Could your shop be a bookshop?

Many small towns in rural areas no longer have any kind of book shop and this creates an opportunity for other retail outlets. With the growth in interest in family history encouraged by programmes such as the BBC’s ‘Who do you think you are?’ there is a demand for more information on local and social history as people want to learn more about where and how their ancestors lived 

After we set up Bittern Books last year I decided to experiment by increasing the space allocated to books in my own shop – we’ve been running the Post Office and Village stores in Coltishall since 2003.  We’ve always done well with greetings cards and have quite a lot of space allocated to the category, so the simple option was to replace one of the card racks with bookshelves. In October 2018 I bought a black bookcase from IKEA (Hemnes, £150 including VAT and delivery) and after spending a Sunday morning with screwdriver and Allen key, loaded it up with a selection of books from our stock.

The results have been very positive – in the period up to the end of 2018 we sold over £600 worth of books at retail, giving £210 gross profit (35% margin).   In 2019 to the end of August we’ve sold £1100 worth of books and maps.  We’ve done no advertising other than a little on social media and an article in the local community magazine.  

The interesting thing is that sales have been of a wide variety of titles, which emphasises the need to carry a good range, although you really only need one or two copies of each book. New titles sell well initially, particularly if they have had coverage in the local press or have a particular local interest.  And the October-December period is particularly fruitful – lots of people looking for Christmas presents for relations (especially Dads and Grandads) who are difficult to buy for!

So if you are looking for a new idea and don’t have a local bookshop, why not try putting in a bookshelf and give it a go?  If you can find the space allocate a 1m block of shelving, or at least 1-2 shelves of existing shelving.  Stock up with a wide selection of local interest books and maybe some fiction, just 1-2 copies of each is enough. Promote your venture in community magazines and on social media, and maybe have a launch event (we may be able to arrange for local authors to attend).

To risk stating the obvious, selling books is different to selling convenience goods – don’t just stock one or two best sellers, you need to become known as the place to go to get local books. Stock as wide a range as possible. 

At Bittern Books we can give you full support and help you pick an initial selection of books.  We’d be happy to arrange a visit to discuss your options, or you are welcome to visit us.

Steve Haines

Please send us your comments

New Books for August

We have several new books that have been selling very well in some outlets.  Grant Holt:A Football Life is Jarrolds number one best seller across ALL categories, and Kaka Rokker Romany has been selling well in north Norfolk.  Viking East Anglia is readable and well illustrated book, companion to the current Viking Treasures exhibition at Norwich Castle and great value at £14.99.  Scholars, Saints and Sinners tells the entertaining stories of some of Norfolk’s more interesting vicars!
Photo: Nick White

Kaka, Rokker Romany

Tales from a North-Norfolk Romany Life

If, heaven forbid, you were to pick Mike Harmer up and give him a shake, the stories would come tumbling out and you would soon find yourself knee-deep in tales for Mike is a veritable goldmine of Norfolk lore – of characters and anecdotes, of fact, fiction and hearsay.

The son of a North Walsham horse trader and of proud Romany stock, Mike has lived his life by his wits: an honest man, yet a wheeler and a dealer, a ducker and a diver. Storytelling is in his blood and in Kaka, Rokker Romany: Tales from a North-Norfolk Romany life he has delivered a memoir of his dealings and his history with a cornucopia of characters: volatile relatives, ne’er-do-wells, swindlers, oddballs, bigamists, thieves and fools. He gives us a glimpse into a past which, though lively and full of character, was not always pleasant. There was many an injustice and life could be harsher than the nostalgia merchants would have you believe.

Largely self-taught and a voracious reader, Mike has a thirst for knowledge and is immersed in local folk and Romany history. His countless dealings have brought him into contact with all that society has to offer: from lords to loners and with each encounter he walks away with a bargain and a story safely stowed for future telling. Driving around the backroads of Norfolk with Mike you find that each byway, each dwelling has a story attached – where you or I might just see a barren field, Mike sees a landscape populated with human interaction.

His Romany heritage is at the core of his being. The outsider status it confers has given him both his canniness and his companionability. He is justifiably proud of it and keen to share his knowledge of the language, the old ways and the old tales. He writes in the tradition of George Baldry, Fred Rolfe and George Borrow – it is a folk tradition and he has given us a book worthy of his forebears – not one necessarily to be read from start to finish, but rather to be dipped into: the nuggets drawn out and savoured one by one. There are not so many like him left – he is a Norfolk legend and the authentic voice of an oral tradition.

Kaka, Rokker Romany: Tales from a North-Norfolk Romany Life
ISBN 9781838531331 RRP £9.95 (Trade discount 35%)

Grant Holt: A Real Football Life
ISBN 978-1-912692-36-1 Hardback 300pp RRP £20 (Trade discount 40%)
Scholars, Saints and Sinners: the stories of some of Norfolk’s more idiosyncratic clergy of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Author Chris Armstrong; ISBN 978-1-909796-63-8 RRP 9.95 (Trade discount 35%)
Viking East Anglia by Tim Pestell (Norfolk Museums & Archeology Service)
ISBN 9780903101912 RRP £14.99 (Trade discount 35%)
Bittern Books, wholesaler and distributor of books and maps throughout East Anglia.
01603 739635

Bittern Books Catalogue

Our 2019 catalogue is finally ready for the printers.  It’s been a long haul getting it together as we keep adding more titles!  We’ve finally managed to lock it down and it’s going to the printers this week.

Once we get them back, Peter, our rep, will be delivering copies on his rounds, but if you would like one sooner let us know and we’ll pop one in the post.  Alternatively you can download a copy by clicking here.

Lasse Press

We are delighted to be able to bring you a wonderful range of books from Lasse Press, a Norwich based publisher with some lovely East Anglian books, including some Norwich best sellers.  You can download their full catalogue but here are a few of their books that we hold in stock – all of the others are available to order for delivery within a few days.

Norwich is blessed with more surviving medieval churches than any other city north of the Alps. Local architect David Luckhurst has painted all 32 (including the lone tower of the bombed St Benedict), with an emphasis on how they fit into the streetscape. The full-colour reproductions of David’s paintings are accompanied by his brief handwritten notes on each street scene and the surrounding buildings (some of which he designed), plus a specially drawn map locating all the churches within the city centre.  Norwich Medieval Churches is currently No. 1 on Jarrolds’ local best sellers list.Norwich Medieval Churches: Paperback, 246 ×189 mm, 40 pages. 32 full-colour reproductions of original paintings, plus b/w illustration and map. ISBN 978-0-9933069-8-3 RRP £10.99

From the Green Children of Woolpit to the tale of Tom Tit-Tot (Suffolk’s own version of Rumpelstiltskin), the county of Suffolk is surprisingly rich in lore and legends about fairy realms and hidden inhabitants. The county’s place-names and agricultural customs testify to past belief in elves and fairies, beings that were still feared and held in awe by Suffolk people until the twentieth century. Suffolk Fairylore  offers a detailed account of what Suffolk people believed about the ‘farisees’, and shows that Suffolk is as rich in fairylore as any English county. The book includes a gazetteer of all the places in Suffolk historically associated with the fairies, as well as appendices covering Suffolk’s medieval fairy narratives and the fairytales collected in the county in the Victorian period.Suffolk Fairylore: Paperback, 234 ×156 mm, 156 pp. many illustrations, mostly in colour. ISBN: 978-1-9997752-3-0 RRP £15.99

The ‘Strangers’ was the name given in Norwich to the many incomers to the city from Europe (especially the Low Countries and northern France) in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. At one time they made up more than a quarter of the population, and they had a great effect on the city’s industry, trade and public life. Frank Meeres explores their experiences and their impact, providing details of many individuals from all walks of life.The Welcome Stranger: Paperback, 234 ×156 mm, 244 pp. 10 maps, 11 tables, 62 illustrations, many in colour. ISBN: 978-1-9997752-2-3 RRP: £16.99

And coming soon:

New from Poppyland

On the 125th anniversary of the formation of the Norwich branch of Independent Labour Party, Frank Meeres’ latest book examines the life of one of Norwich’s early socialist pioneers. Born in Chedgrave in 1868, the son of a shoemaker, George Roberts became the first Labour party MP in East Anglia. He rose to become the party’s Chief Whip and was one of the very small number of Labour MPs to serve in wartime Governments under David Lloyd George. He become a cabinet minister and a privy councillor, serving in vital roles as Minister of Labour and then as Minister of Food. After the war, disillusioned with the Labour Party, he stood for Norwich as an Independent candidate – and won. He then finished his journey to the right, becoming a Conservative MP.
George Roberts was always fiercely independent, making his own mind up on the great issues of the day and speaking out: he was never afraid of offending anyone. A little man, he was a big figure in local and national life in the first quarter of the twentieth century. He deserves to be far better known. This book brings to life the dramatic story of ‘Georgie’ Roberts.
George Roberts MP: A Life that ‘Did Different’ by Frank Meeres
Paperback 108 pages, ISBN 9781909796430 RRP 10.95

Anyone holiday-making in Great Yarmouth in the years immediately following World War Two will have fond memories of the Marina Theatre, an open-air music auditorium in a central position on the promenade that was once described as being the most wonderful site on the east coast. The fortunes of the Marina during its forty-three year existence mirror closely those of Great Yarmouth as a premier UK seaside holiday resort. In this book, the author traces in detail the rise and fall of the theatre, the rationale and politics behind its creation and ultimate demise, and the development of its unique and innovative style of entertainment as well as details of the musicians, variety acts and entertainers who performed there during its lifetime. Other subjects covered are the Marina’s involvement in seaside bathing beauty competitions, post-war Battle of Britain celebrations, fundraising carnivals and the attempted formation of a seaside municipal orchestra. The book is an important addition to the history of Great Yarmouth and district and includes information and topics new to readers interested in Great Yarmouth, and popular culture in the 20th century.

Bathing Beauties, Knobbly Knees and Music by the Sea: The Marina, Great Yarmouth 1937 – 1979 by Colin Miller
Paperback 134 Pages, ISBN 9781909796584 RRP £10.95

Gorleston sits at the mouth of the Yare and existed long before Yarmouth. This short history, written by the well known local historian, Colin Tooke replaces his earlier booklet in the Poppyland Towns & Villages series, written some decades ago.

Gorleston: Short Blue to Pop’s Meadow explores the history of the community with its traditions of fishing, beachmen and their companies and the establishment of a more genteel tourism that set it apart from its larger neighbour in the 19th century.

Gorleston: Short Blue to Pop’s Meadow by Colin Tooke
Paperback 32 pages, ISBN 9781909796607 RRP £3.95

Elly Griffiths

Bittern Books is delighted to bring you six of Elly Griffiths’ excellent Ruth Galloway crime series.  If you haven’t come across these books they are mostly set along the north west Norfolk coast.  Dr. Ruth Galloway is a forensic archeologist working at the fictional University of West Norfolk in King’s Lynn who gets drawn into a variety of murder investigations.  Elly Griffiths’ writing is absorbing and addictive – your customers won’t be able to put these down and will want to come back for more.  You can find more details in our catalogue.
We have secured a stock of these six great novels at a special low price that will allow you to sell them for £4.99 while still making 40% margin.  The original list prices were £7.99 or £8.99, so you can sell for a higher price if you want to.  We only have limited supplies at this price, particularly of Dying Fall and the Outcast Dead, so we are limiting initial orders to a maximum of 10 copies of each title.
Don’t forget our minimum carriage paid order is £60 – just 21 of these books, although other maps and books can be included to make up the value.  For smaller orders shipping will be charged at cost.

Tide Tables 2019

For 2019 Bittern Books have taken over the publication of Tide Table booklets previously published by Linden Crescent Marketing.  This year we are publishing two separate booklets:

Norfolk Tide Tables 2019 (including Lowestoft)
ISBN 978-1-9993184-0-6
£2.99 32 pages 170×105
Includes tables for: Hunstanton, Blakeney Bar, Wells Bar, Cromer, Gorleston and Lowestoft. Also adjustments for many locations on the Broads.

Suffolk and North Essex Tide Tables 2019
ISBN 978-1-9993184-1-3
£2.99 32 pages 170×105
Includes tables for: Lowestoft, Southwold, Orford Haven Bar, Woodbridge Haven Bar, Harwich and West Mersea.

Both have the same pocket sized format as before, but with new easier to read formatted tables, showing high and low water times and heights for six different locations. There are also tables of time differences for calculating tides at many other locations and a list of useful telephone numbers.  The tidal data is supplied by the National Oceanographic Centre under licence.

We have special price deals available for retailers buying multiples of 10 or 100 booklets – please contact us for more details.

Update

It’s well past time for an update here.  We’ve had a really busy couple of months, first building a store room and transferring all the stock, then a rush of demand in our first month, especially for maps.  It’s all been very encouraging but has left little time for social networking!

One of our initial problems was that stocks of some of the more popular lines had run down to more or less nothing, so every time we got an order we found quite a bit of it not available and had to backorder from suppliers, many of whom I didn’t even have a relationship with.

We are now in a much better place, with stocks slowly building to a reasonable working level, and hopefully our delivery times will get better.

I want to thank all of our customers for their tolerance and loyalty in sticking with us through this.

I have also been getting to grips with the structure of the book trade and understanding the complex and interwoven relationships between publishers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers – and have realised that our business actually fits, in various ways, in all four of those categories.

Another aspect of Linden Crescent’s business which we’ve taken on board is the publication of tide tables for the Norfolk Coast.  Now we probably should have had them ready by now, but with everything else going on we’re running a bit behind schedule.  Still I’m hoping to get the Norfolk edition finished over this weekend and to the printers on Monday.  We’re also going to publish a separate edition covering the Suffolk and North Essex rivers, but more on that in due course.

Despite the amount of work, it’s been a real pleasure getting out and talking to some of our customers and I hope to see a few more of you over the next few weeks.

Progress

As of this week we have officially taken over Linden Crescent Marketing’s book distribution business.

There has been a lot of work already to get to our present state, and special thanks are due to Tony Baker for his support and help with the transfer, and to Tim for all the hard work he’s been putting in to get the storeroom ready.

There’s been a mass of administrative activity to set up new bank accounts, accounts with suppliers and customers.  We’ve had to set up a new accounting and stock management system (the one we use for our retail business didn’t provide all the features we needed to run Bittern Books) and I’ve started using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system to keep track of all our customers, suppliers and contacts.

Tony has provided us with heaps of data downloaded from his systems and we’ve had to import that and try to make sense of the sales history, and what guidance it gives to our product selection for the future.

In addition we’ve had to build a new storeroom in one of our existing outbuildings (once the leak in the roof was fixed!) and set up shelving for the books.

This week I have spending a lot of time with Tony stock checking all the books, packing them up and transporting them back to our premises.  We now have most of them here, but still in boxes. 

Our storeroom – with lots of boxes!

So, a busy weekend ahead, unpacking boxes and organising the books on shelves so we stand a chance of finding what we’re looking for.  I also have to import all the book data into our inventory system so we can use it for orders and invoicing.  Lots to do, but all very exciting!

Starting Out

There’s always a steep learning curve in setting up a new business, or even taking over an existing one, and getting Bittern Books off the ground is no different.

First up are all the operational issues: new bank accounts (why do banks make it so difficult to set up a new account?), setting up the storage space we need for stock, and of course IT systems, which these days we can’t live with out.  When it comes to the takeover date we will have to move all the stock and record exactly what we’ve got to keep the accounts straight.

Then we need to understand who our customers are, what kind of relationship they would like, the types of product they’re interested in.  The first step in this direction is to analyze past sales data, but more important is to get out to talk to customers – but that takes time and can’t happen immediately.

Our suppliers range from large book publishing companies through to independent self publishing authors, and we need to establish relationships with all of them.  In some cases that involves filling out tedious account forms, in others a friendly chat on the phone or a quick email. And we need to set up services such as delivery.

So a lot to do and quite a short space of time to do it in.  The transition will start on 3rd September but may take a week or so to complete, during which time we probably won’t be able to ship any orders.  From then on you may find some lines will be backordered as we build up our stocks to the right levels, but I hope you will bear with us while we work things out.