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Newsletter #92 December, 2010 February, 2011

30th Anniversary Sale

        December 1 marks Uncle Edgar’s 30th anniversary. Come into Uncle Edgar’s or Uncle Hugo’s and save 10% off everything except discount cards, gift certificates, or merchandise that is already marked 40% off. (All the jigsaw puzzles and most of the games are already 40% off.) A discount card will save you even more–you’ll get both 10% savings from the discount card and 10% off from the sale. (Sale prices apply to in-store purchases, but not to mail orders.) The 30th Anniversary Sale runs Friday, November 26 through Sunday, December 5–giving you two weekends to take advantage of the sale.
        We will also be having our annual inventory reduction sale December 26-31, but that will feature deep discounts on things we really, really want to get rid of. It will not be a store-wide sale like the 30th Anniversary Sale.
                        


Award News

        There was a tie for the Hugo Award for best novel: The City & The City by China Mieville ($15.00) and The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi ($14.95).

        Many mystery awards were announced at Bouchercon:
        The Anthony Awards included Best Novel to The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny ($24.99 hc or $13.99 trade pb), Best First Novel to A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield ($13.99 trade pb), Best Paperback Original to Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley ($15.00 trade pb), and Best Critical Non-Fiction to Talking About Detective Fiction by P. D. James ($22.00 hc).
        The Shamus Awards included Best Novel to Locked In by Marcia Muller ($7.99), Best First P.I. Novel to Faces of the Gone by Brad Parks ($25.99 hc), Best Paperback Original P.I. Novel to Sinner’s Ball by Ira Berkowitz ($14.00 trade pb) and Lifetime Achievement Award to Robert Crais.
        The Barry Awards included Best Novel to The Last Child by John Hart ($24.95 signed hc or $14.99 trade pb), Best First Novel to The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley ($15.00 trade pb), Best British Novel to If the Dead Rise Not by Philip Kerr ($26.95), Best Paperback Original to Starvation Lake by Bryan Gruley ($15.00 trade pb), Best Thriller to Running from the Devil by Jamie Freveletti ($7.99), and Best Mystery/Crime Novel of the Decade to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson ($14.95 trade pb or $7.99).
        The Macavity Awards included Best Mystery Novel to Tower by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman ($15.00 trade pb, signed by Coleman), Best First Mystery Novel to The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley ($15.00 trade pb), Best Mystery Non-Fiction to Talking About Detective Fiction by P. D. James ($22.00 hc), and Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award to A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell ($14.99 trade pb).

How’s Business
by Don Blyly

        The city put in a new bridge next to our building back in 2005, and massive amounts of damage were done to the building. Before the bridge had even opened, a large section of plaster had been shaken off the ceiling, bringing down the suspended ceiling, in the area nearest the bridge, and the Hugo’s building (built in 1916) had been shaken loose from the Edgar’s building (built in the 1950s), causing water to leak in where the 2 roofs meet, and causing thousands of dollars in damage to books. For each of the next 4 years, more damages developed each winter. The foundation is cracked in several places; the basement floor developed a lot of cracks; the first floor walls developed cracks; the plate glass windows nearest the bridge are sinking, causing water to pour into the basement whenever it rains; every winter the front door gets out of alignment with the door frame; and lots of other little problems.
        I tried for almost 2 years to get the city to do something about the damage before I hired an attorney and we filed suit against the city and the primary contractor. The primary contractor then brought in 3 sub-contractors as co-defendants. After 2 years of dealing with the leaking roof, I finally replaced it (at a cost of around $55,000), but I didn’t have the money to repair all of the other problems.
        Before construction began, I had the building video-taped, especially the basement walls nearest the bridge, and the primary contractor also video-taped the building, especially the basement walls. About 4 years after the damage was originally done, I lead a couple of “show and tell” tours of the building for the 5 defendants and their armies of lawyers, pointing out the various cracks that were not there before construction began. With 5 sets of defendants and lawyers, I received a large array of responses, including “there is no new damage” to “there is new damage, but you can’t prove we’re responsible” to “this building is so old that it doesn’t matter how much new damage was done” to “you destroyed the evidence by replacing the leaking roof after only 2 years.”
        During the discovery process, we learned that the city had hired an excellent bridge design firm, which had drafted very detailed instructions on how to protect the building during construction. These instructions were part of the contract the primary contractor had signed, but the primary contractor repeatedly violated the contract, and the city let him get away with it, resulting in the damage to the building. The contract also required the primary contractor to take out a $500,000 insurance policy on my building with me as the named insured party, so that if there was any damage I could simply make an insurance claim to get the damage repaired, but he failed to take out the policy and the city let him get away with it. If he had taken out the required insurance policy, I would have avoided the expense and hassle of the law suit, and the insurance company would have paid for repairing the damage.
        We hired an engineering firm to study the damage, determine how it was done, how much more severe the damage was likely to become over the years, and what would need to be done to repair the damage. Including bills from sub-contractors who ran various tests, the cost of the engineering studies came to about $24,000. They told us that the building would fall down within 10 years unless we made major repairs, and came up with a bid around $900,000 for the largest single piece of the repair process (new foundations and basement walls in the area damaged by the bridge construction). Since that was already substantially more than the building was worth, they didn’t bother to get bids for any of the other repairs. The engineering firm provided a written report on all this, for my lawyer to pass along to the court and the defendants. After seeing this report, I spent at least 100 hours investigating places either for sale or rent that we could move the store to, interviewing real estate agents, filling out paperwork for the bank to find out how much of a mortgage I could get for a new building, pricing different kinds of new bookshelves (since our current layout allows us to use a lot more wall shelves than a more square space would allow us to use), getting an estimate of moving expenses, hiring a building appraisal firm to determine how much the building was worth, etc.
        At a pre-trial mediation session, the head of the engineering firm suddenly changed his story. He told the mediator that the foundation was cracked, but was doing a fine job holding up the building and only minor repairs were needed. My attorney told me that if we went to trial, it would probably cost an additional $100,000 by the time our expert witnesses got done being cross-examined by 5 sets of defense attorneys–and that he wouldn’t dare put our engineering expert on the stand, because there was no telling what the guy would say–the version he put into the documents for the court, or the version he had just told the mediator, or some other version of reality. So, we accepted a very unsatisfactory negotiated settlement, which covered about half of what the attorney’s contract called for plus the billing from the engineering firm.
        At least the constant drain of money and time for the law suit is over. And we’ll be staying at our current location. Maybe in the spring I’ll be able to afford to tackle some additional repairs. But that depends on how many books we manage to sell between now and then.
        I just read a report that for the month of September e-book sales surged and traditional book sales plunged. Mass market sales, adult trade paperback sales, and adult hardcover sales all dropped by double digits compared to the year before, with adult hardcover sales dropping by an amazing 40.4%. By comparison, September sales at the Uncles were up 11% compared to the year before, as we continued to hear more complaints about how poor the book selection has become at the national chains.
        Borders recently tried to raise cash by quietly putting their corporate headquarters building up for sale, but attentive reporters recognized the address from the real estate listing as being Borders corporate headquarters, where 600 people are still employed, even after several rounds of layoffs.
        The St. Paul Pioneer Press recently reported on 2 more area independent books stores (both used books only) closing by the end of the year and going to internet-only sales.
        Once again, we had lots more new titles than we had space for in the paper newsletter. Most paranormal romances, action adventure series titles, and non-fiction titles were eliminated and many book descriptions were shortened for the paper newsletter, but the full information is at our website.

Holiday Gift Ideas

        Our single 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 Uncles. It can even be used for mail orders, and it can be purchased over the phone (if you have a Visa, Mastercard, or Discover Card) and we can mail it either to the purchaser or to the recipient, or we can just enter the balance on a credit file here at the store, so there’s no risk of the gift certificate being lost.
        Calendars are another popular gift item. We ordered a bit fewer calendars than usual this year, and some of the titles we ordered did not get produced. Almost all calendars for the U.S. are printed in the Far East, with the order-taking beginning in February, and the final decision is made in the Spring on which titles to actually produce and how many of each title, so that the finished products can come on a “slow boat from China” for distribution late Summer. The calendars have been trickling in over the last 4 months, although we don’t sell very many until around Thanksgiving.
        The standard wall calendars include Art of Dreams ($13.99, art by Daniel Merriam, 16 month), Brian Froud’s World of Faerie ($13.99), Dilbert: Call of the Wired ($13.99), Dragons ($13.99, art by Ciruelo, 16 months), Flights of Fantasy ($13.99, art by James C. Christensen), George R.R. Martin: A Song of Ice and Fire ($16.00, art by Ted Nasmith), The Simpsons ($13.99), Star Trek ($13.99), Star Trek: Ships of the Line ($13.99), Surrealscapes ($13.99, art by Roger Dean), Tolkien ($14.99, art by Cor Blok, very different style from previous Tolkien calendars), Universal Classic Monster Movies ($13.99, 12 classic horror movie posters). The only page-per-day style calendars we’re received are Dilbert: I Want My Unwarranted Optimism Back ($13.99), Dragons ($13.99, art by Ciruelo), and Get Fuzzy: Survival of the Filthiest ($13.99). The only desk calendars we’ve received are Dragons ($14.99, art by Ciruelo) and The Book of Fictional Days: A Collection of Events that Did Not Really Happen ($10.00, locally produced in black & white, each day has a reference to an event that happened on that day in a work of fiction, most often a science fiction book).
        Another very popular gift idea is signed books. We don’t have space in this newsletter to list all the signed titles, so go to our website, click Browse Our New Books, scroll about half-way down the next (long) page and click Signed Books (for either Edgar’s or Hugo’s or All).



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