Oh Facebook! You with your hidden algorithms, and arcane suggestions, how is anyone supposed to know how to get you to work properly? I run two pages Hurley Books and I Love Mevagissey. I mothballed the Mevagissey site last year as another similar site was doing the same thing and I decided to just focus on the business one. I left a little holding message redirecting people to the other site and left it at that. As you can see over the year it pretty much flat-lined. Meanwhile Hurley Books continued to gradually grow. I posted regularly; comments, links, shares and photos. Some items proved popular and we would have lots of interaction. Despite all the Facebook wizards suggesting that a particular type of post and a particular time of post was the way to get noticed nothing actually fitted that profile. If I posted a photo on one night at 7 pm lots of people would be shown it by FB, try the exact same thing the following night and nothing. Try it again a week later on the same day and still nothing. Whatever the logarithms are are quite frankly anyone’s guess. So I continued plodding on, posting whenever the mood grabbed me and building up a really nice relationship with my FB followers.
I Love Mevagissey
Then something funny happened. Mevagissey hit the news over the Hitler’s Walk sign and suddenly my I Love Mevagissey page sprang to life, as you can see in the graph. The story first made the nationals on February the 4th That made a bit of sense but then the story faded away but the likes didn’t, they continued to rocket. To make things even more remarkable, during this time FB removed deadwood from its accounts. You can see this occurring on the Hurley Books page as we lost 16 dead accounts. Obviously not a real loss in any sense but look at I Love Mevagissey, that page lost 7, but you can’t see it as it was still ratcheting up likes.
Now the real head scratcher is that I was doing nothing on this page. During the last month I posted just two posts. Both asking people why they had liked the page. The posts were hardly seen and only attracted a few comments. Over on Hurley Books, lots of great conversations and shares were going on, that is a vibrant and busy page. I Love Mevagissey is a barren desert and yet. Since Feb 1st Hurley Books has gone from 935 to 923, we lost 16 and gained 4. I Love Mevagissey went from 328 to 568 lost 7 and gained 240! In two months of doing nothing. The Hitler story can account for about the first 70 but what on earth caused the massive spike on March 5th – 11th or March 20th – 26th?
The page was receiving virtually no comments, likes and no shares, so something else was occurring. Maybe the word Mevagissey was a more popular draw than Books, certainly it’s more unique but it hasn’t suddenly become unique. Again the news story was a little fillip and to that extent I have added Mevagissey to the Hurley Books page to see if it has any bearings on the matter. I did this three days ago and so far no meteoric explosion of likes. 🙂 The only other thing that springs to mind is that one new liker said he saw I Love Mevagissey in a suggested likes post issued to him by FB, for whatever reason I Love Mevagissey had been highlighted and promoted by FB. As far as I know Hurley Books has never had the same exposure. Is this because Hurley Books sits in the Retail category and I Love Mevagissey sits in the Companies & Organisations: Travel/Leisure category. Does FB think Leisure and Tourism needs more support and exposure? Did the page just get lucky? Is there some arcane knowledge to which I am blind? Almost certainly the latter. So I shall continue to watch the two pages and see if I can divine any received wisdom on the situation.
Surrounded in gushing hype and very good word of mouth I had high hopes but honestly I think the people that like this are not normal SF or fantasy readers. There is nothing new to readers of these genres, nor did it bring any particular insight that might have been gained from a fresh, outsider’s voice. It’s not awful and it is nicely written but I think there’s a lot better out there. A shame because it would have been good to read a post apocalyptic book that was well written but contained no vampires or zombies.
Really wanted to love this as its set locally and I thought murders on the moor would be very atmospheric. Nope. Awful, unrealistic, ridiculous.
The Miniaturist Picked this up with dread, just because I was fed up of being let down. Obviously low expectations work because this is wonderful. Who’d have thought seventeenth century Amsterdam could be such a page turner? There’s empire building, commerce, trade, religious fervour and total repression. The book is beautifully written, the tale is well told and the story is compelling but ultimately and unsurprisingly it’s a sad book. I was desperate for just one more chapter to hopefully watch the main protagonists recover and grow.
Behind the Door. The Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp Story.
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey The downside of finally reading a much recommended book; and it disappoints frown emoticon It was terribly 1950s which is fair enough but it read far more like a one sided argument rather than a story and boy Josephine Tey is hard on women. Dry, unbalanced and unkind. In its favour, well written and short.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Now I picked this up because I had seen it hanging around the shelves for what I thought was a long time and i thought I might give it a go. To be honest I haven’t read any fantasy for quite a while because despite loving it, it has all felt a bit samey recently, or maybe my head just wasn’t in the right place.Anyway I picked this up and sure enough the first page seemed full of adjectives and mystery which didn’t inspire me but i turned over the page anyway. And then the next one, and then the next.
Three chapters in I ordered book two.
But here’s the problem and it’s a big one. This isn’t an old series that’s been around for ages (maybe i got that impression from the tired familiar book cover format) there are only two books and a novella. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss Yep, just as good as the first one. Damn. By the way, these books don’t break the genre, they aren’t a “stunning new voice” and all the other hyperbole that goes with a new series but that doesn’t matter. They are well written and tell a great story. And dammit I want to know what happens next.
A Different Class of Murder by Laura Thompson
I liked it, nothing is really resolved but I suspect he’s alive somewhere. The theory that he jumped of the Newhaven ferry just doesn’t ring true as it required more guts than he seemed to possess. An interesting read for true crime fans. – Steve.
Recently invitations were issued to apply for The Independent Bookshop of the Year Award. We had a go at this a few years ago and made it to the shortlist. We polished everything up, made it look really shiny and submitted our entry. We didn’t get any further than the shortlist and in all honesty we didn’t expect to because we were nowhere near the standard of at least one other name in our region who not only went on the win the region and, unsurprisingly, the national award as well.
Even had they not been in the running all the others were still doing a better job than us, in terms of the competition criteria. That’s the crunch really. We don’t do author events, reading groups, school visits, outreach workshops etc etc etc. We don’t bang our drum, wave our flag or do much at all with the community. Call me old fashioned but I think those are the functions of a library. Don’t get me wrong I don’t think a bookshop shouldn’t do them and when they do it’s pretty great if it works for all parties. Fundamentally though, the party it needs to work for most is the bookshop. I know this is going to sound horribly mercantile and quite frankly a bit grubby but bookshops are there to make money and thus stay in business. That’s pretty much as bottom line as it gets. Everything else is window dressing. If that window dressing brings you more customers, spreads the word, then great. If that window dressing costs you more time and money than it creates then why are you doing it?
Bookshops are going out of business and we are all facing tough times. We have to be ever more careful about how we function as it doesn’t take much to shut us down. We don’t owe it to our communities, our customers, our authors or our bank managers to stay in business but to ourselves, first and foremost.
For Hurley Books this means providing great service, selecting stock very carefully and watching our profit margins. I think we do a good job and that we are a great bookshop but this brings me back to the first point; we are not good in terms of the awards criteria. So I decided to apply again this year without the polish and shiny in order to put a voice out there for all the hard working quiet bookshops.
This was our application. We didn’t get shortlisted 🙂
Our application isn’t going to look great but bear with us and you’ll see why we have bothered
Welcome to Hurley Books. We are a independent bookshop in Mevagissey, a small fishing village on the Cornish south coast. It is owned and run by myself and my husband, Liz and Steve Hurley, and a range of staff, currently two excellent part timers. We work with Emma and Jane, who provide a friendly and informative service. We are all book readers and all have different backgrounds and tastes, we work hard, we enjoy our jobs and we love where we live. None of us are overly bothered by fashion or trends. The atmosphere is friendly, warm and not intrusive. We offer assistance but we neither hover nor ignore our customers. We have been in business for the past 14 years, moving to Mevagissey nine years ago where we have settled down nicely.
We stock new, second hand, collectables and ephemera. Our balance is probably 30 / 70 new to old. Our new stock reflects our location and the desires of our customers plus a dollop of stuff that we find interesting and would like to share. Our second hand stock is pretty eclectic, although well laid out. As a professional librarian I have always loved order, as a lover of old bookshops Steve has always preferred chaos but somehow we find a comfortable middle ground. New shinny stock is in the front of the shop, old curious stuff is out the back.
Our website is www.hurleybooks.co.uk which we use to post our blogs and links to our online shops on Amazon and eBay. It is a useful tool but our main form of online communication with our customers is our Face Book page /hurleybooks. We also tweet @hurleybooks.
Our opening hours expand and contract like the tide. In summer we are open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. ’til 9 p.m. In winter, it’s Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. ’til 4 p.m. We are enormously influenced by the tourist trade, in winter the resident population of Mevagissey is far too small to support a bookshop and much as we like our villagers we would be fools to rely on them. Not because they would be unwilling to support us and indeed they do but there just aren’t enough of them.
In fact it is not their place to support us. We are not a charity nor an essential service. If we can’t survive on our own two feet then we need to bow out.
Marketing and promotions. Yeah, we don’t do that.
Community outreach. Yeah, we don’t do that either.
Loyalty Cards?No. Author events? Nope. Reading Groups? Nope. Local Hub? No, no, no. We’re rubbish aren’t we and yet we exist.
We do more than exist. We thrive. We flourish and grow. Actually we do do the odd event, if someone asks us to help out launch a book then of course we are there to help. If they need advice on publishing a book we go through the steps with them. If people need a new reading list we set something up for them. when a new book comes out and we think it has someone’s name all over it we get in touch with them. We find our customers their next book, we offer a warm friendly space to just browse and buy if they want. Sometimes it’s enough to just try and solve our blackboard puzzles or come in and sit out of the rain. Dogs are welcomed but not ice creams.
We offer a range of stock at all price points on a wide range of subjects. We happily offer discounts when asked but not always and sometimes we give free books and comics when not asked just because they were lovely customers. We also have a great relationship with our local authors, supporting and promoting them as much as we can.
Don’t get me wrong, we do get awful customers, who doesn’t, but the majority are great and some are priceless. In fact I have asked our online community to tell us what they make of us going for this award and goodness me they made us blush. We didn’t ask our customers in the physical shop because that would just have been too embarrassing. A transaction in a small bookshop is intimate enough as it is, asking them to rate us as well would just be uncomfortable.
Here’s what our online community had to say.
There’s also a thread on this subject on the 6th of February. By all means have a browse through our face book page posts and photos, it might give you more of a feel for us.
I could send you clippings of a glossy magazine book group that we hosted. The EV Thompson fan base that we ran until his death. The time we gave free copies of Rebecca to the fishermen. Or coverage in the national press about our dog biscuits. The radio show that we sponsored. I could tell you about the publishing company that I am in the process I’m setting up. Or the bookbinding that I do. We could show you photos of author signings, but all these things are few and far between and don’t offer a true reflection of our everyday existence.
So this is why we have entered because we want to offer an alternative view of what a successful, popular bookshop can be. It doesn’t have to be the one with a regular and exciting calendar of events, with strong out-reach community ties but one that knows itself and just gets on with being that.
Highlights of the Year
·Reading the amazing comments from our customers.
·The fact that another year has passed where we have not woken up one single day and thought “ugh work”
·Discoveringa collection of letters from HRH Edward VIII written at the beginning of the first world war, amongst a collection of school reports bought in auction.
·Meeting an American FB fan, who made a point of coming to Cornwall when she was on holiday in the UK to say Hi!
·Receiving my ISBNs for Mudlarks Press
·Learning how to book bind.
·Watching a lady jive in the shop when she thought no one was watching.