The Tale of the Book Shop

I like book shops. I like big ones and little ones. I especially like little independent book shops run by people who have a passion for books. I like to see them make money so the book shop keeps open.

When we moved to this city last year I checked out the local book shop scene. In the shopping suburb not far from home I found one. It had a cute name. I went in to introduce myself, as the new local author, to the manager.

She was a bit quiet and did not enter into conversation easily. Not quite evasive, but not giving anything away. Perhaps wary. I had a copy of my first book and suggested that she sell it in her shop. She was not drawn easily into that idea.

“I’m selling the shop,” she said.
“I saw the notice on the window,” I replied. “Is it sold yet?”
‘No, but it might sell any time soon and I don’t want to take on too much new stuff just in case it does.”

We continued for a few minutes like that, but it was becoming clear that I was trying to push start a conversation that was not going to run of its own accord. So I said my farewell and left.

I went in again today. The shop has a new name. The cute name is gone and a person’s surname has taken up residence in its place. That is a real pity, I liked that previous name. The shop had been bought by another bookshop I recognised from the city centre. The same woman was behind the counter.

I asked her if she had received the promo mailing I sent about my book launch, she said “No.” Considering I’d made sure I sent it to this particular shop this was unexpected.

I asked when the shop had sold, thinking that the change of name had meant the mailing got lost in the postoffice. It was only six weeks ago, so the postman is unlikely to forget the previous name of the shop, and it had not been returned to me.

I pointed out that there was a book launch poster for another book/author on display. “So how do I make some arrangement for that kind of publicity?” She told me I had to see the new owners.

I asked if she was interested in setting up an author signing. She said I’d have to speak to somebody else about that, the people at the other shop. I pressed her a little further, trying to get some local arrangements made. She gave me a brochure with the email of the other shop on it.

Are you beginning to see a pattern emerging here, or is it just me?

“Tell you what,” I said. “I’ll give you the website of the book and you can chase it up. It’s got some pretty good reviews on there.” There was a yellow sticky-note block on the counter, so I took a note and wrote the website. Then I stuck that to the counter facing her. She took up the note and carefully stuck it back on the block as if it had not been removed.

Game over.

The upshot of all this is that I still like little independent book shops that are run by people who have a passion for books running in their bloodstream. It’s a pity there isn’t one close to home.

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4 Responses to “The Tale of the Book Shop”

  1. James A. Ritchie Says:

    Sounds like you have a passion only for book shops that will peddle your book. I’d say you need to get used to hating most of the book shops out there.

    Jeeze, talk about people book shops should dislike.

    • scribblygum Says:

      Yep, got it in one. I’m prejudiced towards local bookshops who want to engage with local authors. And who are prepared to sell local authors; to celebrate local authors; to champion local authors. It’s a community thing.

      I have never come across a bookshop where the manager refuses conversation, until now.

      There’s a national chain bookshop in the major shopping centre near my office. They emailed me to arrange an author signing. Easy.

  2. Matera the Mad Says:

    There aren’t any little independent anythings any more. 😦

    • scribblygum Says:

      Independent bookshops here in Australia face fierce pressure from the supermarket discounters. I guess it’s the same in many industries.

      I buy wine from the local bottle shop, even though I know it’s more than at the discounters (and he has specialty beers that the big guys don’t often carry). We shop at the local supermarket rather than the big chains in the major centres. Same with books. I want my local shops to flourish.

      But it’s a tough game for them.

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