Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Murder by the Book
Last Saturday I did a signing at Murder by the Book, a wonderful little mystery bookstore in Houston, Texas.
I suspect the publishing industry would be in much better shape if we still had more bookstores like Murder by the Book. These people know books, they know authors, and they know their customers. "Hand selling" is something that used to go on in bookstores all the time--a familiar customer walks in the door, the book dealer says, "I just got in a book that you're going to love!" and puts the new book into the reader's hands. This is how new authors find readers--by word of mouth. And no one is better at generating positive word of mouth than a bookseller.
But with the slow death of independent bookstores, hand selling is disappearing fast. The clerks at Barnes and Noble tend to turn over constantly. Many of them don't read themselves, and they certainly don't take the time to learn the reading tastes of their customers. So the disappearance of the independent bookstores is one more factor contributing to the disappearance of midlist authors and the dominance of the franchised blockbuster.
But Murder by the Book is doing just great. They've carved out a niche selling autographed books, so that about a third of their business comes from mail orders for signed releases. I was amazed at how many people turned out to listen to me talk and have their books signed. People actually had numbers. You know, like at a Sarah Palin booksigning (only there were about 30 people there rather than 2,000). Frankly, I was stunned to realize that I had so many devoted readers in the Houston area. This was my second signing at Murder by the Book, and I fully intend to go back again.
Photos by Marc Brubaker--I forgot to take pictures myself