Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Seattle Mystery Bookshop — 25 Years of Mayhem (and a Reds Giveaway Basket!)

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: The Seattle Mystery Bookshop, celebrating "25 Years of Mayhem" is one of those places that makes the reading world a better place. Today, I'm delighted to introduce Fran Fuller, who talks a bit about her history with the shop, providing answers and resources as well as books, and the big push to keep SMB around for another 25 years. Take it away, Fran!

"Do you have a source that lists 
the different kinds of ways people 
have been killed in books?

FRAN FULLER: Any bookseller will tell you that we're asked to field all kinds of questions, and those of us in the mystery business get some great ones. But this one stopped us. We at Seattle Mystery Bookshop pride ourselves on being a resource as well as purveyors of fine mysteries, but Amber and I blinked solemnly at each other, blank faces mirrored. I could tell we were both thinking, "No, because there'd be too many spoilers!

Our response ultimately was, "If you can think of a way to kill someone, it's been written. If it hasn't been, you should do it!" He laughed, and we're assuming he's not looking for new and innovative ways to off someone. But then we hope that about all our authors and customers!

Being a resource as well as a shop was part of our dearly departed founder's, Bill Farley, mission here, and believe us, he made sure we lived up to his expectations. And we wouldn't have it any other way.

When I moved up to Seattle from the deserts of New Mexico over a decade ago, I never dreamed I'd make a new home here at SMB. I knew specialty bookstores existed – I'd lived in Minneapolis, after all! - but I'd never worked in one. But I wandered in, and idly asked if they were hiring. JB [Dickley] kicked his feet up on the desk, the way he does, crossed his arms and asked, “Who do you read?"  

"Oh, Jonathan Kellerman, Carolyn Hart. I love Rennie Airth." 

And that was how it started.

Over the years, this place has become a second home. Actually, there are times when my wife maintains it's my primary home! I've met customers who've become family, authors who have made me cry with delight (no names, I've got my tough reputation to maintain, after all!), and coworkers who have brought more joy to my life than any one person has a right to experience.

So when the economic downturn came and we had to make the hard choices,  I was right there,  as bookkeeper, with JB. We cut inventory to the bone. We downsized. We even reduced our staff, which we've tried desperately to avoid. We tightened our belts until our eyes bulged.

And things have gotten better, but far too slowly for the landlord's liking - or ours, for that matter. So once again, we looked at each other and said, "Either we close, or we swallow our pride and ask for help." We've heard time and again that both authors and customers wished they'd known a favorite indie was in trouble, so we put that sentiment to the test and we began a GoFundMe campaign to raise enough money to soothe the panting landlord's breast, pay off the creditors who've most kindly let us buy the books we simply must have to feel at all like a proper mystery shop, and maybe get a little ahead of the game so we can keep going.

As I write this, we're just over a week into our fundraising campaign, and we are gob-smacked. The outpouring of love and support has been nothing less than stunning, and it's come from customers, from authors who've both donated books, money and their voices and networks, from publishers who have given us special gifts to offer as donation rewards, and from people we've never met or even heard of. Each and every one of the donations have – and will continue to have – an immense impact, not just financially although that's vital, but from a morale-boosting point of view.

We feel treasured. We feel loved.

And we feel hope. Seattle Mystery Bookshop has been in existence for over 25 years, and we're now optimistic, if not positively giddy, about the next 25.

Wow. Thank you, each and every one, and let me tell you, the fabulous ladies here at Jungle Red have been deep in our hearts even without the help they've so generously given us.

We love you!

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: And we all love you, too!  I'm proud to say that not only have the Reds individually contributed to the Seattle Mystery Bookshop's Go Fund Me Campaign, we're putting together a basket of all of your first novels, signed, that SMB will raffle off in an auction!

If you're in Seattle and want to visit, or just shoot an email about a mystery question, here's the Seattle Mystery Bookshop's information:

Seattle Mystery Bookshop
117 Cherry St., Seattle, WA  98104
25 Years of Mayhem: 1990 - 2015

To make a donation to the Seattle Mystery Bookshop's Go Fund Me Campaign, go here.


  1. Thanks for the link to the GoFundMe campaign, Susan. Sad to say, our local bookshop closed several years ago [and we're still missing it] . . . I'm wishing Fran and the Seattle bookshop great success with their funding campaign and hoping they'll have many more years happily serving mystery readers.

  2. Its worth giving to the cause of Seattle Mystery Bookshop. Where would we be without independent stores and the knowledgeable people who operate them. It's a public service.

    Thank you.

  3. I hope you continue to thrive! I am originally a West Coaster, although I've lived in Massachusetts for several decades now. When I make it back to Seattle for a visit, I'll definitely stop by the store (and have written you an email about donating books). All my best with your efforts going forward.

  4. I just shared the campaign on twitter and Facebook. Hope you get a big influx of funds today!

  5. Thanks, guys! Fran and friends are on Seattle/west coast time, but I'm sure we'll hear from them in a bit...

  6. Best wishes for 25 more years, Fran and friends! I visited the bookshop years ago when my golf mysteries were published, but have not been back since. Hope to get to Seattle soon and remedy that!

    What are the biggest challenges for a small bookshop?

  7. Survive and thrive, Fran! Only wishing you could open a branch here in the Boston area.

  8. With our own indie specialty bookstore in the area (Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, PA near Pittsburgh), I know what a treasure stories like SMB are. Best wishes in your fundraising campaign.

  9. LOVE this store! And have so many happy memories of event there.

    Give us the do you decide what books to stock? What's your proudest hit prediction that came true? Is hand-selling a real thing?

    Love you madly! And hope to see you soon!

  10. Had to go donate first. We can't let you down--you are too much a treasure and a visit to Seattle is on my bucket list just so I can wander your shelves! Good luck with the campaign.

  11. Oh, this post brings tears to my eyes. I've only heard wonderful things about your store from all my writer pals. In fact, saw Gigi last weekend (on Sunday, an event we did together), and she had nothing to but great things to say. I hope to visit SMB sooner rather than later!

  12. You guys are terrific! So thrilled to hear about the community support! And hope I can get to visit again sometime soon.

  13. Seattle Mystery is one of the best there is, and that's saying a lot. Every time I go, I feel like I'm visiting family. Hope the campaign heals the immediate wounds and that the talk about it raises local awareness and increases the customer base. Does anyone know whether they've pitched this story to the local press? Seems like something they'd cover in a shot.

  14. Oh ladies, beautiful ladies all, and the equally beautiful Jungle Red supporters and fans - thank you!

    Hank, choosing books to stock is such a challenge and we don't know how general indies decide! We choose books that we love to sell. We read a lot, and we listen when our customers and friends recommend books to us. Even so, we are aware that we're missing some true gems, but we do our best to stay on top of things.

    Proudest prediction? We loved Dennis Lehane before anyone had heard of him, we kinda figured that guy Robert Crais would go places, and we've backed Yasmine Galenorn from the very beginning. We also had good feelings about Julia Spencer-Fleming, Rhys Bowen and Deborah Crombie!

    We need our readers, absolutely, but author support like yours? Tears to our eyes and joy to our hearts. You are gaspingly brilliant, each and every one of you!

  15. Thank you all so much for the kind words, offers and donations! We are so honored that the Jungle Reds asked us to contribute to their blog!

    And to answer you Hank:

    1. How do you decide what books to stock? - Book catalogs play a large roll, plus authors we love we always stock (or stalk- as we haunt their websites waiting for new book announcements), author & customer recommendations and just simply reading - which allow us to take chances with new authors no one's heard of yet!

    2. What's your proudest hit prediction that came true? Gone Girl by Flynn was a huge hit around the shop before the rest of the world found it and Ready Player One by Cline was another huge favorite!

    3. Is hand-selling a real thing? Definitely! We have authors we absolutely love and think the whole world should know about! So we do our level best to inform them- by writing reviews, putting the books in people's hands and simply telling them how wonderful the it is. We would shout from the roof tops about our favorites- if we thought that anyone would pay attention!

    For example - I recently fell in love with Dorothy Gilman's Mrs. Pollifax series. The first book, The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, was originally published in 1985 and yet it appeared on our November 2015 Bestseller list - simply because I put it in people's hands and told them how fantastic I think she is! So yes hand selling really is very important not only for new authors, but for established ones as well.

    Once again thank you all for your support for Seattle Mystery Bookshop! You have no idea how much it means to us!


  16. Hey Amber and JD and Fran, good to have you! I have a question -- does it matter what the galleys look like? Do you take a four-color galley cover more seriously than what's basically a bound manuscript?

  17. Dearest Tim,

    We have word of an upcoming news article. Adam Woog and Mary Ann Gwinn have something in the works, I believe. It's being spearheaded by our own Mike Lawson, whose books we adore, and we're waiting to see how that all plays out.

    Sweet Susan,

    Honestly, we don't care what the ARCs look like. Sure, it's more fun to see what might be the cover art, but a blank-bound galley is as intriguing as a fully-formed ARC. What DOES matter is a synopsis on the back or inside front cover. If we have to dig to find out what it's about, well, we get boxes of ARCs and galleys all the time, so we're more likely to pick up something new if it's got a solid synopsis on it. We don't want to snub the more mysterious ones, obviously, but time is still a factor.

    Loving the questions! Thank you all!


  18. I love the Seattle Mystery Bookshop! Thank you Fran and all the staff for your enthusiasm for mysteries, for hand-selling my books, and for the lovely welcome at your store last weekend! I'm drinking tea out of my "Seattle Mystery Bookshop 25 Years of Mayhem" mug right now :)

  19. Hooray, SMB! It's wonderful to see the GoFund account prompting so much well-deserved love and support. Here's to the next 25 years! (and I'll see you all in March for my book launch!)

  20. Such a great shop -- I loved it as a reader when I lived in Seattle, long before I started that first book. I've been privileged to sign there three times, and each was great fun. So much fun, actually, that I found myself creating scenes set in the store in my Seattle Spice Shop mysteries!

    As a teenager, I worked in bookstores, and the experience marked me for life -- in a good way!

    Long may you thrive.

  21. Hey, you guys, I've not only never been to the Seattle Mystery Bookshop, I've never been to Seattle! Crazy, right? Must rectify!

  22. Well, now, we weren't going to say anything, Susan, but now that you mention it... *grin*

    And your publisher might be tempted to skip us for bigger indies in the city, but we want you anyway!

  23. SO fascinating! Thank you! ANd hey, Susan and I will come visit you together!

    I know there's more wonderfulness to come..and thank you, so much, for all the life-changing work you do.