my 2 cents plain – get on the map

Back when I was a baby bookseller, the Cambridge Office of Tourism used to have this map/guide to all the bookstores in Cambridge. It was like Jim Hawkin’s treasure map to me and my buddies, all pilgrimages to book geek mecca started with that map. But when bookstores started withering up like Ann Coulter in daylight, the directory of course got smaller and smaller, until it was no longer reprinted at all.

Little did I know that they had reprinted it – I know because one magically appeared on my desk this morning. Smaller, 4″x6″ quarterfolded on cardstock, with subway stops and public parking on the legend it is still a treasured item. The Office of tourism is debating a reprint. I called them to log my 2 cents in the FOR column. One big bookstore owner, I won’t mention who…I mean BIG, dropped an entire dime, apparently he doesn’t think the maps like that made a difference to customers. Like HELL they don’t. Sure, HE can get away with saying that, HE’s a destination store, but what about all the ‘other’ stores that piggy back off those customers? Once a customer spends an hour or so, buys his drug of choice, pops in to Au Bon Pain for a nosh, they STILL have another hour or two to kill to make the parking garage fees worthwhile. Regardless of the reprint, I am gonna hide this copy somewhere safe.

Unlike other retail business people will visit bookstores in clusters – it is in our nature. Why not make it easier? a hand out guide can be as simple as a hand drawn map on a piece of copy paper. Use google maps, plot a map to your store. Put a coupon on the bottom. How are people supposed to find you if they don’t know where you are? If you are an at-home seller, think about opening to customers on a by chance or appointment basis – I bought some of my best stuff, in someone’s basement office.

So, you don’t live in an area with a cluster of bookstores. So, you don’t live in a state that has a booksellers association. Boo hoo. Get in with the chamber of commmerce, the state tourism office, make a pact with some antique malls, find a bowling alley with a free stuff counter, or a diner with a bulletin board – but don’t paper windshelds in parking lots, I hate that.

This map just happened to be printed by whose bag it is to DO custom maps – and they do it very nicely, I must say. But one need not shoot the moon, start small – make your own, criminy folks! we all have pc systems that could send Neil Armstrong to the moon 50 times over, use it do something fun once in a while!

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