Saturday, September 24, 2011

Remember bookstores??

ROSEMARY HARRIS: I certainly remember bookstores. I was a Waldenbooks bookstore manager in Lawrenceville, NJ and then I was transferred to manage the "big" bookstore in Brooklyn, NY. At the time it was the highest volume store in the chain. It was one of my favorite jobs ever and I often refer to my five or six years managing bookstores as my version of an MBA - I learned so much. In addition to learning about book marketing - bomb scares, shoplifters, employees, um, making out in the stock room - I learned how to handle a lot!

But now that I'm on the other side of the book gondola, so to speak, - where have I been in the last nine days? A library in Greenwood, IN, a mystery conference in St. Louis, a street book festival in Brooklyn, NY, a casino in Uncasville, CT and a five state fair in West Springfield, MA. Nary a bookstore in sight. It isn't that I don't still love them and wouldn't go in a heartbeat if invited, but as bookstores disappear non-bookstore venues are becoming my bread and butter. I don't mind sharing space with gamblers and people selling chamois mops (what ARE those things and why do people need so many?) if it means that I can meet readers and chat them up.

Maybe the fact that I used to be in Special Markets Sales when I was in the video business prepared me for this. I sold adventure travel videos to sporting goods stores, fine arts videos to opera houses, puppy videos to pet stores! Never sold to video stores.

A very sweet woman actually said to me today (at the Big E) "wow, how often do you get to meet a real writer?" And a father said to his three daughters "this woman wrote all these books!" Forget the ego boost - wait a minute, let's not forget the ego boost, there are far too few of those in life - when people see your books and hear a few words about them they BUY them.

Yes, I know I could "sell millions online for 99 cents" in my jammies, from the comfort of my living room. But for how many people is that really working ? Four? Five? One hundred? And how many thousands more are deposting $10 checks from Amazon because no one knows they exist.

Of course, I'd like to do it all - be an online hit, see my books stacked a mile high at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square and have them fighting to get into Aunt Agatha's in Ann Arbor to hear me speak. But tomorrow, I'm heading back to The Big E where I'll stand in the Connecticut bldg. I'll bring my little "show in a basket" - bookmarks, signs, badge holder, biz cards, etc. and talk to hundreds of strangers, many of them carrying chamois mops.

What's the strangest place you've ever sold books or seen books being sold?


  1. Rosemary, we met at B'con Indianapolis, and I saw you a couple times this year, but you never stood still long enough to say hello to. :-) Love your gardener series!

    My books are non-fiction, and have as a focus sewing as a business. The craziest place I've ever sold them has to be the Puyallup Fairgrounds, south of Seattle/Tacoma, in a cow barn. There is a massive, four-day, sewing-focused show there every year, and believe it or not, it's a huge honor to be allowed to sell and teach there. It's the largest such show in the world, and 30,000 people--mostly women--attend.

    By the way, this fairgrounds was where they temporarily held the Japanese population that was later sent to the camps during WWII. And it is pronounced "Pyoo'-wallop". Indian word.

  2. My mystery, A Killing in Antiques, is set at the huge outdoor Brimfield Antiques Show, and so I sold it there in July, right after publication. It didn't strike me as odd then, but it's surely not a Book Store.
    Mary Moody

  3. Rosemary-
    I've never seen it before, but I always thought informercials would be a great place for authors to sell their books. A half-hour commercial on late-night with the author chatting up a pumped-up studio audience would be a sure thing. Have you seen some of the things they sell on informercials? If they can sell a Dog Snuggie, they can sell a book. Throw in a wacky co-host like Tony Little and sales will go through the roof. Operators are standing by.
    -Bob D.