Last night, I gave a reading from my new flash fiction collection, Morbid Curiosities. I love giving readings, and this one was a lot of fun (for me, at least). It was delightful to listen to my audience help (as I’d assigned! I had handouts!) to give these stories voice. The reading was at Green Bay, Wisconsin’s The Reader’s Loft, a gorgeous, spacious, independent bookstore with dark wood shelves and plush velvet chairs and two large kittens merrrowing through the aisles. (In the middle of reading, I heard a crash, and immediately thought, “Yep. Kitten-work.”)
This is not a post about the superiority of independent bookstores over chain bookstores. To be clear, as a writer, I was thrilled when my first story collection, Let’s Do, was selected for Barnes and Noble’s Discover Great New Writers program. That selection allowed me to read and sign books in nearly any city in the U.S. and resulted in a great web review from the program, as well as my family’s thrill in, say, Springfield, Missouri, to snap a picture of my book on the shelf.
But when it came to giving readings in my area, it was both the chain bookstores as well as the independent Reader’s Loft that welcomed me with the warmest, most open arms. The event coordinator at Barnes and Noble, Grand Chute, filled the front window with my book, draped a table in gold cloth, and made a pyramid of books on top of it. She gave me polaroids of the display. The Green Bay coordinator wrote a glowing review for the B&N internal newsletter and staged a great event as well.
As a writer, I was grateful for their creativity in promoting my work. As a reader, all of these stores earned a loyal customer. Actually, customers, since my husband and daughters and mother love to read—and buy— books.
On the way out of The Reader’s Loft last night, I asked the out-of-print specialist—a man I love to talk books with every time we stop in— if we sold a lot of copies of my book. Yes, he told me. But also: the event sold a good number of other books. I know this for a fact: my mother came home with the gigantic (expensive!) new Doris Kearns Goodwin tome. My colleagues bought Spring Break reads.
I’m kind of slow, so it’s taken me this long to realize that sometimes, it’s not just about what others can do to sell your book. In fact, it feels equally good to participate in bringing others to great bookstores, engrossing reads, and conversations about reading.
Last night, a friend who’d never stepped foot inside Reader’s Loft marveled, “Wow. This is a beautiful bookstore! I’m definitely coming back with my children.”
Yes, she bought a copy of my book. But better yet, I helped make a wholly different kind of sale.