There used to be a bookstore next to the market my mother would shop at when I was little. It was all narrow aisles and fully-stocked shelves, and always dim and cool no matter the weather outside. If we were well-behaved during our grocery shopping expedition, my mother always promised that my brother and I could each have a book—a promise that led to collections of the Serendipity Books by Stephen Cosgrove, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and others.
He signed there once, Stephen Cosgrove; a very sweet man whose book, The Muffin Muncher, I blame for my continuing fascination with dragons and muffins (delicious looking or not). My mother has a picture of my brother and me, proudly standing on either side of Mr. Cosgrove with our tall stack of books nearly obscuring his face. He signed them all, taking the time to talk to us about his Serendipitous world.
Looking back, I realize it wasn’t much of a signing. The store only saw a small trickle of customers during the day, few of whom had rabid Cosgrove fans at home. It was the kind of event I often hear authors online complaining about—not enough advertising or sell-through to justify the time spent—but for my brother and I it was perfection. Here was an author, a star! One who took the time to talk to a little girl and boy like they were the most important readers in the world. To this day the memory of that time with Stephen Cosgrove epitomizes the why: why I read, why I love books, and why I love the people who produce the books I love.
It was from that store’s manager that I got my first job as a part-time bookseller. She taught me the necessity of expediting stock to the floor immediately, store presentation and how to engage the customer with my love of books to up-sell their purchase. From there I transferred to the store I would later help manage. I learned that it was not enough to just supply the books that were in demand, but that a good bookseller also had to anticipate which books would be big thanks to media attention, and those that would only succeed if given enough bookseller support and word of mouth buzz. My manager taught me that the passion that left me dreading the turn of the last page could be channeled to convert others into followers of the authorial cult.
In 2005 I started a blog under the anonymous title Bookseller Chick where I could relate silly customer questions (“I’m looking for a book. It’s blue. Do you have it?”) and new author finds. It was meant to act as amusement for my friends and an out for me—as I could never remember who I told what story to—but nothing more. Then a strange thing happened, others started reading my blog; anywhere from 150 to 250 unique visitors a day that I had never met. I discovered whole communities of readers, writers, librarians and booksellers on the internet hungry to trade information. In my off-time I blogged book recommendations at the request of perfect strangers, tried to decipher why some covers would grab a book browser’s attention while others faded from sight, and walked authors through their interactions with booksellers. I started to study the process that led to the finished title arriving in my store and realized that maybe I could contribute as well.
It is because of my love of books fostered as a child, my bookseller’s passion for spreading the word about new finds, and this wonderful online book community that I’ve had the honor to be part of that I’m applying to the Denver Publishing Institute. I want to take what I’ve learned from working at the end of the book production line and build upon it from the other side of the creation process. Discovering how to best maximize my potential—whether it be in teaching authors how to connect with booksellers and readers, focusing on marketing on and offline or something else entirely—is my goal for the future, one that I believe this Institute will help me achieve.