Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Sponser Letter, September 18th 2017

Dear Sponsors,

I've lots of entertaining news about what I've been up to recently but, before I get into that, I've a question for you.

Do you think that a location on Upper Haight Street (i.e. around Ashbury and the park) would work for the bookstore?

I'm looking at a property to buy on Haight Street and I think that it would work as a location, but I'd like to hear your thoughts.  As I see it, parking is about the same as our current location, as is local public transit service.  However, transit from outside SF is slightly worse (it's pretty far from BART and freeway access is not as good). Walking traffic is good (although not as good as Valencia St.)  But, the neighborhood "feels" more like our sort of place than Valencia (and the Mission in general) does nowadays.

Obviously, this would be dependent on the numbers working out, financing being possible, and the "bones" of the building being good, but all those things are looking promising so far.  Your thoughts are, as always, very much appreciated.

Buildings and the buying of them, has been the theme of my last month-and-a-half.  Since the last time I wrote, I've looked very seriously at three buildings that might be possible for the store, and I've made offers on two of them (both offers turned down, as you may guess).  I can't say much about the third building since that is still in play (and, for the same reason, I can't say anything about the building on Haight Street).  But I'm happy to tell you about the others.

The first one was a return to the building that I was looking at in the beginning of this year.  It's an odd one on Mission St. (2965 Mission to be precise).  We came back to it because the seller seemed open to a price that was more reasonable.  Last time, they were asking 2.5 million and I offered 1.6 (which was very low but was also where the math worked out).  They came back with an offer of 2.4 and so we said thanks but; no.  Last month my realtor got in touch with them (because the building still hadn't sold - it went on the market in October of last year) and asked if they would be open to talking about another offer.  After a bit of back and forth, they said they were open to something under 2 million.  After some thought, I decided we could offer 1.75 million.  We did and they (rather unprofessionally) declined.  But, that one is still on the table.  Neither I nor my realtor think that they're going to get much interest at their asking price and so, in a few months, we might come back to them.

The lack of success there is both good and bad.  The building is kind of weird in that it's two narrow but deep store fronts with a two-story building at the rear of the lot. The yard between the two buildings was covered over at some point in the past but it was a pretty poor job.  And there were two unpermitted apartments built into the rear building.  We would have to do a lot of work to make the whole place legal and workable for the store so taking it on would be a hassle.

But, the total square footage is 3500, which is almost twice the current bookstore.  The location is excellent with great public transit access, very good freeway access, good foot traffic and close to many other neat businesses.  And, both buildings were unusual.  The front structure is 1920s art-deco with much of the original plaster work inside and the rear building was an old livery stable (probably from the 1890s).  All in all, a headache but a really neat one with plenty of character.

The other building that I looked at was kind of weird right out of the gate.  Before I could get any information about it from the listing realtor, they insisted that I sign a non-disclosure agreement (which was a first for both me and my realtor).  I'm not going to break that agreement here but I can tell you all the public information on the property.  The building is at 3901 18th St. and so it's only five blocks westerly from our current location.  It is a single story building with two retail store fronts, one a cafe and the other a nail salon.  The size is good (around 2700 square feet) but the layout was awkward.  The price, however, was hard to beat -- 1.3 million.  So, we started the process of getting details about the building and ran into that silly NDA thing.  We dealt with that and then heard nothing for days and days.  Finally, we decided to jump-start the process by sending in an offer at 1.25 million.  That finally produced a reply.  Informally the listing realtor told my realtor that they had already received and turned down offers in the neighborhood of 15% over the listing price.  At that price, the limitations in the building made it much less attractive so we walked.

My realtor and I have been joking about there being a pattern to the buildings we offer on -- specifically that the building will, for one reason or another, not be "straight-forward" and then the seller and/or the agent will do some strange stuff.  Thus far we've had a seller who seems to not be very interested in selling the building (pro tip here: if a building has been on the market for almost a frickin' _year_, the price is probably too high and you should lower it), a seller who lists a building at a price far below the amount that they'll accept (which is a waste of everyone's time), realtors who are slow to respond to actual buyers (three of those so far, and I think we might be headed to number four), and it goes on and on.

Seriously though, that pattern isn't surprising to me.  What we're looking for is an odd sort of property and we're in an odd situation as buyers in that we're planning on being owner-occupiers, we're actively searching for older buildings with some problems (since those problems lower the price and I've got the skills / contacts to sort out most kinds of problems), and we're trying to do this on a shoe-string budget.  I'm very grateful that our realtor is willing to work with us, has a boatload of experience, and understands that this is going to be a long process.

That's about all my news for now.  I'll have more to tell you about the building process next month, as well as information about our 20th anniversary party (which will be epic) and other upcoming events.

All Best,
Alan

The scattered showers version:

(1) Tuesday, September 26th at 7:00 pm -- Sponsor Cocktails.  Who doesn't love drinking at Churchill?  We will definitely be out again this month at the same location and time to enjoy the company of fellow sponsors.  Meet us at Churchill, 198 Church Street at Market Street.

(2) Thursday, October 5th at 7:00 pm - Advance Preview of "BladeRunner 2049" at the Balboa Theatre, thanks to SF in SF.

(3) Monday, October 9th at 7:00 pm - Sponsor Game Night.  Join us to hang out and bring your favorite game!

(4) Sunday, October 22nd at 2:00pm -- Sponsor Picnic at Golden Gate Park. A (hopefully) sunny day in the park with grill and friends.

The deluge of biblical proportions version:

(1) Tuesday, September 26th at 7:00 pm -- Sponsor Cocktails.  Our next Monthly Sponsor Cocktail night will be at Churchill (198 Church Street at Market) <http://www.churchillsf.com/>; some combination of us will be there from at least 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm.  No need to RSVP and any number of guests and friends are welcome.  The bar is INCREDIBLY convenient to public transit -- the MUNI Metro Underground (via F, K, L, and M lines at Church Street,) and J and N lines stop less than a block away.

(2) Thursday, October 5th at 7:00 pm - Advance Preview of "BladeRunner 2049" at the Balboa Theatre, Balboa Theatre 3630 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA  94121.  SF in SF is hosting a sneak preview of BLADE RUNNER 2049!  In appreciation of our sponsors, Rina Weisman at SF in SF is giving you first crack at tickets for this show, available only via SF in SF.  This will be a sell-out, so you'll want to get your tickets early!  Program starts promptly at 7:00 pm, with special guest Paul Sammon, who wrote FUTURE NOIR: THE MAKING OF BLADE RUNNER, (the ultimate reference tool for fans of the movie).  Paul will give a half hour talk, and answer questions and sign books after the movie in the lobby.  Borderlands Books will be on hand with his book, as well as other PKD titles.​  Film begins at exactly 7:30 pm.  Note - Sponsors may purchase up to a maximum of six tickets each, so please bring your friends.  Tickets will be $8.50 each.  Payment via Venmo​​ or ​PayPal (please choose "send to friends or family option") to sfinsfevents@gmail.com.  Rina Weisman will be in the lobby as of 6:15PM to the left of the box office with your ticket(s).  If you are buying tix for more than one person, you will need to collect all tix at the same time​.  For more info, email sfinsfevents@gmail.com

(3) Monday, October 9th at 7:00 pm - Sponsor Game Night.  Join fellow sponsors & "game" staff for chess, Cards Against Humanity, Scrabble, Pictionary, or whatever other board games you'd like to bring to play!  Please bring games that have a usual play-cycle of less than 3 hours, so probably NOT Monopoly, Seven Ages, Arkham Horror, or The Longest Day (that's the Normandy Invasion strategy game that takes an average of 90 hours to play).  Are you a secret Balderdash champion?  Kick butt at Connect 4?  Here's your chance to shine!  Feel free to bring your favorite beverage to share.  Also, you're welcome to bring food if you wish -- the cafe will be shutting down at eight.  No need to RSVP, and please feel free to invite your friends along, as there really isn't any limit to the number of folks we can accommodate -- the more the merrier.

(4) Sunday, October 22nd at 2:00pm -- Sponsor Picnic at Golden Gate Park

BBQ Picnic in Golden Gate Park.  We are once again braving the outside world for a potluck cookout celebrating "Summer" in San Francisco. We're taking our October Sponsor event to Golden Gate Park, on Sunday, October 22nd at 2pm.  We have high hopes that we won't be shivering and shrouded in fog.  We've reserved table #1 in Lindley Meadow.  Directions are at the link below, but the short version is that Lindley Meadow is on the south side of JFK Drive, across from the 30th Avenue and Fulton Street entrance in Golden Gate Park.  (At 30th Avenue and JFK, there is a sign for Lindley Meadow.)  http://sfrecpark.org/destination/golden-gate-park/ggp-lindley-meadow-picnic-area/ . Please note that several streets are closed in the park on Sundays and parking is often challenging.

Bring something to put on the grill or something to share as a side; bring your picnic blanket and a frisbee, and probably a jacket for possibly unpredictable summer weather.  Wine and beer are fine to bring but, please, no liquor and no glass, per the Park's request.  Friends and guests (including children) are super welcome so please do bring 'em along.  If you're planning on coming, please let us know at sponsors@borderlands-books.com

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sponsor Letter, August 7th, 2017

Hello Everyone,

If you're doing such a thing, I hope that your summer vacations are (or have been) lovely.  I'm not taking a summer vacation since I managed to get ten days in New Orleans this spring, but I'm with you in spirt.  At the store we've been busy helping all the people visiting for their vacations and it has been great fun.  One of the things I like the best about this business (and get to do the least) is make suggestions and help people find the book they're looking for.  Especially when they don't actually know what book they're looking for.  Summer time and the Holiday Season are the two times that I get to do the most of it, so it has been a good couple of weeks.

Speaking of summer travel, a lot of folks that we know are heading off to Helsinki for the World Science Fiction convention.  One of our sponsors, Gay Chung, is going to be there and she has offered to coordinate a get-together for any other sponsors who are going to be attending.  Exactly where, when and what it'll be is going to have to wait 'til Gay gets in town (which'll be tomorrow) and has a chance to check out the lay of the land.  But, if you'd like to connect with her and other sponsors, you should drop her a note at blbsponsors@gmail.com.  Once she has the details, she'll drop you a line.  I wish I was going to be there, but I'm sure you'll all send me some great pictures (yes, that is a hint).

And, now on to the list of upcoming events.

Warm Regards,
Alan

Note:  As usual, to RSVP for any event, just reply to this email and we'll take care of the rest.

Short:

(1) Monday, August 14th from 7:00 pm -- 10:00 pm -- Game Night.  Inspired by the rousing success of the last couple, we'll be doing a monthly game night at the Cafe on the second Monday of each month.  Guests are welcome and no RSVPs are necessary.

(2) Saturday, August 19th from 7:00 pm -- 11:00 pm -- Summer Sponsor Social.  Cookies, cookies, cookies!  Instead of our usual pot-luck, we'd like you to bring cookies. We want to taste your favorite family recipe, your go-to binge, or even your favorite local bakery's confections.  We'll have few ports and sherries on hand to try different pairings, but as always, feel free to bring any of your favorite libations.  And we'll have all the usual entertainments in the form of door prizes, board games at the back of the cafe, and Alan will be giving a limited number of tours of the (sorta creepy) basement of the shop.  Feel free to bring a guest and RSVPs are much appreciated but not required.

(3) Tuesday, August 22nd at 7:00 pm -- Sponsor Cocktails.  Who doesn't love drinking at Churchill?  We will definitely be out again this month at the same location and time to enjoy the company of fellow sponsors.  Meet us at Churchill, 198 Church Street at Market Street.

(4) Thursday, September 7th at 6:00 pm -- Sponsor Karaoke with Seanan McGuire at The Mint (1942 Market Street, San Francisco).  21 and over, no cover charge (but there is a 2-drink minimum), guests welcome.  Please RSVP so we know how many people to expect.

(5) Sunday, October 22nd, 2 pm to 6 pm -- Picnic in Golden Gate Park.  We'll be at table #1 in Lindley Meadow (see map here - http://sfpsociety.org/large_ggp_map.jpg). Any number of guests are welcome and RSVPs are appreciated.  We'll take care of the coals and some basic food stuff, but please do bring things to share (however, please, per park rules, no beverages in glass bottles).

Long:

(1) Monday, August 14th from 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm -- Game Night.  Join fellow sponsors & "game" staff for chess, Cards Against Humanity, Scrabble, Pictionary, or whatever other board games you'd like to bring to play!  Please bring games that have a usual play-cycle of less than 3 hours, so probably NOT Monopoly, Seven Ages, Arkham Horror, or The Longest Day (that's the Normandy Invasion strategy game that takes an average of 90 hours to play).  Are you a secret Balderdash champion?  Kick butt at Connect 4? Here's your chance to shine!  We'll have adult beverages (after eight pm), iced tea and lemonade on offer, but feel free to bring your favorite beverage to share.  Also, you're welcome to bring food if you wish -- the cafe will be shutting down at eight.  No need to RSVP, and please feel free to invite your friends along, as there really isn't any limit to the number of folks we can accommodate -- the more the merrier.

(2) Saturday, August 19th from 7:00 pm - 11:00 pm -- Summer Sponsor Social.  Cookies, cookies, cookies! Instead of our usual pot-luck, we'd like you to bring cookies. We want to taste your favorite family recipe, your go-to binge, or even your favorite local bakery's confections.  We'll have few ports and sherries on hand to try different pairings, but as always, feel free to bring any of your favorite libations.  And we'll have all the usual entertainments in the form of door prizes, board games at the back of the cafe, and Alan will be giving a limited number of tours of the (sorta creepy) basement of the shop.  Given the sweets-focused nature of this social, you might want to have dinner before arriving (although we will have some "real" food on hand for the folks who didn't have time for dinner - i.e. the staff at the very least).  Feel free to bring a guest and RSVPs are much appreciated but not required.

(3) Tuesday, August 22nd at 7:00 pm -- Sponsor Cocktails.  Our next Monthly Sponsor Cocktail night will be at Churchill (198 Church Street at Market) <http://www.churchillsf.com/>; some combination of us will be there from at least 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm.  No need to RSVP and any number of guests and friends are welcome.  The bar is INCREDIBLY convenient to public transit -- the MUNI Metro Underground (via F, K, L, and M lines at Church Street,) and J and N lines stop less than a block away.

(4) Thursday, September 7th at 6:00 pm -- Sponsor Karaoke with Seanan McGuire at The Mint (1942 Market Street, San Francisco). Nebula Award winning author, singer/songwriter, snake handler, Borderlands sponsor, and all-around amazing person Seanan McGuire has graciously offered to be a special guest at the very first Borderlands Sponsor Karaoke Night!  This will be an enormously entertaining event, and we hope you'll join us to show off your vocal prowess (or your irrepressible attitude, if you happen to lack vocal prowess -- that's great, too).  The Mint is located at 1942 Market Street, San Francisco, and we have reserved space for sponsors. Some pertinent info about The Mint: it is a bar, so this event will be for those 21 and over.  There is no cover charge, but there is a 2-drink minimum.  Guests are welcome, and please RSVP so we know how many people to expect.

(5) Sunday, October 22nd, 2 pm to 6 pm -- Picnic in Golden Gate Park.  We are celebrating "Summer" in San Francisco by taking our October Sponsor event to Golden Gate Park!  We're actually leaving the store and venturing into the outside world for a potluck cookout!  And, since it's October in San Francisco, we have high hopes that we won't be shivering and shrouded in fog.  We've reserved Table #1 at Lindley Meadow. Directions are at the link below, but the short version is that Lindley Meadow is on the South side of JFK Drive, across from the 30th Avenue and Fulton Street entrance in Golden Gate Park.  (At 30th Avenue and JFK, there is a sign for Lindley Meadow.) http://sfrecpark.org/destination/golden-gate-park/ggp-lindley-meadow-picnic-area/ .

Bring something to put on the grill or something to share as a side; bring your picnic blanket and a frisbee, and probably a jacket for possibly unpredictable summer weather.  Wine and beer are fine to bring but, please, no liquor and no glass, per the Park's request.  Friends and guests (including children) are super welcome so please do bring 'em along.  If you're planning on coming, please let us know at sponsors@borderlands-books.com

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Sponsor Letter, July 6th 2017

Hi Everyone and Happy Summer,

As is usual for San Francisco, it's been chilly and windy a fair bit but at least 4th of July weekend was nice and sunny.  I hope that you're all having a good summer so far.  I've been working on various assorted small projects, both work and personal.  And there is one that has pointed out to me just how San Francisco is changing.

A few weeks ago someone backed into my motorcycle and knocked it over the side-stand.  For you who don't ride, that means it hit the ground pretty hard.  Various stuff was bent and broken, but it was all stuff that's pretty easy to replace, except -- the stay that mounts the rider's footpeg was cracked.  And I couldn't find a new replacement.  So, I decided to have it welded.

I went to Al's Welding, where I've been going for more than two decades.  They couldn't take the job because they were moving to Richmond.  The reason?  Their rent was getting too high.  I got in touch with my mechanic for a referral.  The guy he sent me to was closing up shop.  Rent, again.  Next I looked online and found a guy who seemed pretty good.  Called him.  He moved to Petaluma about six months ago.  And, you guessed it -- his rent went up when his lease ran out.  I called another mechanic.  He not only didn't have a referral but he asked me to let him know if I found anyone because the two welders he usually worked with had both moved out of town.  I finally found a shop that was still operating and I should have the bike back on the road soon, but I'm wondering how long that shop will be able to stay in business.  I'm also wondering what other services that I've always taken for granted may have been priced out of San Francisco.

I haven't been spending all my time working on my own stuff.  There are a few things in progress around the shop that should gel in the next couple of months.  One on them is my project to set up an online forum or message board so that sponsors can communicate with each other more easily.  At this year's general meeting this was something that people were enthusiastic about and so it's high on my to-do list.  At the time, we had some discussion about the best way of going at it.  Several people suggested using Slack, others preferred a more traditional forum, and some others suggested that an email list-serve would be good.

After giving it some thought, I decided that an email list would be too intrusive for general chatting.  Though I like them very much for working on projects and for sending out things like these notes and our newsletter, it seemed to me that it would work one of two ways; either people would use it a lot, in which case there would be too much traffic (we have over 600 sponsors), or people wouldn't use it much at all, in which case why bother to set it up.  That left the choice between Slack and a forum.  I think that there are good points for either of them.  Slack is conducive to something that feels much more like a free-flowing conversation, but (in the free mode) it doesn't support archiving, which means that the conversation gets lost over time.  Forums, on the other hand, are more rigid and (smart) people tend to be more careful about what they post, since it does get archived.  And forums are better suited to being a long-term repository for information.  Finally, we would "own" our forum and the data, whereas Slack is a single company and (as they should) runs things to suit themselves.

My final conclusion was to try a forum and see how it works for six months or so.  Over the years I've been burned several times by becoming dependent on an outside company, only to have them change their business practices.  That makes me hesitant to create that sort of dependency unless I really have to.  I hope that the forum will be a desirable and successful part of what we do with the sponsor program.  If it becomes that, I don't want to risk it being ruined because of another company's decisions.

All that said, if the forum isn't active and working well in six months, I think I'll shut it down and give Slack a try.  Of course and as usual, any comments or thoughts about this from you are super welcome -- just reply to this email and it'll go right to me.

All Best,
Alan

Upcoming Sponsor Events

If you would like to RSVP for any sponsor event, just reply to this email and, if necessary, let us know if you're bringing a guest. That's all there is to it.  And, same goes if you want to get in touch with me -- just reply to this and it'll get to me.

The Pithy version:
(1) Every Saturday in July at 8:00 pm -- Bay Area Theatre Sports Improv has been kind enough to give sponsors a discount code good for 30% off unlimited tickets to the Star Trek themed improv show "Warp Speed", Saturdays in July at 8:00 pm.

(2) Monday, July 10th from 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm -- Game Night.  Inspired by the rousing success of the first one, we'll be doing a monthly game night at the Cafe on the second Monday of each month.  Guests are welcome and RSVPs are appreciated but not required.

(3) Tuesday, July 25th at 7:00 pm -- Sponsor Cocktails.  Who doesn't love drinking at Churchill?  We will definitely be out again this month at the same location and time to enjoy the company of fellow sponsors.  Meet us at Churchill, 198 Church Street at Market Street.

(4) Friday, August 4th at 8:00 pm -- Blind Wine Tasting.  Sponsors Joe Thomas and John Plevyak have again very graciously offered to host a blind wine tasting for sponsors!  The event will take place at the bookstore and the cost will be $10.  Attendance is limited, so please RSVP as soon as possible.

(5) Saturday, August 19th from 7:00 pm - 11:00 pm -- Summer Sponsor Social.  More details to come next month!

(6) Thursday, September 7th at 6:00 pm (note earlier time) -- Sponsor Karaoke with Seanan McGuire at The Mint (1942 Market Street, San Francisco).  21 and over, no cover charge (but there is a 2-drink minimum), guests welcome.  Please RSVP so we know how many people to expect.

The Protracted version:

(1) Every Saturday in July at 8:00 pm -- We have several sponsor friends involved with the marvelous Bay Area Theatre Sports Improv, and BATS has been kind enough to give Borderlands sponsors a discount code good for 30% off unlimited tickets to their new Star Trek-themed show, "Warp Speed"!  The show's happening every Saturday in July, 8:00 pm, at The Bayfront Theater, Building B, Third floor, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco.  You can purchase tickets here: http://www.improv.org/shows/tickets/?eid=19479&edid=69232 and the discount code to use is REDSHIRTS.  Go support their wonderful creative endeavors and have a great time at a discount!  Their website, with further info about BATS and their shows, is here: www.improv.org

(2) Monday, July 10th from 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm -- Game Night.  Join fellow sponsors & "game" staff for chess, Cards Against Humanity, Scrabble, Pictionary, or whatever other board games you'd like to bring to play!  Please bring games that have a usual play-cycle of less than 3 hours, so probably NOT Monopoly, Seven Ages, Arkham Horror, or The Longest Day (that's the Normandy Invasion strategy game that takes an average of 90 hours to play).  Are you a secret Balderdash champion?  Kick butt at Connect 4? Here's your chance to shine!  We'll have adult beverages (after eight pm), iced tea and lemonade on offer, but feel free to bring your favorite beverage to share. Also, you're welcome to bring food if you wish -- the cafe will be shutting down at eight.  RSVPs are appreciated but not required, and please feel free to invite your friends along, as there really isn't any limit to the number of folks we can accommodate -- the more the merrier.

(3) Tuesday, July 25th at 7:00 pm -- Sponsor Cocktails.  Our next Monthly Sponsor Cocktail night will be at Churchill (198 Church Street at Market) <http://www.churchillsf.com/>; some combination of us will be there from at least 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm.  No need to RSVP and any number of guests and friends are welcome.  The bar is INCREDIBLY convenient to public transit -- the MUNI Metro Underground (via F, K, L, and M lines at Church Street,) and J and N lines stop less than a block away.

(4) Friday, August 4th at 8:00 pm -- Blind Wine Tasting.  We're very grateful to sponsors Joe Thomas and John Plevyak, who have again graciously offered to host a blind wine tasting for sponsors!  Here's the way it will work: We'll be hosting the event in the bookstore.  You're welcome to show up early, if you like, or just come to the door at eight or so.  Joe and John will be bringing the wine, with covered labels, and we'll be pouring and chatting about what we think, guided by Joe & John, for a couple of hours. The cost will be $10, and the proceeds will go to the Borderlands' Building Fund.  We might even have a prize or two for the folks with the best (or luckiest) palates.  This will be a very low-key event and so, if you don't know much about wine, this is a perfect chance to get your "feet" wet.  Attendance is limited, so please RSVP as soon as possible.  Oh, and please do be over 21 years old.  It also might be a good idea if you've had dinner before you arrive.  The glasses are pretty small but there might be a lot of them.

(5) Saturday, August 19th from 7:00 pm - 11:00 pm -- Summer Sponsor Social.  More details to come next month!

(6) Thursday, September 7th at 6:00 pm (please note earlier start time) -- Sponsor Karaoke with Seanan McGuire at The Mint (1942 Market Street, San Francisco). Nebula Award winning author, singer/songwriter, snake handler, Borderlands sponsor, and all-around amazing person Seanan McGuire has graciously offered to be a special guest at the very first Borderlands Sponsor Karaoke Night! This will be an enormously entertaining event, and we hope you'll join us to show off your vocal prowess (or your irrepressible attitude, if you happen to lack vocal prowess -- that's great, too).  The Mint is located at 1942 Market Street, San Francisco, and we have reserved space for sponsors.  Some pertinent info about The Mint: it is a bar, so this event will be for those 21 and over.  There is no cover charge, but there is a 2-drink minimum.  Guests are welcome, and please RSVP so we know how many people to expect.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sponsor Letter, June 12th 2017

Hello Everyone,

This is going to be a short intro for the sponsor note this month.  I've got all sorts of things to work on and so I'm going to make this quick.

After considering the feedback from the General Meeting at the end of March, I've decided that I'm going to focus on improving the store and cafe this year and leave the larger world for next year.  You can expect to see some small and large improvements around the place throughout this year.  Two of them are almost done now.

First, thanks to help from my friend Bruce, the WiFi in the cafe has improved substantially.  With some better hardware, speeds on the sponsor network are almost double what they were before.  And, it should be much more reliable from here on out (not that it was bad before but . . . there's always room for improvement).  Since we were doing all that work, I've also changed the password for the sponsors-only WiFi.  If you need the new password, drop me a note or ask at the counter in either the bookstore or the cafe.

Second, almost a full year after I intended to get it done, we've got a very nice set up in the cafe to show movies and other video content.  With the help of a stone cold pro on the subject, I got a very nice screen and video projector.  We tested it out this last weekend to show the movie based on Dan Well's excellent novel I Am Not A Serial Killer. Despite some little technical glitches, it worked out very well.  So, if you've thought about throwing a party at the cafe sometime, movies are now an option.  Of course, there are a number of ways that this projection capacity is going to make for neat events.

Over the next few months, I hope to be getting the back room at the store open as a used book section, sorting our some long standing problems with the audio clarity of author events, and getting some paint and repairs done.

As always, thank you for all the support and I'll look forward to seeing you around the shop.

All Best,
Alan

PS  Just as I was about to send out this note, I got some very sad news.  Dark Carnival bookstore in Berkeley will be closing after 41 years of operation.  This is a big loss to our field and I'm going to be very sorry to see it go.  Back in 2013 they were having some financial problems which I wrote about at the time <http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com/2013/12/dark-carnival-bookstore.html>. It seems that things just didn't get better for them, hence the current decision <http://www.berkeleyside.com/2017/06/12/41-years-berkeley-sci-fi-bookstore-dark-carnival-closing/>.

Stores like Dark Carnival and Borderlands are becoming increasingly rare.  When I opened my shop in 1997, there were four other science fiction specialty stores in the Bay Area alone.  Now, we're the only one left.  In fact, to my knowledge, there are only two stores like ours west of the Rockies, and only five or six left in the whole country.

Thank you all for saving us.  That means even more to me and our field as the remaining stores close.


The mouse version:

If you would like to RSVP for any sponsor event, just reply to this email and, if necessary, let us know if you're bringing a guest. That's all there is to it.  And, same goes if you want to get in touch with me -- just reply to this and it'll get to me.

Short:
(1) On Thursday, June 15th at 6:45 pm, we're exploring the haunted side of San Francisco history.  We'll be taking a Ghost Walk tour of the Pacific Heights neighborhood. We're currently full, but if you would still like to join, please contact us ASAP and we'll place you on a waiting list.

(2) Tuesday, June 27th at 7:00 pm -- Sponsor Cocktails.  Who doesn't love drinking at Churchill?  We will definitely be out again this month at the same location and time to enjoy the company of fellow sponsors.  Meet us at Churchill, 198 Church Street at Market Street.

(3) Sunday, July 2nd at 10:00 am, join us for a guided tour of the San Francisco Center for the Book (375 Rhode Island St, San Francisco, CA 94103).  The cost for the tour is $10.  Please RSVP if you're interested.  You may bring one guest.

(4) Monday, July 10th from 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm -- Game Night.  Inspired by the rousing success of the first one, we'll be doing a monthly game night at the Cafe on the second Monday of each month.  Guests are welcome and no RSVPs are necessary.

(5) Friday, August 4th at 8:00 pm -- Blind Wine Tasting.  Sponsors Joe Thomas and John Plevyak have again very graciously offered to host a blind wine tasting for sponsors!  The event will take place at the bookstore and the cost will be $10.  Attendance is limited, so please RSVP as soon as possible.

(6) Saturday, August 19th from 7:00 pm - 11:00 pm -- Summer Sponsor Social.  More details to come next month!

(7) Thursday, September 7th at 7:00 pm -- Sponsor Karaoke with Seanan McGuire at The Mint (1942 Market Street, San Francisco). 21 and over, no cover charge (but there is a 2-drink minimum), guests welcome.  Please RSVP so we know how many people to expect.

(8) Win tickets to BATS Improv!  We have 2 sets of two tickets to give away for any Bay Area Theatresports Improv show. Saturdays in July at 8:00 pm, this dynamic improv company presents "Warp Speed", Star Trek themed improv theatre!  We'll select winners from local folks who reply to this email by Friday, June 23rd and include the words "Beam me up" in their notes.

The mammoth version:

(1) Ghost Tour -- On Thursday, June 15th at 6:45 pm, we're exploring the haunted side of San Francisco history.  We're currently full, but if you would still like to join, please contact us ASAP and we'll place you on a waiting list.
From their website: "The original San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour, SF's first ghost tour, is a historical walking tour of the Pacific Heights neighborhood, one of the few neighborhoods to survive The Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906.  You'll walk a mile on tree-lined streets in a safe residential area with fine Victorian architecture. You'll learn about real historic names of San Francisco -- how they lived, how they died, and the reports of their hauntings ever since.  We don't make it up.  We just report it.  You'll enjoy 90 minutes to 2 hours of guaranteed unearthly fun!"  The San Francisco Ghost Hunt Walking Tour meets on the corner of Octavia and Bush Streets, in front of 1801 Bush Street.  NOTE: Please meet us by 6:45 pm for the 7:00 pm tour -- it starts promptly.  The lovely folks at SF Ghost Hunt have offered us a Borderlands discount, so tickets will run only $15 per person.  If interested in joining us, please reply to this email and we'll get you on a waiting list.

(2) Tuesday, June 27th at 7:00 pm -- Sponsor Cocktails.  Our next Monthly Sponsor Cocktail night will be at Churchill (198 Church Street at Market) <http://www.churchillsf.com/>; some combination of us will be there from at least 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm.  No need to RSVP and any number of guests and friends are welcome.  The bar is INCREDIBLY convenient to public transit -- the MUNI Metro Underground (via F, K, L, and M lines at Church Street,) and J and N lines stop less than a block away.

(3) Sunday, July 2nd at 10:00 am, join us for a guided tour of the San Francisco Center for the Book (375 Rhode Island St, San Francisco, CA 94103).  The San Francisco Center for the Book was co-founded in 1996 by Mary Austin and Kathleen Burch, "who recognized a growing need in San Francisco, the Bay Area and on the West Coast for a facility specifically designed and equipped to support the appreciation, teaching and creation of book arts."  Attendees can expect a walk-through of the space, both the Bindery and Print Studio, with details about the equipment, what it's used for, and a little history of bookbinding and letterpress printing. There will be demos of some of the equipment so we can see how things work, and the tour will wrap up in the Print Studio with a letterpress demo.  The Center also has a bookbinding workshop scheduled for July 2nd,  so we will get to see some students at work. The cost for the tour will be $10, and the guided portion will take about an hour.  Attendees can stay longer to explore the space if they wish.  For more information about the Center, their website is here: https://www.sfcb.org/home .  We will meet outside the Center at 9:45 am before the tour, and guests are welcome; however, please do RSVP for this event so we know how many people to expect.

(4) Monday, July 10th from 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm -- Game Night.  Join fellow sponsors & "game" staff for chess, Cards Against Humanity, Scrabble, Pictionary, or whatever other board games you'd like to bring to play!  Please bring games that have a usual play-cycle of less than 3 hours, so probably NOT Monopoly, Seven Ages, Arkham Horror, or The Longest Day (that's the Normandy Invasion strategy game that takes an average of 90 hours to play).  Are you a secret Balderdash champion?  Kick butt at Connect 4? Here's your chance to shine!  We'll have adult beverages (after eight pm), iced tea and lemonade on offer, but feel free to bring your favorite beverage to share.  Also, you're welcome to bring food if you wish -- the cafe will be shutting down at eight.  No need to RSVP, and please feel free to invite your friends along, as there really isn't any limit to the number of folks we can accommodate -- the more the merrier.

(5) Friday, August 4th at 8:00 pm -- Blind Wine Tasting.  We're very grateful to sponsors Joe Thomas and John Plevyak, who have again graciously offered to host a blind wine tasting for sponsors!  Here's the way it will work: We'll be hosting the event in the bookstore.  You're welcome to show up early, if you like, or just come to the door at eight or so.  Joe and John will be bringing the wine, with covered labels, and we'll be pouring and chatting about what we think, guided by Joe & John, for a couple of hours.  The cost will be $10, and the proceeds will go to the Borderlands' Building Fund.  We might even have a prize or two for the folks with the best (or luckiest) palates.  This will be a very low-key event and so, if you don't know much about wine, this is a perfect chance to get your "feet" wet.  Attendance is limited, so please RSVP as soon as possible.  Oh, and please do be over 21 years old.  It also might be a good idea if you've had dinner before you arrive.  The glasses are pretty small but there might be a lot of them.

(6) Saturday, August 19th from 7:00 pm - 11:00 pm -- Summer Sponsor Social.  More details to come next month!

(7) Thursday, September 7th at 7:00 pm -- Sponsor Karaoke with Seanan McGuire at The Mint (1942 Market Street, San Francisco). Nebula Award winning author, singer/songwriter, snake handler, Borderlands sponsor, and all-around amazing person Seanan McGuire has graciously offered to be a special guest at the very first Borderlands Sponsor Karaoke Night!  This will be an enormously entertaining event, and we hope you'll join us to show off your vocal prowess (or your irrepressible attitude, if you happen to lack vocal prowess -- that's great, too).  The Mint is located at 1942 Market Street, San Francisco, and we have reserved space for sponsors.  Some pertinent info about The Mint: it is a bar, so this event will be for those 21 and over.  There is no cover charge, but there is a 2-drink minimum.  Guests are welcome, and please RSVP so we know how many people to expect.

(8) Win tickets to BATS Improv!  Thanks to the kindness of brand-new sponsor Regina Saisi, we have 2 sets of two tickets to give away for any Bay Area Theatre Sports Improv show at The Bayfront Theater, Building B, Third floor, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco. Saturdays in July at 8:00 pm, this dynamic improvisational theatre company presents "Warp Speed", a Star Trek themed improv show, so perhaps you'll want to attend one of those shows!  We'll select winners on Saturday, June 24th from local folks who reply to this email and include the words "Beam me up" in their reply, so email us by 8 pm PST on Friday, June 23rd to enter the contest. Winners will need to pick up their passes at the store by July 8th.  For more information about BATS Improv, check out their website: http://www.improv.org/

Useful links for sponsors:
Sponsors' Twitter feed - @bl_sponsors
Google Event Calendar - https://calendar.google.com/calendar/embed?src=ud8v8s1cfutjemfeusiv72ubvo%40group.calendar.google.com&ctz=America/Los_Angeles

Monday, May 8, 2017

Sponsor Letter, May 8th 2017

Hi Everyone,

Whew, getting closer to on-time with these notes.  And we've also managed to get our events planned months . . . do your hear me, months! . . . in advance, so check out all the cool stuff we've got coming up.

But, before you dive into that, I've two questions and a bit of business.  Business first -- the write-up for the General Meeting on the 31st of March is up at the Sponsors' Blog <http://borderlands-sponsors.blogspot.com/2017/05/report-on-sponsors-general-meeting-of.html>.  I warn you though, it's a long, dense bit of writing (I think I need to start talking less at these meetings).  If you didn't make the meeting and you have any questions or comments, please do drop me a line and we'll chat.

And now, the questions.

First, during the meeting there was a suggestion that we should start a Sponsors' forum / message board sort of thing.  There are two ways that we can go about that.  It can be a typical forum sort of setup (check out SFF World for an example - http://www.sffworld.com/forum/) or we could use something called Slack <https://slack.com>.  I've discussed the two options with several knowledgable folks and there are pros and cons to each option.  If you're familiar with both of the possibilities and you've got an opinion, I'd appreciate it if you'd drop me a line.

Second, Jude, Scott and I were talking about future events (did I mention that we've got them planned months . . . Months! . . . MONTHS! in advance?)  Um.  Where was I? Oh, right, future events.  Anyway, we thought it would be fun to do a group trip to the Great Dickens Christmas Fair <http://www.dickensfair.com> in December.  Tickets are usually pretty expensive ($30 for adults) and so we planned on getting in touch about a group ticket rate.  Then Jude pointed out that we might have a sponsor who was connected (in a slightly Mafia-sort-of-way) with the event.  So, anyone out there with a useful hook-up for group tickets to Dickens Fair?  If not, no worries, I'm sure we can make a deal though the usual channels.  And, honestly, I don't mind at all helping to support them -- it's a really cool event.

Now, on to the event schedule which, as you may have heard, extends MONTHS! into the future.

All Best and Warmest Regards,
Alan

Inch worm write-up:
(1) Game nights.  Inspired by the rousing success of the first one, we'll be doing a monthly game night at the Cafe on the second Monday of each month.  The first monthly Game Night will be Monday, May 8th from 6 pm - 10 pm.  Guests are welcome and no RSVPs are necessary.

(2) Our next Sponsor Social will be Saturday, May 13th from 7pm - 11pm.  We'll have fencing (with swords, not wooden posts) demonstrations, a fabulous retail guest, free advance reading copies and much more! You may bring one guest, and RSVP's are appreciated.

(3) Our first Monthly Sponsor Cocktail night at Churchill was a huge success. We will definitely be out again this month at the same location and time to enjoy the company of fellow sponsors. Our May Sponsor Cocktail night will be Tuesday, May 23rd at Churchill (198 Church Street at Market) starting at 7:00 pm.  Guests are welcome and no RSVPs are necessary.

(4) A first for Borderlands Sponsors; we’re going to the theatre. Our very own bookseller Scott is performing in an uproarious comedy called Sordid Lives. The play starts at 8pm on Thursday, June 8th. We have a block of discounted reserved seats, so please come by the store to purchase your ticket at the discounted rate of $25.00.

(5) We’re exploring the haunted side of San Francisco history. On Thursday, June 15th we’re taking a Ghost Walk tour of the Pacific Heights neighborhood.  Please RSVP if you're interested (you're welcome to bring a guest).  The tour will cost $15 per person.

(6) Join us for a guided tour of the San Francisco Center for the Book (375 Rhode Island St, San Francisco, CA 94103) on Sunday, July 2nd at 10:00 am.  The cost for the tour is $10.  Please RSVP if you're interested.  You may bring one guest.

(7) The third Sponsor Social of 2017 will be on Saturday, August 19th, from 7 pm to 11 pm.  More details to come.

(8) Sponsor Karaoke with Seanan McGuire at The Mint (1942 Market Street, San Francisco) on Thursday, September 7th at 7:00 pm! 21 and over, no cover charge (but there is a 2-drink minimum), guests welcome.  Please RSVP so we know how many people to expect.

Report on the Sponsors' General Meeting of 2017

The 2017 Annual Borderlands Books Sponsors’ Meeting
Friday, March 31st, 7pm
30-35 Attendees

On Friday, March 31st at 7pm the third annual Sponsors’ General Meeting took place at Borderlands Café to discuss the progress of the sponsorship program, give updates on projects, and talk about the general state of the business.

Alan Beatts, the owner of Borderlands Books and Borderlands Café, started by thanking the attending sponsors for their continued support, stating that the sponsors are the single most important reason that Borderlands still exists.  He reiterated the benefits for sponsors that are listed on the website, but also urged sponsors to remember that he and the rest of the staff are, within reason, at their service, and encouraged them to reach out with any sort of request.

From there, the meeting went back and forth between information from Alan and questions / responses from the audience.

BUSINESS UPDATES
March 31st is the deadline to have 300 sponsors.  As of March 31st, 2017 there are 632, which in an increase of 21 over the number at deadline in 2016.

Business at the bookstore in the first quarter of 2017 has been slow compared to 2016.  However, in 2016 we had two very large author events in the first quarter which were not repeated this year, so lower income at this point in the year isn't a surprise.  Alan said that he wasn't very concerned about the reduced sales but that he would be keeping an eye on it over the next three months.

Jeremy Lassen is taking an extended break from the bookstore to focus on a new job for the next couple months, but Alan expects and looks forward to having him back soon.  To pick up some of the slack, Maddy Hubbert, the senior barrista at the café who’s been a patron since she was quite young and an employee since the age of 15, is cross-trained as a bookseller and so will be working more shifts at the store.

In the cafe, Z'ev has moved to a salaried position as Manager and is doing an outstanding job.  Thanks to the degree that he has taken over the day-to-day operations of the cafe, Alan has much more time to work on long-range projects for the company.  Sales have been quite stable on the cafe side.  The only real shakeup on the horizon is that a number of staff will be graduating from high school this year and several of them will be heading out of town for college.  So, you can expect to see some new faces working there over the next few months.

Last year, due to a family illness, Alan found much of his time (about 20%) taken up dealing with matters associated with that.  The result was that many projects at Borderlands were put on hold or delayed.  But, heading into 2017, things in his personal life are much more stable and he looks forward to renewing efforts on multiple fronts.

FUTURE PLANS - Part 1, Long Term
To Alan's great relief, the total number of sponsors has increased compared to last year.  Given that and barring major economic changes, it seems that the sponsorship program can be a long-term success and so that removes the nearest-term threat to the continued existence of the store.  And so, just as last year, the next near term threat is the expiration of the current lease.

The bookstore’s lease expires in 2021, the cafe lease in 2025.  At that time the rents will go up to market rate, which (in the current economic climate) would be impossible to sustain.  Although it would be possible to raise the cost of sponsorships to the $300-$400 range to cover the shortfall produced by much higher rent, nobody seems to think that is a good or sustainable idea.   Alan believes that the best solution continues to be buying a building with a balance of payments (i.e. income minus maintenance, taxes, and debt service) that is close to our current financial situation.  On a fundamental level, finding that building is just a matter of math.  Alan recently was working on a deal for a building located on Mission Street between 25th and 26th.  He made an offer that would have satisfied the math, but it was below asking price and the seller declined.

Alan is continuing to actively pursue purchasing a building and that will be an ongoing (but unpredictable) process.  If he is successful before 2021, then the store can relocate.  It is certainly possible that we won't be able to find a building that meets our requirements and is affordable, but we hope the patience and flexibility will reward us eventually.

If the building purchase doesn't work out by 2021, the most likely course will be to combine the bookstore and cafe's operations within 870 Valencia, where the cafe is currently located.  To do so would mean substantially decreasing the seating and menu in the cafe to allow space for the bookstore's inventory and, possibly, reducing the bookstore's inventory by a modest amount.  Within those considerations however, the bookstore would be quite viable in the cafe space.

Taken together, we have more than 8 years to find a solution to the location of the store in an environment of much higher rents.  If, by 2024 or so, we don't have a solution then it will be time to consider either moving out of San Francisco or shutting down.

QUESTIONS
What sort of buildings are being considered?
Alan gave examples of three broad types with one caveat – though he might be willing to consider it for a very attractive price, a nondescript mid-century structure is not something that he thinks would suit Borderlands.  Regardless of the specific building, the store requires an absolute minimum of 1500 square feet of retail space.  It would be a tight squeeze to fit in that area, but it could be managed (the current store is 2000 square feet with an additional 2000 square feet of basement storage).

The “Cadillac” version – a former church, an old firehouse, some wonderful old building with character. Possible drawbacks are both the potential cost as well as deferred maintenance and upkeep.  For example, unreinforced masonry buildings are a dangerous pain in the butt.
The “Basic” version – repurposing an old industrial building (i.e. a repair garage, etc).  Benefits are lots of space and low prices but drawbacks are possible hazmat abatement (not as bad as it sounds) and that there are current restrictions on changing the use of structures of that sort (i.e. PDR conversion restrictions).
The “Likely” version – the kind of building you frequently see in the Mission; commercial ground floor with two to four apartments above.  The residential upstairs is attractive both by providing revenue, to support the bookstore and pay for building expenses, and because of the possibility of setting up some sort of “Author In Residence” program with below-market housing for local authors.

If a building were large enough, Alan mentioned offering reasonable or even below market rates to “kindred businesses” (i.e. the Bookbinders’ Museum, a letterpress company, and so on . . . even a general interest bookstore).  If there were enough space Alan thinks that would be a great idea, but it all goes back to cost, expenses, and funding.  Those ideas aside, Alan is hesitant to partner with another business to buy a building due to concerns of tying Borderlands' success and stability to the operations of another business.

Are there specific neighborhoods being targeted or excluded?
Though there are neighborhoods that are more and less desirable, but it all comes down to price. If a gorgeous building in Hunters Point becomes available for $200,000 then it would be well worth looking at but, generally, the areas that are "in the sweet spot" are; the Mission, the Castro, the Western Addition, Upper and Lower Haight, Potrero Hill, and Dog Patch.  But, any area in SF in on the table, just the value relative to price would have to be better for the less desirable areas.

If the bookstore moves, what about the café?
Everyone on the staff loves the cafe, and the relationships it has produced, but the priority is the bookstore because of its uniqueness.  Although Alan would be reluctant to close the café, there are literally dozens of awesome cafes in the Mission District alone. On the other hand, Borderlands is the only bookstore of its kind left West of the Mississippi.  So, if it becomes necessary to close the cafe to keep the bookstore open, he'll do so with regret but without hesitation.

Are you employing a tactical or strategic approach to the building search?
To find possible properties to buy, Alan is working with two wonderful real estate brokers with more then 50 years of experience between them.  They send him 1-3 listings a month, and sponsors have also sent in tips.  Right now, Alan is letting them do the leg work while still keeping his eye open for possibilities.

FUTURE PLANS - Part 2, A Non-Profit
Last year there were many, many people interested in the idea of setting up a nonprofit.  The short answer is that a nonprofit is definitely part of the long-term plan but the shape and structure of it is still in flux.  Alan has some leads on very good lawyers to speak to, but the main problem is that a nonprofit cannot exist solely to support a for-profit business.  A way around this is to structure things so that the bookstore is only a small part of the non-profit's operations (much the way that religious organizations run gift shops) but the main point can’t be retail.  The solution would be to do many things (the “fellow traveler” idea) related to bookselling and our genres (i.e. a publishing house, writing classes, etc.) of which bookselling is only a small part.  The catch is, who would run it?  Nobody currently on staff has both the time or experience to do the job.  A sponsor in D.C. suggested that there are professionals who make a career out of doing exactly that – coming in and just administering nonprofits regardless of the mission. That is an interesting possibility that requires more research and input from attorneys.

Another option would be setting up a non-profit to focus on events that qualify as "educational" in nature.  That could include all of our author events, for which the non-profit could pay rental fees to Borderlands.  And, there are other ways that a non-profit could make modest contributions to Borderlands' operations and bottom line.  But, doing that means understanding exactly how the relationship between Borderlands and the non-profit could be structured without breaking any of the rules.  Again, more research and talking with attorneys.

Alan will be keeping everyone informed as the process moves along.  Regardless of the results of further research, if all goes well a non-profit is without a doubt in the future since Alan's longest term plan is still to transfer the entire business to a non-profit, once he can no longer run the place (either due to decrepitude or due to the eventual and inescapable consequence of age).

QUESTIONS / COMMENTS
Why not just do like L. Ron Hubbard and start a religion?
Alan related a story about visiting a bookshop in Vancouver last year.  The shop is in an old bank building and it's just extraordinary. One of the booksellers there characterized the business thus, “This used to be a bank, but now it’s a temple and . . . I am a warrior monk of bookselling!”  A bit nutty but still an admirable sentiment.  So, a religion centered around books isn’t out of the question, but Alan has some hesitations because it seems a little disrespectful of "real" religions.  He is, however, open to discussing it with folks.

One sponsor suggested that Jude would be a great choice for high priestess.  Jude firmly demurred.

MINIMUM WAGE EFFECTS ON BOOKSTORES
There then was a long discussion about the effect of minimum wages on bookstores nationwide.  Much of the discussion has been covered elsewhere in sponsor notes and in our blog.  Rather than restating the whole discussion, the new information is condensed below.

1)  An idea that had been floated was that publishers could stop putting "cover" prices on books.  That would allow bookstores in high minimum-wage areas to adjust their prices upwards with less perception that they were overcharging customers.  Alan talked with several knowledgable people at the World Fantasy Convention last year about this.  In addition to the problem that a "cover" price is integral to most contracts between publishers and authors, there is the added problem that contracts between publishers and retailers like Walmart and CostCo also include cover prices as a critical element.  The general opinion of the people that he spoke to was that, although the idea of eliminating cover price is an interesting one, it is impractical on a fundamental level.

2)  At the same event, Alan spoke with an aide to a conservative member of Congress who is quite involved in the question of minimum wage.  This aide's feeling was that there was essentially no chance whatsoever of an increased federal minimum wage unless, at minimum, the Presidency and at least one house of Congress were controlled by the Democrats.  And, most likely, both houses would have to be Democrat controlled.

3)  A sponsor observed that another great local indie business, Comix Experience, which has been suffering the same wage pressures as Borderlands, seems to focus heavily on things like t-shirts and other "sidelines".  They wondered if that was something that could work for Borderlands.  Alan responded that Borderlands experience with selling non-book items has not been very positive.  There are some that work (like blank books), but for every success there have been five failures and so it's not something he focuses on much but he's open to suggestions for things that would work well.

4)  Another sponsor asked why not put a higher sticker price over the printed price on books.  Alan’s initial reaction was that doing that is a little creepy and deceptive.  And, on a more practical level, it won’t fool anyone since the price appears on multiple locations on books.  Plus, Amazon is a ubiquitous source for pricing information.

5)  The audience wondered if Borderlands could charge more for signed books.  Although charging extra for signed books is common when dealing with older books, especially if the author is deceased, Alan explained that doing so for recent books is not usual practice.  The assumed agreement between authors (and their publishers) and bookstores is that authors come to sign books to assist in the marketing of those books.  The costs are borne by the publisher on the theory that it is to the benefit of all parties. When a store charges a premium for those books, the store is taking advantage of the author and publisher (albeit in a small way).

It was then suggested that it could be on a case-by-case basis with the consent of the authors.  Alan said that he'd be happy to talk with some authors who are personal friends to see what they thought of that idea.  Of course, the assumption would be that un-signed copies would be in stock at cover price if there was a premium charge for the signed copies.

6)  Finally someone asked how well Borderlands mail-order / ecommerce system worked.  With a grin, Alan said, "By the standards of 2007, it’s awesome . . . by any modern standards it leaves a lot to be desired."  Although there is a clear set of improvements planned, doing so would mean bolting on more stuff to a web presence that is already outdated.  The alternative, a complete redesign and migration of Borderlands' website, is a much more complicated process that he's been working on but hasn't had as much time to give as he would wish.  Hopefully that will be something addressed this year.

GUIDANCE FROM THE ATTENDEES
As is usual at this point, a wide-ranging discussion took place between Alan and the attendees.  This meeting is a valuable opportunity for Alan to get feedback, suggestions and ideas about the current status of the company, as well as guidance moving forward.  The tone of the discussion was conversational and what follows is an extract of the questions and discussion.

Direction for 2017
The first question that Alan posed was where he should focus his attention for the next year.  The two possibilities were;  A focus on improving the operations of the store and cafe, both by making systematic improvements (like the website redesign) and general maintenance / updating (e.g. touching up paint, repairing furniture, and so forth).  Or, focusing on some of the larger issues facing bookselling, specifically price inflexibility, limited support for bookstores from publishers and local government, and an ebook market in which independent booksellers cannot effectively participate.  The second option would be harder and, though benefiting Borderlands directly, be more of a broad-based improvement for booksellers.

The audience feedback was;

1)  Of the two options, what will make Alan happy?
"Basically?  Meh.  It doesn't make much difference to me.  If either option is awful I just won’t do it." answered Alan.  He went on to add that working within the confines of Borderlands is more comfortable, mostly because he knows exactly what he's doing much of the time, whereas meeting with The Suits in NYC is not his forte.  To him, the main question is, where is the benefit?  The “larger world” ideas are long term and he has no idea if or when there would be a payoff.  If Alan focuses solely on internal concerns and increasing revenue, the short term benefit would be tremendous, but for the long term the payoff for solving things like the ebook problem is huge.

2)  Any ebook plans would need to be compatible with Kindles for it to work.  Alan agreed that trying to punish Amazon by excluding them is quixotic at best.  Format wars are foolish -- everything should work with everything and penalizing customers for the electronics they use is stupid.

3)  What are your thoughts on DRM?
Alan replied, "As someone smarter than me said, DRM is dumber than tits on a snake.  The first publisher in our business to make money on ebooks was Baen and they still are totally DRM free.  Baen's attitude is that it’s hard enough to get readers to hear about their authors so, if someone steals the book, that’s still a win.  Tom Doherty, the founder of Tor Books, has been an advocate at Macmillan to eliminate DRM and succeeded in 2012."

There was no clear and strong feeling on the part of those attending whether Alan should focus his attention on the business or on some of the larger issues.  The general conclusion was that he should just pick whatever seemed like either the best idea or the most pleasant prospect.

Politics: At What Point Should Borderlands Get Involved?
Alan mentioned in a recent piece in the store newsletter <http://borderlands-books.blogspot.com/2017/02/sponsorship-success-and-other-news.html#more>, he’s done his best to keep Borderlands out of politics, except for situations that directly impact our industry.  As per that note, he’s planning to stick by that, unless something crossed the line from politics-as-usual and into the realm of fundamental civil rights.  Given the sponsors’ commitment to Borderlands, he brought the subject up at the meeting to check in and get their opinions.

He began by explaining that his personal standard for civil rights has been what he calls the "Kindergarten Rule" because it's a standard of fairness that every child understands in kindergarten: everyone should be treated equally, regardless of who they are, and opportunity should be shared.  His starting question was, "Is that a useful and reasonable standard to apply to Borderlands' political involvement?"

General comments were as follows;

1)  The sponsors trust Alan and his judgement on how to operate the business, and that trust has been demonstrably rewarded over the past two years so, at a certain point, he should just do what he thinks is best.  Alan replied, "Thank you and I will but -- I still very much value your thoughts and opinions."

2)  The "Kindergarten Rule" seemed like a good basis to operate from, though it probably won't work in more complicated situations.

3)  What would even be the use of getting Borderlands politically involved?  Alan responded that, due to his background, he can articulate general legal principles relatively well and talk about the significance of law enforcement actions.  He also enjoys a pretty good reputation, both in San Francisco as a whole and within our field.  Those two qualities combined with a good-sized audience (700 sponsors, 3000 newsletter subscribers, and 11,000 followers on Twitter) means that he could have some influence on public opinion.  In addition, it would also be possible for Borderlands to both host and produce fund-raising events for, as an example, the ACLU.

4)  One sponsor observed that one of Borderlands' goals has always been to be a welcoming place for everyone.  Based on their own experience at their job with a manager who was politically conservative, the Bay Area's left-leaning qualities can make things uncomfortable for people who are more conservative.  That would be an argument against political positions for the business.  Alan agreed whole-heartedly.

5)  Finally, another sponsor pointed out that it's easy to take no position on the issues when the business never has.  But, once the business does start taking positions, the absence of a position on any issue sends a message and can even be the same as actively taking a position.  In essence, once we start, it can be very hard to stop.

Miscellaneous Comments and Questions
The following comments and questions came up at various points during the meeting and have been collected here in no particular order.

1)  What about getting a liquor license for beer and wine in the cafe?
Alan replied that it might be worth it, but it would also means nobody under 18 could work at the cafe anymore.  That would both deprive Borderlands of a valuable pool of staff as well as stopping something that gives all of us great pleasure; giving younger people their first job and showing them what a good, fair work environment is like.

2)  Could there be more social gatherings, outside of the quarterly parties?
In mid-2015 there was a regular Tuesday night drinking session that eventually petered out due to lack of attendance, and more frequent Sponsor Socials could lead to lower turnout.  Some suggestions from the audience include a monthly silent reading party or a monthly meetup at a local bar.  Alan was in favor of the idea but pointed out that people need to actually show up.  Audience feedback for this ideas was very positive.
(Note: in response to this we've started a monthly meetup for drinks.  The first one was last month and was quite a success, so we'll be continuing it.)

3)  What about a book club for sponsors as was suggested last year?
That was started last year and sort of worked but there were some communication issues around the book club that could be resolved to improve the attendance.  This could also dovetail nicely with the silent reading parties suggested in #2 above.  Definitely something to consider.

4)  What about a regular board game night?
Alan and the audience were supportive of that idea as well.
(Note: we've started doing that this month.  The first meeting will be on May 8th and we'll see how it goes.)

5)  Would it be possible to set up an automatic renewal system for sponsorships?
Alan's initial reaction was that automatically renewing sponsorships would reduce the engagement between Borderlands and the sponsors.  His argument is that, if sponsoring Borderlands is something that just happens, rather than it being something that people actually decide to do, it makes them less involved in the process.  Since the sponsors' involvement has been so critical to the success of the program, he's hesitant to make renewal automatic.

In response, a sponsor observed that all human motivation is essentially selfish.  People are time-poor, not disengaged; they want to do something altruistic but don’t have time.  Auto-renewal for those people would be a kindness, especially for folks who live out of town.  Alan agreed that is a good point and concluded that he would like to go one more year without automatic renewal so that we can really see how the program is working without changing a significant variable.  But, after next year, he's thinking that it might be something to try out.  Auto-renewnal would definitely be "opt-in", not "opt-out".

6)  What about reminding people who don’t renew?
Alan felt uncomfortable with that idea.  He admits that it's stubborn of him but he doesn't want to be in the position of specifically asking people for their support.  It's one thing to let people know that it's time to renew but it seems different to pester them about doing so.  As it stands, the third sponsor note each year makes it clear that, if someone has not renewed, that will be the last time they are reminded.

7)  A sponsor suggested that we could ask people if they would like to be reminded to renew (and, for that matter, be reminded about upcoming events).  Alan thought that seemed like an excellent idea.
(Note:  That "pester me" option was started in the last sponsor note and, at this time, over 40 sponsors have signed up to be reminded.)

8)  Returning to the aspect of doing more social events, a sponsor asked if it would be possible to set up a forum, message board or perhaps a Slack channel where sponsors could engage with each other.  After pointing out that there would need a cadre of dedicated and responsive moderators, Alan thought that was a good idea and said he would work on it.

IN CLOSING
Alan talked a bit about Borderlands' upcoming 20th anniversary in November and asked the attendees how they thought the celebration should be structured.  It was determined that making the sponsor social on November 18th part of the anniversary celebration would be great while also throwing another party or event for the public would be a very nice thing to accomplish.  After that, Alan thanked the sponsors for their time and support and the meeting ended at 9:30 pm, though many attendees stayed and talked afterwards.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Sponsor Letter, April 11th 2017

April Sponsor Newsletter

Thank you to everyone who attended the Sponsors' General Meeting on March 31st.  It was a good evening.  I got a bunch of ideas (some of which you'll find below) and very useful feedback on our second full year as a sponsored store.  I'll be getting the notes from the meeting together in the next couple of weeks and I'll make sure you know where to find them on the sponsors' blog.

Full write-up aside, my main message at the meeting was that we're doing alright in terms of sales in the bookstore for this year so far, but the weather hasn't helped. That said, I'm not concerned.  The cafe business is rock solid and Z'ev has taken on full responsibility for the day-to-day operations.  He's doing a great job and it's a big load off of me.

From the sponsors I heard that we're doing well but that they'd like more chances to socialize with each other (and us) outside of the quarterly socials.  So, as you'll see below, we're adding two regular monthly get-togethers.  Assuming people turn up, we'll keep them going.

I hope that everyone one is either enjoying their spring, or at least "fixin' to".

All Best,
Alan

The Hare Version:

(1) If you have not yet renewed your sponsorship for 2017, this will be the last sponsor email you'll receive.  Of course, if you would like to renew now, we'd love to have you.  You can stop by the store, call, email, or even send us an old-fashioned check.  And, you can renew on-line right here - https://borderlands-books.com/buysponsorship17.html .  (Current sponsors take note -- we will be changing the password for the wireless in the cafe.  Please ask at the counter or email me to get the new password.)

(2) Shall we "pester" you?  If you'd like reminders about major events and sponsorship renewals, please let me know.  I try not to spam people but I've head from a number of sources that reminders would be welcome, so -- if you like to hear from me more often, just reply to this note and put "pester me" in the subject or email.

(3) Due to popular sponsor demand, we'll be reviving the Sponsors' Cocktail nights.  Due to urgent demand from Alan & Jude's livers, we'll be doing it only once a month, on the fourth Tuesday of each month.  Our first Monthly Sponsor Cocktail night will be Tuesday, April 25th at Churchill (198 Church Street at Market) starting at 7:00 pm.

(4) Guardians of the Galaxy II Sneak Preview Tickets!  In appreciation of our sponsors, Rina Weisman at SF in SF is giving you first crack at tickets for the preview show on May 4th (time TBA), available only via SF in SF.  Tickets will be $8.50; email your full name and a contact email to Rina Weisman, at sfinsfevents@gmail.com to be notified when tickets go on sale.  Please note - Sponsors may purchase up to six tickets each so please, bring your friends.

(5) Game nights.  Inspired by the rousing success of the first one, we'll be doing a monthly game night at the Cafe on the second Monday of each month.  The first monthly Game Night will be Monday, May 8th from 6 pm - 10 pm.  Guests are welcome and no RSVPs are necessary.

(6) Our next Sponsor Social will be Saturday, May 13th from 7pm - 11pm.  We'll have fencing (with swords, not wooden posts) demonstrations, a fabulous retail guest, free advance reading copies and much more!

(7) We're still working on the details of June's Sponsor event, which will probably be a San Francisco Ghost Walk.

(8) Join us for a guided tour of the San Francisco Center for the Book (375 Rhode Island St, San Francisco, CA 94103) on Sunday, July 2nd at 10:00 am.  The cost for the tour is $10.  Please RSVP if you're interested.  You may bring one guest.

The Tortiose Version:

(1) If you have not yet renewed your sponsorship for 2017, this will be the last sponsor email you'll receive.  This is not because we want to exclude you but, rather than spamming former sponsors, we will be purging our 2016 mailing list and replacing it with the current list of sponsors.  If you'd still like to see what is going on with the sponsorship program, all that information will continue to appear at the sponsors' blog - http://borderlands-sponsors.blogspot.com - which is (and will remain) open for public viewing.  Of course, if you would like to renew now, we'd love to have you.  You can stop by the store, call, email, or even send us an old-fashioned check.  And, you can renew on-line right here - https://borderlands-books.com/buysponsorship17.html .  (Current sponsors take note -- we will be changing the password for the wireless in the cafe.  Please ask at the counter or email me to get the new password.)

(2) The "Pester Me" option: please let us know if you would like me to send you extra emails with reminders about sponsor renewal, upcoming major events, parties, and etc.  Sponsors at the recent General Meeting mentioned that sometimes, reminders are really helpful and they appreciated the extra nudges.  Confirm you'd like extra reminders by replying to this note with "pester me" in the subject or body of your email.

(3) Due to popular sponsor demand, we'll be reviving the Sponsors' Cocktail nights.  Due to popular demand from Alan and Jude's livers, we'll be doing it only once a month (instead of once a week), on the fourth Tuesday of each month.  Our first Monthly Sponsor Cocktail night will be Tuesday, April 25th at Churchill (198 Church Street at Market) <http://www.churchillsf.com/>; some combination of us will be there from at least 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm.  No need to RSVP and any number of guests and friends are welcome.  The bar is INCREDIBLY convenient to public transit -- the MUNI Metro Underground (via F, K, L, and M lines at Church Street,) and J and N lines stop less than a block away.

(4) SF in SF is hosting a sneak preview of the upcoming sure-to-be-a-smash-hit GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY II!  In appreciation of our sponsors, Rina Weisman at SF in SF is giving you first crack at tickets for this show, available only via SF in SF, beginning April 15th. If you are interested in being contacted when these tix go on sale, please email your full name and a contact email to Rina Weisman, at sfinsfevents@gmail.com.  This will be a sell-out, so you'll want to RSVP early!  Please note - Sponsors may purchase up to six tickets each so please, bring your friends.  The preview will take place Thursday, May 4th at The Balboa Theatre (3630 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121) time to be announced, and tickets will be $8.50 each.

(5) Game nights.  Inspired by the success of the first one in September of last year, we'll be doing a monthly game night at the Cafe on the second Monday of each month.  The first Monthly Game Night will be Monday, May 8th from 6 pm - 10 pm.  Join fellow sponsors & "game" staff for chess, Cards Against Humanity, Scrabble, Pictionary, or whatever other board games you'd like to bring to play!  Please bring games that have a usual play-cycle of less than 3 hours, so probably NOT Monopoly, Seven Ages, Arkham Horror, or The Longest Day (that's the Normandy Invasion strategy game that takes an average of 90 hours to play).  Are you a secret Balderdash champion?  Kick butt at Connect 4?  Here's your chance to shine!  We'll have adult beverages (after eight pm), iced tea and lemonade on offer, but feel free to bring your favorite beverage to share.  Also, you're welcome to bring food if you wish -- the cafe will be shutting down at eight.  No need to RSVP, and please feel free to invite your friends along, as there really isn't any limit to the number of folks we can accommodate -- the more the merrier.

(6) Our next Sponsor Social will be Saturday, May 13th from 7pm - 11pm.  We'll have fencing demonstrations, a fabulous retail guest, free advance reading copies and oh so much more!

(7) We're still working on June's Sponsor event, which will probably be a San Francisco Ghost Walk.  More info as we have it.

(8) Join us for a fascinating guided tour of the San Francisco Center for the Book (375 Rhode Island St, San Francisco, CA 94103) on Sunday, July 2nd at 10:00 am. The San Francisco Center for the Book was co-founded in 1996 by Mary Austin and Kathleen Burch, "who recognized a growing need in San Francisco, the Bay Area and on the West Coast for a facility specifically designed and equipped to support the appreciation, teaching and creation of book arts."  Attendees can expect a walk-through of the space, both the Bindery and Print Studio, with details about the equipment, what it's used for, and a little history of bookbinding and letterpress printing. There will be demos of some of the equipment so we can see how things work, and the tour will wrap up in the Print Studio with a letterpress demo.  The Center also has a bookbinding workshop scheduled for July 2nd,  so we will get to see some students at work.  The cost for the tour will be $10, and the guided portion will take about an hour.  Attendees can stay longer to explore the space if they wish.  For more information about the Center, their website is here: https://www.sfcb.org/home .  We will meet outside the Center at 9:45 am before the tour, and guests are welcome; however, please do RSVP for this event so we know how many people to expect.