Bookstore Geek: Book Passage

By Midge Raymond,

I’m guessing that most readers and authors alike would agree that Book Passage is one of the all-time great indies, with locations in San Francisco, Sausalito, and Corte Madera, which graciously hosted me for a reading of My Last Continent. It was one of the most fun events Admiral Byrd and I had on the book tour, especially for the chance to catch up with longtime friends.

Book Passage is known for hosting world-famous authors, and thanks to its three locations, no one in the Bay Area need miss out on books or author events, which include book groups; classes for writers, kids, and teens; and food and wine events.

The suburban Corte Madera location is a wonderful, sprawling store with a lovely event space, and it’s also an amazing place to browse. The staff is truly passionate about books, as well as the book industry as a whole, and with its myriad events for all readers and authors, Book Passage is above all a community space, an incredible model for how indie bookstores can thrive in a changing world.

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Bookstore Geek: El Ateneo

By Midge Raymond,

This bookstore is nearly always included on lists of the world’s best and most beautiful bookstores — and for very good reason. It is spectacular, inside and out.

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El Ateneo is undoubtedly the grandest bookstore I’ve ever seen in person. This Buenos Aires treasure was a theater in the early twentieth century, and in the early twenty-first century it was redesigned into a bookstore.

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The theater’s 1,500 seats were converted to book alcoves, and a cafe has taken up residence where the stage used to be. As you can see below, this stunning bookstore proudly maintains its history as a theater, from the lighting to its balconies to its gold-leaf carvings.

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There are cozy reading nooks throughout the store, and even if you’re not fluent in Spanish, the browsing is unbelievably fun. For all bookstore geeks, El Ateneo is a must-see if you’re in Buenos Aires, or anywhere remotely close.



Bookstore Geek: Warwick’s

By Midge Raymond,

Before last summer, it had been years since my last event at Warwick’s, and, as always, it is fabulous to visit this quaint bookstore in the heart of La Jolla…I’ve missed it both as a reader and a writer.

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Warwick’s is the oldest family-owned and -operated store in the country. Above the door is printed: “Independent minds need independent bookstores,” and this store lives by this motto in its diversity of visiting authors as well as its curated selection of books and gifts. We had a fantastic crowd on the balmy summer evening I was there, and I wasn’t able to browse as much as I normally would have, but I noticed that the store has a new look since I last visited, and the layout was very open and welcoming, even with the event set-up.

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The staff of Warwick’s are friendly and helpful, and I was especially delighted by the gift of signature wine Admiral Byrd and I received.

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We look forward to returning long before the next book!



Bookstore Geek: Elliott Bay Book Company

By Midge Raymond,

The Elliott Bay Book Company was one of the first places I read when my first book, Forgetting English, was published in 2009, at its charming former location in Pioneer Square. Elliott Bay moved to its Capitol Hill location (cedar bookshelves, stained glass, and all) in 2010, and this setting is just as beautiful and welcoming.

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On my book tour last summer, Admiral Byrd joined me in exploring the light, sun-filled room on the main level (it was a perfect, sunny day in Seattle). I highly recommend visiting this treasure in person, but those who can’t visit Seattle can order books to have shipped to you. (For example, you can order a signed copy of My Last Continent).

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The event space downstairs is lovely, and especially lovely is being able to bring along drinks from the cafe. Admiral Byrd and I had a great evening and so appreciated all those who braved Seattle summer traffic (and left the sunshine to venture inside!) to join us.

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It’s wonderful to know that Elliott Bay continues to thrive in its no-longer-new neighborhood, and I look forward to visiting again soon. This is a don’t-miss Seattle landmark for every visitor, especially book lovers.



Bookstore Geek: Powell’s City of Books

By Midge Raymond,

When you walk into Powell’s (the Burnside entrance), you’ll see this on the wall in front of you to the left…

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…and this perfectly describes this mammoth bookstore that is all things literary. Most readers and writers are very familiar with this famous store, which has four additional locations, but of course there’s nothing like the original City of Books.

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Its rooms range from wide and airy, like the front entrance, to cozy little nooks, to large rooms where you can get lost in the stacks (which is a great thing). And its event space is gorgeous, lined with books and artwork.

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Powell’s is one of many bookstores embracing the Espresso Book Machine, and they also wisely offer online sales for loyal customers and those who prefer to buy from indie bookstores. (If you’re one of those, note that Powell’s has signed copies of My Last Continent in stock!)

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Among the best things about Powell’s is the staff’s love of all things literary, and this can be seen around every corner, where you’ll find curated lists of books, like this one celebrating Pacific Northwest writers.

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Powell’s is all about the Pacific Northwest, not only in terms of books but everything else about it (which all go well with books).

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If you haven’t visited Powell’s, set aside at least two days for a visit when you’re in Portland. It’s one of those places you can’t possibly see in only one day.

*Special thanks to the fabulous Laura Stanfill of Portland’s Forest Avenue Press for taking many of these photos!



Bookstore Geek: Sunriver Books & Music

By Midge Raymond,

When I was fortunate enough to be invited to Sunriver Books & Music for a My Last Continent reading, I discovered an absolute gem. This was my first visit to Sunriver, Oregon, and I couldn’t have had a better introduction to this lovely community.

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This gorgeous bookstore is located in the charming Sunriver Village, a collection of shops, cafes, and restaurants, and the bookstore is clearly a beloved part of the Sunriver community. The reading included wine, snacks, and a raffle — and owner Deon Stonehouse greeted most of her customers by name when they arrived.

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Before the event, the staff was busy with a steady stream of customers, and as I browsed around, I noticed that most of the titles at Sunriver Books are shelved cover out, which makes browsing not only easier but makes great books far more discoverable. And it’s clear that, listening to Deon engage with customers, she’s read everything on the shelves and is able to help customers find exactly what they want, as well as recommend what they might enjoy.

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There is a sweet and accessible children’s section …

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…and cozy little nooks for browsing and reading …

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…and an airy loft upstairs has the store’s collection of travel books and local author titles.

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Sunriver Books also has a variety of literary items, from luxury pens to note cards, but most of all it’s a book lover’s paradise. Deon, co-owner Rich Stonehouse, and the rest of the staff have a great love for books and are passionate about putting the books they love into the hands of their customers. Next time you find yourself in the middle part of Oregon, do not miss this fabulous bookstore — in fact, it’s well worth a trip from wherever in Oregon you may be.



Bookstore Geek: Shakespeare & Co.

By Midge Raymond,

It has been a long time since I’ve been in New York, and I loved making the new discovery of Shakespeare & Co. on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

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I had a reading and signing for My Last Continent here, with a little time to browse the store before the event. There is a lovely cafe in the front, leading the way to the books, and Françoise Brodsky, my lovely host and the bookstore’s director of community, introduced me to the store’s Espresso Book Machine, which is used to print out mainstream backlist titles, print-on-demand books from small presses, and also self-published books. Learn more here.

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Downstairs is a large, inviting room for events, where Admiral Byrd posed with copies of the novel.

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Located on Lexington between 68th and 69th, this is a wonderful bookstore for with all you need: food, caffeine, books, and even books on demand. I look forward to returning and hope it’s not decades before I’m back in New York again!



Bookstore Geek: Papercuts J.P.

By Midge Raymond,

I was delighted to celebrate My Last Continent‘s book launch in my former hometown of Boston, where I was able to do a brief “Facebook Live” reading from Antarctic explorer Admiral Richard Byrd’s former home on Beacon Hill before an event at one of Boston’s most wonderful treasures, Papercuts J.P.

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Kate and Katie (Kate Layte, owner and manager, and Katie Eelman, media and events coordinator) are such wonderful hosts; this event (and most events here at Papercuts J.P.) are more like parties than book readings. The store is cozy, and Kate and Katie often match up writers for a more in-depth exploration of books, theme, and genre.

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At this event, I joined novelist Mark Beauregard (The Whale: A love story) and Rachel Richardson (Hundred-Year Wave) for readings and a discussion of love, the high seas, research, writing, and so much more.

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And perhaps most celebratory of all, on the day of our event, copies of The Papercuts Anthology: What Happened Here, Volume 1 arrived. This terrific anthology features work by writers who visited the store during Papercuts’ first year, including Abigail Thomas, Edan Lepucki, Randy Susan Meyers, Chris Hedges, and many more.

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It’s obvious from the nature of our High Seas event and the beautifully edited and designed anthology that both Kate and Katie have a passion for books and a talent for curating them. And, much to my delight, they enjoyed My Last Continent, which later made their list of bestsellers.

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The next time you’re in Boston, don’t miss “this tiny Boston icon,” as The Guardian calls it. In the meantime, follow Papercuts J.P.  on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.



Seattle: See you tonight at Elliott Bay!

By Midge Raymond,

I was so privileged to have read at Elliott Bay Book Company years ago, when Forgetting English was published, in its former location in Pioneer Square.

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Elliott Bay’s new Capitol Hill location is different in appearance, yet the spirit of this incredible store and its dedicated booksellers remains. I look forward to seeing you all tonight at 7 p.m.!



Join me at Powell’s tonight

By Midge Raymond,

I’m so looking forward to being at Powell’s City of Books in Portland at 7:30 tonight!

Thanks to the amazing Kat von Cupcake, I’m traveling with these sweet cookies, enjoying a lovely sugar high, and so this evening promises to be one of high energy.

See you soon, Portland!

 

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Join me at Bloomsbury Books tonight!

By Midge Raymond,

I’m so excited for my hometown book event in Ashland tonight at 7 p.m. at the lovely Bloomsbury Books.

It’s great fun to see My Last Continent in such good company here at the store … and with the temperatures reaching for 90+ degrees today, I’m looking forward to an evening of ice and penguins and all things Antarctic!

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Mini Q&A with library manager Amy Blossom

By Midge Raymond,

This is an excerpt of Ashland library manager Amy Blossom’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about how to approach libraries for events. For more book promo information, and to read Amy’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.

And save the date! I’ll be doing a book marketing event at the Ashland library on Wednesday, October 9, at 7 p.m. Click here for more info.

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Amy Blossom is the manager at the Ashland Branch Library in Ashland, Oregon, and serves on the board of Friends of the Ashland Public Library. She is the host of Open Books, Open Minds, a local television program featuring interviews with authors from the Southern Oregon community and beyond.

Q: What is the best way for a local author to approach his or her local or regional library?


A: A personal approach is much better than a cold e-mail. It’s so easy to dismiss an e-mail, whereas a phone call or even stopping in allows for a personal connection. Then, after an initial conversation, I like to get a follow-up e-mail with all the details.

Also, authors should be sure to have a hook—a way to let us know what the book is about and why it would be of interest. We get a lot of requests, and it helps if your book or presentation has a fascinating angle to it.

If you’re a new, unknown author or a self-published author, show that you are prepared to help bring in your own audience—if no one knows who you are, it’s hard to get people to show up for an event. Joint events or group events have the potential to bring in more attendees, so you may want to team up with someone, not only to be sure you get enough people but also to broaden the exposure you’ll get for your own book.

Q: What are some of the ways in which authors can support their local libraries?


A: Offering an event is in itself a great way to support the library. We also appreciate it when authors donate a copy of their book. Donating a copy along with ordering information, especially for self-published authors, is a wise idea because most libraries like to have local authors in their collections.

Keep in mind that most libraries require that self-published books meet the same criteria as other books; for example, there needs to be a strong local interest, or the book should have received at least two professional media or industry reviews. So it’s a good idea to ask about such requirements when you consider donating a book to your local library.

I recently read a study noting that library users buy more books than any other type of book buyers. People often don’t think of library users as big buyers, but being big readers in general, they are. So even if you may not sell a lot of books at an event, just by being there, you can still gain readers down the road.

To read Amy’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing. And Amy is also featured in this article in the Ashland Daily Tidings.



Mini Q&A with author Wendy Call

By Midge Raymond,

This is an excerpt of author Wendy Call’s Q&A in Everyday Book Marketing, in which she talks about creating a budget, doing a book tour, and how to put yourself out there as an author. For more book promo information, and to read Wendy’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing.

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Wendy Call is a writer, editor, translator, and teacher of creative writing. Her narrative nonfiction book, No Word for Welcome, won Grub Street’s 2011 National Book Prize for Nonfiction and the 2012 International Book Award for Best History/Political Book. She is co-editor, with Mark Kramer, of Telling True Stories, and her nonfiction, translations (from Spanish) of poetry and fiction, and photography have appeared in more than fifty magazines and literary journals.

Q: Tell us about how your book came into the world.

A: My book began as a series of twenty essays and narrative nonfiction pieces that I wrote while living and working in southern Mexico. I had received a two-year fellowship from the Institute of Current World Affairs, and they published my writing. I returned to the U.S. in the summer of 2002 and began to put together a book proposal, to seek an agent, and to learn the deep difference between a collection of five-thousand-word narratives and a single ninety-thousand-word book—as well as the difference between writing a book and publishing a book.

On the publishing side: I approached nearly fifty agents before I found two—in the same month, after nearly five years of sending queries—who were interested in representing my book. I chose the agent who had more experience selling narrative nonfiction. She circulated the proposal (and later, the full manuscript) for about a year, and was on the verge of giving up when the University of Nebraska Press tentatively offered me a contract. The contract, contingent on a significant revision, included no advance. Because of the peer review process (common at university presses), a year elapsed between my agent sending UNP the proposal and the press sending me a contract.

Q: What aspect of book promotion surprised you the most?

A: As naïve as it sounds, the sheer quantity of work shocked me. I began working on promotion part-time six months before my publication date, and full-time about three months in advance, and that was not soon enough. Other than my hometown Elliott Bay Book Company, the first six bookstores I approached turned me down. Even those “No, thanks…” replies came only after many, many hours of figuring out whom to contact, crafting personal query letters, sending review copies, seeking a local co-sponsor, answering detailed questions, or trying (over and over) to get the right person on the phone.

Q: What advice do you have to offer new authors?

A: This is no time to be shy. Nor humble. Put yourself out there; push yourself a bit past your comfort zone. When this seems impossible, ask an extroverted friend to coach you. (I have a quote from Sandra Cisneros—who is deeply generous as well as brilliant—on the cover of No Word for Welcome only because a fearless friend talked me through composing the e-mail to her and then pressing “send.”)

Make sure to let everyone you have ever met, and have an e-mail address for, know about your new book. I found that I couldn’t predict with any accuracy which friends and colleagues would be interested in No Word for Welcome and happy to lend a hand in its promotion.

Devote as much time and money as you can possibly afford— but only what you can afford—to promotion. Set priorities, but try a variety of strategies. For example, I devoted $500 of my budget to submitting my book for awards. My publisher offered book copies for six award submissions. I wanted to submit to a dozen different awards, so I bought the book copies for the other six awards, and I paid all the submission fees. It seemed like a strange way to spend five hundred bucks, but it was worth it. I won two awards, bringing a bit of renewed media attention to No Word for Welcome nearly a year after its publication date. (One award came with a $1,000 check, so you might say I doubled my investment.) Even if I’d not won either award, the submission process put my book in front of movers and shakers in the literary world.

To read Wendy’s complete Q&A, check out Everyday Book Marketing. And click here to visit Wendy online.



Bookstore Geek: Pages in Manhattan Beach

By Midge Raymond,

There’s a lot to enjoy about Manhattan Beach, from its miles of sandy beach to its boutiques and shops to its amazing Mexican food — and, most of all, Pages: A Bookstore, a fabulous indie in the heart of the neighborhood at 904 Manhattan Avenue.

I discovered Pages thanks to author Cher Fischer, who held her launch party for her novel, Falling Into Green, at Pages in May.

Pages and its three owners — two of them, Patty and Margot, were there for Cher’s party — are warm, generous hosts, and the bookstore itself is a wonderful, inviting space not only for a book event but for wandering and reading.

In addition to comfy chairs for browsing, the bookstore’s shelves are topped with quotes about writing, from William Faulkner to Thomas Jefferson. The layout is spacious but somehow also offers that cozy feeling of being among a great abundance of books.

Like all good bookstores, Pages is active in its community, with events (including author appearances, game nights, workshops, and book clubs), a monthly newsletter, and an expansive children’s section with beanbag reading “chairs.”

Don’t miss this wonderful bookstore the next time you’re in Manhattan Beach — it’s the perfect place to find your beach reading, and a wonderful respite when you’re ready to step out of the sun.