Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Virginia is for readers...I hope

I received word from another Virginia author, Pam Kinney, that the Creatures and Crooks bookstore in Richmond is in danger of closing. Sign of the times. Despite Phaze having a decent November, that wasn't typical of the publishing scene. With NY publishers laying off workers and slowing down on submissions, it makes sense that the hurt would eventually trickle down to more consumer-populated areas. In an economy where we once had to pay four bucks for a gallon of gas, I imagine many of us didn't have much left to buy a book after buying gas to get to the store.

There is going to be an event at C&C in January to stimulate readership. Lots of authors signing and meeting folks. I don't have all the details, but I plan to be there in some capacity, and I'll be donating some signed books to the giveaways they're planning. C&C specializes in genre fiction - mystery, horror and sci-fi, so it's right up my dark alley.

Because the shop is in Richmond, I haven't had the opportunity to visit and patronize the store often. Indie bookshops, particularly those devoted entirely to specific genres, are few and far between these days. Once upon a time Norfolk had two indie shops - Broad Street Books (so named because it used to reside on Broad Street in Portsmouth, but moved to 21st Street in the Ghent area), and Lambda Rising, a GLBT store just down the street. Both were small but cozy, and offered a nice selection - none of them mine, but it wasn't for lack of trying on my part. Yet, both fell victim to declining business and the growing need to compete with chains that deep discount titles.

I used to work for Bookland in Athens, GA (now closed), so I can understand how difficult it is to keep up. When you're selling Harry Potter at cover price to break even and Sam's Club has it for 40% off, what do you do? As a reader, you want to save a few bucks and I can't fault you that. As somebody whose living depends on the sale of books, it's my hope you'll keep the local business in mind when you shop, and that you'll ask yourself if it's worth the few extra dollars to keep a spiffy place alive.

And indie bookshops are the spiffiest of all. Chamblin's Bookmine of Jacksonville, Florida is labyrinthine in its construction. The aisles are narrow and bursting, the air is thick with dust, and it seems every time I visit they've annexed yet another city block. We have a credit account there that's been active since before Malc and I married.

I miss the Old Black Dog in Athens, Georgia. I don't know if it's there anymore, but it shared space with a nice little cafe and had an incredible selection of children's and travel books. When we didn't shop there, we made the drive into Atlanta to the Oxford Bookstore (RIP), this enormous circular building filled with books. Even though there was a Barnes and Noble a mile away, the Oxford attracted all the big names. Sue Grafton, Dick Francis, Rita Mae Brown, Colin Powell. Anne Rice before she returned to the Church. She was brought into the store in a coffin. I waited three hours to get her signature on Servant of the Bones. The line was wrapped twice around the store's interior. Quite a contrast from when I worked at B&N in Jax in the early 90s and management actually discouraged author events.

Where else? Well, the Book Mark in Jacksonville Beach hosted James W. Hall, with whom I shared a college professor and an acquaintance with another writer. They also hosted John Berendt when Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil had just released. The night he was to sign there, he stopped into our B&N store and offered to sign what copies we had. All the books sold that day (I got one myself). Imagine if he had signed there. The opportunities you miss.

If you're in Richmond, I hope you won't miss the party at Creatures and Crooks. I should have the scoop soon, so be thinking about BYOB (buy your own books).

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