During the last twenty years, I've had the good fortune to travel across the country from coast to coast, signing and talking about my books in bookstores large and small. I continue to enjoy
meeting readers who appreciate my novels enough to take time out of their busy lives to attend those events and expresses their enthusiasm for what I've written. It also gives me an opportunity to thank them and show my gratitude to the booksellers who have helped build my career as a successful writer.
Very often, these booksellers are book lovers and small independent proprietors filling a vital role in the cultural well-being of their communities, and doing it all on a very slim profit margin while competing against the Internet giants that drastically undercut prices. I sometimes silently wince when a reader at an independent bookstore event asks me to a sign a copy of my book purchased online at a deeply discounted price. It just isn't fair to the booksellers, and I watch as they grin and bear it.
With that said, I'd like to suggest a new bit of book-buying behavior the next time you go to your local independent bookstore and attend an author event: Always buy a book. Any book.
Buy a copy of the book by the presenting author for yourself, or if you already have a copy get one for a friend. Buy a book for a child or grandchild, husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend. Buy a book by another writer you admire, a book in a different genre you haven't yet explored. If money's tight, buy a bargain book that looks interesting. And if you can afford it, leave with an armful of books and the pleasant anticipation of the enjoyment of what lies ahead once you open that first new book to page one.
Book signings are hard work for booksellers. Books must be ordered, arrangements for scheduling must be made, publicity and marketing has to be readied, displays put up, books unpacked, chairs and tables put up and then put away, book repacked, and everything tidied up. And don't forget the author, who may need an introduction, a lectern, a microphone, or have other special requests. All done by the bookseller for very little profit.
With this in mind, please don't treat the author talks and signings you attend as evenings of free entertainment. At the end of the event walk out of the store with books you've purchased. Any books. The independent booksellers will love you for it.
With a tip of the hat to Dorothy Massey, owner of The Collected Works Bookstore & Coffeehouse in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The hardest-working bookseller I know, and truly a great lady.