Friday, January 18, 2013

Looking over the shoulder at 2012

Last year I did a little write-up about my mistakes. It became clear that people love to read about other people screwing up. So it would make some sense to do the same thing this year--but I'm skipping over that as mistakes can be difficult to confront.

What I will be doing is a scatter-shot review of the year for us and, to a lesser degree, the book world at large.

After talking to a number of other stores and sales reps I feel it's pretty safe to say that 2012 was a pretty good year for most stores. Things started well for a good majority of stores and rolled along until a strong holiday season. As has been reported elsewhere, this year featured no smash-hit country wide. No Mark Twain bio. All in all, it's a positive sign for the industry that things can go well with everyone sharing a little of the success.

Last week I posted our bestsellers for the year and for the month of December. Outside of those books we were lucky to have a number of other books do quite well. "Stockholm Octavo" and "Leon and Louise" were two nice surprises. "Press Here" and "Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site" were big hits in the kids book realm. We had a number of locals do well: Peter Geye's "The Lighthouse Road" and Carrie Newman's "War on the Prairie" being the most notable.

Trying to sense any solid trend is risky business for our store. We've been here for 10 years(officially in August 2013)and that is still a small sample size. Two things I can say is that this past fall was very strong for us in terms of hardcover book sales. And cookbook sales have gone bonkers. The cookbook thing really should be its own post(note to self). It's most likely a combination of the ever increasing interest in cooking shows(Bourdain, Top Chef, Chopped, etc.) and the quality of these books getting better and better. It's also one area of the book world not easily or well replicated on a tablet/reader. A recipe is a recipe. But the pictures and other miscellany count for a lot. The hardcover sales are something I can't really put a finger on.

The last thing I'd be remiss not to note is the fact that bookstores(real, physical, spaces) had a renaissance of sorts in 2012. There were a number of books on books and bookstores. We were lucky to be involved in a couple of them. Ann Patchett, whose store in Nashville, TN has been open for just over a year, became a perfect spokesperson for us and kept us the regular media loop. I also had the great fortune to edit a book of lists from booksellers and it put me into contact with stores all over the country. What I learned, and continue to appreciate, is that we all play for the same team. In December I spoke on the phone, daily, with booksellers from Magers&Quinn, Common Good and Subtext. We called each other to find books that weren't in stock at our own stores. It was a sign of respect/admiration for one another to be sure. It was also a concerted effort to help customers find books locally if at all possible.

I've said this many times before but I feel strongly about it: the MN/Twin Cities book world is as good as, or better than, anyplace in the United States. We have a strong community of bookstores, publishers and assorted others in the biz as well as a group of readers that allows us to do what we love to do. For that I thank all of you. It was a great year and we look forward to many more.

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