When my first book was about to come out, all my writer friends told me to make the rounds of local libraries and independent bookstores to introduce myself.
I started at the library, arriving at the desk with my brightest salesperson-on-commission- smile, and told them I was a local author and would like to donate a few books. I put them on the desk proudly. “Huh,” the head librarian replied. “Never heard of you.” Well, I said, this is my first book. Silence. But I have a two-book deal. “Uh-huh,” she said. Finally I pulled out my last stop: I wrote the whole thing, here at your library! Right over there! I pointed to a seat by the window. I blathered on about my willingness to do a reading, alone or with others, promising to bring chocolate cookies or tequila shooters or who knows what I said, because it was so humiliating I wanted to curl up and die.
Steeling myself, I continued on to the indie bookstore a few towns over and introduced myself to the owner. I showed him my postcards and he said, “Huh. I’m an author too.” Oh, really, I said? “Yes,” he replied, and proceeded to tell me all about his book, and why I should buy it. So I did, of course. (In hardcover, I might add.)And as he handed my bag to me, he informed me that he couldn’t order my book because didn’t do business with Simon & Schuster anymore. “I’m a little bit behind on my bills.”
Welcome to the show, my friends said.
The next day, my young daughter handed me her list of summer reading books, and I drove to the only bookstore in my town: Children’s Book World, on Haverford Station Road, in Haverford, Pennsylvania. A girl named Sarah helped us find all the books, and excitedly recommended a few others she thought my daughter would like. As we stood at the register, my daughter said, “Maybe they have your book, Mommy.” Sarah brightened, asked me if I was an author, and I sheepishly said yes. She literally clapped her hands together, congratulating me, and brought every other employee over to meet me and exclaim over my postcards promoting STANDING STILL, and listen to my elevator pitch about the woman with panic disorder who trades her life for her daughter's during a kidnapping. Then she said, “Well, we must order it right now!” She got on the computer, and ordered six of them. “We’ll sell them to the moms,” she smiled. “And you must come back and sign them.”
And thus began an enthusiastic, symbiotic relationship with a store that shouldn’t even carry racy books like STANDING STILL or THE BIRD HOUSE, yet does. Many of my author friends, when they do their own publicity, or do festivals and events, order books directly from their publishers. Not me. I order my books from Children’s Book World.
I would order my blue jeans, my birthday cakes, and my Thanksgiving turkey from Children’s Book World if I could. Because when you find an independent bookstore that truly loves books, and loves authors, you don’t want to shop anywhere else.
As for the library? Well, I wrote my second book in a coffee shop. (An independent coffee shop.)