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Archived Newsletter Content


Newsletter #125 March May, 2019

45th Anniversary Sale

        Uncle Hugo’s is the oldest surviving science fiction bookstore in the United States. We opened for business on March 2, 1974. To encourage you to help us celebrate Uncle Hugo’s 45th Anniversary, we are having a sale. Come into either Uncle Hugo’s or Uncle Edgar’s and get 10% off everything except gift certificates and discount cards. A discount card will save you even more–you’ll get the 10% off from the sale plus the 10% discount from the discount card. (Sale prices apply only to in-store sales, not to mail orders.)
        The 45th Anniversary Sale lasts Friday, March 1 through Sunday, March 10, giving you two weekends to take advantage of the sale.

Award News

        The Mystery Writers of America have announced the nominees for the 2019 Edgar Allan Poe Awards.
        The nominees for Best Novel are The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard ($9.99), House Witness by Mike Lawson ($16.00), A Gambler’s Jury by Victor Methos ($15.95), Down the River Unto the Sea by Walter Mosley ($27.00, $15.99 due early March), Only to Sleep By Lawrence Osborne ($26.00, $16.00 due early April), and A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn ($15.00).
        The nominees for Best First Novel by an American Author are A Knife in the Fog by Bradley Harper ($15.95), The Captives by Debra Jo Immergut ($26.99), The Last Equation of Isaac Severy by Nova Jacobs ($16.00), Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin ($16.99), and Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens ($26.00).
        The nominees for Best Paperback Original are If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin ($16.99), Hiroshima Boy by Naomi Hirahara ($16.00), Under a Dark Sky by Lori Rader-Day ($15.99), The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani ($9.99), and Under My Skin by Lisa Unger ($16.99).

        The Agatha Awards are for “traditional mysteries” in the style of Agatha Christie, which means mysteries that contain no explicit sex, excessive gore or gratuitous violence, and are not classified as "hard-boiled."
        The nominees for Best Contemporary Novel are Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron ($26.99), Beyond the Truth by Bruce Robert Coffin ($11.99), Cry Wolf by Annette Dashofy ($15.95), Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny ($28.99), and Trust Me by Hank Phillippi Ryan ($14.99).
        The nominees for Best Historical Novel are Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding by Rhys Bowen ($26.00), The Gold Pawn by LA Chandlar ($15.95), The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey ($15.95), Turning the Tide by Edith Maxwell ($15.99), and Murder on Union Square by Victoria Thompson ($26.00, $7.99 early April).
        The nominees for Best First Novel are A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman ($26.00), Little Comfort by Edwin Hill ($26.00), What Doesn’t Kill You byAimee Hix ($15.99), Deadly Solution by Keenan Powell, and Curses Boiled Again by Shari Randall ($7.99).

How’s Business?
by Don Blyly

        As usual, I’ve been reading lots of conflicting reports of how well the book industry is doing, sometimes dealing with dollars of sales, sometimes dealing with unit sale, sometimes including college bookstores and mass merchandisers with trade bookstore, sometimes only looking at trade bookstores.
        One interesting report looked at the impact of consolidation in the printing business. Companies that print books have been merging and then closing down printing plants, causing problems for publishers. A publisher who can get less press time than they would like has to decide how much of that time will be used to print new releases and how much time to reprint books that they have run out of. During the period leading up to the holidays, the publishers concentrated on getting the hot new releases into the stores, and postponed reprinting older books. After the first of the year, they put more effort into restocking their warehouses with titles they had run out of months before. Some publishers have been more successful than others at managing this problem. When I reorder from some publishers, I get over 90% of what I order; with other publishers I’m lucky to get 50% of what I order.
        At the Uncles, sales have not been as influenced by the weather as I expected. December was warmer than normal, with no major snow, it was easy to park next to the curb and open the passenger side door, and our sales were down about 20%. (December was still the best month of the year, just not as good as last year.) January we had much worse weather, and our sales were down only about 7%. February the weather was even worse, with extreme cold and lots of snow making it hard to get around, hard to park near the curb, and impossible to open the passenger side door if you park on the street. As I’m writing this, we are already at the fourth snowiest February on record and we are only halfway through the month. The weather people on tv are saying we have a very good chance of reaching number one. I’m tired of shoveling snow, and trying to find someplace to put it. Fortunately, there were some big titles for us, and our sales have been healthy on those days that people can get into the store, with signed books by Larry Correia, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Marlon James having a large impact on our sales. And mail order sales have helped to make up for days when in-store sales were weak. So February has a chance of not being a total disaster.
        We have two rooftop heating/air conditioning units on the building, the larger one for Uncle Hugo’s and our back room and the smaller one for Uncle Edgar’s. We’ve had the same problem for the last 5 years with the furnace for Uncle Hugo’s. It starts to fail to give us heat, we call the furnace repair people, by the time the repair person gets to the store the heat has turned back on again, the repair person tests everything they can think of, and then comes downstairs to explain that everything is working fine at the moment and they couldn’t find anything wrong. They go away and send us a bill. A couple of weeks later the furnace fails again, we call again, by the time the repair person gets here the furnace is working again, they spend more time checking everything, then go away and send another bill. A few days later, the same thing happens again, perhaps the repair person will replace something that’s not too expensive just in case that will help. Eventually, the furnace fails badly enough that it still isn’t working when the repair person gets here, and they discover the expensive part that needs replaced, and it has been the same part every year for 5 years. They then replace the expensive part for around $1000, and everything works properly until the next winter. Each year I tell them about this pattern and which part goes bad every single year, and every year they tell me that this shouldn’t be happening (and I agree with them) and they try to find a less expensive fix, which never works.
        This year, the first furnace failure was just after Christmas. It then worked for about 3 weeks, and then started failing every 2 or 3 days. It finally failed during the 3 days in late January when it didn’t get above zero. On Tuesday, it was so cold we only did $25 in sales during the 9 hours we were open, and I noticed around 4:30 in the afternoon that it was getting chilly in the store. The next morning, I woke up to -26 degrees with a windchill of -56 outside. I drove to work and found the inside temperature was 51 degrees. Just before 8 am I called the people who were scheduled to work the Uncles and told them not to try to get to work, that I was just going to close the store for the day (and they were delighted to be able to stay home). A couple of minutes after 8 am I called the furnace repair people again, and I put up a sign saying that we were closed because of a broken furnace. Nobody came to the door all day long, including UPS and the mail man. (The post office had decided the day before that they were going to closed down for a 4 state area because of the cold.) Nobody called but sales robots. About 3:00 I called the furnace repair people to see when they expected to get somebody to the Uncles. I was told that they were going nuts trying to fix furnaces for buildings where the pipes were exploding, and they didn’t know when they would get to the Uncles, because they knew I had two furnaces and one was still working. About half an hour later, they called to say that the person who they thought might be able to get to the Uncles had a family emergency and had to take the rest of the day off. They told me to just go home because they couldn’t get anybody to me until the next day. I was in the middle of doing some work on the computer, so I decided to finish that before putting on my coat and heading home. Just as I finished what I was doing on the computer, the furnace repair people called to say that if I was still at the store, they had somebody they could send over. The guy got up on the roof, and he said that the furnace was firing for about 5 minutes and then turning itself off for an extended period of time. He would have to replace the same part that always need replaced, but all the part supply places were already closed, so he’d have to wait until the next morning to get the part and bring it out to finish the repair. The next day was still cold inside and outside, we did very little business all day long, and I kept waiting for the sound of a repairman on my roof. I finally called the furnace repair people around 3:00 to see when the guy would be bringing out the part to complete the repair. I was told that the repairman should never have made such a promise to me, but they would get back to me. About an hour later I got a call that nobody in the Twin Cities had the necessary part, so they had ordered it from out of state, and the guy wouldn’t be able to complete the repair until the next Monday. Fortunately, the polar vortex went away for about a week, and the combination of the front furnace giving us an occasional 5 minutes of heat, the back furnace running constantly, and a couple of space heaters managed to keep the store reasonably comfortable for most of the next week. The repair guy finally brought the replacement part and finished the repair on Thursday afternoon, 8 days after he diagnosed the problem and just before the polar vortex returned. We hope that the problem is over until sometime next winter.
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