McLean & Eakinís Take on the Hachette vs. Amazon Battle
At McLean & Eakin, the staff created a display for a war that was on everyone’s radar in the publishing industry: Hachette vs. Amazon. Scattered on a table in the bookstore were a dozen or so Hachette titles from The Silkworm to Blink. Above the titles hung a sign that read, “There’s a war going on in the bookselling world…Only you can save the day! Pre-order your Hachette titles with us today.”
“Our publishers provide us with author visits (which are invaluable to our customers), and even supply us with free books for children’s programs sometimes,” Jessilynn said. Recently, Hachette provided advanced reader copies to McLean & Eakin for an entire high school class in an effort to expose them to literature they would not have access to, as well as teach them about career opportunities. In an effort to make this experience a memorable one, the marketing and publicity department at Hachette set up a Skype visit between the author and the students.
Of course, their customers have loved the display and it’s been a source of conversation. “We have a relationship with our publishers and our customers that an online only entity simply cannot have,” Jessilynn stated.
Other times, like at the end of September, reps from Simon & Schuster and Random House, came to give customers a preview of some upcoming books perfect for the fall and holiday season over some wine and cheese.
“We are able to provide more than just a purchase, but an experience with a book because of publishers like Hachette. To have an online entity limit what books are available to customers just isn’t something we agree with,” Jessilynn said. “We look out for our customers, and will happily provide them with any book in print that they ask for…regardless of our relationship with the publisher. Customers don’t need to be dragged into that part of the business, and we are proud to be able to provide them with what they want, when they want it, in whatever format they prefer,” Jessilynn concluded.
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The beach town of Petoskey, MI, isn’t short of books thanks to McLean & Eakin. Current owners, Matt and Jessilynn Norcross met at the store in 2003 when they both started working there full time. In 2008, they decided to buy the store when they got married.
As far as the day-to-day responsibilities go, Matt is in charge of buying adult titles and handling anything tech related such as the KOBO ebooks and Acousik digital audio books. Jessilynn finds the children titles that she wants to bring to the store and helps set up book fairs and other educational programs with the local schools. Together, this husband and wife team tackles the financial and HR responsibilities of owning a business.
While both Matt and Jessilynn started working at the store full time in 2003, Matt was no stranger to McLean & Eakin. His mother founded the store in 1992. Her focus on quality customer service is something that Matt and Jessilynn made a priority from the beginning of their ownership. “We handpick everything. Whether it’s adult books, children’s books, gift items, games, etc., everyone on our staff has to be invested in the product,” Jessilynn stated. “We don’t order something just because it is ‘hot.’”
“Customers are the way we make almost all of our decisions at the store,” she continued. In a day and age when some people go online to purchase their books, face-to-face contact about good books is what keeps the staff at McLean & Eakin energized. “Inevitably, if one of us does not know the answer to a book question, another staff member will have it…and usually faster than Google can provide it,” Jessilynn joked.
Being situated in the town of Petoskey throws a different element into the mix that many other independent bookstores don’t encounter. “To put it simply: our population triples in the summer. We have to run a completely different store in June, July, and August than we do the rest of the year,” Jessilynn revealed.
So what changes do they make to make sure McLean & Eakin can keep up with the summer traffic? “We need more staff, more inventory, and longer hours. Not to mention the pace! The store can be wall-to-wall with customers during the summer and we have to be prepared to handle all of our customer’s needs in a timely fashion. There’s no sitting down on the job, that’s for sure!” Jessilynn laughed.
Jessilynn, Matt, and their team don’t stop at their involvement at their store. Not only do they partner with their library and three local school systems, but they also work with their Parks and Recreation department to bring programming to their community. At venues around their area, the bookstore holds larger events such as their recent ones with Peter Brown, Eric Litwin, Hampton Sides, and Anton DiSclafani. Some of the events are held at the historic hotel downtown (one of the most sought after wedding destinations in the country, according to Jessilynn).
At the end of the day, McLean & Eakin is getting books they stand by into the hands of people that find their way into the store whether they live around the corner or are just in town for a summer getaway. “Books are a little peek into who people are and the fact that they trust us to help make their decisions about what they will read next is an incredible honor,” Jessilynn stated.
As for some of their favorites from the past few months, Jessilynn suggests The Painter by Peter Heller, Me Before Youby Jojo Moyes, Untamed by Will Harlan, The Storied Life of AJ Fickry by Gabrielle Zevin, and Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides.
To see what Matt, Jessilynn, and the rest of the staff at McLean & Eakin are reading now, check out their website at www.mcleanandeakin.com.
If you are looking for titles specific to Michigan, McLean & Eakin’s home state, go here:
Nicolette Amstutz is a writer for Independent Publisher. She recently graduated from the University of Michigan where she majored in English and Communications. Please contact her with any comments, questions, or criticisms at namstutz (at) umich.edu