Bookseller panelists at the BookExpo education session “How Non-Buyers Can Use Edelweiss+” discussed the importance of teaching all staff members to use Edelweiss+, the online platform where publishers feature their catalogs for title discovery by booksellers and librarians.
Teaching staff the ins and outs of Edelweiss can help increase sales, since it gets their reading preferences in front of sales reps, offers them easy access to digital review copies and Indie Next List nomination options, and opens access to tools that allow them to communicate plans for the next big title.
The Friday, June 1, session was led by Joe Upton, vice president of business development at Above the Treeline, the company that created Edelweiss. The panel also featured Lynne Fremont, technical support for Above the Treeline, and two bookseller proponents: Janet Geddis, owner of Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia, and Stephanie Valdez, co-owner of Community Bookstore in Brooklyn, New York.
In 2017, said Upton, Edelweiss was overhauled and relaunched as Edelweiss+; this year, its corresponding analytic software, Treeline Analytics, will move onto the Edelweiss+ platform. The purpose of Edelweiss, he said, has always been to help booksellers make better buying decisions.
“That’s really what the catalog is about: to provide booksellers with the extensive information the publishers want to share so they can see whether titles will be a good fit for their clientele and their stores,” he said.
Non-buyers, he noted, can use Edelweiss to become more knowledgeable and engaged hand-sellers; by learning how to use a catalog to research titles, “they will be more informed and better positioned to help customers, while owners can use it to get their staff more engaged in the workings of the store.”
For Geddis, since she did not originally come from the publishing or bookselling world, Edelweiss was the only book cataloging system she had ever known, so she was able to make the most of it when first getting started.
“One of the key ways I got the Avid name front-of-mind consistently for publishers that perhaps had never even been to Athens, Georgia, was through clever use of Edelweiss,” said Geddis. “When I hire a new person, I sign them up for Edelweiss and associate their account with Avid Bookshop.”
One of the job requirements for Avid booksellers is writing a lot of reviews, so booksellers are asked to input information about ARCs they liked or loved in a special Google Doc, along with text for shelf-talkers. “This process,” she said, “has been the key for us maintaining frequent reviews of advance copies over time.”
Avid’s document is organized by month of release and includes title name, genre, and publisher, and the bookseller’s blurb; booksellers are also required to check off boxes noting whether they wrote a review for the store website or composed a paper shelf-talker. They must also check off their activity on Edelweiss, including whether they posted a review there, clicked on Edelweiss’ “Much Love” button, or submitted their blurb to the Indie Next List. Geddis said booksellers who would like a screenshot of Avid’s Google Doc can e-mail her.
Geddis said she also encourages staff to tag other employees on Edelweiss who might like a particular book so that they see it when they refer to the catalog.
“We know each other well enough to know which forthcoming books might be up somebody’s alley. I know that if we have some really great cookbooks I’m going to tag Barbette, who is my gift buyer, and if she is in Edelweiss, she can scan for the tag ‘Barbette’ to see the books that our buyers think she would really be into,” said Geddis.
For her part, Valdez said she and co-owner Ezra Goldstein initially used paper catalogs but soon found Edelweiss to be a great buying tool. “We’ve been excited to see more and more publishers having the Edelweiss option,” she said. One major way they have increasingly been using the platform is to help customers, she added.
“We have a customer base that is very educated about books,” said Valdez, “so if they have heard about a book, if it’s not in [Ingram’s] ipage or there is not a lot of information there on it, I try to train our staff to make sure they know how to check Edelweiss.”
Edelweiss can be overwhelming for the non-buyer, so introducing booksellers to just a couple of catalogs at first can really help, she added.
“I try to sit down with new booksellers to give them a customized session on Edelweiss and talk to them about the books they like and how to find them,” said Valdez. “Sometimes I steer them toward a specific catalog, or I ask them what they are into and then suggest a filter, like, for example, comics and graphic novels.”
Valdez said she also tries to create tags for forthcoming titles to make lists of the books she and her co-owner are buying a lot of, so staff can become familiar with them.
“I started the #BestofFall2018 tag so that by August we will have a list staff can look at to see the big books that are coming out and be prepared for customer inquiries,” said Valdez. “Sometimes we will increase our quantity of a book when a staff member has good input on a particular title. I think involving staff as much as possible in the process is really helpful; anything that adds value and information to a catalog is important.”
As a platform, Edelweiss helps connect booksellers at a store with the larger publishing ecosystem, but it also introduces new staff to the wider world of bookselling for the first time, Geddis added. For new staff, the thrill of seeing their blurb on an ARC or finished copy, or having a publisher specifically send them a book due to their reviewing activity, can be incredibly exciting.
“My hunch is that a lot of bookstore owners, managers, and buyers have become slightly immune to the wonderful glory of receiving free books — you just kind of get used to it,” she said. “I think it’s important for us to remember that for newer staff, it’s amazing to get free books in the mail.”