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Old 02-01-2007, 08:27 PM  
Rain Man Rain Man is online now
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My short-term career as a bookseller.

Long story behind this, but my company has "adopted" an elementary school, and we occasionally send people there to volunteer for the school.

My turn came up yesterday, and I approached the situation with a great degree of ignorance, having not actually seen a child since the mid-1990s. I showed up at the school, and I actually got a pretty good job: while my office manager read stories to various groups of kids, my job was to organize a book giveaway. Every kid at story time got a free book, so my job was to pull the kids out of the story circle in small groups, explain to them the choices, and make sure that they only took one book. I was also in charge of stocking the books on a couple of little tables.

Keep in mind that this is one elementary school, so this wasn't a huge operation. I gave away about a hundred books in three hours to kids ranging from 4 to 7 years old.

My lessons as a bookseller:

1. When the first group came in, it was a very small preschool class, so I brought the kids to the tables one at a time, let them pick out their book, and then took them back to the story area. One little girl wasn't paying attention, so I tapped her on her four year-old shoulder. Alarms immediately went off in my head. DON'T TOUCH LITTLE GIRLS! DON'T TOUCH LITTLE GIRLS! YOU'LL GO TO PRISON! So from that point on, I would wave my hand in front of their faces if I couldn't get their attention.

2. About 75 percent of the preschool kids coming in are Spanish speakers, so they had two tables of books, one in English and one in Spanish. My English-only preferences shone through, so I would try to steer the kids toward the English books. In a good sign, most of the youngest kids would pick Spanish books, while the older kids almost all got English books as the schools developed their language skills. Good job, school system! I was also a bit impressed that several of the 7 year-olds would wander back and forth between the tables checking out books. They were apparently fully bilingual.

3. By the age of six, you can already predict the destiny of a good proportion of children, just by observing them.

4. If you want a successful children's book, you apparently have to base it off of a famous televised cartoon character. It was annoying to me, so I pushed the other types of books in my marketing role. ("No, no. You don't want Shrek. Go with "I Know a Rhino". You'll love the surprise ending.")

5. If you don't have the rights to a famous televised cartoon character, make your main character a dinosaur.

6. On the Spanish-language table, I was pushing a book that showed pictures of houses all around the world. It was really kind of cool, but it took me forever to find a taker. Kids kept picking lame-o books with bright colors instead. "Come on, come on. You already know about how the dinosaur learned to make his bed. Look at this one. Wigwams! Quonset huts! Adobe! Trust me on this one."

7. On the English language table, there was little interest in self-help books (I could never sell anyone on the 'how to tie your shoes' book, though some kids really needed it), and I could never get anyone to take the cool "A Day in an Apple Orchard" book. ("Look. Trees. Apples. This is much more interesting than the dancing hippopotomous. Seriously.")

8. I had a theory going in that books that were physically bigger would go faster, especially among the littlest market segments. However, that was not true. I was surprised.

9. As a small businessman, I favor the independents. Books that were ghost-written by celebrities got poor placement on my table. Take that, you big-money stars.

10. I attempted to mold young minds by putting the better books in the best positions on the table. Biography of Einstein? Book on the planets? History of North American explorers? Good position. Stupid theme books about friendly pirates who want to give cake to young stowaways? Back of the bus (though still in front of the celebrities' books).

11. Kids don't get my jokes.

12. It was a little embarrassing when a five-year old asked me what a Spanish-language book was about, and I couldn't figure it out.

All in all, it was an interesting market research study. I discovered that nonfiction books for six year-olds is not a good market, and that content is less important than cover art for most consumers under the age of five. I also learned that you want to make a good impression on the bookseller if you want good placement in the store, and of course I learned that you should never touch a small child if you're a 40-something man.

A good day, overall, before I turned over the keys to the store to DaFace. I bet he wasn't expecting this assignment when he moved to Denver.
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Old 02-01-2007, 08:35 PM   #2
Halfcan Halfcan is offline
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Cute story. I am actually looking for a publisher-can you help a brother out??
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Old 02-01-2007, 08:49 PM   #3
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Pretty cool, Rain Man. I worked at bookshops through college...it's a unique little world. I've got to say that it was finding the little ones that hated to read something they really enjoyed that made it worthwhile.
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Old 02-01-2007, 08:51 PM   #4
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Old 02-01-2007, 08:57 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rain Man
A good day, overall, before I turned over the keys to the store to DaFace. I bet he wasn't expecting this assignment when he moved to Denver.
Yeah, I'm pretty sure you left that one out of the job description. It was a fun experience for the most part, though I have to say that reading a book to a bunch of preschoolers (which I'm not good at) is a little weird when none of them speak English. I basically read a line, then waited on their teacher to translate. I eventually gave up and pretty much started gesturing and pointing to the cute pictures of a hedgehog.

The only thing I can add to RM's story is that the art of "perusing" is developed somewhere during the kindergarten year. The preschoolers could walk to the table and pick a book in about 3.7 seconds, while the first graders would just walk around the table looking unless you told them that their time was up.
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Old 02-01-2007, 09:00 PM   #6
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Sounds like an excruciating experience.
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Old 02-01-2007, 09:02 PM   #7
Halfcan Halfcan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaFace
Yeah, I'm pretty sure you left that one out of the job description. It was a fun experience for the most part, though I have to say that reading a book to a bunch of preschoolers (which I'm not good at) is a little weird when none of them speak English. I basically read a line, then waited on their teacher to translate. I eventually gave up and pretty much started gesturing and pointing to the cute pictures of a hedgehog.

The only thing I can add to RM's story is that the art of "perusing" is developed somewhere during the kindergarten year. The preschoolers could walk to the table and pick a book in about 3.7 seconds, while the first graders would just walk around the table looking unless you told them that their time was up.
I spent a lot of time up at my kids school working with the kids to help them read better. One kid named Brandon-was having a ton of problems. He had come home and found his Dad dead-hung himself in the back yard. Obviously the trauma put him way behind in school. I worked with him a lot-became a big brother type and then years later coached him in Basketball for 3 years. That little bit of time I spent- really made a big difference. Sometime kids just need a break.
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Old 02-01-2007, 09:06 PM   #8
Jenson71 Jenson71 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Halfcan
I spent a lot of time up at my kids school working with the kids to help them read better. One kid named Brandon-was having a ton of problems. He had come home and found his Dad dead-hung himself in the back yard. Obviously the trauma put him way behind in school. I worked with him a lot-became a big brother type and then years later coached him in Basketball for 3 years. That little bit of time I spent- really made a big difference. Sometime kids just need a break.
That's good. When I volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club, I came away thinking "sometimes kids just need some attention". I spent my time with a lot of little black kids, grew up in poor homes or just above that poverty line, welfare homes, etc. You think, these kids are crazy, but then you sit down and give them your time and they're good.
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Old 02-01-2007, 09:09 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kcchiefsfanGoLJ
If Halfcan publish a book I have to buy a copy to read it.
I'm sure it'll be a quick read.
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Old 02-01-2007, 09:09 PM   #10
Halfcan Halfcan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kcchiefsfanGoLJ
If Halfcan publish a book I have to buy a copy to read it.
Get your money ready this is the year.

I have been shopping to agents with little success so far. I did have one offer in Canada-but would have to move there and become a citizen. The Publishing world seems to not want great work right now, they want quick hits or the next Harry Potter. If you name is not famous it is long odds to get published. So I think I am going the self publishing route to start-just to get some copies out there and provide a track record of sales with my proposal. Hopefully by the end of the year I will have my 2nd novel done.

That is why I was asking if anyone had connections.
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Old 02-01-2007, 09:13 PM   #11
Halfcan Halfcan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by milkman
I'm sure it'll be a quick read.
Actually, it is a Historic Mystery that tops out at 484 pages. It took about 9 months of research, 2 years to write it and a year to edit. Finishing up the cover now. I have the artwork just need an expert to put the whole thing together and polish it up a bit.
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Old 02-01-2007, 09:19 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Halfcan
Actually, it is a Historic Mystery that tops out at 484 pages. It took about 9 months of research, 2 years to write it and a year to edit. Finishing up the cover now. I have the artwork just need an expert to put the whole thing together and polish it up a bit.
Hopefully things go real well for you, Halfcan.
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Old 02-01-2007, 09:32 PM   #13
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I will go ahead and put the Synopsis on here in case somebody has a friend in the Publishing Industry.

Queen Anne's Revenge

"Behind every great fortune is a crime."
Honor De Balzac

In 1996, Intersal Inc. made a distinguished maritime discovery when they found the Queen Anne's Revenge burried in shallow water off the North Carolina coast. The divers recovered small amounts of gold dust from the former slave vessel turned pirate flagship, but the cargo hold was empty and the fortune of the infamous Captain Teach remained missing.

Rose Rodriquez, a direct descendant of a slave from the Queen Anne's Revenge, is determined to wrap up the lose ends of her life with dignity and come to terms with her estranged daughter, Isabelle. A box of old mementos from her past life was recently uncovered in a forgotten closet and has become Rose's latest projest. Still recuperating from cancer, she enlist the help of her granddaughter, Sophie. During the process, a seemingly innocuous gift to Sophie, plunges the twelve-year old into a maze of adventure, shrouded by a deadly curse. In the end, Sophie must decide what she will risk for an opportunity at unimaginable wealth: her life, her family, or even her soul.

Meticulously researched plot twist and a tapestry of hidden clues, will pull you into this historical mystery. After reading to a stunning conclusion laced with multiple surprises you will ask yourself, what would I risk, to unlock the secrets of the Queen Anne's Revenge?
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Old 02-01-2007, 09:33 PM   #14
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Old 02-01-2007, 09:38 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rain Man
3. By the age of six, you can already predict the destiny of a good proportion of children, just by observing them.
One of these days RainMan, you will meet my children. You will leave shaking your head.
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