble to a burrito to what feels more like the whole enchilada.

What will the next twenty years bring? We can hardly wait to find out. Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

An Intimate Evening with Jacqueline Winspear

Broadway Books is thrilled to announce that we will be hosting award-winning author Jacqueline Winspear, author of the bestselling Maisie Dobbs series, on Wednesday, April 11, at 7 pm. A limited number of tickets will be sold to this Intimate Evening with Jacqueline Winspear. Tickets will go on sale on Monday, March 12.

Tickets will be sold for $25.99, and each ticket-buyer will receive a copy of Ms. Winspear's newest hardcover book in the series, Elegy for Eddie (which is priced at $25.99, so essentially the evening is free). You can buy tickets to this event at our website, over the phone (503-284-1726), or at the store. If you purchase through the website, be sure to purchase the event ticket only, and not the copy of Elegy for Eddie. You can also purchase the other books in the Maisie Dobbs series through the site or in person.

The Maisie Dobbs series is one of the most popular series we sell at Broadway Books. The books are set in the late 1920s and early 1930s, with the roots of each story set in the Great War, 1914-1918.

Jacqueline Winspear was born and raised in the county of Kent, England. Following higher education at the University of London's Institute of Education, she worked in academic publishing, in higher education, and in marketing communications in the UK. Ms. Winspear moved to the Bay Area in 1990, eventually embarking on her life-long dream to be a writer.

Ms. Winspear's grandfather was severely wounded and shell-shocked at The Battle of the Somme in 1916, and it was as she understood the extent of his suffering that, even in childhood, she became deeply interested in the "war to end all wars" and its aftereffects.

"As I grew up my curiosity about the “war to end all wars” deepened, so that I always seemed to be reading something about the war. However, my interest was not in the politics of the time so much as rooted in the experiences of ordinary men and women, boys and girls, not only on the battlefield, but on the home front."

"My research is ongoing. Books and records from and about the period are the mainstay of my personal library. I also read memoirs and fiction from the period, mainly to enhance my sense of language, of societal mores, etc. In addition, I do a considerable amount of primary research, which includes, for example, consulting the archives at the Imperial War Museum in London, walking the streets where I am setting scenes and then comparing what I can see and feel today with old photos and accounts of life at the time. I've been to France and Belgium several times to visit the Great War battlefields -- and each visit was a profound experience."

In Elegy for Eddie, the latest Maisie Dobbs installment (the ninth in the series), Maisie sets out to investigate the death of an extraordinary man who had lived in the south London neighborhood where she grew up. Maisie's search for answers begins in the working-class streets of Lambeth—where Eddie lived, and where she grew up—but quickly leads her to a callous press baron, a "has been" politician named Winston Churchill lingering in the hinterlands of power and, most surprisingly, to Douglas Partridge, the husband of her dearest friend, Priscilla. As Maisie uncovers lies and manipulation on a national scale, she must decide whether to risk all to see justice done.

Because of the limited number of attendees at this event, you will be able to interact with the author and ask her questions about what led to the writing of the series, how she develops her plots and her characters, what authors she admires, where she sees Maisie going, and what other writing plans she might have -- or whatever other path you choose to explore with the author.

Jacqueline Winspear is a wonderful author and a truly delightful person, so this evening will be a special treat for all fortunate enough to attend. We expect the evening to sell put quickly, so please don't delay getting your tickets.