Monday, September 15, 2014

Interview with Mike Wilkinson of Around About Books

Welcome to Up Around the Corner, Mike. Could you tell us a little about yourself and about Around About Books?

Around About Books Storefront
Just off the Square in Troy, Ohio
Thanks a lot for asking, Terry. Some of my earliest memories are of my father reading to me. They're also most of my favorite memories from my childhood. My dad had a way of reading up to an exciting point then he'd stop and say, "What do you think is going to happen next?" Well, for a small child, that is all it took to start my imagination flying. It was only natural that I'd love all things printed after that. When the other kids wanted to be firemen and policemen I told the teacher I wanted to own a library. After learning that I couldn't own a library I went the next logical route...I bought a bookstore.

There are three of us, all together, who own Around About Books. Myself, Sue Cantrell and Dave Crouse. We purchased the store, I guess it's been ten years now. No regrets. It has been a dream to introduce folks to their new best friends (not to mention that you get first crack at a lot of the books that come through -- there is a lot "Dibs Calling", to be sure).

You’ve mentioned two positives about working at a books store, Mike. Can you make it three? And are there any drawbacks, especially one that those who are readers might not expect?

I could make it one hundred positive things easily, Terry! It is simply the best. Owning a bookstore often feels like offering a public service, lol. Expanding on that -- I love the feeling of getting to know customers. People tend to talk to me the same way I imagine they'd talk to their bartender. You start simply enough, talking about a book they love or why they love an author -- pretty soon they are taking you through their lives and why they have the passions they do. It's got to be one of the greatest feelings in the world. I feel connected in a way that I don't think folks who do a lot of other things get the chance to do very often.

The biggest drawback? I'd have to say there are really only a few. The biggest is folks who wander into the store that have no desire to read (which is alright -- we offer a lot of other things for them to stumble onto while in the store). I've NEVER been able to comprehend the mentality that allows them to believe that NOT reading is an advantage. Like they, somehow, made it to wherever they find themselves without ever reading -- and we should, for some reason, look up to them for it. I feel protective of my other customers on those occasions.

One question many of the readers of Up Around the Corner might have is how Around About Books has managed to compete with online bookstores, and the rise of ebooks, and do you feel continuing to compete could become an increasingly uphill struggle?

Local Authors Section
Great question! Honestly, not a lot of folks seem to be aware of the trouble that many "Mom & Pop" bookstores face from all the new technologies available. I'm all for the amazing tech gadgets out there. I'm a huge fan of science in general. However, those same wonders have taken such a HUGE bite out of the pie it leaves so little for the regular person.

As I said, a bookstore was a dream for me so there really is no option but to never give up. We are really just starting to dip our collective toe into the online sales market. We have a few books listed on and we get a little business from that. Though, I confess, none of us are very good at that part so we are learning as we go.

As for the eBooks, it was a much worse problem for us in the beginning. We have all noticed a trend that the same folks who showed up in the beginning selling us their books saying they are switching to eBooks are starting to come back looking to re-buy their collections. Even the folks who really love eBooks are deciding they want to actually own the book and have it on their shelves as well as on their reading devices. My father used to say, "You can learn a lot about a person by what you find on their bookshelves." I think many folks now have to look at a lot of empty spaces where their favorite books once sat and they miss it. I think eBooks will certainly continue but I also think that the "newness" of them is already starting to fade.

Real books will never be a fad and even the kids who were being raised on eBooks are starting to come in and discover the wonder of turning an actual paper page. I don't really see trying to compete with eReaders as an uphill struggle anymore. I think it is starting to level off now.

There is room for everyone at the party and, as long as the love of reading or the need to learn exists, bookstores may suffer through hard times but the diehards will fight and will survive. We are the keepers of knowledge -- that's a pretty important job.

What trends are you noticing in your customer? For example: More interest in nonfiction or romance, or preference of hard cover over mass market paperbacks?

The most die hard sections of our store tend to be History for nonfiction and the Young Adult novels are the hot item(s) in fiction. Sales tend to be divided -- nonfiction sales are almost exclusively hardback and fiction is either trade sized or paperback.

What three people, living or deceased, would you find to be absolutely awesome if they walked into Around About Books to browse and maybe strike up a conversation. What would you hope to discuss with them, and if they asked you to suggest a book for them to read, what might it be?

Wow, that would be a HUGE list. I have a list of just authors I'd love to speak with and give them a tour of the store. I have a list of personal heroes and "important" people. I have never thought of trying to cut the list down to just three. No matter what angle I take this is tough. I guess Richard Laymon, Dr. Creep, and Abraham Lincoln. I'd give Richard Laymon a book on how to turn your books into movies (one of my favorite authors who seems to have always been overlooked in his short lifetime), Dr. Creep a book about how to take care of yourself and President Lincoln would get a copy of "Our American Cousin" so he wouldn't have to see the play!

Can you think of any unusual or especially challenging customer questions that came your way in the past few years?

One of my favorites has always been the time I had a very nice lady come in and ask if I had any red books. At first I thought she meant the magazine. I told her maybe in a collection of some sort. I told her I had never read any and asked her the subject matter. She looked me in the eye and said, "It doesn't really matter." I thought on this and must have looked totally lost. She leaned in and said, "You know, just red books." She said it in such a way that I felt like I was missing something. Suddenly, it occurred to me. I leaned back in close to her and whispered, "You mean Communist?" This young lady looked at me like I grew a third eye. Of course it turned out that she was looking for a certain shade of red to go with her decorating scheme. I had never dealt with that particular customer problem before but we figured it all out and found her what she was looking for and I ended up with my own Abbott and Costello memory.

Abbot and Costello, who doesn’t like them? Good story.

As we’re closing in on the end of the interview, Mike, is there anything you like to add or share with the readers of Up Around the Corner?

Around About Books Co-owner
Mike Wilkinson
It's been a LOT of fun, Terry! I really enjoyed this. It isn't often that a guy who sells books to folks gets to feel all important like.

Thank you so much for thinking of us at Around About Books and including us.

We'd love your readers to come on out to the store. Hang out with us and chat for a bit. If you like a book, try it out and see if you've found a soul mate. The one thing we are always needing is more friends.

If you get the chance, please check us out on Facebook, just search for "Around About Books" and, if you like what you see, give us a "LIKE".

It's coming up on the Halloween season and that is probably the best time to drop by because we are huge Halloween fans so the store and its windows are all made up. You never know what might jump out at you.

We have a lot going on and we are always looking for suggestions so please, we'd love to see you.

You’re welcome, Mike. I’ll second that if readers get the chance they should stop in at Around About Books. I don’t get there often enough, but always enjoy chatting and checking out the shelves (you have two floors packed with books).

Readers can find out more about Around About Books by following these links:


Friday, September 12, 2014

Sales Stats Update Through July 2014

After doing some totaling,  here is what I'm looking at for overall sales:

Print: 20.4% of sales
Ebook: 71.7% of sales
Audiobook: 7.9% of sales

Comparing those to statistics listed in April 2014 based on Sales through the 1st Quarter of 2014:

Print: 21.4% of sales
Ebook: 73.5% of sales
Audiobook: 5.1% of sales

Trends I see:
The uptick in audio is due to the having the books available in audio. In general, my publisher releases my novels in ebook, followed shortly thereafter in print. Audiobooks become available a little further down the road (the delay due to finding and screening narrators, and then the production process which follows).

They (audiobooks) are currently doing a little better than print editions. Relic Tech's sales in audio have outpaced those of Flank Hawk and Blood Sword. The same is true for ebooks as Relic Tech sells a vastly higher percentage of ebooks as compared to print: (3.5% Print, 76.7% Ebook, 9.8% Audio). I would attribute that to the audience preference for Science Fiction.

Genre Shotgun, the short story collection, is largely reverse when compared to Relic Tech: (11.8% Ebook, 88.2% print). The audiobook version of Genre Shotgun is in production and not yet released. It should be interesting to observe what happens there, as well as the release of Soul Forge in audio, which may kickstart sales of the previous novels in the First Civilization's Legacy Series in audiobook format such that they close in on those of Relic Tech.

One upcoming addition to the sales observation will be the foreign release version of Flank Hawk (in Spanish). It will be released in ebook, and depending on how that goes, print and possibly audio might follow.

My publisher (Gryphonwood Press) is planning some marketing efforts focused on Relic Tech and Flank Hawk, which may alter future sales and trends.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Update: All Places Sci-Fi Six Pack is available (for 99 cents)

Gryphonwood Press has listed all places the Sci-Fi Six Pack is available (for a limited time).

Follow the link below to Gryphonwood Press's website for the direct hyperlinks and additional information.

Link: Gryphonwood Press/Sci-Fi Six Pack

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

6 Great SF Reads including Relic Tech for 99¢


For a limited time Gryphonwood Press has put together a Sci Fi Six-Pack, which includes:

3 Novels

2 Novellas

1 Short Story

  • Humans fight off an alien invasion
  • A race of super-soldiers turn on their creators
  • A specialist undergoes a dangerous procedure in order to access a secret locked in his mind
  • Futuristic submarine warfare on alien worlds
  • A telepath and spice dealer battles gangs and madmen
  • A futuristic bounty hunter pursues a madman across the galaxy

A dirty half-dozen science fiction thrills, three novels, two novellas, and a short story, by six fantastic authors!

This box set will only be available for a short time!

Check it out:  Sci-Fi Six-Pack: Six Thrilling Tales from Six Top-Notch Authors!

At only 99¢ you can't beat the price.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Review of Soul Forge at Dragons, Magic and Other Fantastical Reads


If  you have a moment, please check out the review of Soul Forge, and see what reviewer Kira Tregoning had to say, with Soul Forge earning 4.5 Stars.

Link: Review: ‘Soul Forge’ by Terry W. Ervin II


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Applefest in Sidney, Ohio this Saturday (Sept. 6th)

I'll be signing copies of my books at the Applefest in Sidney, Ohio this Saturday (Sept. 6th).

I and about a dozen other authors will be in the Courthouse's bottom floor from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm, meeting readers and signing copies of our novels. Signs will be posted to help if you're unsure exactly where we're located.

Look forward to seeing you there!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Review of Soul Forge at Two Ends of the Pen

If you have a moment click on over to see what Two Ends of the Pen had to say about Soul Forge.

Link: Review: Soul Forge