Sunday, 10 November 2013

Discoverability - it works both ways

One of the things I've learned from exploring the very specialist world of Christian bookshops, is that names are very important. If you're in a strange town, and perhaps the shop you're looking for has been moved , even  if it is only a few yards up the road, or the shop numbers have altered, it can be very difficult to find what you're looking for. This is especially true if you have one eye on the traffic and the Satnav, and the other on the shop details. A shop definitely needs clear signage, but it is also helpful if the name  makes it clear what is sold there. In other words, it should 'do what it says on the tin.'

I had never visited Stroud before last week, despite the fact that my husband's family obviously originate from the area. I had the impression that it was quite a 'New Agey' sort of place as far as shops are concerned, and being on the small side, height wise, it took me a moment or two to locate the christian bookshop, even when the SatNav told me I'd arrived. Although The Centre has a hanging sign at right angles to the wall, if you're looking straight ahead, it isn't that easy to spot for a stranger.

However the locals obviously know where to find it, since the  shop has been in existence for over 30 years and has strong support from the local churches - some 60 of them from the wider area use it regularly. One of the titles I noticed were a row of 'Friendship' books - compilations of material that I have often seen on the bookshelves of my mother's friends. When I queried whether that sort of thing still sold, Alex Luffram, the recently appointed manager was very positive about them. He told me that 40 had been bought in for last Christmas and when he checked his stock lists there were only two left.

Most authors would be delighted to have two copies of a given title of theirs on the shelves, which all goes to point up another facet of 'discoverability'. Know who your core customers are and make sure that you cater for them [or in the case of authors, know who you're writing for.].

 I gather that some bookshop managers lean towards stocking titles that  they like themselves, but while it is easier to put your heart into selling books and other items that you feel really positive about, you won't sell many of the Puritan  writers if your local Christians favour  writers 

who appear mainly on the God Channel or vice versa. 'All things to all men to all men, that we may win some." Wasn't that how Paul saw it?

1 comment:

  1. Marion, I can't believe it ... I was scrolling through your blog and saw the photo of Alex Luffram. Alex used to be our church secretary here in South Africa until him and his wife moved back to England a few years ago. What a small world!

    When we lived in Dublin more than a decade ago, Christian bookshops were basically non-existent, but I did manage to find one in the heart of the city which I frequented.

    We are very fortunate in South Africa to have a glut of Christian Bookshops. Many years back, they were housed in the larger churches (and some still are today), but now we have Gospel Direct stores, and almost every mall has a CUM Bookshop (which is the Afrikaans abbreviation for Christian Art Publishers and actually directly translated is Christian Distributors/Publishers Company).

    We are truly blessed in our country to have this resource so freely available.