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Oct 01

Editor’s Log: Challenges mean Opportunities

strategic_partnership

The Deadwood Writers is about to celebrate 14 years of existence. The group was founded as part of one person’s college course assignment in 2002. At the time that the facilitator role was passed on to me there were approximately five members. We met in the Barnes and Noble (BN) in Northville, near the back of the store in a small space near the music section and the bathrooms. It was a good space for the group’s size.

The members, some of whom remain active today, were dedicated in both attendance and sharing of their writing. Yet one challenge was growth. The group’s vision has always been to provide a welcoming space to all writers and authors. Without growth, there would be the risk of atrophy from lack of perspectives.

This is where Patti gave tremendous help. Patti was Barnes and Noble’s CRM or Community Relations Manager. She handled the community outreach for the store. At that time BN stores sought to be a hub for the community. They invited schools, churches, and other organizations to do book fundraisers. Book groups were established through the volunteering of a community member. Sometimes the CRM might facilitate that effort. And there was the Writer’s Group.

From my travels around the country, writer’s groups are more difficult to establish than the book groups. It requires a structure and a facilitator willing to engage and welcome people to participate and lay bare their vulnerability through sharing of their writing. Having participated and facilitated several writer’s groups, I can honestly say that maintaining one is both an expense in energy and time, and one of the most rewarding experiences. It’s why I love being a part of the Deadwood Writers for 14 years.

Patti helped us grow the group with putting us into the calendar and in the store newsletter. She partnered with us to bring in authors and publishers. In the process, she taught me the ropes for relationships with authors, publishers, and the store, which has been invaluable. The group grew to over 30 members. We moved to the Cookbook section, which has been our home ever since.

When Patti retired, Betsy took over as the CRM. The rich relationship continued to grow. The Deadwood Writers group sponsored workshops on writing. One important focus was the 6+1 Writing Traits. We brought in a publisher who conducted several sessions on how to publish and market one’s book. We also continued to bring in authors to speak about their writing journey. A study group was established that meets one hour before the main meeting. The group continued to grow.

When Betsy left, Gail continued supporting the relationship. Deadwood writers continues to flourish. We established this blog where members regularly post a variety of stories and articles. Others actively edit the work so that there is shared feedback happening outside of the scheduled meetings. There has been talk of self-publishing work by the members who write for the blog. Stay tuned 🙂

Today, as we celebrate our 14 years as a group and as a partner with BN, we face new challenges. As most people know, bookstores like BN must reinvent themselves to stay relevant and profitable. It’s amazing the creativity and innovations that these smart staff come up with, such as a toy section, electronics, and high quality journals. As consumer demand increases for these merchandise, BN can continue to sell books, its core love. The challenge that each store faces is how much store space is used for merchandise and where do the groups meet when their space is taken over.

BN’s answer has been the cafe. But the cafe is loud from the machines used for coffees and blended drinks. Sit in the cafe and try to carry on a conversation, and count the interruptions. The space is just not conducive to a group that is having a serious conversation around topics that everyone participating wants to “hear” and share ideas.

I wonder what other groups have done to manage this environment? I wonder how other BN stores have balanced community relationships with merchandise placement?

We are attempting to work with our beloved home base to find a solution that maintains the relationship. We hope to find an equitable solution so that the group might maintain another 14 years at BN. Stay tuned.

Do you think that in today’s market a bookstore benefits from community relationships through book groups and writer’s groups? Or is there more benefit to pushing out community groups by product placement for the “promise” of more profits?

3 comments

  1. Sue Remisiewicz

    Several years back, while shopping at a Barnes and Noble store, I started a conversation with a woman who had just come from a Borders bookstore. She said she asked a Borders salesperson for help finding a book. When they could not find it, she asked if he would order the book for her. He let out a small huff and told her, “You know you can order that online.” Not long after our conversation, Borders announced it was going out of business. Small wonder based on that salesperson’s attitude.

    I understand the need for a company to change and grow. However, if the business model includes brick-and-mortar outlets, then the company will live or die by how it either fosters or does not foster the communities it serves.

    It seems that Barnes and Noble is at a crossroads. One can only hope it does not take the path traveled by Borders.

  2. Wendi Knape

    The questions you raise are good ones John. I hope with a continued partnership with B&N we can find a solution. It would be sad to think that Deadwood Writers would get lost in the almighty dollar.

  3. Claire Murray

    Good description of our group’s history. I learned some new things. I think we contribute to B & N’s success by bringing in new people and making purchases while we’re there. Customers like the idea of a writers’ group even if they don’t personally join. Here’s to another 14 years!!!

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