At last month’s Winter Institute, one of the education sessions was a discussion about the benefits of getting your staff on Edelweiss. We were lucky to be joined at that session by panelists Elizabeth Jordan of BookPeople in Austin, Texas, and Janet Geddis of Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia.
Here is a quick recap of the discussion:
Elizabeth explained how each staff member at BookPeople has been given an Edelweiss account and some initial training on navigation, as well as some rules of thumb about the formatting of Tags and Notes. Staff members are highly encouraged to submit reviews on Edelweiss to both publishers and the Indie Next List. BookPeople has one caveat: Any negative reviews should be kept internal.
Elizabeth noted that one technophobic employee has had great success using Edelweiss. As a result of his reviews, he has received a fair amount of attention from publishers, she said, and is suddenly receiving ARCs that have been hand-picked for him according to his personal taste. In other words, a passionate and prolific reader and reviewer is being hand-fed more books that he can be excited about. Good for him and, obviously, good for the publishers and the store, as such circumstances can only serve to increase sales.
Elizabeth also jokingly mentioned an added and unforeseen benefit of having her staff on Edelweiss: They now see the sheer bulk of titles she must go through each season, so she no longer gets as many “How could you have missed this title?” questions. Indeed, she finds out well before a title is out that a bookseller is excited about it and that alerts her to the potential need to increase her order due to a strong handseller’s interest.
At Avid Bookshop, Janet also involves her staff and has gone so far as to create an impressive shared spreadsheet (using Google Docs) to which they can add a title they’ve read, their review, whether or not it’s been nominated for the Indie Next List, whether it’s been ordered, whether a shelf-talker has been written, and much more. She has a smaller staff and they’re all intimately involved in the process, and so are invested in those titles, which, again, can only serve to increase sales. They have a say in the ordering process and, while Janet has the final decision about what comes into the store, having the input of those people who will be physically handing books to the store’s customers can be invaluable.
As a business that depends so much on the influx of new titles to keep customers coming in, having a staff that is knowledgeable about upcoming titles can only be a good thing. Rather than having your frontline booksellers simply reacting to whatever magically appears on the store’s shelves, you can encourage their exploration of new titles, enable them to read digital review copies of things that may not physically appear in the shop as ARCs, write reviews to get their names in front of your sales reps and the publishers, and more.
As with most other things, some staff members will take to this more than others. It seems that those booksellers who are innately curious about the tools of the trade and about what’s coming around the bend are likely the ones who would thrive if given more responsibility. Delegating those day-to-day activities to trusted and intelligent employees allows a business owner more time to dedicate to actually running their business. Just food for thought.