#7 Above the Treeline

NEIBA Question of the Week #7

The NEIBA Board members are starting a Question of the Week on the NEIBA Group at Yahoo! Groups (our Listserv). The goal is to share everyone’s common knowledge about bookselling or anything related to independent bookstores.  It is our hope that after the Board has run through with their questions other members will continue the asking.

This week’s question is:

Do you export your sales data to Above the Treeline? If not, why? If you don’t, do you know that doing so will give you the “comps” on Edelweiss, making ordering more efficient? It became apparent at the AC meeting that this data is important to publishers. How do publishers use this data? – Annie Philbrick, Bank Square Books

Suzanna Hermans, Oblong Books & Music

We are a regular Above the Treeline customer, so yes, we do export our data. Having comp title data in Edelweiss is absolutely essential for us and I strongly urge any stores who are not uploading their data to do so. The data we upload also feeds into our IndieCommerce site, so our on hand quantities are visible on our website.

Dale Szczeblowski, Porter Square Books, Inc

We do the same as Suzanna at Oblong for the same reasons.

Kathryn Fabian, RJ Julia

We have been exporting our data to Above the Treeline for quite a while and getting the comp title information in Edelweiss is great – although I have been less than happy with the quality of the comp titles provided by the publishers (or not) and I have been talking to our sales reps about this issue for some time. We also use ATL for monthly sales reports and comparison reports.

Vicky Titcomb, Titcomb’s Bookshop

We have our data uploaded, too. For those who don’t do it yet, it’s all done automatically. The people at Above the Treeline set it up and after that, you don’t have to do a thing!

Tom Holbrook, RiverRun

Here I go being the curmudgeon again– you’d think I was 80 years old instead of 40.

I was an early adopter of ATL, signing up the very first time they came to NEIBA. Even though I have a small store, can keep good track of my stock, and knew how to run reports on my system that gave me similar info, I signed up because I could see right away how much it would help booksellers in general and wanted to support them.

Then they turned around and went to work for Borders. What was pitched to me as a way to help indies level the playing field was now being tailored for one of our biggest competitors.

I dropped them immediately, wrote an impassioned letter to the head of ATL (who responded with a form letter).

grrr, scowl,

Pat Fowler, Village Square Booksellers

We export our data from BookLog to Treeline nightly. We use the reports to restock the indie bestsellers on our distributor order twice a week. I also use Treeline to prepare backlist orders for reps. Our total history was exported as a one-time file so that info is on edelweiss. This saves me having to look history up on BookLog and run reports for each book, or check out a series, etc.

I also use Treeline on my IOS device or on a Wi-Fi computer (while at a school or library I just pop open a browser on their computer & dial up Treeline- obviously I know my password by heart and no one objects to my using their computer) to check out on hand inventory when someone asks if I have a certain book on hand when I am out & about in the community at meetings, at the grocery store, bookfairs or at community events. My IPad2 has Verizon 3G so I can almost always get online (I do live in Vermont), even without Wi-Fi. If I need to place the order with my distributor, I can open up an IPage window & add it to my upcoming Selection List with a note indicating “Jill Booklover at the woman’s club meeting” so I can add a special order later in our BookLog system at the store.

I can also check email online from my home computer in the evenings or in the morning before the store opens and use treeline to see if I have a book on hand when a customer asks if I have it- for email or book requests in Facebook.

… Forgot to mention that the Treeline data feeds into our IndieCommerce site- I could also be checking that when I am out & about but to be honest, the search engine is hard to work with, which of course is also hard for customers…

Wendy Hudson, Nantucket Bookworks

I love Treeline and have been uploading for years. Just wish I was a more skilled user to slice and dice all that data. I also love it for it’s tie-in to Google Local Shopping. To my knowledge I’ve only had one person come in who Googled a book and saw we had it in stock so came in, but there may have been others, and if that functionality becomes better known we might really see an impact. (Wasn’t sure if that was still working but I just tried it and it is.)

Incidentally I don’t blame them for whatever work they did with Borders, and we are having the last laugh there I suppose anyway.

Edelweiss is absolutely terrific and I’m thrilled they keep gaining ground with publishers.

Carol Chittenden, Eight Cousins

We report daily to ATL, though we’re not a subscriber. We do see comp titles in Edelweiss, but I agree they don’t amount to much, and I just assumed they were publisher listings. Our inventory system is Anthology, and though it alledgedly has a zippy automatic reporting system, nobody could ever get it to work, so we run a little procedure each day. It doesn’t take long.

Ann Kingman, Random House

Above the Treeline — I’ll chime in from the sales rep perspective.

I use ATL almost every single day, to check sales and stock levels at your accounts, and more importantly, to communicate to our publishers what is happening in the marketplace– the “real” story, if you will. Sometimes there is the perception that a book is not working, and I can provide evidence that in my market it is. Usually I can marry the ATL data with anecdotal information — for instance, I was able to show that a particular book in its hardcover life was selling very well where booksellers had read and loved it, and not so well where there was no handselling support, even though those stores had ample stacks and great positioning. A few reading copies to selected staff, and the book has gone on to a very happy and healthy bestselling life in trade paperback.

This information is often taken into consideration when looking at reprints, etc. — if one major account has a ton of stock, but the indies are selling it well and there are few copies in the marketplace, perhaps a publisher will reprint anyway.

Also, it has elminated those Wednesday morning calls to your buyers to find out how our big titles have performed out of the gate. A few clicks of my mouse and I can see it.

Lastly (but no less important): It gives me great information when preparing to sell you the new frontlist. By seeing what you’ve sold on comparable titles (and I do my best to add appropriate comps if the publisher has not provided them), I can give you an informed recommendation. Doing much of this work ahead of time allows us to have very productive sales calls and talk about how we are actually going to get the books into the hands of your customers, rather than haggling over 3 copies or 5.

Michael Herrmann, Gibson’s Bookstore

Can anyone weigh in on the different service levels at Edelweiss? There’s “Summit,” which is everything, and “Plus,” in which you pay less per month but lose some features. After what we heard at the AC meeting about how publishers use the data, we’re about to start using Treeline, as opposed to just Edelweiss, so any advice is much appreciated.

Nan Sorensen, NEIBA

Here’s is the information about what is called Edelweiss Plus http://docs.abovethetreeline.com//PDF/Treeline_Service_Levels.pdf

According to Jen at Above the Treeline “Basically, Edelweiss Plus is about half the price and doesn’t include the in-depth category analysis tools that are available in the full version. But we don’t require a long term contract, and stores can switch between the levels, if they find that one is not right for their needs.”

Debbie Taylor, Sherman’s Bookstores

We use both Edelweiss and above the Treeline, and I have found them incredibly useful.

Nancy Felton, Broadside

We have not used Above the Treeline and are just starting to use Edelweiss. We’re starting to think about signing up for Treeline, at least to report our sales. One question for those of you with Indiebound websites: do you have problems with books being shown as in stock, but when is actually being held for someone and so not available? That’s been our concern with showing our website.

Michael Herrmann, Gibson’s Bookstore

Nancy, that has only been a problem once every blue moon or so. The advantages far outweigh the potential problems. (And sometimes, if a book has been on hold for a few weeks, then having a new customer for it is a positive blessing.)

Janet Bibeau, Storybook Cove

We use Edelweiss but have not used Above the Treeline. We were not sure whether it was worth the expense for just children’s books. We do upload our inventory to our Indiebound website. It says how many on hand as of the upload time so most people know that the number is not set in stone. They may call and say they saw it on your website but they say that whether we have it or not. You can also work with the search parameters so those titles that you do have come up at the beginning of the search for your customers. I have not had any bad experiences from uploading my inventory. They may see a lot of 1’s but it just makes them call ahead and thus gives you a heads up to find it and reorder before they make it into the store.

Willard Williams, The Toadstool Bookshop

When we set aside our last copy for someone we change the subject to a special one for “set asides”. When we run the inventory report for in stocks to upload to our Indiecommerce website the report is set up to exclude anything with that subject as well as the subject for special orders. That way the set aside one does not appear in our inventory on the website. Works well.

Dale Szczeblowski, Porter Square Books, Inc

On Indiebound websites your inventory displays with the caveat “on hand as of”” whatever time your file was uploaded. Though we do have an explanation on our site of what “On Our Shelves” means, we suspect very few people actually read it so on occasion it has been an issue. For those customers we’ve had to explain our store inventory can’t be displayed in real time due to the limitations of our systems. Most understand. We’ve recently added more detailed information on the order and checkout pages with the understanding that most people don’t read instructions even if we were to put them in CAPS AND BOLDFACE. Overall though, we feel the benefits of displaying our inventory generally outweigh any occasional problem.

Becky Dayton, Vermont Book Shop

Or, you can do as we have done and ‘take the book out of inventory,’ by selling it out by ISBN and returning it by product code. The sale amounts to $0, the ISBN/book appears on the restock report, and the ONH quantity is set to 0. When we sell the book off the hold shelf, we ring it through by product code and price. We actually stopped doing this a couple of years ago when I didn’t see the point in the extra step, when we could just look on the hold shelf if we couldn’t find something, but with ONH quantities being seen by the public, it seems like a perfect solution.

Mitch Gaslin, food for Thought

Probably depends on your pos system. We use Booklog and it puts special orders and books on hold in a different category, so they don’t show up as on hand when the data gets uploaded to our IndieCommerce site.