Small Business Saturday

        Small Business Saturday is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which this year means it is November 30. This has been going on nationally for several years to encourage people to support local small businesses. We will be giving away a free Uncles book bag (normally $10) to anybody who spends $100.00 or more on Small Business Saturday (and that includes purchases of gift certificates).

39th Anniversary Sale

        December 1 marks Uncle Edgar’s 39th anniversary. Come into Uncle Edgar’s or Uncle Hugo’s and save 10% off everything except discount cards, gift certificates, or merchandise already marked 40% off. A discount card will save you even more–you’ll get 10% off for the discount card and 10% off for the sale. (Sale prices apply only to in-store sales, not to mail orders.) The sale runs Friday, November 29 through Sunday, December 8, giving you two weekends to save.
        We will be having our annual inventory reduction sale December 26-31, but that will feature deep discounts on things we really want to get rid of. It will not be a store-wide sale like the 39th Anniversary Sale.

Award News

        The Hugo Awards included Best Novel to The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal ($18.99) and Best Novella to Artificial Condition by Martha Wells ($16.99).

        The Dragon Awards included Best Science Fiction Novel to A Star-Wheeled Sky by Brad R. Torgersen ($16.00), Best Fantasy Novel to House of Assassins by Larry Correia ($25.00, signed copies), Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel to Uncompromising Honor by David Weber ($9.99). Best Alternate History Novel to Black Chamber by S. M. Stirling ($16.00), and Best Media Tie-In Novel to Star Wars: Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn ($9.99).

The Arthur C. Clarke Award of Best Science Fiction Novel went to Rosewater by Tade Thompson ($15.99).

        The World Fantasy Awards included Best Novel to Witchmark by C. L. Polk ($15.99), Best Anthology to Worlds Seen in Passing edited by Irene Gallo ($27.99), and Best Collection to The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell ($16.99).

        Many mystery awards were presented at Bouchercon:
        The Anthony Awards included Best Novel to November Road by Lou Berney ($16.99), Best First Novel to My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite ($14.95), and Best Paperback Original to Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day ($15.99).
        The Barry Awards included Best Novel to November Road by Lou Berney ($16.99), Best First Novel to The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor ($16.00), Best Paperback Original to The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan ($16.00), and Best Thriller to Safe Houses by Dan Fesperman ($16.95).
        The Shamus Awards (from the Private Eye Writers of America) included Best PI Hardcover to What You Want to See by Kristen Lepionka ($17.99 trade pb), Best First PI Novel to The Best Bad Things by Katrina Carrasco ($19.00), and Best PI Paperback Original to The Questionable Behavior of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone ($14.99).
        The Macavity Awards included Best Novel to November Road by Lou Berney ($16.99), Best First Novel to Dodging and Burning by John Copenhaver ($16.95), and Sue Feder Memorial Award for Best Historical Novel to The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey ($15.95).

Holiday Gift Ideas

        Our most popular gift option continues to be our gift certificate. We can issue one for any amount. It can be used at either or both of the Uncles. It can even be used for mail orders, and it can be purchased over the phone (with a credit card), and we can mail it to the purchaser or to the recipient, or we can just enter the balance on a credit file here in the store to avoid the risk of the gift certificate being lost.
        Calendars used to be a very popular gift item, but so many people are now using assorted electronic devices in place of a wall calendar that the calendar market has shrunk quite a bit. Several years ago we stopped carrying calendars, and a few people had us special order calendars for them, but most people didn’t seem to care. We are again not carrying calendars this year, but we have special ordered a few for customers.
        Many years ago we had a large selection of jigsaw puzzles, but eventually all the manufacturers we had dealt with got out of producing puzzles that we thought our customers would like, and we closed out the jigsaw puzzles maybe 6 years ago. A couple of months ago we found another jigsaw puzzle manufacturer that had a log of puzzles we thought our customers would like, so we picked up nine of the designs we thought would be of most interest, and they are listed in the “Already Recieved” section for Uncle Hugo’s. If you want to mail order a jigsaw puzzle, we have a bit of a problem–they cannot go via Media Mail and have to go via a much more expensive class of mail. So we cannot honor our usual $6.00 shipping charge on jigsaw puzzles. Let us know what you are interested in ordering by mail and we’ll let you know how much postage will cost.
        We also have hundreds of signed books, lots of art books, and humor books, including many that can be given to people who don’t read sf or mysteries. And the publishers are pushing out a lot of very good novels in time for holiday gift-giving.

How’s Business
by Don Blyly

        Sales at bookstores nationwide have been generally down this year, and I’ve read articles that try to put a positive spin on things by saying that the publishing industry still has a chance to get up to last year’s sales if there is a really good holiday season for books. But I just read an article that said that Amazon’s warehouses are so full of non-book merchandise that Amazon has substantially cut back on ordering books for the holidays because they just don’t have room for them in the warehouses, which has the publishers very worried about holiday sales.
        At the Uncles, we’ve been slightly up some months, slightly down some months, but generally slightly down for sales. We’ve also seen an increase in the sales of used books versus new books, and we have a better profit margin on the used books, so we continue to be able to pay our bills.
        Many publishers produce a lot fewer titles during the winter than during the rest of the year, assuming there will be fewer customers in the bookstores during the winter. This issue of the newsletter has 40% fewer new titles than the previous issue.

        I mentioned last issue that the printing plant that has printed our newsletter for the last 29 years was closing. I received a bid from that company to shift the production to a different printing plant located near Lake Michigan near the Wisconsin-Illinois border. At first that bid looked competitive to what we had been paying, but when I asked questions about what bulk mail center the newsletters would go to, and what would be the cost of freight to get most of the newsletters to the bulk mail center and the rest of the newsletters to the store, the price went through the roof. I also got bids from 3 printers near the Twin Cities, and once again had to ask about extra charges not mentioned in the bids. All of the local bids were considerably better than the Wisconsin bid, all claimed that the newsletter would continue to look like it has for the last few decades, all claimed that they could handle the addressing of the newsletters and the paperwork for the bulk mail center. I selected the bid I was most comfortable with, and we’ll see what happens.

        I frequently go over to Popeyes on Sundays to pick up lunch before opening the store, a practice that Ecko (the store dog) strongly approves of. One Sunday I walked over and got a “boneless wings” (chicken nuggets under a different corporate name) special. Instead of just stuffing the “boneless wings” into my mouth, I would examine each one for chunks of breading without much chicken inside, and toss the chunks of breading to Ecko (who has been working on her eye-mouth coordination for years in this manner, and is now fairly good at snapping pieces of food out of the air). When I got to the last “boneless wing”, I found a metal shaving embedded in the breading. I’m sure that they don’t do the breading of the “boneless wings” at the local outlet; they get the “boneless wings” pre-breaded from a factory in another state.
        I was afraid that if I took the evidence back to Popeyes on a Sunday the evidence would simply disappear into the trash and the manager probably wouldn’t even hear about it. So I waited until Monday morning and checked the internet for how to report the problem to the Feds. I found that it could not be reported to the Feds directly, but had to first be investigated by either the state or the city health department, which would then decide whether or not to report it to the Feds. Having more confidence in the state health department, I called them first. I was told that I had to go through the city health department, and the state guy transferred me directly to the correct person in the city health department to take my report. I explained the situation and she claimed that the metal shaving could not have come from an out-of-state factory, but had to have originated in the local kitchen due to poor cleaning procedures, and she was going to send an inspector to review cleaning procedures with the manager. I told her that I was fairly sure that the metal shaving was already embedded in the breading before it reached the restaurant, and I was fairly sure that she would agree if she would just look at the evidence. She made it clear that she had no interest in looking at the evidence. I then pointed out that the evidence was just two storefronts away from Popeyes and that the inspector could stop at the store and pick up the evidence before going to talk to the manager of Popeyes. She reluctantly agreed to take down my name, the phone number for Uncle Hugo’s, and the address for Uncle Hugo’s, but she felt it was very doubtful that the inspector would be willing to look at the evidence. After a couple of days, I hadn’t heard back from the city health department, so I sent an e-mail explaining all of this to the investigative reporter at one of the local TV stations, but he never responded.
        By Friday, nobody from the city health department had called or picked up the evidence, so I sent an e-mail to one of our U.S. Senate offices, detailing all of this, pointing out that a factory putting metal shavings into food was a matter of interstate commerce, and that the city health department shouldn’t be able to block the Feds from investigating a matter of interstate commerce by refusing to look at the evidence. I also offered to pass the evidence along to them. After about a week I received a response, telling me that the way the law was written it was not possible for the Feds to investigate unless the city health department asked them to investigate, and there was nothing the Senator’s office could do to force the city health department to investigate. The e-mail suggested that if I complained enough to my city council member, perhaps the council member could persuade the health department to investigate. I have no confidence in my city council member, so I stopped wasting time on the matter.
        I still frequently pick up lunch at Popeyes, and the problem has not recurred. But I check the food carefully before tossing bits to Ecko and eating the rest myself.

        There’s a certain pattern to the flow of used books at the Uncles. During the spring, summer, and fall a lot of people clean out the books that they no longer want, either by bringing them to a bookstore or by having garage sales. There are people who cruise the garage sales, looking for things they can pick up cheap and resell at a profit, and several such people bring the science fiction, fantasy, and mystery books they pick up cheap at garage sales to the Uncles. (Fortunately, the people who used to cruise the garage sales looking for cheap books and then brought ALL the books to the Uncles because they couldn’t tell a cookbook from a dictionary from a science fiction novel have finally figured out that their way of doing things didn’t work out.) So we see lots more used books come in than go out during the milder months. During the winter, people don’t want to haul boxes of used books through the ice and snow, and garage sales disappear, so we see a lot fewer used books coming in during the winter. But people are still looking to buy a handful of used books at the Uncles. So, the used inventory goes up during the milder months and goes down during the winter. This year, a lot more baby boomers have been downsizing than in previous years, and we’ve been buried in used books. During the milder months we’ve seen a lot more books coming in by the carload instead of just a bag or two at a time. One day in mid-October we had three different customers each bring in a carload of used books within a four hour period.
        For over a decade we’ve been listing the used hardcovers and trade paperbacks (as well as new signed books) on Abebooks.com. (We do not list used mass market books on-line because there are just too many of them and they turn over too fast to make it worth the effort.) This allows customers all over the world to see what we have to offer, but it also allows local customers to search on-line to see if we have used books in stock that they are looking for, instead of coming to the store to look. (Warning: Abebooks wants to sell books, not necessarily OUR books, so they make it very easy for you to start out searching just our books and then accidentally be searching the stock of hundreds of bookstores around the world without realizing it. We’ve had calls from customers asking us to set aside a book they found on Abebooks when they thought they were searching only the Uncles, and it turns out that the book they want was listed by a bookstore thousands of miles away.) For the last few years, the number of books we listed on Abebooks tended to fluctuate between 26,000 and 27,000 copies. Since about June, our listing has jumped from about 27,000 to 31,000, and we still have big piles still to be entered. I wouldn’t be surprised if we get to around 35,000 books listed on Abebooks before we get caught up sometime this winter. I just did a quick estimate on the used mass market paperbacks at the Uncles and came up with a total well over 50,000 books out on display, plus over 20,000 surplus used mass market paperbacks waiting for the display copies of the same titles to sell. We also have about 18,000 surplus hardcovers and trade paperbacks in the basement, waiting for the copies on display to sell. I certainly hope that we have a lot of people buying used books this winter.
         I know that some people have suggested that we should move to a larger location to be able to spread out the used books to make them easier to search. Besides the fact that I own the building, and buying a larger building is beyond my financial ability, there is the question of weight of books. If we assume that the average hardcover is about 2 pounds and the average mass market paperback is around half a pound, just our used books come in at over 130,000 pounds to move. No thanks.

Book Signing

        Back in September Kelly McCullough e-mailed to say that his latest hardcover, Spirits, Spells, and Snark, would be coming out in paperback around the end of January, so we should set up a signing for him and some other people in mid-February. We settled on Saturday, Februry 15, and the signing will also include 3 other guests.
        Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas have co-edited and co-published Uncanny Magazine since 2014 and picked up a bunch of Hugo Awards for their editing, and many of the stories from Uncanny have been finalists or winners of Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards. The Best of Uncanny ($40.00) will be coming out in January from Subterranean Press. Lynne and Michael will be signing on February 15, along with contributing author Mere Fenn Wolfmoor.
        It seems that Kelly’s publisher substantially postponed the paperback release of his book (without letting him know), so we won’t have it in time for the signing. But we have lots of the hardcover edition and lots of other books by Kelly, so he will still be coming for the signing. If you have unsigned books by Kelly in your collection, feel free to bring them along to get signed.