Wednesday, April 15, 2015

On Being a Bookseller

I know some wonderful booksellers. Maggie Carter-de Vries at Books Plus in Fernandina Beach, Fl.  is one. So is Louise at Once Upon a Bookseller in St. Marys, Ga. Their patrons are lucky for the attention they get. If you want to just browse, say so and go on and browse. If you want a suggestion, they're happy to guide you to whatever your reading pleasure happens to be. 

Too many people walk into a book store, stare at the lines of shelves and piles of sale books and leave. Especially men who seem to feel like they're in a china shop.

During a recent visit to a large corporate book store, I waited to ask a store employee a question and so watched as potential book buyers entered. Although I'm an author, I was not there to sign my books.

There were several employees behind a large desk, but no one paid attention to those that entered, including me. A timid woman walked up, and I let her go ahead of me. She put her handbag on the counter, and, clutching it, waited for several minutes before someone behind the desk deigned to address her.

"You need some help?" a female clerk asked.
The woman said she was looking for a book for a co-worker's going-away present.

"What kind?"

"She likes mysteries her friend told me," the woman said.
"What kind of mysteries?" the clerk asked.
The lady shrugged. "Just mysteries, I guess. I read biographies."
"Thriller, cozy, paranormal, what?" the clerk wanted to know.
Perplexed, the woman asked, "What's cozy?"
"Unlike a thriller. More like an Agatha Christie."
"I've heard of her."
"In the back are the mystery shelves," the clerk said, and pointed the way. With that the clerk turned her back on the woman to speak to her own co-worker.
I, as an author and, therefore, a seller of my books, said, "I can help you."
Relieved, the lady smiled.

We looked through the Mystery section at cozies. "I don't think she'd like anything about animals solving murders," the lady said.
My cue. "I'm an author, and I write a cross-genre type of mystery, a mystery with thriller elements."
"That sounds about right," she said. "She likes CSI on TV."
"Probably not a cozy reader," I said. I pointed out Lee Child's Jack Reacher series and the Michael Connelly's so as not to sound too eager. After all, one sale does not a career make.
"Tell me about your books," the lady said, less timid now.
On the shelves were three of the five books in a series of mine that have been recently published.
She looked at those three, picked one up, glanced at the cover, then looked at me. "I think she'd like yours. Will you autograph them?"
ThemThree can help a career along.

But the moral of this story is, I think that without help, the lady might have walked out and bought her friend a fancy soap in the scent boutique next door.
My best to you dear reader,
Gerrie Ferris Finger