Berkelouw Books – Friend of the First-Time Author
By the time Goodbye Crackernight became available off the presses, was launched in late September ’09 and I embarked on the bookstore distribution phase of this publishing caper, I’d already been warned about the prospect of doom and gloom for my first book’s survival in the Australian marketplace.
“Son, you’ve less chance of successfully juggling soot than getting your book onto the shelves of most bookstores and, even if you do, it won’t stay there long – Competition’s just too fierce: You aren’t an Australian cricketer, neither is your name Dan Brown, Bryce Courtenay or Ray Martin. Abandon hope, young man.”
Well, since that time, I’ve been relieved and delighted to encounter exceptions to that dour forecast, including a string of independent bookstores and three major chains agreeing to stock the book.
But of the above exceptions, one has stood out most brightly.
Berkelouw Books is an Australian family-owned chain, with eleven stores across Australia and two more soon to open. From the seven I’ve visited or contacted so far, it seems that this company has required its managers and staff to satisfy the following employment selection criteria…
1. Must be friendly.
4. Surprisingly keen to support new Australian authors.
My first contact with the Berkelouw chain was at the end of July, in the lead up to the book’s launch. I phoned Berkelouw Paddington in Sydney, pitching Goodbye Crackernight to a member of staff, and was promptly provided with the email address of the store’s manager and book-buyer, Maxine. I emailed my pitch to her, website details including an image of the book cover, excerpts, blog comment etc, and promptly received her reply.
“Sounds great. We’ll be stocking it.”
After a frenzied few months of radio and print media publicity efforts either side of the September launch, my November schedule allowed me to visit Berkelouw Paddington. I phoned them, staff member Clare confirming that the book was in stock. I asked her if a signing and ‘face-out’ might be possible. (This is a sort of holy grail for new writers, typically involving a ‘signed copy’ sticker being attached to the book cover, the books then being placed on the shelf ‘cover out’ instead of merely the spine of the book being visible to the store browser. The affect on sales being obvious, in some cases the book is even placed in a more prominent visual position within the store.)
“Absolutely,” she replied. “Come in and see us.”
On my arrival, the copies of the book were front and centre, and I was invited to sign them. As I did so, I was informed that manager/book-buyer Maxine was present and wanted to speak with me. For some reason, I braced for the worst. Had this first-time author done something impolitic?
What a relief it was when Maxine came down the stairs, a big, friendly smile on her face. She said she simply wanted to meet me, also to let me know that her husband had read and thoroughly enjoyed my book. We then had an excellent yarn about it and the publishing game in general, during which she imparted some promising insider info on the book’s progress, also confirming the coveted face-out. In a nutshell, she made me feel less like a first-time try-hard eager beaver, more like someone being taken seriously. In a word, well, like an author.
Buoyed mightily, I hailed a cab and high-tailed it to Berkelouw Rose Bay. There, manager Raquelle and another member of staff arranged for a signing and face-out, asking me to tell them all about Goodbye Crackernight, which I did. As per the story’s theme and subject matter, we even traded a few childhood memories.
“Now,” they informed me, “we can tell customers all about it.”
Over the next few days, scarcely daring to believe the positive exchanges I’d just had in such a forbidding marketplace, I set out to visit more Berkelouw stores, Balgowlah first as Maxine had given me the heads-up that they had it in stock there. I phoned them, speaking to Simone.
“Sure. Come in,” she said. “Signing. Face-out.”
On arrival, I was immediately introduced to store manager Maria. After only a short chat with me re the book, she was scheming up one, maybe two, possible in-store promotional events for it in the New Year. She also gave me a few points of good advice for a new author, I signed the books, Maria confirmed the face-out would go ahead, a position of high prominence in the store if possible.
Having phoned them already, I hopped on a bus for Berkelouw Mona Vale. A long way there and back but worth it – the staff were excellent to me, we yarned re the book, I signed copies which they immediately placed not only face-out but on a display stand on the sales counter. Brilliant visibility.
The next day I emailed my thanks to Maria at the Balgowlah store. Her reply I found nothing short of stunning: A forecast of healthy sales for the book over Christmas.
Now thoroughly impressed and relieved by the support I was getting from the Berkelouw chain, I determined to do this website post giving praise where it’s due. I phoned Berkelouw Head Office, Berrima, outlining my recent good experiences with Berkelouw Books and okaying this post with staff member Penny and Berkelouw Books owner, Paul Berkelouw.
“…Fine by me, Justin.”
In recent days I’ve confirmed with manager Mike at Berkelouw Leichhardt that the copies they had in stock have all but sold, with more on order and arriving any day now. When they do…
“Yep, great, mate. Come in, signing, face-out. Look forward to it.”
As a new Australian author, it’s all too easy to feel like a Complete Nobody.
Funny how Berkelouw Books make you feel uncannily like Somebody. That you have a friend in the biz.
For this, my sincerest thanks to all at Berkelouw Paddington, Rose Bay, Balgowlah, Mona Vale, Leichhardt and Berrima. Merry Christmas and all the very best for the New Year!