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Archived Newsletter Content


Newsletter #124 December, 2018 February, 2019

Small Business Saturday

        Small Business Saturday is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, which this year means it is November 24. 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).

38th Anniversary Sale

        December 1 marks Uncle Edgar’s 38th 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 30 through Sunday, December 9, 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 38th Anniversary Sale.

Award News

        The World Fantasy Award for best novel went in a tie to The Changeling by Victor Lavalle ($18.00) and Jade City by Fonda Lee ($15.99). The other contenders were The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty ($16.99), Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruins of Ymr by John Crowley ($16.99), The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theiodor Goss ($16.99), and Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory ($16.95). Lifetime Achievement Awards went to Charles de Lint and Elizabeth Wollheim.

        The Hugo Awards included Best Novel to The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin ($16.99), Best Novella to All Systems Red by Martha Wells ($14.99 tr pb, $16.99 hc due in January), Best Series to Lois McMaster Bujold for the World of Five Gods series, and the World Science Fiction Society Award for Best Young Adult Book (not a Hugo) went to Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor ($10.99).

        The Dragon Awards included Best Science Fiction Novel to Artemis by Andy Weir ($16.00), Best Fantasy Novel to Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson ($23.99 tr pb), Best Young Adult/Middle Grade Novel to Children of Blood and Bone byTomi Adeyemi ($18.99), Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel to A Call to Vengeance by David Weber, Timothy Zahn, and Thomas Page ($26.00, $8.99 pb due mid-December), and Best Alternate History Novel to Uncharted by Kevin J. Anderson and Sarah A. Hoyt ($25.00).

        The Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature went to Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruins of Ymr by John Crowley ($16.99).

        Many mystery awards were presented at Bouchercon:
        The Anthony Award for Best Novel went to Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke ($15.99), for Best First Novel to Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett ($14.99), for Best Paperback Original to The Day I Died by Lori Rader-Day ($14.99), and the Bill Crider Award for Best Novel in a Series to Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton ($16.00).
        The Barry Awards included Best Novel to The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne ($16.00), Best First Novel to The Dry by Jane Harper ($9.99), Best Paperback Original to The Deep Dark Descending by Allen Eskens ($15.95), and Best Thriller to Unsub by Meg Gardiner ($9.99).
        The Shamus Awards included Best PI Hardcover to The Room of White Fire by T. Jefferson Parker ($9.99 pb), Best First PI Novel to The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka ($16.99), and Best PI Paperback Original to Lights Out Summer by Rich Zahradnik ($15.95).
        The Macavity Awards included Best Mystery Novel to Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz ($16.99), Best First Mystery Novel to The Lost Ones, by Sheena Kamal ($15.99), and Best Mystery-Related Nonfiction to The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books by Martin Edwards ($15.95).

        The U.K. Crime Writers Association has announced the Dagger Awards for 2018, including The Ian Fleming Steel Dagger to Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke ($15.99), The John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger to Lola by Melissa Scrivner Love ($16.00), The International Dagger to After the Fire by Henning Mankell ($16.95), and a bunch of awards to books not yet scheduled for U.S. release.

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. A couple of 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. Last year we brought in a small number of calendars from England, and only sold about half of them. So this year we are again not carrying calendars, but we have special ordered a few for customers.
        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

        I keep watching the various reports of national book sales being up some months and down other months, but always doing less well than the rest of retail. Sales at the Uncles also fluctuate compared to the same month the year before, but our fluctuations don’t seem to have anything to do with the national fluctuations. Our September sales were up a little from last year, but October sales were way down compared to last year, and November so far is also way down compared to last year. I think the main problem is that we had a lot of late-November-style weather in early October and a lot of late-December-style weather in early November. We’ve certainly had a lot of good books coming into the store, but not enough customers have been coming in to buy them.

        For years we’ve been unhappy about the decrease in the number of books coming out in mass market paperback. As more books come out in trade paperback instead of mass market
paperbacks, the trade paperbacks spend less time on the new release shelf and the mass market paperbacks spend longer on the new release shelf. The shelf space for backlist trade paperbacks keeps getting more crowded, and the shelves for the backlist mass market paperbacks looks less full. (For us, a title becomes “backlist” when it comes off the new release shelf, but various publishers have internal rules about how many months old a book has to be before it is declared “backlist”.) A few years back, Dorchester went under, and we had carried a lot of horror and paranormal romance mass markets from them at Uncle Hugo’s, and they distributed Hard Case Crime mass markets to Uncle Edgar’s. The titles to Uncle Hugo’s usually only sold 1-3 copies per title, and Hard Case Crime found another distributor, so there wasn’t much effect to our business. About a year ago Uncle Hugo’s made some changes to our shelving for backlist mass market so that they wouldn’t look so empty, and also to make it easier to move around the store.
        Berkley used to publish a huge number of cozy mystery series in mass market, so many that around 1/4 of Uncle Edgar’s mass market new release shelf used to be Berkley cozies. Around a year ago we heard that Berkley was killing off most of their cozy series, and we were worried. Then we heard that Kensington was picking up most of the cozy series that Berkley was killing off, and we were relieved. The customers don’t care if the spine says Berkley or Kensington, as long as they can continue to get the series that they are following. The Berkley and Kensington books come from the same warehouse, in the same box, on the same invoice, so we don’t care what imprint is on the spine.
        But Kensington started putting a lot of the books out in e-book only instead of mass market paperbacks. (They also began to put out a lot of books in Uncle Hugo’s territory in e-book only, but those are overwhelmingly by authors that we’ve never heard of before, so it doesn’t make much difference to Uncle Hugo’s.) Many of the cozy mysteries that Kensington was putting out in e-book only were continuations of series that our customers had been following in mass market paperback. The number of new mass markets for Uncle Edgar’s went down and the time spent on the new release shelf went up.
        With all the changes going on in the publishing field, we’ve started making significant changes to the physical layout of the books at Uncle Edgar’s. We used to have the new mass market paperbacks alphabetical by author in one area, the new trade paperbacks alphabetical by author in another area, and the new hardcovers alphabetical by author in a third area. But with some series, part of the series was in mass market paperback, part in trade paperback, and the newest was in hardcover. We have now changed things so that the new mass market paperbacks, trade paperback, and hardcovers are all arranged together, alphabetical by author, which should make it much easier for customers to find what they are looking for. The back wall, which used to be new mass market paperbacks N-Z is now the beginning of the used mass market alphabet. As we started moving things around, we also looked at the sales of a lot of the older mystery titles, and found that many books early in the series by major authors hadn’t sold a new copy in maybe 5 years, maybe 10 years, sometimes not in 15 years. Those titles were still selling well as used books, but our customers were waiting for used copies to come in rather than paying for new copies. So we returned a lot of new books that hadn’t sold in years to make more room to display the used books better. After we’re finished with the newsletter, some of the shelves toward the center of the store will be used to expand our used hardcover section, getting a lot of the piles of used books off the floor so that you can actually see what’s on the bottom shelves without moving the huge piles on the floor.
        Another change at Uncle Edgar’s: Elizabeth got a new full-time job (not in retailing), but will still be at Uncle Edgar’s on Saturdays and occasionally for a few hours other days. Mary has been working Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for several months, and Kai has been working Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays for few months. Mary has read a lot more mysteries than Kai, but both will be happy to help you find what you are looking for. And both sometimes come to me when they can’t get the computer to cooperate (and sometimes I can figure out the problem, with 17 more years of experience with the computer not cooperating).

        Two years ago 786,935 ISBNs (International Standard Book Number) were issued for self-published books, and last year over 1,000,000 more ISBNs were issued for self-published books. And some self-published authors are so clueless that they put out their books without ISBNs, so that wholesalers and most retailers won’t touch them because the computers don’t know how to handle a book without an ISBN. Even among the self-published books with ISBNs that are carried by wholesalers, most are offered at a “short” discount (much lower discount than a bookstore can survive with) and are non-returnable. For decades we tried to have as complete a selection as possible of the science fiction, fantasy, and mystery books in print, but over the last few years this has become impossible.

        We’ve been listing our used hardcovers and trade paperbacks (but not used mass market paperbacks) and our signed books on Abebooks for over 15 years, with about 29,000 titles at the moment. This allows many people from around the world to see what we have to offer and provides an easy way to order the books (although we save money and frequently the customers save money if they order the books directly from us instead of through Abebooks). It makes it easy for local customers to determine if we have a used book that they are looking for without having to drive to the store or call the store. And it helps us to quickly determine if we need used books that customers bring in to sell to us.
        But it also makes us a target for scam artists. Several months ago I received an e-mail from a guy, wanting me to set aside a $200 signed hardcover. He claimed that he didn’t believe in using credit cards, so he’d have to send me a cashier’s check. But he claimed that he didn’t believe in using the post office, so I’d have to send him a street address that UPS or FedEx could use to deliver the check. Since our street address is prominently displayed most places with our name, this seemed a little strange, but I sent him the street address and set the book aside for him. A few weeks went by without a check, so I sent him a reminder. He then claimed that he had told his secretary to send me a cashier’s check for the correct amount, but his secretary had gotten confused and included her own paycheck in the amount that she had sent to me, so I’d have to refund the extra to his secretary after I had cashed the cashier’s check. The deal was starting to smell. A couple of weeks later, UPS delivered a check (not a cashier’s check) supposedly drawn on a large New York City engineering firm for $1999.67, supposedly sent from a manufacturing firm in Georgia. But when I used the UPS tracking number, I found that it had been sent from Louisiana. The story had also changed. Now, the extra money was for his wife in Louisiana, and he insisted that I had to deposit the check at once, and within 24 hours buy a postal money order for the extra amount payable to his wife, and send the postal money order and the $200 book to his wife’s address in Louisiana immediately. I e-mailed back that I wasn’t going to fall for this, and I asked him if I should return the check to the New York City engineering firm it was supposedly drawn on or to the Georgia manufacturing company that supposedly sent it to me. He actually responded and told me to tear that sucker up. (I did send letters to both the engineering company and the manufacturing company, explaining what had happened, in case there was somebody in either company helping with the scam. Because nothing actually went through the post office, the postal fraud people were not interested.)
        Since then I’ve had 2 more e-mails, each using a different name, asking me to set aside a $250 signed hardcover, claiming that the customer doesn’t believe in credit cards, and needed a street address that UPS or Fed Ex could deliver to. Both were from Louisiana. I didn’t bother to respond to either.

        Last issue I talked about the fire that destroyed the Roberts Shoes building, and that the owner expected the insurance company to examine the rubble and then clean up the site in late June, but instead the insurance company examine the rubble and then took away the heavy equipment, leaving the pile of rubble behind. I ran into the owner at a meeting in the middle of September and asked him what was going on. He said that the city requires a permit to clean up the rubble, and he had been trying for months to get the permit. But every time he thinks he’s provided the city with everything they want to issue the permit, the city comes up with another demand. He was providing the latest paperwork demanded by the city, and hoped the site would be cleaned up before the ground froze. In the middle of October the heavy equipment came back, and for 2 or 3 days a week the trucks would haul away rubble for a few hours. They finally got the rubble removed and the hole filled after about a month, but it was after the ground had frozen and been covered with snow. I was surprised that so much heavy equipment would be left on the site for so long, mostly not doing anything.

        The post office is requesting lots of rate increases starting January 27, 2019, including a 10% increase in first class postage, about 6% on priority mail, and increases on most other domestic mail charges, including media mail. I’ve tried to find out how much they plan to increase media mail, but I can’t find that information on their website. They frequently don’t get the full increase that they ask for. We have kept our rate for shipping books by media mail the same since 2004, in spite of many increases in postal rates in the last 14 years. After I find out how much the media mail rates are really going up, I may have to consider finally increasing what we charge. I’ll let you know in the next issue of the newsletter. In the meantime, buy a bunch of forever stamps before the price goes up January 27. The postal rates for international mail has been going up much faster than the domestic mail rate, but that usually happens in the summer.

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