lizbee: (Random: the rules)
"It's only [insert month  here]!  Why are the shops putting out Christmas stock already?  IT CONFLICTS WITH MY PERSONAL TIMELINE FOR APPROPRIATE HOLIDAY FESTIVITIES!"

Here is an answer from someone who has worked in retail:

The Christmas season means higher sales all around, so stores order their usual ranges in higher quantities, plus the seasonal products.  Orders are placed well in advance to ensure the desired quantities arrive on time, because no one wants to come into December and find you're all out of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and the supplier can't fill your order because they, too, are out of stock and awaiting the next print run. 

Stores have finite storage space, and over-filling it is obviously not going to be helpful for anyone.  So stock gets put out on the floor.  By mid-December (if you're in a bookstore) books will be in floorstacks, the only time of the year when such a thing is permissible.  By late October, Christmas stock is starting to appear because there's nowhere else for it to go.  And frankly, with the huge quantities of Christmas stock that stores receive, you'd be an idiot to try and put it all out at once. 

So now you know.

On the other hand, there is no excuse whatsoever for playing Christmas music in November, and the people (usually area managers who don't actually work in stores and don't have to listen to "Last Christmas" 18 times a day) who insist on it should be shot.


Mar. 28th, 2010 11:43 am
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1. This is the greatest fic ever: "Within Two Infinities".  A Gallifrey AU inspired by In the Thick of It, which is to say, Narvin is the communications director for the Prime Minister, the Daily Male is saying that she's elitist and cold, which is technically true, but they do want to keep their jobs, and also Braxiatel is the Chancellor, and that can't possibly be good.

A sample:

"Hilarious," Irving said with a distinct lack of hilarity in his voice. "I notice you lack siblings to make sexual remarks about. I assume you killed them."

"In my defence, they were my Mars Bars. And since when are you the poster-boy for the benefits of siblings? What you call a brother, I call an overgrown man-child who's just shy of autism and yet somehow still manages to to charm a distressing amount of the other sex. And some of the same ones too. Dark and mysterious my wank. If he was my brother, I would kill him for a Mars Bar."

"How... noble of you, Narvin. I was under the assumption that you usually don't need a reason."

2. [profile] sajee and [personal profile] melwil, you both need to read A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce. It's a YA retelling of a fairy tale, specifically Rumpelstiltskin. Which is my all-time least favourite fairy tale ever, and fortunately the author feels the same way. It's set in a world in the early stages of an industrial revolution, with a young women faced with a failing mill, a mortgage, corporate sabotage, and a helpful stranger offering the solution to all her problems ... for a very small, very reasonable price.

3. [personal profile] melwil, as I've been meaning to tell you since I was in Brisbane, your students need to read the following books by Megan Whalen Turner: The Thief, Queen of Attolia, King of Attolia. There is also a fourth in the series, A Conspiracy of Kings, but my copy hasn't arrived yet.

It's middle-grade fantasy set in a world heavily based on Classical and Byzantine Greece, although in this case, the culture and religion have persisted long enough to develop firearms.  It has a lot of adventure, strong male and female characters, a dash of romance, and some amazing plotting.  YOU SHOULD READ IT.  WHY HAVEN'T YOU READ IT YET?  HURRY UP AND GO READ IT!

4. Speaking of books, yesterday turned out to be my last day at Borders. This was slightly unexpected; I'd been under the impression that they needed me for a few more weeks, and I misheard a voicemail from one of the managers. So it was a bit strange. I'm having a farewell drinks on Thursday night, and hoping that people will actually turn up.

5. This is how I celebrated my last day there:


6.  But I can't read them yet; I'm still only halfway through Connie Willis's Blackout.  It's both awesome and frustrating, in that (very early in) there's an error about Lady Jane Grey's age at the time of her deat that, with an author I didn't know and like, would have had me wondering whether or not to continue.  And I strongly suspect there are some geographical problems re: getting around London, and the characters all seem to live in a world without mobile communications (by which I don't mean the Blitz).  But other than those niggles, I'm really enjoying it, and am almost looking forward to doing my laundry, with the opportunity it will give me for reading.
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Conversation with a customer last night:

Her: "Do you know anything about Will Shetterly?"

Me: "Nothing to recommend him.  Have you read any Octavia Butler?"

(Useful fact: normally, asking "do you know anything about this author?" is not a particularly useful approach.  I can tell you that Author X writes Y books, and they are popular/critically acclaimed/criminally underappreciated, but I don't actually know much about the author.  I mean, I can answer the question, but I find it frustratingly vague.)
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I just completed a seemingly-endless shift at work, then missed a connecting tram and had to take a taxi home. 

I encountered a woman in History, reading Coraline and being Disapproving.  "This is obscene," she told me.  "I've never read a graphic novel before.  Not really proper novels, are they?"

She was, I add, about my age.

Later I overheard an American student browsing magazines.  "This is so cute," she was saying to her friend, "they've got, like, Australian magazines and stuff."

Hey, I lolled.
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I just filled out my three-month review form for work, while the kitten climbed up my back. He's pretending to be hungry, but as he has two bowls of his favourite foods sitting in the kitchen, I think he just wants attention.

Anyway, I feel fairly positive about my review, which is on Friday, although the manager doing it is the strictest and most arbitrary person on staff. (Not by coincidence, she's also the youngest manager, and the most recently promoted.)

As for New Year's Eve plans, I'm working tonight until seven, and then the House o'Squid is off to the House o'Cats to spend the evening with [ profile] peace_bloom and [ profile] sajee, drinking wine and ... well, I'm sure we'll come up with other things to do.

I shall return the copy of David Starkey's Six Wives that I borrowed months ago, too -- I just started the chapter on Catherine Parr, so I should have it finished in the very near future. How I hate Henry VIII. I know I've discussed this before, but I really hate him quite a lot. I've seen people argue that, by the standards of the age and the behaviour expected for kings, Henry was perfectly reasonable in changing wives the way normal men change their socks, but if that was really the case, it wouldn't have caused any scandal in Europe.

Mostly it just shits me off that Henry was married to two of the most brilliant women of the age -- Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn -- and completely failed to appreciate what he had. I fear I may have become an Anne Boleyn fangirl. It's terribly embarrassing.

Next, I'm tossing up between Alison Weir and Antonia Fraser's biographies of the wives. I'm inclined to go with Weir, purely because I find Fraser's writing a bit ponderous.

(I may also be drawing chibi versions of the Wives. I KNOW, I KNOW. If anyone can point me towards a really good online resource for Tudor female dress, I'd be most grateful. I haven't had time to look myself.)
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Austen-hating journalist versus the Janeites' Cluebats of Righteousness.  Sadly, he didn't seem to stick around long enough for a proper fight, but it was fun watching the pwning in action.

You guys know how much I love trashy UK celeb magazines almost as much as I love dodgy celeb biographies?  Be still my beating heart!  Due out in Australia in November.

Here's a wonderful interview with some of Melbourne's independent booksellers.  Includes terrible customers, book recommendations and a serial book thief.  Who, by the way, I'm going to kick in the nads if I ever see him.  Giant pink Thai cookbooks don't come cheap, people!

Geography fail!  Wrong Georgia, kid.

The plot is fairly simplistic but with redundant lines. "Oceania has always been war with Eastasia." "Freedom is slavery." "Big Brother is watching you." In other words, it was nothing but a lot of nonsensical fillers. One-star reviews of 1984

This advertisement appeared on a phone booth outside work the other day.  You know how there are weird moments where suddenly you wonder if they all lied and the world actually does revolve around you?  Yeah.

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1.  There is no tea in the house.  This is because I told myself again and again to buy tea after we saw The X-Files last night, and of course, I forgot.  So my morning caffeine has come in the form of coffee, instant.  I am not overly pleased.

2.  Yesterday I saved work from BURNINATING IN FIRE. Sort of.  The manager was on lunch, and I looked up and said, "Do you smell something burning?"

"Oh yeah," said the new guy, "it's sort of plasticky."  We frantically checked all the computers and powerpoints, but nothing was out of order.  Then he said, "I noticed a couple of hours ago that the bin outside was on fire..."

So I strolled over and had a look, and OH BOY WAS THE BIN OUTSIDE ON FIRE.  As I watched, a lady emptied her bottle of water over it and walked on, with no noticable effect.  I wandered back to the counter, picked up the phone and called triple-zero.

Fifteen minutes later, a fire truck turned up, sirens blazing, and six handsome firemen jumped out, brandishing an enormous hose (what?) and put out the fire.  By the time they were finished, the plastic bin within the metal shell had fully melted.  It was quite awesome.

Then I had a quick talk with the new guy about how fires should be put out when they're small, before they get big and stink out the whole store.

3.  I quite liked The X-Files, despite the fact it had a PLOT OF FAIL.  Yes, those caps were necessary.  So much fail!  And yet, so much win, especially in the bits where it forgot it was a Serious Movie.

4.  Recently, our company has started importing customer orders via a third company.  Which is to say, instead of directly ordering from our UK or US wholesalers, we place the order, and Company C takes it from there.

Unfortunately, Company C has some competency issues, which lead to the following conversation:

"Hi, this is Liz from [company], I just wanted to chase up some outstanding orders.  [Here are the ISBNs.]"

"Oh yeah.  It took us a while to figure those orders out.  It turns out the books are from England."

"...Right.  Now, there's also this order: [ISBN]."

"Yes, we did receive that book, but we lost it.  Do you want us to order another copy?"


5.  The problem with reading breast cancer memoirs is that, for weeks after, instead of thinking, "Hmm.  My boob hurts.  I really need to get a properly-fitted bra", I think, "Hmm.  My boob hurts.  I hope I get a book deal before I die."  It's a bit fail.  Also, Lopsided by Meredith Norton was ultimately unsatisfying, for reasons I shall go into in more detail in my Vox.
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The back of the shirt says, It will take your breath away.  There was a photo that showed it off properly, but it made me look ... strange.  And I am vain.

[ profile] suburbannoir, who took the photos, said, "Do you think we should get any more squids in that shot?"

I don't think I realised until just this moment quite how large my giant hoop earrings are.
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As a bookseller, I'm at the lower end of the publishing foodchain.  However, I'm going to punch above my weight for a moment, and offer a bit of advice to the aspiring author:

If you can possibly avoid it -- if it is in any way achievable -- for the love of squid, don't use offensive language in the title of your book.

"But," you say, "I'm a cutting edge author of hip, in-your-face literature.  My target audience isn't going to be put off by a curse word.  Stop trying to compromise my artistic vision, peon!"

That is all very well, but it's not necessarily the target audience who's buying your books.  Offhand, I'd say about 40% of the books I sell in a day are being purchased as gifts, and that increases hugely around Christmas.  Instead of picturing your pierced hipster readers, take a moment to envision a sweet, sheltered grandmother, coming into a shop, examining the print-out of their precious adult grandchild's email and approaching the counter.

"Excuse me, miss," she'll say, "my granddaughter has asked for a book for Christmas.  It's called The Fuck Up."

Or, more likely, she'll just push the print-out towards the sales assistant, looking faintly ashamed of both herself and her descendants, while the bookseller maintains a perfectly neutral expression and makes a mental note to share this anecdote online one day.

Even if your cover is cunningly designed to disguise a four-letter-word -- The Fuck Up's cover, for example, makes it look like a novel titled Uck Up -- people are still going to ask for your book.  Ideally, they're going to buy it, read it and love it enough to tell all their friends about it.

"Excuse me," said a well-dressed lady a few weeks back, "I'm looking for a book -- I read about it in a magazine -- it's a diet book, it's called, um, I'm so sorry, it's called Skinny Bitch."

"I'd like to order a book, please," said another customer recently, "it's called -- here, I'll just write it down for you."  Bitch Rules by Elizabeth Wurtzel.

"Can you recommend any good books about sailing?" asked a middle-aged lady last year.  "I'm looking for something my husband will like."

"Aquatic sports books are over here," I said, "probably the best one about sailing is this one," I pulled All Piss and Wind off the shelf.  The customer and I looked at it, mutually blanched, and moved on.

And, although it should be obvious, racial and homophobic slurs are best avoided if you want to actually sell your book.  The worst example is on shelves now.  It's an interesting-looking biography by an Chinese-Australian journalist, recounting her experiences growing up as the only Asian kid in her suburb.  I'd love to read it, and I'd love to be able to recommend it for others.  Unfortunately, it's titled Ching-Chong China Girl.  Which is, obviously, the taunt that followed the author through primary school, and she has every right to reclaim it for her own use.  However, the average browsing customer sees it, becomes embarrassed, looks away, and any possibility of selling the book is gone.  (Generally, if a customer has asked for a book in that genre, I recommend Unpolished Gem by Alice Pung instead; it covers similar ground, but is cheaper and has a less problematic title.  Or her anthology, Growing Up Asian in Australia.)

The problem is that if customers are put off by your title, they're not going to buy your book.  And if people don't buy your book, your publishers will stop giving you money to write them, and then your artistic vision will really be compromised.

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I got home from work to find this hilarious article about Freema in The Sun (possible spoilers for Torchwood).  'Cos, um, if you were writing the scripts without having a contract signed?  You deserve to get shafted.  And full series > five episodes any day.

At work today, we received a whole pile of Twilight tack, in preparation for the book launch next month.  These included competition forms (in 250 words or less, if Bella was a vampire, what would her superpower be?  UM.) and bookmarks, and -- this was the exciting bit -- BADGES.

Now, I'm not a Twilight fan by any means, but I do like a good badge.  There were four varieties, and I got a photo of three:

Fail!photos behind the cut. )

After work, I popped into Cotton On for a new belt, and somehow walked out with a flannel shirt-dress.  IT'S LIKE 1992, SERIOUSLY.  I bought it because it looked incredibly comfortable -- and it is -- but I got a medium, and it fits perfectly, except over my apparently enormous breasts.  I've lost a fair bit of weight since I moved to Melbourne.  Why have my boobs stayed the same size?

Speaking of weight loss, another delivery we received today was a new shipment of my Least Favourite Book Ever, the diet book Skinny Bitch.  I dunno, guys, if I wanted someone to tell me that I'm a fat, ugly pig and my love for meat is unladylike, I'd have a boyfriend.  I'm not paying $29.99 for it.
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"Is this any good?" the customer asked, indicating The Spiderwick Chronicles.

"Yes," I said, "it's very popular with older primary students -- the ones who've read all of Emily Rodda and want something more."

"But it's a fiction-type book, right?" she said, "not like Harry Potter?"


I never make up my retail stories.  It would spoil the fun for everyone.  For some reason, children's fiction seemed to be attracting people today.  For example:

"Hi, I'm looking for the Fudge books."

"Oh, Judy Blume!" I said, with the pleasure of one who is about to inflict her childhood favourites on a total stranger.

"Yes," said the customer, "that's her name!  It's about a girl named Judy and her little brother Fudge."

The customer is always right, except when they're dead wrong.

"No," I said, in my most diplomatic tone of voice, "Judy Blume's the author.  You might be thinking of the Judy Moody series."

"There's no such person as Judy Blume!" the customer snapped.  "That's the character.  Someone else writes the books."

"Well," I said, "we do have a couple of the Fudge books.  Come this way."

I led her over to the shelves, and put a copy of Fudge-a-mania in her hands.  The words By Judy Blume were printed in large, bright green letters.

"There," the customer said, "I told you so."


Ever since I saw Black Books, I've been totally unable to sell The Little Book of Calm with a straight face.

That I ever could sell The Little Book of Calm with a straight face speaks, I think, to my high standards of professionalism.


Last week, I sold a copy of Belle de Jour's The Intimate Adventures of a London Call-Girl with the promise that it was a brilliant book, and the TV series was even better.  I was, I would like to point out, only half lying.  The TV series is better.


Some books I have left unfinished, for varying reasons:

Diana by Sarah Bradford - a well-researched, unsensational and fair biography of the late Princess of Wales.  Abandoned because it was too depressing (and, irrationally, because Diana and my mother looked alike when they were young, and it's a bit distressing).

Fannish compulsions drive me to point out that the author is Lalla Ward's sister-in-law.

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz - teen spy thriller for the Stu-tolerant.  Another notch down in my attempts to read the big teen novels.  Abandoned because the main character was too Stu-tastic even for me, the female characters were all stereotypes (and mostly absent), the most interesting character was dead before the story began.  I nearly continued, to see if the homo-eroticism in the Big Tense Snooker Game (sticks! balls! scoring!) had any payoff, but the chance seemed too narrow.

Chain of Hearts by Maureen McCarthy - another teen novel, about family secrets, guilt and lies.  Abandoned because it seemed unlikely the book would end with a temporal cataclysm wiping the entire cast of characters out of history, never to darken my door again. 

Life's too short for bad books.  Unless I'm the one selling them.


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