Buying Local. Or not.

I was part of a discussion this week. A mother wanted to purchase her child an item and was wondering whether she could buy it locally, pointing out the place she knew would have stocked it had closed. I offered that she could probably purchase the item in the next suburb, at the locally owned store, where the item was in stock and the price was $44.95.

Other mothers in the discussion offered up online alternatives, saying the item was available online for cheaper at $39.95 from the UK or USA. With most of these suggestions came the catch cry “I like to buy local but…”

I bit my tongue as unbeknownst to them, I was in fact the owner of the local shop in question and the price difference they were loudly proclaiming was simply GST. This is not about GST though; it is about what you choose to support.

Here is the thing, you either buy local or you don’t.

It IS that simple.

You either buy from a local store, who employs local people, who pays taxes to your government to provide you with services, or you don’t.

You either support the local store that supports the community, or you don’t, and the community loses that local store. The landlord loses the rent, the school loses the prizes that store would have donated, local and national charities lose the funds that store would have raised, and the community has one less place to congregate.

You either buy local or you don’t.

As another dear local store closes over in the next suburb, a toy store, I see people bemoan the loss of another local store and that all the local stores seem to be closing. “Such a loss isn’t it…” “What a shame..”  “They are such a great little store.”

A store, unfortunately, cannot survive on platitudes. They require your support.

“I like to support local, but…”


The monolithic international stores who sell their stock at cost or just above, who are exempt from tax in our country (be it right or wrong) will not support your community, nor care if your local school has a raffle coming up and needs donations. They will not hire local people nor pay taxes to go towards our infrastructure or healthcare. They will just continue with their aggressive marketing plan to wipe out small local stores until they are what remain.

There is no ‘but’. You either shop and buy local or you don’t.

And if you don’t buy local and support local; you will lose local. Probably forever.

It really is that simple.


Tanya Caunce for TLC BOOKS


The Mothers Group by Fiona Higgins

‘All those things no one ever tells you about motherhood. It’s like secret mothers’ business. Lots of my friends had babies before me, but not one of them ever told me it would be this hard…It’s like a code of silence.’

The Mothers’ Group tells the story of six very different women who agree to meet regularly soon after the births of their respective babies.

Set during the first crucial year of their babies’ lives, The Mothers’ Group tracks the women’s individual journeys – and the group’s collective one – as they navigate birth and motherhood as well as the shifting ground of their relationships with their partners.

The Mother’s Group is brilliant. From the first pages the story drags you in. From its brutal honesty about motherhood and all its challenges to the uglier sides of our own personalities. This book really doesn’t hold back. At times its easy to put your judgemental hat on and feel quite superior about how far above this group you are. Until you realise with somewhat disturbing clarity; you are in fact exactly like these women.

You do the wrong things, you make the wrong choices, you feel downtrodden and as though the world is against you. And you definitely judge. But the beauty of Fiona Higgins writing is that even with all that recognition, it never makes you feel bad, just human.

As the story evolves you are drawn into the complex and at times very confronting lives of this group of women. They are not women who would choose to be friends. They are thrown together through circumstance, motherhood is the one tie that binds them together but it could also be the one thing that will drive them apart.

From the first few chapters The Mother’s Group has a sense of impending drama and it doesn’t disappoint in that department. This is in its simplest form, a book about relationships, but it is so much more than that too. It has everything you could want from a really great thrilling read. It hurtles a long at an astonishing pace and doesn’t let up, all leading to a blinding climax that you will not see coming. There are so many twists and turns that it feels as though the book has nothing more left to shock you with but it just keeps delivering.

I cannot recommend this enough. As a mother to a young child this resonated on so many levels. As a woman it did too. The combined effect was mesmerising. I couldn’t stop reading Fiona Higgins and you wont either. This is one début author who will be around for a long time to come.

Courtney for TLC Books

The Queensland Premiers Literary Awards: a considered response.

The Queensland Premiers Literary Awards: a considered response.

What do awards do in the scheme of things; do they really have a purpose?

Should not the individual just strive to be the best they can and not need an award to prove it?

What has a writing award got to do with my life?

Literature in Queensland won’t die because there is no more QLD Premiers award will it?

These are all questions I was fielded in the last 24 hours when I was shocked by the news that the QLD Premiers Literary Award (PLA) had been cancelled. I felt the need to have a little chat about what awards do and the significance of the PLA and why it does disappoint and even devastate some people. And what will be done in response.

What do awards do in the scheme of things; do they really have a purpose?

Literary awards are important. They do a number of things simultaneously. They tell publishers, writers, poets and illustrators, what is considered to be “the best,” and thus the standards they must strive to attain. The crafting of story, the sentence structure, the history explored, the imagination unleashed are all expertly done and held up as what is expected from future authors.

Award winning books have helped to shape the world of literature and therefore our culture and attainment of knowledge. Literary awards raises”the cultural appreciation of great writing in the country while advancing the careers of both established and emerging writers” NBA website. Reading these books can broaden your horizons and make you more culturally aware. In fact – that is what they are supposed to do.

Should not the individual just strive to be the best they can and not need an award to prove it?

Writers don’t get paid a lot of money. I know, seems criminal but there you have it. If they are lucky they can scrape by with a living doing what they love and are compelled to do, but in all but a very small percent, they will not be sipping champagne on a private yacht anytime soon.

Awards are important to writers as many many books get published every year and the awards and those books that are long and short listed get recognised as works worth reading, of being in a bookstore, or library, or a school text. The most prestigious awards not only give honours but lead to significantly increased sales. They are an important part of the business.

Author Michael Gerard Bauer commented on a PLA discussion on our Facebook page;  “I can tell you if you’re fortunate enough to win an award like that (the PLA), it is a great help financially and also in terms of publicity. And it’s not just the winners who gain it’s also everyone who gets recognition through the shortlists.”

What has a writing award got to do with my life?

Reading and literacy are an integral part of our everyday life and culture. The books that get awarded by various awards highlight events, themes, issues or people that we should know about. These books prompt discussion and investigation, thought and debate which is critical in any society that values individual input and a learned population. If you aren’t aware of the world around you how can you make informed decisions on your present and future?

Think of any topic that causes discussion, passion or debate and it has been the subject of a book that has won a literary award, for the reason that it has been presented in a way to inspire or encourage critical thinking and engagement with the issue, not simply a verdict.

Literature in Queensland won’t die because there is no more QLD Premiers award will it?

Probably not, no. But the community of writers and creative thinkers will reassess how they are viewed in Queensland. And like I, they will despair at the thought that people don’t value literature and the arts in Queensland as the newly elected Premier is acting on Queensland’s behalf. I know that it won’t die… because we will do something about it.

Literature in Queensland and the community surrounding it will stand up and shout louder about what is important; to them, to their readers, to the state and the country about why writing, reading and the arts in general is important to our society and culture as a whole.

They will shout louder and longer and stand stronger to get the point across. They will share their love of writing with more people, they will share their love of reading with more people and illustrate that a world without creativity and the arts is a very dark place indeed. Sound a little dramatic? It’s supposed to, because if you stand by and say it won’t happen “the government would never decimate the arts..” WITHOUT first protecting and defending them, then you will watch the arts slip away.

The Queensland Government “decided not to proceed with the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards in 2012 which will save Queensland taxpayers $244, 475″ Gov’t statement 3/4/12

That savings is equal to approximately 18.3 cents per person in the state.

It is the National Year Of Reading.

I will finish with a quote from a very learned man, who had to make hard and harsh decisions and who was also hard pushed for budget cuts and saving every penny where he could, his life and many millions of others depended on it. When Winston Churchill was asked why he did not cut funding for the arts to help the war effort he replied ‘then what are we fighting for?

Tanya for TLC Books

An unexpected love affair….

…with Stephanie Laurens.

I can see you judging those romance covers; “look at the chiselled abs” you say, “what kind of a name is On A Wicked Dawn you mock. Three weeks ago I would’ve been right there with you, probably daring you to flick through the pages and find a reference to someone’s member. My reading tastes err more towards science fiction, fantasy and horror – the grislier the better. So when started reading my first romance novel I admit my hopes were not high. I expected nothing more than some swooning, a few unrealistic protagonists and predictable plot lines. Oh how very wrong I was.

I took a leap and bought  What Price Love by Stephanie Laurens.  From the first page I realised why Laurens is a best seller. Adventure, spies, murder, passion, action, conspiracy, deception and of course mushy, mushy love are just some of the reasons why you find yourself awake at 3am, not caring that you’ve got to get up in five hours, only that you find out what happens in the end.

The very next day I came into work I ordered the rest of the author’s books. The first one was so amazing that it didn’t even occur to me until later how risky it was ordering and buying in all her other books the next day, just from the impression one of Laurens’ book made. It wasn’t even the first in the series, which amazed me even more. Lauren’s writes her novels in such a way that it’s not imperative to read in chronological order – each book makes a great stand-alone novel.

These are not your typical “Oh I love him, even though he treats me horribly *swoon* I’ll just go over here and pout and wait for him to rescue me”.  No, no and no. These heroines have backbone to spare! Even when contrasted with domineering male protagonists – perhaps even because of that – these characters show an amazing amount of depth and substance. Combine that with murder plots, jealous conniving women and of course romance and you have a winning combination.

My foray into the world of romance novels has definitely been a rewarding one – I thoroughly encourage anyone brave enough to accept the challenge and be seen with a romance novel in their hands. Laurens’ will make it well worth your while.

Neek for TLC Books

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

I started reading this book and within the first four pages I knew I would be driven to distraction trying to finish it as quickly as possible. This is the sort of book that eclipses anything else you may be doing or should be doing. Do not be fooled into thinking you will be able to put it down, you won’t. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is the sort of book that will have a lasting impact on anyone who reads it. This is definitely on my top ten list for 2011.


The Language of Flowers is Victoria Jones’ story. Orphaned as a small child she has spent the majority of her life being shuffled between institutions and foster homes. This upbringing has born in Victoria many fears, the main being a mistrust of anyone and anything. Unable to get close to anyone she communicates in the language of flowers. Honeysuckle for devotion, azaleas for passion and red roses for love. Using this strange and ancient language she conveys her feelings to those around her never knowing if she is understood or not.

Now eighteen years old Victoria has been kicked out of the system and is finally facing the world on her own. Alone, afraid and with nowhere to go, Victoria takes up residence in a public park. She plants a small garden of her own within the park and begins to attempt to make her way in the world. Looking for work she comes across a local florist and asks for any work the florist may have for her. So begins the next chapter in Victoria’s life.

She thrives on the thrill of matching customers with the perfect flower to match their needs and it is this new beginning that will bring her to meet the person that could change everything. A mysterious flower vendor working at the market place, a man who will make her face the demons of her past and finally get her to ask herself the questions she has run from for so long.

The story switches from stories of Victoria’s past to the present. Back and forth as the mystery of her life unravels and the two parts of the story become one. Take the journey with Victoria, and sit alongside her as she discovers insights about herself and her life she had never considered.

Richly woven, dark, menacing and oftentimes heartbreaking this is a novel of redemption, love, loss and the beautiful language of flowers. A truly beautiful literary novel, this is a book to get lost in. I did not want this book to end and I cannot recommend it enough.  Make sure you add this to your “to be read” pile.

– Courtney for TLC Books

National Bookshop Day: or why bookshops rock!

It’s National Bookshop Day on Saturday!!

On August 20, booksellers around the country will act like little kids who have had too much red cordial, happily buzzing around with a sense of pride and elation that their stores are being recognised for being an important part of our culture and our communities.

As the owner of a bookstore, I can tell you we don’t do this for the money! All of the booksellers and owners I have come across are passionate about reading, learning, literacy and the communities they dwell in. They also tend to be a little quirky with a tendency towards OCD, but that’s another post altogether.

Jon Page of Pages & Pages Booksellers put it well when he said:

“While reading is generally a solitary activity it is also a social one. Readers love to share their thoughts on books and the books themselves with friends and family. So while we often read by ourselves we want to share our reading experience with others. The bookshop is essential to this sharing process.”

I love the conversations that I get into with customers about all sorts of different genres and writing styles. On any given day I have numerous conversations with passionate readers about what they have just read, what they will read next and what they are looking forward to.  This morning alone I have:

  • Helped one customer to find two books on explaining IVF to children, and where they came from.
  • Chose two books as presents for a grandma visiting her grandchildren in Scotland, both Australian stories by Australian authors.
  • Talked to an avid crime reader about branching out from Scandinavian Crime and trying Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson
  • Sourced a book on a tricky relationship situation for a customer
  • Talked to two authors about upcoming books
  • Found the perfect distraction for a pirate obsessed child at home with the flu
  • Discussed and sourced books for a customer doing a paper on ‘People and Place’ at university.

All of these discussions and books found for people represent the service that booksellers do all the time, because they love books. That is also why we organise book groups and events and story time for children, because reading is as essential to us as food, water and oxygen.

Booksellers also form a conduit between the author and the reader.  We are very privileged to be able to meet authors and get a glimpse into why and how they write, which we then share with our customers.  Occasionally we even get to have those authors in the store to meet their readers, which is always a thrill.

This is why National Bookshop Day is so exciting for us, everyone will be reminded of the place around the corner that isn’t just a store selling books, it is in fact a doorway to new worlds, new learning, an escape from the everyday or a journey, where you can meet like minded people who share the same passion for reading and get encouragement and advice to read new books.

As author of Loathing Lola, William Kostakis so eloquently put it:

“There’s more to a bookstore than simply selling books. Thanks to the RedGroup collapse, all anybody wants to talk about is the fact that bookstores are dying. Well, maybe places where they just sell books are dying, but bookstores that are active parts of the community; connecting readers with books, authors and each other… they’re thriving. There are 1000 things that bookshops like TLC can do for you that Amazon can’t, you simply have to step inside and ask.”

I look forward to wishing everyone a happy National Bookshop Day!

TLC Books is having it’s own special celebrations on National bookshop Day – see our website or for details.

Like us on facebook for all the news and reviews 🙂

Tanya Caunce for TLC Books

The magical secrets of book ordering.

So many people ask me about how I choose books for the shop I thought I would share with you the top secrets of the trade, passed down from bookseller to bookseller via an ancient ritual.

Each month I literally go through hundreds of books from many publishers and decide what to order for the upcoming months. Did you catch that? Hundreds of books. And on big months, I would say thousands when you look at October lists (pre-Christmas) and dealing with over 20 publishers. Can you imagine, as a bibliophile, how you have to rein in the urge to buy it all? I seriously feel like cackling “mine, mine, mine, they will all be mine!” but I refrain and act professionally when all I want to be is a kid in a candy store.

So the secrets? There are none. There is not even a specific equation for choosing the books we sell but there are some important factors. Let me elucidate:

Is it a good book?

Yes, I know this seems really basic, but you’d be surprised. Every book I stock doesn’t have to rock my world or change my view of society, but I have a preference for well written and well crafted novels containing characters you can relate to. Believe me, there are many books out there that don’t have these qualities but yet they crowd publisher lists

We, my staff and I, read a lot of what we stock about 3-4 months prior to release, the publishers issue reading copies and it really helps us sort the wheat from the chaff so to speak. I love both non-fiction and the more literary style novels, Courtney loves crime, fantasy and fiction, Laura loves children’s books, historical fiction and general fiction and Neek is the fantasy and young adult queen.

If we don’t read the whole book, we often get a sample chapter to see the writing style and get a grasp of the content. This makes a lot of our ordering decisions for us. If the author is really well established we generally rely on their reputation. Having said that – there are a few established authors I don’t order in, as their writing has turned woeful and I can’t honestly recommend them. Patricia Cornwell, I’m looking at you.

Quite often I or a member of staff will champion a book, basically, read it and fall in love with it and recommend it to everyone we know – because we just want to share its sheer awesomeness. I love this, because it means we’ve found a great book and we get to have other people discover it too. It’s a bookseller’s biggest thrill and I order bucket loads of those books when we find them.

Who is it for?

One of the advantages of being an independent bookstore is that we have our own community of readers. Quite often I will order in a book because I am specifically thinking of particular customers when I order in a title; often along the lines of “Oh, she’s doing a degree in anthropology, she will love this” or “wow, he has been looking for something on this, it’s all about wolves in their natural habitat”. You get the gist.

To be perfectly honest, it’s like I am picking out birthday presents for customers every month, making sure that everyone will find something they love on the shelf. Which is really fun.

Seriously, really fun.

The cover.

Yep, I’m going to say it. A book can be amazing and wonderful or shoot rainbows from its pages but if the cover is really bad (I’ve seen some shockers) then I won’t order in as many. So really, this is a quantity decision rather than a “will I get it” decision.

As much as people protest that it is shallow to contemplate a cover in a book buying decision, it really isn’t. Many people won’t give a book as much of a chance if the cover doesn’t reflect what is described through the blurb on the back. The cover will attract the wrong people who will read the blurb and feel a disconnection with the book already. Game over.

Does it fit in with the shop?

I have seen some great business books, fabulous sport books and a variety of amazing design books. But we do not have a place for them. I will order on customer request, and will mention those books to particular people but we have a limited space and we simply don’t have enough demand for some books.

Outlay – do I have enough money to put it on the shelf?

I would love to order some more of the quirkier and beautiful design books as well, but at $200+ a pop that is a lot of money to be tied up sitting on a shelf for the off chance. So we keep it to a restrained amount.

Same as I would love to have a range of deluxe edition leather bound volumes. But then I would have to cut back elsewhere, so for now, those will wait.

Being in a business, I have to watch where my budget is spent and as I don’t have a wealthy benefactor or rich silent partner (I am currently seeking candidates for these positions, applications are open) I have to stick to that damn budget or go broke spectacularly.

Things that do not factor in:

Publisher promotions.

The publisher offers a free bag/hat/steak knives with the book. If the book isn’t worth reading, then no amount of free stuff is going to help.

Publisher Promises.

“Love this book or your money back!”

“We guarantee this book!”

“This book will do the dishes for you!”

All well and good, and to be fair, the promise is usually right – it is quite often a good book, but if it isn’t, it won’t be on my shelf. There would be nothing worse for someone to read a bad book and then have to go online to ask for their money back. That’s why booksellers are here – so we can help people make the right choice on what to read in the first place.

Only having what I want to read

Let me assure you – this is NOT the case. I will happily go on for the rest of my life without reading about composting, knitting or what really went on in the Korean War. Other people DO want to read about these things (I know, hey?) so I supply a selection that I know to be well researched and well written.

So that’s about it.

I hope you have enjoyed that little foray into what I do on a constant basis for my little bookstore. It’s a never ending task which I am happy to say, I love to bits, even if it can get overwhelming at times. I mostly get it right but can still get it wrong… apparently I’m not perfect. Who knew?

Tanya – TLC Books