I am thrilled to have as our guest today the talented and successful author of twenty-eight books, Mariah Stewart! (Applause, whistles.) Mariah writes both romantic suspense and women’s fiction for Ballantine, most recently her Chesapeake Bay series that launched last March with COMING HOME. Book two, ALMOST HOME, was released on July 27th. A native of New Jersey, Mariah now makes her home in Chester County, PA which, as you’ll read below, puts her much further from bookstores that most of us would prefer! Mariah has generously agreed to give a signed copy of COMING HOME to on lucky commenter, and she’ll pop in throughout the day to chat and answer questions, so please give a big, warm MSW welcome to Mariah Stewart!
Thanks, MSW, for inviting me to chat! I spent way too long trying to decide what to write about, but kept getting pulled back to Laura Griffin’s 8/13 blog about book stores.
I love book stores. While I do admit to loving the convenience of ordering books online — we live 24.7 miles from the nearest book store — for me, there are few happier ways to spend an hour or so than wandering around a good book store and picking up books that catch my eye and chatting with a knowledgeable staff.
All of which makes me think about book sellers.
Is it me, or does it seem that real book sellers are hard to find? Does anyone share my frustration with the stores whose staff don’t seem to know books beyond the latest best seller? Not to knock anyone, but I’ve asked to be directed to the latest J.D. Robb only to have the book seller ask, “What does he write?”
I want to talk about the book sellers who are worth their weight in gold. I’m talking about the book seller who really hand sells books — the one who, when you say, “I want a dark suspense novel”, knows what to show you — or who, when you say, “I want a romantic suspense that’s both darkly suspenseful yet sexy and romantic”, immediately responds, “Have you read Allison Brennan? Roxanne St. Clair?”
That kind of bookseller.
Oh, and one whose upper lip doesn’t curl into a sneer when you ask where the romances are.
Yeah, that book seller.
I’ve been lucky to know several such book selling stars. RWA’s Bookseller of the Year, Gail Link (who is also a published author), is one. When I first met Gail, back in the early 90’s, she was working for Waldenbooks in Granite Run Mall in Lima, PA. Now she’s hand selling for Barnes & Noble in Wilmington, DE, and running a terrific romance readers group there. If you’re a published author and you’re going to be in the area, you should put this B&N on your list of stores to visit.
Another local (well, if you consider a 65 minute drive local!) book store where they know their customers and cater to them, is the fabulous Borders Express in the Springfield Mall in Springfield, PA, where Maureen Downey as manager and Jennifer Wilson as assistant manager really know their stuff!
Maureen and Jenn not only sell romance and romantic suspense and mysteries and thrillers by the boat load, they read it. They know which customers read which authors, and when a new author comes on the scene, they don’t hesitate to let their customers know about it. Their customers rely so heavily on their recommendations, that several of them have standing orders for the store to put aside books they think the customers might like. That might be my new definition of trust, folks!
Chester County Books & Music in West Chester, PA, has a whole slew of real book sellers on their staff. Imagine, if you can, an entire store full of people who love books and love to talk about books and love to help you find just the right book. It’s tough to single out anyone at this store, because the staff here is all pretty wonderful, but I can’t think of CCBM without thinking about Joe Draybak, who is one of the best book sellers I’ve ever met: a man who not only loves books, but loves writers and readers alike. I’ve spent many hours in this store, sometimes shopping, sometimes signing my own books. It’s no accident that this large independent book store is a book tour “must”. It seems that everyone who’s anyone has signed here — I mean, name a really big-name author, and chances are, they’ve been here at least once or twice. By the way, CCBM has a huge mystery and thriller section — more authors than I’ve seen represented anywhere else.
So my question to you all today: Is there a store where you love to shop for books because the staff knows you and knows what you like to read? Do you know any book sellers like Gail, or Maureen and Jenn, or Joe and his remarkable co-workers? If so, give them a shout out — tell us who they are, and where their store is.