May 2 was Authors for Indies Day here in Toronto, and I had the great honour of visiting 3 different independent bookstores to chat with readers and talk up my favourite titles.
First up was my local Book City in Bloor West Village, where I sat at the sidewalk table and attempted to entice passersby with free bookmarks and buttons. The indefatigable Sarah R. had arranged for bakery cookies and lemonade, which made my son very happy when he stopped by to say hello.
She also set up a very pretty display of Mad Miss Mimic up at the counter!
When a passerby did duck into the store, it was either to buy a newspaper or to meet the great Terry Fallis. After a while I narrowed my sales pitch to calling out, “Terry Fallis is inside!”–path of least resistance.
Next I popped into A Novel Spot in Etobicoke, a warmly lit oasis tucked into an interior courtyard of Humbertown plaza. I hung out with authors Jennifer Robson and Jane Mullis, signed copies of MMM for owner Sarah P. and chatted with a customer about whether her daughter will be able to find work after finishing her PhD.
After lunch I hit the road, travelling 90 min east to The Avid Reader in Cobourg. And here’s where I finally got down to the business of book selling. Kelly and Julie took the whole “Author Recommendations” thing seriously, stacking my chosen titles at a centre-of-store table and positioning me behind it while they led customers over one by one. “Well?” Kelly said. “Tell people why they should buy The Scorpio Races“ (my YA pic by Maggie Stiefvater). “And what is Circle of Stones (by Suzanne Alyssa Andrew) all about; it’s been getting great reviews!”
I sold books. I sold several. Possibly a handful, not counting Mad Miss Mimic, of which I also sold a few. It helped that Kelly and Julie had gotten the word out far and wide, and that everyone who came into the store (and there were dozens) was greeted by name. The Avid Reader is evidently a community hotspot in a community that takes its reading habits very seriously.
Three things I learned on Authors for Indies Day about being a bookseller:
1. You have to like people enough to talk to them all day. 2. You have to read everything you want to sell, pretty much. 3. You have to be savvy about business/publicity/survival.
I’m in awe of the amazing bookstore staff I met on May 2, who meet (exceed!) all three of these criteria with good humour and grace.