Monday, June 3, 2013

What's in (the book) Store?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Just got back from Book Expo America, and it was quite--what? Daunting? Spectacular? Overwhelming? Hilarious? I can say that my shoulders ache--no exaggeration--from lugging around tote bags of give-away books that are somehow irresistible. I was determined to be selective, though.

Look at just some  of the ARCs from authors I snagged! Talk about summer reading.


 (The Reds are chatting today--scroll past the photos to get there!) 

And I did NOT pick up the book by this person. Recognize her?
Does she need a caption?

I can't resist saying it was the launch of the ARC of THE WRONG GIRL--thank you to my agent for taking this nice photo--
Happy Author...even though it was NINETY DEGREES

and this one of the line of people waiting to get one. Amazing.
I love every one of these people...
But there was also an on-going discussion about the future of books.  I was invited to host a table

 at the American Booksellers Association luncheon (!) 

with Geraldine Brooks and Jon Scieszka and Richard Russo

Richard Russo says--his daughter is an independent bookseller!

 and more..) and it was a room full of owners and employees of independent bookstores.

 And I have to say--there were smiles on their faces! Someone told me there are more new bookstores opening now than in the past-however long. I talked to one happy camper who works at a store outside Washington DC--and she said people are buying books like mad.

A couple of years ago, it was all about the demise of bookstores, and how books were going to rule the world. What do you make of this?

What's your sense of independent bookstores? How're they doing?

LUCY BURDETTE: I'm lucky to have one of the best indy bookstores in the country right in my town, RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison, CT. They thrive, but I know it's a battle because they are fighting the draw of lower prices at Amazon and other online bookstores. They count on customer loyalty and events and amazing service and location.

There is only one bookstore left in Key West, and that's Key West Island Books. They sell a mixture of new and used, with an emphasis on local authors. I'm thrilled to have the Key West mysteries carried there--it's a small shop but they will order anything a customer wants.

While Hallie and I were touring the Raleigh area with Jennifer McMahon, Molly Weston set up an event at McIntyre's Books in Fearrington Village--another fabulous little store. They seemed to be quite busy and our event was well attended.

All that to say Hank, I sure hope there will continue to be a groundswell of support for bookstores. There is no place else I'd rather spend time and money!

RHYS BOWEN: I'm also lucky enough to have two of the best thriving indies in the places where I live: Book Passage in Corte Madera, CA and Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ. Both of these stores have weathered any storms because they have owners who are business savvy as well as loving books. Both have huge mailing lists, events every night, draw the biggest name authors... in fact when I sign at Book Passage it always seems to be after Hilary Clinton and before Tom Brokaw, which is daunting to say the least.

HANK: I know--and they always say, oh, you should have been here last night, Hilary Mantel had thousands of people. Sigh. Anyway, we persevere! And it's so reassuring that people till come to bookstore events. BEA was phenomenally reassuring, too, long incredibly long lines to get books! Nelson DeMille's went up one side, down the other, and around the block! Were any of you there?
He was signing the six six chapters of his new book! Which is an old book, re-written... 
RHYS: I really hope that the general optimism is true and that small indies will come to fill the vacuum left by Borders and by Barnes and Noble cutting back. However good electronic forms of publishing become there is nothing like holding a real book in your hands. Take a peek a children at a library--books are magic things to them.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Hank, I'm thrilled to hear that indie bookstore owners are feeling so positive! I love the indie stores where I get to sign on book tours, especially Murder by the Book in Houston, Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, and Book Passage in Corte Madera. But I think Rhys is right--it take more than just loving books. The successful stores have owners with real business savvy. They know their customers, and most do a really good mail order business.

HANK: Rhys and Hallie and Rosemary are off on exotic vacations! So we will have to demand photos when they get back. SO--how's your local bookstore doing? And what do you think about that?

And yes, one savvy insider told me he thought the absolute key was bookstore owners who know their stuff--what do you think that means?

And hey..why not--an ARC of THE WRONG GIRL to one lucky commenter!


  1. Congratulations, Hank . . . I’m sure all those lucky readers with ARCs of “The Wrong Girl” are truly happy readers!

    This all sounds incredibly promising, and I hope it is true that the bookshops are holding their own and actually increasing their numbers . . . I suppose that, like most businesses, the successful bookshops are the ones that sponsor the special events and author signings that keep the readers marching through the doors to buy books.

    Here, I’m sad to say, the closest bookshop [a Barnes and Noble] is more than forty miles away, leaving us with few options: Lots of library time, mail order, or two shelves of books sandwiched in between the children’s toys and the discount picture frames at the local Wal-Mart. It’s beyond frustrating . . . and it is often a daunting process to actually get your hands on those books you've been eagerly waiting for . . . .

  2. Like Joan, there are no options except Barnes & Noble where I live now. I miss the Poisoned Pen! Like you, though, Hank, I heard the same thing at BEA. Independent bookstores are doing great. The owner of Book People in Austin said he's on track for his fourth consecutive record-breaking year in a row, and only .01 of his sales is e-books. It's all in real books that you can hold and turn pages. (And, I phrase it like that since e-books are real books. I just prefer the paperbound ones.)

  3. oh yay Lesa, so glad you heard the same good news!

  4. Woohoo, Hank! Can't wait to read your new book, and I wish you a successful launch.

    I feel very lucky to live equidistant between two Joseph Beth stores, plus two Barnes & Nobles, and two very good independent children's bookstores. On top of that, Cincinnati's library system consistently ranks in the top five in the country.

    You authors should be coming here for signings. Just saying. :-)

  5. Great news! We have two small bookstores in my small city of Amesbury north of Boston (not quite sure how they stay open) and two very thriving ones in the slightly larger small city next door, Newburyport, both of which celebrated their 40th years last year.

  6. Hi, dear Hank, where does one sign up to win an ARC of The Wrong Girl??? Thelma Straw in Manhattan ( be sure to read my new bio at! )

  7. That is quite a haul from BEA, Hank. Some amazing books in that group, so I know you are going to have a great summer of reading.

    The BEA Book Bloggers Con, the day before standard BEA was also upbeat about the future of books and reading. Happy to hear that the indie bookstores are feeling the same way.

    Glad that your signing for The Wrong Girl was such a success. Not that any of us doubted it.

  8. Hank, congratulations on your successful and fun day! I would definitely have been in your line!

    Our local B&N has more games and "stuff" now than books, now -- is it like that everywhere? However, Prairie Lights, an independent bookstore in Iowa City, has partnered with a "satellite" store in New Bohemia, a fun little neighborhood that reinvented itself rather magnificently after the flooding in Cedar Rapids five years ago. New Bo Books thus has the buying resources of a store with a much bigger footprint. This seems like a model that could work other places, too.


  9. Great Post, Hank!

    So good to hear good news regarding the indy bookstores. I have to say - several have opened their arms to this new indy witer, including Laurel Books in Oakland, CA, Mystery Loves Company in Oxford, MD and Quarter Moon Books on Topsail Island, NC

    I am saving my pennies for a trip to BEA!

    AND, I cannot wait to read THE WRONG GIRL!

  10. Granted, I live in Los Angeles, where one would expect lots of commerce of every kind, but yes, there are many independent bookstores in my area, and they seem to be doing well.

    In fact, not only are there general independent bookstores, but within 30 minutes of my house, there are THREE independent mystery bookstores! One of which (Mysterious Galaxy Redondo Beach) just opened about a year ago. Now, I don't think business for any of them is breaking records just now, but they're there and holding regular events and supporting authors. And it's wonderful!

  11. Kristi, I was going to agree that our B&N has more toys and stuff than books and then realized we are probably talking about the same one! I'm in Marion. Small world on the Internet...

  12. I wish I was as lucky as some of you. I'm either in NYC and SE CT with nary an indie in sight. Closest indie may be 80 miles away! But the good news for those of us who like to support them is that indies are usually very happy to sell through their websites and ship - that was how I got my signed copy of There Was An Old Woman even though I was 150 miles away the night of Hallie's book launch! (And I didn't have to drive on 95...)

  13. Here in little Falmouth, MA on Cape Cod, we used to have several independent bookstores, but now we have one: "Eight Cousins" on Main Street started out as a children's bookstore, but as each of the other bookstores closed, "Eight Cousins" expanded its adult section.

    They have events, and they promote local titles. It's a paradise of a venue -- may it always be!

    Here is what I think "knowing their books"means -- I describe a kid, "8, smart, into science and action heroes" and they show me several possible books.

  14. ...and I should much as I love all the indies I've ever visited...I also love Barnes & Noble. The ones closest to me in Stamford and Midtown Manhattan are virtual temples. What you sometimes miss in the personal touch is generally made up for with the breadth of titles, the discounts - and they deliver.

  15. Yes Denise Ann, I agree.. it's got to be a combination of savvy about books--and savvy about the business. I always wonder how they plan.."let's see, I'll need xx of Rhys Bowen's new book"--how do they know?

    ANd I alwaya try to buy books after I get a bunch of free ones--if AUTHORS don't buy books, then the whole thing collapses.

    ANd the mail order thing is fabulous--I get a lot of books that way, often as a result of being uable to resist the newsletters..!

  16. We have a fabulous indie bookstore in Waynesboro, Va. Stone Soup Books and Cafe. (Yes, the food is great, too! The owner is charming, knows her books, and very supportive of local authors. The bookstore seems to be thriving. What a great post, Hank. I was at BEA briefly on Friday. sorry that I missed you!

  17. Fascinating to hear about how the bookstores seem to be holding their own. We have one independent bookstore in Manhattan, Ks. so I'm lucky.

  18. It's great to hear good news for bookstores! I'm very fortunate to have two independent mystery bookstores close by--the Raven in Lawrence, KS, and Mysteryscape in Overland Park, KS. Both fabulous!

  19. Congratulations, Hank. Thanks for sharing those great photos.

    I am so excited to have found an indy bookstore in Farmington, Maine. The other nearest bookstore was a B&N 60 miles away. (Yeah, there's a WalMart closer but I don't shop there.) I am SO going to shop at this store a lot! I just signed up for their newsletter.

    I remember as a kid always loving the small bookstores. If I wasn't at the library I'd go to the bookstore. I thank my parents for instilling this love of books in their children. My mother tells of how I'd be sent to clean my room and she'd find me sitting on the floor reading something. My niece complains that her daughter is the same way. Good girl!

  20. Hank,glad you didn't stand in line for Snooki :)
    Love hearing about new indies opening up! One closed near me last fall. Now 1 an hour away,1 20minutes and 1 b&n 40minutes away.
    As a former Borders employee, the key is to know what you sell! Employees need to be readers! Not just someone good at customer service-trust me on that one!
    We al just need to keep the book business going. Buy and read books in any form. Readers Live On! Jackie

  21. Geraldine Brooks told a story about how she was in line at an indy bookstore...when a customer said to an employee: "Do you have that new book..I can't remember the's something like-Six Parts of Pleasure?"

    ANd Brooks said she was freaking
    out--because there she was, unknown, KNOWING that the customer must mean her new book, Nine Parts of Desire.

    But before she could gin up the courage to step in, she said, the bookseller said--oh, you mean Nine PArts of Desire! ANd handed the customer the book.

    That's savvy.

  22. Jackie, yeah, I couldn't bring myself to do it. And see that bodyguard? But I must say, there was a LONG line.

    Nelson DeMIlle's was longer, tough. ANd ELizabeth Gilbert. SO there's hope.

    DO you thnk there;s any way a Snooki book is a good thing? Does it encuorage people to buy OTHER books? And that's beneficial, no matter what?

  23. My fave store went out when the landlord raised the rent by THOUSANDS a month several years ago. Then, last year the local small town one went out because of health probs of the owner. So I have B&N 20 miles away (which is a lot with the price of gas) & a very few (never what I'm looking for it seems) in WalMart & the grocery store. I wish a new one would start here or on the north side of the city. Which would still be ten miles but better than 20. :)

    Pen M

  24. Delighted to say a new indie, Bookworks -- actually a branch of a store based in another town -- opened in the closest "big town" to me, Kalispell, MT, after Borders closed and it is thriving!!! It competes with the onliners by offering 20% discounts on new hardcovers, rapid orders w/no shipping charges, and of course, HAND SELLING. (And of course, a lot of mysteries are in mass market pb, which the onliners don't discount, so no reason to order online instead of locally!)

  25. We can only hope that the "celeb" books generate the readers wanting more and varied books. ;)

    Pen M

  26. Hank, I think ANY book is a good thing. When I see statistics that say some 42% of Americans never pick up another book after college it makes me physically ill. So if the likes of the spray-tanned plastic one from the Jersey Shore can make somebody buy a book, maybe they will then also read the darned thing.

    Too bad about the wasted trees, though.

  27. We're fortunate in Southern NH to have two independents that are still hanging on: RiverRun in Portsmouth and Water Street Books in Exeter. Neither is terribly convenient for me, but I try to get to them when I can. RiverRun is particularly active with events and signings, to draw folks in. They work at it, which is great. Our local Barnes & Noble is nice enough (our writers' group meets there), although they have weird policies on signings (a friend can't get a signing b/c her book is about Edison's summer estate in Florida, so it doesn't have local interest. It's EDISON! Hello? And she's local!) and not nearly well-publicized enough. As Rosemary said, I love BN for many things (children's area is amazing, and staff so helpful), and the indies for different things. I love that we have both!

  28. So glad you had such a marvelous tour. Would be so nice to meet and enjoy everyone. Have a great day!

  29. It looks like you had a great time.
    I love my two indie's here in Michigan- there's The Books Connection of Shelby-Toni is brilliant at helping me with author events.
    And Robin and Jamie Agnew of Aunt Agatha's in Ann Arbor are amazing book sellers- AND that is what makes a great book store-fabulous sellers.
    Plus having authors who write gripping and/or award winning books help too.

  30. Diane Russom HarrisoJune 3, 2013 at 12:15 PM

    Hi Hank!
    I'm think I'm the Right Girl to win a copy of "The Wrong Girl"!
    Here in St. Louis we still have a few independent bookstores left. I try to support them as much as I can. Left Bank Books, Main Street Books, Subterranean Books, The Book House, and The Big Sleep (Mysteries and such) are really fixtures here although The Book House is having to move from its historic building in Rock Hill. We are all waiting to see where she'll land. Long live the independents!

  31. We are friends with Peter Glassman of Books of Wonder in NYC. His store was studied as the proto-typic indie book store for "You've Got Mail." Like the movie, a large (really large)book chain opened around the corner. Unlike the movie, he is still open. Why? Customer loyalty due to a fantastically knowledgeable staff, great readings and signings, and a sense that you (the customer) really count.

  32. Diane Russom HarrisonJune 3, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    That's me in the comment above: Diane Russom Harrison!

  33. Kristi, LOVE Prairie Lights! My signing visit to Iowa City was one my best ever.

    And Tammy, LOVE the Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach, as you know.

    And Aunt Agatha's!!! And... but you get the picture.

    But like Ro, I also love B&N. (I was crushed when our local Borders closed, although I must say the my local B&N (15 miles) is overall a much better bookstore. There's the "temple of books" thing. Love browsing and smelling the coffee, and I buy things that would never remotely have occurred to me shopping online or in a small indie store.

    Conclusion--I just love bookstores.

  34. It's almost an oxymoron to see Snooki at the BEA. But, congratulations to you and your new release, The Wrong Girl. There is one indie, The Book Stall, in my area which is *almost* out of my area. I don't even go to B & N. Who needs it?

  35. Portland has one of the all-time great indies: Powell's. But, funny thing, it's gotten so big that I prefer to go to my neighborhood bookstore, Annie Bloom's. Our Murder by the Book closed in April--a sad day.

    That said, I'm overjoyed to hear that independent booksellers are doing well and are optimistic. Yay!

    I hope to get to BEA next year with my debut, and like, Kaye, I relish the thought that indies might pick up my novel for their shelves.

    The only thing I'll say for Snooki is that I'd like a quad muscle like that...:-)

  36. I saw the picture and I read the comments but....U still have no idea who that girl in the red dress is..should I? If you didn't go near her then I guess not! Loved the picture of the books though. My nearest indie is The Concord Bookshop and as far as I know is doing very well. I don't get to as many author appearances as I'd like to though. Dee

  37. Lots of great stuff in NH. One of the best is Toadstool Bookshop in Milford, Keene and Peterbourgh. Great service and savvy staff. A great place. Hank visited last year during the Other Woman release. Would love to win the ARC to Wrong Girl!

  38. After years of having to drive twenty minutes just to get near a chain bookstore, proximity to a bookstore was actually an item on my new house wishlist. The fact that I landed in the sweet spot of FlyLeaf Books, McIntyre's Books, The Regulator Bookshop and Quail Ridge Bookshop made the whole rest of the options (chains and university stores) feel like an afterthought! I do routinely buy from them all just to thank them for being in existence in such a very very hard market. Congrats on the new book, Hank! I'll be looking for it on all the shelves listed above.

  39. Oh, thank you! (Yes, very exciting..)

    SO--do you get ideas for new books from booksellers? Or do you go in pretty much knowing what you want?

    DO you ever come out with just one book? :-)

  40. Whenever I talk to the owner of Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont (my local indie), she always seems to be upbeat. They did the book table at Pennwriters and a lot of people were buying books. Lots of events, lots of energy. I walked in looking for Perks of Being a Wallflower with my daughter, and she had it right there - along with three other recommendations. And they ship AND they sell ebooks through Kobo.

    And if I don't win a copy of THE WRONG GIRL I will be at Mystery Lovers to pick up my copy (I did tell you it releases the day before my birthday, right)?

  41. And I love that the old captcha is back.

    I got evesio Venetians

    That sounds very Harry Potter to me: "Evesio Venetians!" (Which turns someone into an Italian-speaking person.)

    (If you havent read the Harry Potter books, whoa, that's not gonna make ANY sense.)

  42. Ha ha ha ha ha! Evesio Venetians!

    It doesn't appear to work on dogs; I'll try it on the Fed Ex guy.

    Thanks, Hank!

  43. Oh, wonderful! Yeah, I dont think it works on dogs. But eager to hear about he FedEx guy!

  44. Regarding picking up new ideas from booksellers - Yes! I cannot even begin to count how many of the books I come home with are books I usually didn't even know about before going into a good handselling bookstore. And I love that! And, of course, there are always those books I stumble on while browsing. Who can come out of a bookstore with only one book? Not me!

  45. The small but wonderful Toadstool Bookshop in Milford NH is just a few miles from my house. They have frequent author signings (met Hank there) and sponsor a number of book clubs. The staff is friendly and very well versed in the books they shelve. It sounds like BEA was fun, great photos. I would love to win the ARC of The Wrong Girl. Mo Heedles

  46. I live in a city with a large Independent Book Store. They have signings, but the authors are generally obscure and very serious. Not any of my favs. I reckon I am too much of a lightweight reader. I read to enjoy and be entertained. Silly me. But, I figure the world is such a serious place, reading is a fun way to escape. And I hope books stay with us, otherwise I believe my oxygen supply would end.

  47. Joining Mary Sutton in giving a shout-out to Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont PA, near Pittsburgh. We love our MLB. And I'm not the least bit biased! ;-)

  48. We're hanging in at Seattle Mystery Bookshop, partly due to loyal customers and authors (we SO love you guys!), partly to adapting to online retail and selling e-books, and partly because Seattle is such a great book town.

  49. Looks like a good time was had by all! Great shot taken of you by your agent!!!

  50. Hank, I think Evesio Venetians works! At least partially. He said: "Have a good day." But then he said:


    ☺ ☺ ☺

    Jungle Red -- great books, great writers, a little magic...

  51. I am laughing SO HARD I cannot even begin to describe it.

    AAhhhhhhhh SO FUNNY! Kristi, you are a wizard!

  52. Thank you, dear Fran! Cannot wait to come visit!

    (whoa. whoa. One of my captcha words is: October!!)

  53. Yay, Hank! Of course, there was a long, long line waiting for ARCs of THE WRONG GIRL. Smart people!

    I'm fortunate. Here in the KC area we have Rainy Day Books, one of the premier indie bookstores (when the Wall ST. Journal talks about indies, they interview Vivien Jennings at Rainy Day). But we also have one-year-old Mysteryscape for mysteries and YA/children's books with its cafe and great events, The Raven in nearby Lawrence (another great indie), Reading Reptile, one of the country's greatest children's bookstores (lots of events plus a children's literature festival each year), Prospero's (new and used) with four locations, a restaurant in one of them, and many, many events, a BooksAMillion, and four Barnes & Noble stores left. Plus bookstores at the many universities around the metro area and several Christian and used bookstores in town and the suburbs.

    The Mysteryscape owners came back from the American Bookseller's Association conference with the news for us at Border Crimes SinC that book sales at indies are up, as are profits. The feeling among booksellers is that the ones who couldn't adapt are gone, but the ones left are being flexible and making the right moves to compete in the bookselling world. So hurray for our wonderful independent bookstores!!

  54. I'm apparently a good 45 minutes to an hour from any independent bookstore now. If I'm in error about this, I'd like to know! :)

    But, yes! - I was at BEA on Saturday, the day it opened to the public. Lines for signings were long, but everyone was still of good cheer, despite all the standing around and schlepping of heavy bags.

    Before I went, I saw some blog posts featuring Malcolm Gladwell's new books and realized that BEA is a good predictor of what we'll all be talking about in the coming months. It's like reading Variety, but a 3-D tactile version - with swag. :)

  55. Great post, and it sure is nice to hear positive news about book store. To me, there is nothing like going into a shop to browse and talk to the owner.

  56. BEA looked like fun. I love my local indie bookstore. Saw you there when you signed The Other Woman. Can't wait for the next one.

  57. I was at BEA on Saturday (missed all my favorite authors that were there earlier) and one of the ladies I spoke with said she buys the majority of her books at indie bookstores. She said if they had kiosk for e-books that would make like simpler.

    I would LOVE to win an ARC of "The Wrong Girl"

  58. I can't imagine life without books, bookstores, libraries, and especially wonderful authors like you, working on terrific new books for us!! Thanks for the hours of crafting, and for the chatty visits. ;-)

  59. That's so interesting, Dru!

    Rhonda, what did you get that you love?
    And I agree-it's so fascinating to see the billboards--Michael Connolly and Malcolm Gladwell..and the nametag lanyards printed with info all about the new John Grisham. It's the books we'll be hearing about in the next year-very weird to be in on it from moment one. Or maybe, moment two.

  60. And tomorrow--the winner of the ARC (Thank oyiu so much for caring..sigh) ..and a wonderful blog for those who love to hear about new books!

    The author needs--advice. ANd is hoping to get it from all of you!

  61. I can't pick just one. I'm very excited about some of the books from Angry Robot's mystery imprint Exhibit A Books, especially one I almost passed on LAWLESS AND THE DEVIL OF EUSTON SQUARE by William Sutton. It's sort of an Industrial Age Sherlock Holmes. Then, there's the new Jill Shalvis IT HAD TO BE YOU, plus a book I bought from the very clever Penguin Book Truck, the very trippy THE PSYCHOPATH TEST by Jon Ronson, which I blew through yesterday afternoon.

  62. Hank, I do not think a Snooki book is a good thing. I also do not think those that bought her book are really into books at all. :) ):

  63. This comment has been removed by the author.

  64. Yes, Unknown, sigh..I fear you are right-- those who want her books are into something else. xo