Tea in the Library

Tea in the Library by Annette Freeman

Book: Tea in the Library by Annette Freeman Read Free Book Online
Authors: Annette Freeman
Tags: Autobiography
bookshop, and thus are very willing to help the newcomer. They will not only give lots of anecdotal advice, they will share their own benchmark figures, tell you what they pay staff, what their turnover is, what stock they hold, share their contacts with publishers and other suppliers for the asking, and provide the most amazing support network. They mourn when an independent bookshop closes. They rejoice when a new one opens.
    They reserve the real tensions for their relationships with the publishers — trying to get good margins and efficient delivery is essential to their survival — and to competition from the dreaded “discount department store”, which can sometimes sell books more cheaply than the average independent shop can buy them wholesale. Booksellers want to survive like any other business, but somehow you get the feeling that taking over the world is not the name of the game.
    I joined the Australian Booksellers’ Association quite early on, and timidly attended some sessions at their Annual Conference, taking lots of notes about selling techniques, bookselling statistics, and other nuts and bolts topics. I found myself warmly welcomed. Over the course of the planning and opening of Tea In The Library, I attended several more conferences and meetings of the local branch of the Association, and met many interesting characters. You will find some of them popping up throughout this story.
    The first ABA Conference I nervously attended was held in Sydney, and I made it to a few sessions. I found the whole subject of “retail”, in its technical intricacies, quite fascinating. The retail bug kind of bit me. All those Theories about types of customers, attracting people through the door, closing the sale, looking after loyalty — I scribbled piles of notes and pored over the fascinating puzzle of how to sell . Who would have thought it was so interesting?
    The next year, I went along to the annual ABA conference in a Queensland resort. Tea In The Library had progressed a long way down the planning path, but I did not yet have a premises and there was a lot more to be done before it existed — temporally, anyway. In addition to the topical and technical seminars, which again absorbed me, this conference gave me a great chance to get to know the independent booksellers. Trust me — they are a fun group! The publishing people who brave this conference were also fun and interesting.
    This conference was a watershed for me in one way, because it was where I had to front people in the book industry, and tell them I was about to open a bookshop. I was nervous about this at first, but was made to feel at ease surprisingly soon. I recall a discussion about the proposed name of my shop, with the owner of the engagingly-named shop in Brisbane, The Avid Reader, and a publisher from Penguin Books. We were sitting squashed in a little carriage of a motorized train, which the whole group had boarded for transport out to the resort’s beach restaurant. The balmy Queensland night was closing in as we trundled through the rainforest, hanging on as the train negotiated the sandy track. The bookseller rather liked “Tea In The Library”. The publisher said he found “The Avid Reader” to be “a little breathless”, and my proposed name “twee”. He said that if he ever opened a bookshop, it would be called something manly and simple, like “Peter’s Bookshop”. Since he has attended several booksellers’ conferences, and seen the industry from the publishers’ side, I don’t suppose that “Peter’s Bookshop” will ever open.
    The following year, joy of joys, Tea In The Library had opened, and I could attend the annual ABA conference as a legitimate bookshop owner. The conference was held again in Queensland, at a resort hotel, and this time I took along Louise, my fledgling shop manager. Again I found

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