Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The problems of looking for a premises in Nuneaton

It's been 10 months since I finished my full time job to work on The Big Comfy Bookshop full time. The first month was a holiday really as my wife was on maternity and it gave us plenty of time to spend with our new son. Then September hit. Heidi, my wife, goes back to work full time and I start looking into premises and how to sell online, as well as look after my son a few days a week, It's exciting.

I take 2 weeks to organise all the books that are stored in my loft (about 1000 of them) then realise I need more storage. In the meantime I'm driving back and forth all over the country to pick up books. It's fun and exciting. Meeting ex-bookshop owners and book lovers. Then September melts into October and I get the website up, finally. I spend October adding books to the website. I view a property that is perfect and in November an offer is accepted. Woo Hoo! I have a premises!

November rolls into December, which quickly ticks into January and 2013. More and more books are added to the website daily and I'm nearing 2000 books online! My storage facility is close to bursting with about 8000 books, 90% of which are still to be looked at and catalogued. The Facebook is slowly ticking along with 150ish likes, and my twitter has about 200 followers. March comes. I'm frustrated at the 4 month wait of the shop. I've gradually been eating into the money that I need to open the shop, as I need to eat and clothe my baby. Not eat my baby, feed and clothe him. I'm the one that eats. Nevermind.

I panic as my heart was 100% in the shop. I had the inside scouted by North Warwickshire and Hinckley College Interior Design students and I even went into the college to talk to them about what I wanted, and I saw some fantastic pieces of work and ideas, and now that's gone. I think about returning to my mundane brain numbing desk job. My wife metaphorically punches me in the face and tells me to man up. I man up.

I view another property. A smaller one but a lot cheaper but it has everything and more than the first shop had. I start visualising the layout. I get excited. Everything looks great. It is owned by the Co-Op. They won't lease it to me as I will be selling tea and cake and they also serve tea and cake, even though the shop has been vacant for over 12 months. Obviously my tea and cake sales would eat into their tiny business and ruin them. Anyway, shop falls through without an offer being made.

Then, world book night! At Nuneaton Library with about 40 other book lovers who are there to meet local author Rosie Goodwin. It's a fantastic night and I give out my business cards and explain I have no premises but I am online. Every single person thinks it's a fantastic idea and just what Nuneaton needs. I beem inside. I can do this. Just opposite the library is a tiny little council owned shop with a 'to let' sign. It's just £7500 pa with a rolling lease. Absolutely perfect to start up in. I ring the next day. It was leased last week.

Son of a beesting.

I decide to start attending fairs as a seller. My first at Stockingford Spring fair is amazing, taking double what I expected and meeting loads of people who had heard about the shop through the grapevine. Fair 2 was appalling, at Nuneaton URC. There was no advertising by the 'promoters' except a message a month before on their Facebook saying 'Don't forget about our Craft Fair!'. No one knew about it except those I had contacted myself. I actually had time to read a WHOLE BOOK whilst no one attended. I sold 4 books. Other stall holders left at 11.30. Deflated.

Then Earlsdon festival happened. Oh. My. God. Simply the best experience to date. The day was glorious, the stalls were huge and I literally didn't stop all day. It fired me up.
I spent the next few days trawling around Nuneaton scouring premises. But there simply aren't any that are friendly to new businesses. 

The rent and rates in the town are so high it's impossible to contemplate getting a shop there. For example, this shop
on Abbey Street, with some foot traffic but not lots is £20,000 PA plus VAT (so now it's £24,000) plus rates (not sure how much they are for this but I estimate £5000 PA, so up to £29,000) plus gas, electricity and water. Basically it's £30,000 per year without stock, fittings, staff etc. It's in one of the main streets in Nuneaton but it's quiet. 

After looking at every single available shop (through the windows at least, then researching online) there is not one single shop in the centre that a new business, or at least my business, can afford. This is why I am having to look outside the town.

I am investigating a pop-up shop in Nuneaton too though. I am hoping that a landlord of one of the empty shops has some vision, and would rather have their premises hosting a business for a few weeks or months than having it empty. I'm starting that process now.

The bookshop is very much alive, but will take any help it can get whether that be you know of an available space, even if it's for a short time, or maybe you fancy helping out at one of the craft fairs I'll be at, or maybe you're a graphic designer who wants to add more to their portfolio? Designing flyers maybe?. This was started with the Nuneaton community in the front of my mind and I want to involve as many people as possible.

Next week I will be meeting with someone to look at a premises outside Nuneaton. It's an excellent opportunity but it obviously takes the business outside of where I wanted it to start. It's bitter-sweet.

Thanks for reading this long ramble. I am passionate about this.


Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Big Comfy Bookclub - Now Online!

I've decided to start a bookclub! Instead of waiting (and waiting) to find a premises, I have opened up the club online! I have started it on Facebook and already it has 37 members!

Each month I will choose 7 books that I think will be a good read, then we vote to see which one we'll all read. We'll then have a month to read the book and afterwards have a wee chat about it, probably on Facebook but there might be a better way. It's early days yet!

The first book has already been voted for by the club and we've gone for GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn. If you fancy joining the bookclub simply click HERE and add yourself! Grab a copy now as we have until June 14/15 til the next book is chosen. It'd be nice to buy a copy from a little independent bookshop, but don't feel too guilty if you don't have access to one. It's all about reading together and having a chat, getting to know each other.
My book with my cat
It has been easiest to start it on Facebook as most people have a Facebook account, but if you're not on there then the next time a book is up for choosing, I'll add a wee blog and you can comment below.

Happy reading!


PS I'll be hosting the massive Nuneaton book and craft fair Aug 31st! More later!

Friday, 17 May 2013

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - The Friday Adaptation

One of this Millenniums biggest literary hits is the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson. The trilogy is made up of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest. I read them all when they came out and soaked up the twisty-turny world of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. I LOVED them. I used to be a subscriber to Empire Magazine too and when the film came out (the original Swedish one) they raved and raved about it. I waited til I read the rest of the books then saw the films. I really enjoyed all three but have to say the first film, and first book, is the best. But which is better? The book or film?

As I've stated constantly on previous Friday Adaptations, film versions are 99% going to cut stuff out of the book. The whole start of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has been cut from the film and is just about mentioned at the start; Why is Mikael going to prison? It's a wise move from the film makers as it adds practically nothing to the story, just a bit of character building to see why Mikael is ultra cautious in the story later on. (Basically, he fell for a duff witness). If this were filmed this would have taken 15 minutes of screen time for little gain. Another thing left on the floor at the screen writers is the open relationship of Mikael and his business partner Erika Berger. Although it comes to light in the next films, it's not even touched on in the Dragon Tattoo (I don't think). Again, wise move. To the story they want to tell on screen, it's not needed.

What Larsson does well, with his major protagonists anyway, is really give them not just a detailed make-up, but he really fleshes them out and tells you exactly why they are like they are. The lesser characters not as much (especially some of Harriet Vanger's Aunties and Uncles, I had to reread parts to get who was who!). On screen Lisbeth shines. Noomi Rapace who plays her is simply brilliant. Curt, cold, direct and angry, she IS Lisbeth. Blomkvist is also cast well but its Rapace that steals the show. The appalling rape scene in the book is brought to life so authentically it's actually sickening. It's a brilliant film and a brilliant book.

Stieg Larsson
Coming from Scandinavia, the film has the added aesthetic of a country so vast yet with little population. Lakes, rivers and countryside are used to great affect showing how isolated the community of Hedeby Island is. One thing that the book and film both do, that any good book and film should do, is ask questions. If you were in the same position, what would you do? Would you do the same? It's a very tough question to answer.

The following books and films are also great but it's the added whodunit of Dragon Tattoo that elevates it higher than its follow ups.

The critics and public seem to agree with me too with both giving it 86% and 85% respectively on . Hollywood remade it just a year or two later with David 'Fight-club' Fincher in the directors chair and they made a good job of it too, but there was no way Noomi Rapace's performance would have been beaten. The American actress Roony Mara did a great job though.

I'd definitely recommend the trilogy as a whole. Have a look on our site for copies of the trilogy (p&p £1)



Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

After the brilliant duo of The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, the final instalment of The Hunger Games, Mockingjay, has let me down slightly.

I was told by several people that the third book was not as good but by half way through I was loving it. It is a complete departure from the previous two and I enjoyed the places that Katniss turned up in. She does get a bit whiny every now and then but her world has gone to pot.

Warning! There are spoilers ahead! Skip to the next paragraph if you don't want to know what happens...Where it goes off the rails for me is when Peeta returns from his capture, and the whole brainwash thing. I felt the previous two books had built him up to be such a courageous, big hearted guy and it was all snatched away to be replaced by some angry, emotionless robot. I felt betrayed by the author! The worst was that it wasn't fixed. That's it. He's damaged goods. Several other characters that were hinted at possibly being dead in Catching Fire were also confirmed, but there was no real grief (I'm thinking Cinna especially). It is such a downbeat ending, which I didn't see coming so take my hat off to Collins. I have thought whether I liked the ending and I'm still at a loss. I think I did, but all the emotional input that I gave the characters  Haymitch, Gale and Peeta over the series seems to be wasted somewhat. I did however, like the bit with Prim at the end.

I'm interested in how they'll fit all this on screen. Will they change the ending?

It's definitely the weakest of the three so I've given it a 6.5 on the Comfometer.



Friday, 10 May 2013

About A Boy - The Friday Adaptation

I'm a big Nick Hornby fan, but bizarrely I've seen all the film adaptations before reading any of the books. Fever Pitch the book completely took me by surprise after I expected a few incompetent loveable clowns arguing about football but instead found a deep, moving diary about the beautiful game. High Fidelity is my joint favourite film of all time (tied with Jurassic Park) but even so, I loved the book too. About A Boy however, is a conundrum.

Let's start with a clean slate. I love the film, I really do. Yet I love the book, in the same way, but in a completely different way too. The film pretty much follows the story of the book until three quarters of the way through then, well, it doesn't. It couldn't get any different unless aliens came down and gave Will some kind of probe. Part of the problem (is it a problem?) is the 'Hollywood factor'. In the book towards the end, Marcus (the aforementioned Boy of the title) goes AWOL with Ellie, an older girl into Nirvana. They break a window and generally feel better about themselves, but at the same time, a bit crappy still, life hasn't changed. Bit of a downer.

In the film Hugh Grant grabs a guitar and starts singing with his eyes closed at Marcus's school concert to alleviate the awkwardness. A nice big happy, smiley moment. A bit Hollywood yeah?

After watching the film though, again remember I saw it before I read the book, I loved it, and I still love it. Would I have loved it if I had read the book first? Who knows. The film IS a warm and fuzzy (and very funny) version of the warm, fuzzy (and funny) book, but it just adds the sheen. It's been Hollywooded.

One reason some didn't like the film is Hugh Grant. A lot of folks simply don't like the floppy foppy fringed English git. Well, I treasure him. This role is so far away from that of Notting Hill and Four Weddings (which are still great films).
After checking I'm amazed it only has a 51% public likability rating. But then it is quite an English film. Maybe it's Americans not quite getting it. The critics seem to love it though at 93%!

If I had to make a choice I'd say that the film wins, but only just. Nick Hornby seems to have gone a little too dark in recent years, although I am yet to read his past couple of tomes.

What do you think?


Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Earsldon Festival Experience

On Bank Holiday Monday I held a stall at the Earlsdon Festival. Last year saw downpours but the weather this time was simply glorious, in fact it was the hottest day of the year! Win!

It was my first time at the festival and I didn't have time to even have a slight browse after setting up my stall as the punters came thick and fast. But lets rewind slightly.
Side view - Note the book bunting!

I was slightly nervous for a few reasons. Reason 1. The last stall I had I sold next to nothing. 2. We were warned that parking was to be a problem with roads closed and to make sure we had a trolley of sorts to transport our goods (books are heavy!). 3. I have been to Earlsdon once and have no idea of the roads anyway! But...

I was let through the road closure (due to being a stall holder), I managed to park 30 seconds from Earlsdon Street, where the festival was happening and right behind the toilets (yes!). We were given stall numbers a few weeks ago and so I was about to go hunting for it when there right in front of me, by my car and toilets, was the shiny number 50, my stall! No problems whatsoever!

My previous 2 stall displays were more or less knocked together on the day but for this I spent 3-4 hours in the week getting the books I wanted out, and coming up with a better system. It definitely paid off. I had taken a photo of my 'run-through' and so knew exactly where each book would go. Within 40 minutes I had set it all up.

My stall
Within 3 people visiting the stall I had my first sale, and I continued to sell all day long. Between 1.20 and 1.45 there were not many people at the stall, probably due to folks eating lunch, but apart from that, it was none stop! Loads of friends, family and even people from twitter and facebook turned up and chatted to me and wished me well. At one point as soon as my good friend Jonathan turned up I gave him my awesome bumbag money pouch and ran for the toilet as I simply didn't have time to stop working during the day.

When we were due to start packing up at 4, even then loads of books were sold, with people looking through the boxes I'd just packed!
A green bagpipe playing man

It was simply none stop!
It was simply an astounding day. So much fun. Now with a little experience I'm getting to grips with how to approach a stall.
The next stall will be at Nuneaton URC (church by the Ropewalk) on May 18th.
I am also in the process of setting up my own book and craft fair and yesterday I received some dates so will be looking in the diary to see when would be best.

If you fancy a stall at that then just let me know via Twitter, Facebook or Email

Hope to see you on the 18th