When I read the word perennial I immediately think about gardening. Doesn’t everyone? Well, maybe Aldous Huxley didn’t when he wrote The Perennial Philosophy but most people think gardening. I don’t know a lot about gardening and I know less about perennial philosophy, but I do know perennials vs. annuals. Perennials come up year after year and so involve less labour and less investment. Annuals appear annually, are labour intensive and cost you money each year.
Some may say I also don’t know much about bookselling having been out of the trenches of a bookstore for far too long, however I do spend most of my working hours thinking about bookselling, spend most of my free shopping time in bookstores and follow a number of booksellers on Facebook and Twitter. Just the other day I saw this tweet from the University of British Columbia bookstore:
I know that as a bookseller in a bookstore I was closed-minded in the way that a lot of booksellers are, i.e. “I know all there is to know about bestsellers”. This is what I now consider a culture problem in bookstores, the idea that you can’t gain anything from the oh so crude world of numbers and that your own memory is sufficient when it comes to knowing the backlist of every publisher and what constitutes a bestseller. It is a Paul Bunyan kind of story.
Trying to find the next Twilight or Girl With the Dragon Tattoo takes a lot of labour and investment. These books are the annuals of the book world, some bloom some don’t and they don’t return next year, (but you return them). The perennials are what will give you some stability in your otherwise chaotic world and also, obviously, the thing that keeps readers coming back year after year.
It is no mean feat that BookNet and the Canadian book industry now has enough historical data to begin mapping the perennials of the book world. As a seasoned bookseller there may not be that many surprises in our report although there will be some. But what about the unseasoned bookseller, the new bookseller, the new bookstore? What about those booksellers that need to know what flowers are going to be reliable and take less effort, require less investment and in fact give you some kind of economic stability if there is such a thing in book selling these days? The is a report to share with new and current staff and to address one of the perennial problems of bookselling—the loss of experienced people who have a lot of knowledge about what sells.
There is another side to this report that I am equally interested in. But that is for another blog post. See you next week.
If you are a BNC SalesData subscriber check out the BNC Perennial Bestseller research study by logging into salesdata.ca.