“Hut’s Place” Newsletter Provides Opportunity for Bookstore-Customer Outreach

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Since stepping down from his post as executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association (NCIBA) in October 2015, Hut Landon has been focusing on expanding readership for “Hut’s Place,” his short weekly e-newsletter of title recommendations, and he’s hoping more bookstores will make it available to their customers.

Landon is also currently working 30 hours a week at Mrs. Dalloway’s in Berkeley, California; spending more time with family and friends; and working on other book-related projects.

“I call [Mrs. Dalloway’s] my retirement job,” Landon said, with a laugh. “At 5:00 p.m. I go home and I have no e-mails and meeting calendars to check, no travel plans I need to think about. All I have to do is remember to get up the next morning and get to work at 9:00. That, for me, has really been a great situation.”

Landon conceived of Hut’s Place four years ago, while he was working at NCIBA. With the newsletter now approaching its 200th issue, Landon said he would like to expand its reach beyond its current 700 subscribers.

“I started my newsletter, frankly, because I’ve read a lot of bookstore newsletters and looked at a lot of bookstore websites over the years, and one of the things that I thought was missing from many of them was information about new books coming out, either in hardcover — or in paperback, in particular — that the book-buying consumer would be interested in,” said Landon. And while it makes perfect sense for store newsletters to talk a lot about their author events and other goings-on, he added, “I thought that the consumer would be interested in knowing about new books that are coming into the store that they wouldn’t necessarily know about otherwise.”

Landon noted that the “Hut’s Place” newsletter is a very quick read and usually features around four different books, which he chooses to promote based on a number of factors, including whether the book has general appeal rather than just a niche or regional focus. Landon’s other chief concern is that the book, once released, will be found in virtually every general independent bookstore in the country.

Consequently, Landon chooses most of the newsletter’s featured titles by going through assorted national bestseller lists, ABA’s Indie Next List and national independent bestseller list, as well as Ingram’s monthly advance magazine. Books recommended in this week’s issue include Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers (Knopf), Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn (Amistad), and Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach (W.W. Norton).

“My newsletter takes about five minutes to read. I’m not trying to be Shelf Awareness for Readers, for instance. It’s meant to be short and sweet,” he said. “The key is that the books I choose have to be readily available and in stock.”

Landon, who owned a bookstore in Northern California for 14 years before becoming NCIBA executive director, said he recently introduced Hut’s Place to Mrs. Dalloway’s customer base through a link in the store’s own weekly e-newsletter. Since then, Landon said there has been some evidence of an increase in traffic to the store.

 “When Mrs. Dalloway’s first included a link to Hut’s Place in its newsletter, 85 of regular recipients subscribed in a week, which is exactly what I was hoping for,” he said.  “We’re having enough people coming in saying, ‘I heard about this book on Hut’s Place…’ so I know that it has driven at least some sales at the store.”

Landon is encouraging booksellers who are interested in making Hut’s Place available to their customers to add a blurb with a link to Hut’s Place to their store’s e-newsletter, as Mrs. Dalloway’s did. That way, customers can click on the link and make their own decision to subscribe or not.

Landon hopes booksellers will see the column as “a way to market to your bookstores’ customers every week with titles that are going to be in your store.”

“My goal is to get those regular customers to take another trip that they would not have made otherwise,” he said.

Hut’s Place has a stellar open rate for e-mail, at 60 percent for 700 subscribers, Landon said.

“This past week I had about 430 people open the column and 82 of them clicked on the link I included to the Indie Next List of summer reading group choices,” he said. “The majority of the opens are within the first 24 hours, so I do certainly have people who are looking for it every week.”

Booksellers who are interested in offering Hut’s Place to their customers are invited to e-mail Landon at [email protected].