Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sponsor Letter March 22nd, 2015

Dear Sponsor,

What a remarkable month and a half we've had here at Borderlands.  It has probably been the weirdest, busiest, most up-and-down chunk of time I've experienced since I opened the store in 1997.  At the beginning of February we were all set to close.  I was expecting that by now I'd be selling off all the bookshelves and getting ready to move cafe seating in.  But you and the other people like you changed all that.

If you've missed any part of the story, you can read our initial announcement about closing here:

Then about the plan to stay open here:

Obviously, we made it.

From the bottom of our hearts, I and all the staff thank you.  You have changed the course of Borderlands and, in some fundamental ways, changed how we run our business.

One way that you can find out who your friends really are is, for example, to get evicted from your apartment.  You get a three-day notice and you have the choice of moving everything you own or losing it.  Your real friends will show up to help pack and load the truck.  Often they'll also bring the beer and pizza. Sometimes they'll even bring the truck.

Now we know who Borderlands' friends are.  They're the people who put their money where their mouth is.  They're the people who understand that truly, "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch".  As I write this, there are 740 of them out there, including you.

Getting this email to you has taken much longer than I expected, in part because there were many more sponsors than I expected, and you all signed up so damn fast.  We hit our minimum goal of 300 in less than 48 hours.  The sponsorships were announced at 6 pm on Thursday, February the 19th, and the 300th sponsor signed up at 12:02 pm on Saturday, the 21st. Getting all that information into our database so we could, among other things, send out this email, was pretty time-consuming (an aside here -- huge thanks to Heather Cornish and Michelle Rapp for the data entry help).  Combined with getting the store's inventory back to what it should be, and all of the other things associated with the 180 degree turn we've made, that made for much more work than I anticipated.

But, we're all ready to go now and the first piece of business (after thanking you all, of course) is to let you know what your sponsorship actually means.

Sponsor Numbers
As originally announced, each sponsor has a number based on the day and time that they bought their sponsorship.  I was planning on sending each person an email with that number but I realized that it was going to be a lot of (possibly tricky) work to do that.  Instead I've done two things. First, I put a post at our blog that lists all our sponsors to date in numerical order by sponsor number < >.  I've also created a permanent page at our blog that lists sponsors in alphabetical order by last name with their sponsor number after their name < >.  You don't need to remember your number but, since the numbers will not be reused, in a few years you might feel a little bit of pride in having a low number.

How to Identify Yourself
A bit further along in this note you'll find the preliminary list of benefits we're offering sponsors. To use some of them you will need to prove that you're a sponsor.  For now, you can identify yourself by name and we'll check it against our list.  But, shortly I hope to be sending a little care-package to all of you.  One of the items in it will be a token that you'll be able to flash to staff at the store to prove you're a sponsor.  I haven't decided exactly what that token will be but the leading possibilities are a key chain tag or a plastic card.  If you have an opinion, I'd be happy to hear suggestions about what it should be.

On the topic of suggestions, we'd love to hear yours about pretty much anything.  If you've got an idea, either about things that we can do for you or about the business in general, please let us know.  As I said earlier, you're a friend of the store and, though we're not going to short-change our other customers, you are one of the 740 absolutely most important customers we have.  So don't hesitate to let us know what you would like.  In service of that, we've set up an email address specifically for you.  It is Emails to that address will go directly and simultaneously to Jude and me.  You should expect a quick response, if it is at all possible.  And, of course, you're welcome to just grab either of us at the store anytime you're here if you have something you'd like to chat about.

We have a lot of ideas about things that we can offer you or do for you that meet our requirements of being cash-neutral and not too time-intensive, but many of them will take a little bit of time to put in place.  However, there are a few that are all ready to go.  They are:

Advance Reading Copies - Advance Reading Copies or ARCs are inexpensively bound softcover copies of a book that are sent out by publishers to booksellers and reviewers before a book is on sale.  We get a constant stream of them and donate most of them.  But, before they are donated, we keep them on a shelf behind the counter for staff to take if they like.  Anytime you're in the store, you're welcome to ask to take a look at what we have.  If something looks interesting to you, please take it home.  There are only two things that we ask: first, please do not sell it after you've read it.  You're welcome to give it away to someone else but selling it deprives the author of their royalty, which is a not-nice thing to do.  Second, please limit yourself to just taking one per visit so that other sponsors can have a chance at them.

WiFi in the Cafe - The free WiFi in the cafe only operates nine to five, Monday to Friday. However, we have a private network that is on all the time for our sponsors.  The network is called Borderlands Sponsors and the password changes on an irregular basis.  If you'd like to use it, either email us at for the current password or ask for it at the cafe / bookstore counter.

Reserved Event Seating - We're happy to reserve up to two seats in the front rows for you at our author events.  Just drop us an email at at least 24 hours in advance and we'll take care of it for you.  Any unclaimed seats will be released at the start time of the event.

Table Reservations - We're also happy to reserve a table for you at the cafe anytime during the week (but weekends are usually too crowded for that to be practical).  Like seats for events, just drop us an email at least 24 hours in advance and we'll reserve one of the round tables along the wall for you. If you're going to be with a larger group, we might be able to reserve one of the bigger tables at the back, but that depends on what else is going on at the cafe.

Cafe and Bookstore Rental - You can rent the cafe and / or the bookstore for private events. The charge for this varies based on the type of event but will be in the range of $25 to $100 per hour with one added hour post-event for clean up.  The event must take place outside of usual work hours (which are noon to 8 pm for the bookstore and 7 am to 9 pm for the cafe). If you're interested, just drop us a line, give a call, or stop by to talk with Alan about the details.

Free Movie Passes - We frequently get free promotional passes to movies.  We will be giving our sponsors first chance at them via our sponsors' Twitter feed @bl_sponsors.  We're sorry that it's not practical to send out emails for this.  Free tickets can be reserved by email and are strictly first-come, first-served.  Speaking of that Twitter feed, we'll also be using it to offer other, limited-quantity promotional items as they turn up.  So, if you're a Twitter user, you might want to follow that feed.

General Services - Sometimes when you're out of the house you find yourself needing something really simple that can be surprisingly difficult to lay hands on.  Whether it's a phone or computer charger, access to a copy or fax machine, or just five minutes on a real computer, we're happy to help if we can.  We've got a pretty well-equipped office at the store and, if there's something we can do for you, please ask.  If we can work it out, we'll be happy to do so.

The Sponsors' Social - Last but far from least, each year we'll be hosting four very informal get togethers for our staff and sponsors.  There may be entertainment, trivia games, special guests or other surprises but without a doubt there'll be good company, nice chats and lots of laughs.  The party will be BYOB for drinks and pot-luck for food so feel free to bring something if you like, but don't worry if you don't bring something -- there'll be plenty to go around.  I've got to tell you, this is one of the things I'm looking forward to the most.  It will be such a pleasure to have a chance to visit with you when I'm not "working".  I also think that there are many new friendships that will come from these parties.  Our customers in general are a damn fine group of people and our sponsors are the cream of the crop.

Under normal circumstances no guests will be allowed but at least once a year we'll allow one guest per sponsor.  The first Social is scheduled for Thursday, April 16th from 7 pm to 11 pm and guests will be allowed.  Which brings up something else I'd like advice on -- weekends are hard for some people and weekday evenings are hard for other people.  My thought for a solution is that we'll alternate the parties by having one on a Thursday and then the next one on a Saturday.  Does that seems like a good idea?

RSVPs will be very much appreciated so we can have an idea of the number of folks that will be attending.

Future Benefits
We're working on putting together some very cool writing workshops, presentations, and suchlike for our sponsors, but that takes a little time to get set up.  We're also working on "remote" events in some other major cities for sponsors who don't live in the Bay Area.  Cities that we're considering are Chicago, New York, Boston, and Austin.  If you live in one of those cities or would be interested in traveling there for a neat, Borderlands-thing, please let me know and I'll make sure you hear about it (if and when it happens).

Another benefit that we're working on are some exciting, sponsor-only items you can buy. There are some clothing possibilities as well as some limited edition works of fiction that we're considering.  More news will be forthcoming about that as well.

In Closing
I have four major projects this year -- getting more food options available at the cafe, getting the store in shape (in a general way -- it's looking pretty good now), and taking a bit of a vacation are all on the list.  But possibly the most important project this year is getting the sponsorship program to the point that every single one of you feels like you have gotten specific benefits that are worth $100.  And that is above and beyond just keeping the store open.  One of my concerns about the whole idea was that, in my experience, charity only goes so far.  Not that I don't appreciate the outpouring of support that we've received; I realize that, for many of you, just keeping Borderlands going was enough reason to become a sponsor and I'm honored, touched and grateful that so many people feel that way.  But I believe that, for it to last, it must be a two-way street.

I hope that you will help me achieve that goal by letting me know when something we're doing works for you as well as making sure that I know when something doesn't work or when we make mistakes.  We're making this up as we go along and your guidance is very important to the success of the sponsor program and, on a larger scale, the success of Borderlands Books.

Warm Regards,

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