Blogger: Michelle Ule
Location: Sunny Sonoma County
I’m recently returned from visiting both the Pacific Northwest and Washington, D.C. On both trips, I stopped along the way for a little business–and spoke with booksellers.
One chatty woman at the Oakland Airport booksellers kiosk bloomed with enthusiasm when I asked about her job. “I love selling books and talking to the people who stop by.”
“What sells in particular?” I asked, eyeing the latest by Books & Such client Debbie Macomber.
“Best-sellers, Debbie Macomber’s books, and even the classics,” she said. “And I was so excited when these writers came through and autographed their books.” She held up several volumes.
I wanted to know what genre of book she lacked–did her inventory have any holes? Was there a type of book clients frequently requested?
She said that her manager ordered anything she asked for. She particularly liked to encourage passengers to buy local writers, especially if she had autographed copies. And while we both thought Adam Bede an odd choice for an airport bookstore, she shrugged, “You never know what someone will like.”
A bookseller in Maryland wanted more interesting books for Christian teenage boys. The guy behind the desk at Borders in Seattle loved Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
Word of mouth–their word–sold many books, and none of the three was shy about suggesting titles and ideas that intrigued them, as well as denouncing titles and genres they hated.
Their insight into what buyers were looking for gave me pause. I’m not a big name, I haven’t had a great adventure. What could I write that would capture the booksellers’ imagination?
New writers always hear, “Write what you know.” So what do I know that the bookseller doesn’t know, but would like to know? I had to ask to find out.
I tossed story ideas at the booksellers, watched their faces and reached some conclusions. They know their customers, they know what they like themselves. People who love books and sell them can be an excellent resource.
Where else could ideas come from?