May 24 Thru 27th
9am to 9pm at Cats and Dogs Coffee

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wrap-up, Debrief and What's Next

The space, returned to its usual use.

Connor Sites-Bowen here, organizer of Clowder & Pack.

The books are gone, the money is counted, and all in all, Clowder & Pack made $717 for Assemble over its four day run. We also sold about $200 of books and zines by local authors. We sold almost 500 books in that time, and increased sales at Cats and Dogs Coffee by 50% for those four days.

In the subsequent week-and-a-half, Cats and Dogs has seen a pickup in business, and many new faces!

Before anything, like to thank a whole host of people. In no particular order:

  • Mr. Cat and Mr. Dog, and Cats and Dogs Coffee, for graciously hosting the event, and running the shop while it was open.
  • Nina, Sara G., and the rest of the Assemble crew, for supporting my efforts.
  • Ryan Firkel, my co-conspirator at, and the founder of, Nearby Initiatives, always helpful and always awesome.
  • Jodi M. of Fleeting Pages fame, for her great advice and support, and for blazing the pop-up-bookstore trail.
  • Everyone who donated books, most of whom are Cats and Dogs regulars.
  • Laura Jean McLaughlin and Bob Ziller of Awesome Books, for their support.
  • Karen Lillis, Danny MacLori Jakiela, Christine Stoddard and the Quail Bell Magazine Crew, Eric Lidji, Mr. Dog, Kayte Rose, and Tom Pike for giving readings and workshops.
  • Everyone who bought books or just straight up donated to Assemble, for your patronage and your generosity.
  • Molly and Andrew, our biggest customers, who bought so many books that we gave them a bookshelf for them.
  • And, most importantly, the light of my life, my wonderful, amazing wife Rigel Richardson.
We learned a whole lot from the event. What follows are some takeaways for anyone thinking of doing a bookstore or other sale like this:

Manage Expectations
In advertising the donation of books, prior to the shop opening, we kept it pretty localized. Cats and Dogs had a note on their sandwich-board sign to donate books, and we received more than 1000 over the course of the month, a box or bag at a time. In hindsight, we should have noted two things: No Textbooks and No Magazines. Neither of these two categories of literature sells well. My own take on this is that both categories are inherently self-obsolescing - they contain information that is always out of date or soon-to-be out of date, and that just doesn't sell well.

Systems and Processes are Important
The books moved through the store in a carefully planned way. They arrived uncategorized and unorganized. Myself and a few volunteers organized them by loose genre, and got them in to labeled boxes and crates.

When the store was set up, each genre had its own table-space, with further boxes of that genre below the table. It warmed my heart to see multiple bibliophiles over the days sit down on the floor and paw through the boxes of their favored genre.

When the store ended, we let Bob from Awesome Books come by and look through the remaining books, which was greatly aided by the fact that they were already sorted by genre, and already in loose (not fully packed) crates.

After that, the books went to Half-Price Books, where they took the whole lot for $40, included in that $717 total. Half-Price was interesting, and key to the whole operation, as they work on an all-or-nothing model: you bring in books, they look through them and quote a price, and they take the whole lot, including the ones they doubt will sell. These they, presumably, recycle, pulp, or in some way reuse. We brought them almost 20 boxes of unsold, untaken books (mostly old textbooks, magazines, and mid-80s genre fiction), and they took them all.

Additionally, everything was priced to sell. $2 a book is a steal, and over the weekend it went down to $1 a book, and then pay-what-you-want.

In hindsight, we were left with a lot of unsold books, and a sped up timeline of discounting would have gotten more of those books back into the hands of the community, instead of a large chain business.

This receive-presort->sell->give->hand-over-to-capitalists flow did a pretty good job of allowing the community to find the value in each other's donated books, while also keeping overhead and warehousing low. It also prevented Assemble or myself from being saddled with dozens of boxes of scandalously-out-of-date, heavily picked over books.

Don't Schedule Multiple Long Days in a Row
One 12-hour workday is doable. Four is a lot. Even with help and relief, long days are just, well, long.

Everything That Happens Happens on Day One
The majority of our sales took place on Thursday, the first day we were open. The upside of this is that future events like Clowder & Pack might work perfectly well as a single, long day, especially in terms of turn-out.

Physical Advertising Is As Important as Online Advertising
Customers were 50/50 on whether they had heard about Clowder & Pack through social media or physical advertising (flyers, word of mouth, the City Paper). The social media side of things was certainly invigorating and fun, but it is no substitute for feet (and flyers) on the street. At its best, the two forms work well together.

Calendars Should Be Finalized As Soon As Possible
Clowder & Pack itself had a clear calendared time since its inception, but the individual workshops and readings were more haphazard.

The events within the space that had the best turnout were the ones with the longest lead time, and the ones whose speakers advertised themselves. The ones with low attendance were finalized and publicized just days before they occurred, with predicable small results.

Because of this shorter lead time, many events didn't even make it into physical calendars in the space.


The Future

The future is wide open.

Mr. Cat, owner of Cats and Dogs, has expressed an interest in hosting Clowder & Pack again in the winter. It may appear at other coffee shops or spaces in the city in the interrum. If you have any ideas about spaces or styles which might fit, please email me.

One possibility is to do a similar event, but with art supplies and materials, rather than books.

Assemble is not the only non-profit that might benefit from a Clowder & Pack. If you run a non-profit and are interested in working with the C&P crew, let us know.

If you are interested in getting updates about future events, please sign up, at the top of the right column, over there ---> .

Monday, May 28, 2012

(Clowder &) Packing It In

The remainders, sorted.
Well, the books are sorted out and boxed, the tables are clean, the art is down, and the space is available for use again, but Clowder & Pack lives on. Over the next few days we will be finding appropriate homes for the remaining books, between used book stores, the Book 'Em project, and other locations.

Look for a longer post soon - a debrief of how things went, the final numbers, and all the data and self-reflection you might ever need!

Don't worry- Clowder & Pack will pop up again soon in newer, stranger forms. If you'd like to be invited, please, sign up for update here.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

This is the End!

The Doors - The End

We have made it through to Sunday, the last day of the sale!

Exciting news- all books are $1, and even cheaper as the day progresses!

Yesterday went super-well! The store was consistently busy with so many workshops and readings!

The Quail Bell Crew during their reading.

The Quail Bell Crew left Pittsburgh thinking "Wow, what a bunch of strange, awesome people. We MUST RETURN!"

We have a great lineup of readings and workshops today.

Mr. Dog, who in a former chapter of life was a frequently published, highly respected author, will be giving a noon talk on structuring the work of writing novel-length projects so that you actually finish them.

At 2pm, local author and urbanist Eric Lidji will read from his latest novel, a serialized endeavor set in 1941.

At 4pmDaniel Patrick McCloskey, noted local author and founder of Cyberpunk Apocalypse writers collective, will give a lecture and workshop on Publishing and Self-Promotion for writers.

I hope to see you all soon!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Day Three: Quail Bell Magazine has Arrived!

Clowder and Pack, when busy.

Day Two went great! We had a wonderful reading by Karen Lillis and Lori Jakiela that filled the coffee shop with eager listeners!

The Crowd at Karen and Lori's reading.

Day three is shaping up well! The Crew from Quail Bell Magazine arrived this morning after a long trip from Virginia. Here they are in fine form, quail feathers attached.

Mars, Christine, and Julie, respectively.
They have set up a wonderful table of books, zines, poems, art, bookmarks, top-hats, and print miscellania for sale.

The Merch Table!
There are three events today, Saturday.

At Noon, Kayte Rose is giving a lecture on bookbinding and then a 1pm workshop.

At 3pm, Tom Pike, local writer and show director, will speak about screenwriting.

At 6pm, the Quail Bell Extravaganza will begin. Excitement awaits, and perhaps, even song!

Come on down to the shop and check it all out, and buy books, and drink coffee.

And enjoy the air conditioning!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Day One Down, Day Two Looking Great!

This is great. We are one quarter done with the four day sale, and the shop is already busy!

We sold around 150 books yesterday, of all sorts, and made just under $300. And Thursday was the trial run day! With the events and readings that will be happening all weekend, I expect $300 to just be the opening salvo!

A few books that are still available:

The Best American Non-Required Reading 2003, edited by wunderkind Dave Eggers.

Getting Even - The Complete Book of Dirty Tricks by George Hayduke.

We are open 9am to 9pm today, Saturday, and Sunday. Stop on by!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Customers and Art

Just some customers, and our 1930s Pittsburgh with Dirigibles poster.

We'll be here until Sunday!

We Are Open!

A view from the doorway.

We are open for business! The tables and shelves are stocked, the customers are coming in, and businesses is happening! We'll be here until Sunday!