Thursday, March 12, 2015

Cynthia Swanson is an "independent" woman...plus a book giveaway

Back in the year 2000, I was spending the weekend in St. Joseph, Michigan, with my family. One night, we were walking around town and came across a crowd gathered around the local bookstore. Kids and store staff were all dressed in wizard costumes, eagerly awaiting the release of the latest Harry Potter novel. There was so much enthusiasm and the staff had fun activities planned to make the wait go quickly. It made me think of how nice it is that there are independent booksellers who take the time to do creative things to engage their customers. I remembered seeing You've Got Mail a few years prior to that trip and thinking about how sad it was that Meg Ryan's character lost her store to a booming retail business.

While I don't always get out to independent bookstores, I have been to a few for author events and admired how cozy and personable they were. Most of the time, I go to my library's used book store, which is like a cozy version of the library that Beast gives to Belle. The money (from giving these books a new home) benefits the library. I sometimes find unexpected treasures there, such as a Carole Matthews book that could only be found in the UK. Reading about Cynthia Swanson's experience behind the counter reminded me of the feeling I had when visiting an independent bookstore. I hope they continue to thrive alongside the retail sellers of the world.

Cynthia Swanson is a writer and a designer of the mid-century modern style. She has published short fiction in 13th Moon, Kalliope, Sojourner, and other periodicals; her story in 13th Moon was a Pushcart Prize nominee. She lives in Denver, Colorado, with her husband and three children. The Bookseller is her first novel. She's here to talk about being a bookseller for a day, which is perfect for "Books and Reading Month." Thanks to Tandem Literary, we have one copy for a lucky US reader!

Visit Cynthia at her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Synopsis of The Bookseller:
Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She loves the bookshop she runs with her best friend, Frieda, and enjoys complete control over her day-to-day existence. She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one. There was a man once, a doctor named Kevin, but it didn’t quite work out the way Kitty had hoped.

Then the dreams begin.


Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends. It’s everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted—but it only exists when she sleeps.

Convinced that these dreams are simply due to her overactive imagination, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. But with each visit, the more irresistibly real Katharyn’s life becomes. Can she choose which life she wants? If so, what is the cost of staying Kitty, or becoming Katharyn?

As the lines between her worlds begin to blur, Kitty must figure out what is real and what is imagined. And how do we know where that boundary lies in our own lives?
(Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

Blog post: Bookseller for a Day: My Experience as an Author-Turned-Bookseller

What happens the day after Black Friday? If you shop at small stores, you probably know that it’s Small Business Saturday. Although I generally try to take advantage by doing a little local shopping on that day, this past year I had the opportunity to truly be involved. Not only did I shop, I also got to sell.

Backing up a bit: at the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers’ Association trade show last October, I met Nicole Sullivan, owner of BookBar, a northwest Denver bookstore/coffee shop/wine bar (really, does it get any better than that?). Nicole knew about my upcoming novel, The Bookseller, and asked me if I’d like to try my hand at being bookseller for a day in her shop.

I would not be the only author in the country doing so. Indie Bound (a national organization of independent booksellers) sponsors an event called Indies First. Founded by Sherman Alexie, Indies First encourages authors to spend Small Business Saturday working in independent bookstores. This allows authors to give back to the indies that support them, as well as providing promotional opportunities for both the bookstores and the writers.

I showed up at BookBar promptly at 11:00 AM (hey, I was volunteering - I didn’t need to be there to open the place, right?) and was greeted by Nicole and her bookselling staff. (I also met the bar crew, but they were so busy serving up lunch when I got there, and coffee and drinks throughout the afternoon, I didn’t get much opportunity to interact with them.) Event coordinator Karen Levi-Lausa gave me a tour of the stacks and taught me the all-important skills of using the barcode scanner and ringing up a purchase.

Business was already brisk when I got there, and it picked up through the day. Several of my friends stopped in - I had posted on Facebook that I’d be there, and it had also been mentioned in the Denver Post and the North Denver Tribune. Customers could pre-order my book (which at the time was four months away from its release date). The support for my upcoming novel and the opportunity to reconnect with old friends were both fantastic benefits of the experience.




I made some new friends, too. I was impressed with how many customers Karen and Nicole knew by name. BookBar is in a city neighborhood that has seen tremendous revitalization in the past several years. Tennyson Street, the commercial area in which BookBar is located, is also home to restaurants, yoga studios, galleries - and a music store that has been in business for over 60 years. It was a warm, sunny day (yes, we get those in Colorado in November - shh, don’t tell anybody). People were strolling the street and stopping in to shop, or at least say hello and browse.

My “shift” was only four hours - and while I had a great time, I was glad to be done, too. I’m a writer, not a salesperson, and I’m used to spending a good part of my working day by myself. It was unnatural for me to be extroverted for four hours straight.

I made my few purchases - there was no way I was going to leave without buying at least a few books, including that of an author who was doing a reading and signing that afternoon - and headed out. My family was spending the weekend in the mountains, a 90-minute drive from Denver, and I was grateful for the time alone driving back up.

As I reflected on the experience, I thought about how fortunate we are - as authors, readers, and community members - to have shops like BookBar. We’re lucky that people like Nicole and her staff have the passion to own and work in independent bookstores. We’re fortunate that indies still thrive.

I hope that continues to be the case. As a consumer and an author, I’ll do my part to make it so.

Thanks to Cynthia for sharing her experience with us and to Tandem Literary for sharing The Bookseller with our readers.

~Introduction by Melissa Amster

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


US only. Giveaway ends on March 17th at midnight EST.

32 comments:

Janine said...

I don't know of any indie book stores in my area. When I don't buy from Amazon, I will go to B&N. But my all time favorite way of getting a book is by winning one. I especially love personally autographed books. They have a special place on my shelf and are real treasures to me.

Milena Mutter said...

Used book store in Poughkeepsie called Bookworm where you can exchange your used books for other used books for a small fee

OnDBookshelf said...

Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, NC is my Indie bookstore. I've attended lots of author events, and I shop there regularly.

Bonnie Franks said...

When I lived in New Jersey, it was a small store named Windchimes. It was a book exchange and a bookstore, and recently they have added a coffee bar. Great place. Since I moved, I have not found that store in this new area. I did find the library the first week here, though. I sometimes purchase books on ebay and at one point had an ebay book store of my own.

Allison Smith said...

I love independent bookstores. Sadly, there aren't any near me, but I always visit them on our road trips. My two favorites are Browseabout Books in Rehoboth Beach & Sundog Books in Seaside FL. And last year I found the coolest bookstore in Frankfort, KY of all places:)...Poor Richard's Books. Isn't that a cool name?

susieqlaw said...

A local independent bookstore. Love it!

Letty B said...

Mostly Books in Tucson, AZ. Love that bookstore!

Kimberly V said...

I don't have a favorite indie bookstore, but I would love to visit Powell's.

Holly said...

I love Parnassus Books.

Linda Kish said...

I don't know that we have any indie book stores around here. I tend to frequent the library bookstores. all of our libraries have them.

traveler said...

An indie here that is fabulous. Bookworks. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

rhonda said...

Strand Bookstore grew up going there it was like magic

Bonnie K. said...

There's a used bookstore in a little town called Jackson where I love finding books. I haven't found an indie book store locally.

bluedawn95864 at gmail dot com

Anonymous said...

There is the most FABULOUS indie bookstore here in SoCal in Pasadena called Vroman's. It's a 50 mile each way commute from me, but I go there for some of the awesome authors they host. Wish it were closer.

Suzy

Carl Scott said...

My fave just opened a second location in PHX. Changing Hands.

cpr040304 said...

I normally purchase my books used from local thrift stores or at the library book store. They are much more affordable for our budget.

Vivian Vereeke said...

No indie bookstores in my area, but once a year there is a huge used book sale (approx. 30,000 books) that benefits a woman's program in my area. Hundreds and hundreds of people attend each year. I have gone every year for many years, and have bought anywhere from 35 to 75 books. I LOVE that sale! I have spent hours there. Otherwise, our local libraries each have yearly sales of donated books or old books pulled from their shelves. These are great ways to get really inexpensive books while helping support worthy causes.

Nova said...

usually get books from the Hosparus thrift store. our local independent book store closed. we do have a B & N, though.

Glenda Hefty said...

I live in a fairly rural area so there are no indie bookstores around here. I imagine in the cities a few hours away from here there are some along with the big B & N. I go Goodwill or second hand stores or the library sales to pick up books if I don't order them online. Budget is a concern to me so I usually buy discounted books.

jodi marinich said...

i find the best books thru blogs i follow

Patricia said...

I love Powell's and of course the Strand.

Michelle said...

Tattered Cover, Highlands Ranch ... awesome place.

Kristi said...

I like The Tattered Cover in Denver but just discovered BookBar thanks to this blog so I can't wait to go there as well! I normally use the library as my go-to for books unless it's a book club book that I need to read in a timely manner and I'm too far down on the list.

Laurice McClung said...

I like the Poisoned Pen.

Rita said...

I live in a small town, we don't have any book stores.

bn100 said...

don't know any places

Hailey Fish said...

Banks Square Books in Mystic, CT where I met the lovely Jane Green and Christina Baker Kline, RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison, CT, where I met the amazing Kristan Higgins and Symposium Books in East Greenwich, RI, where I met Jenna Blum through Robin Kall Homonoff of Reading w/ Robin. :D

Margie said...

I don't think we have Indie bookstores in our area. I like to get books from Amazon. I also sometimes pick up used books from our local thrift store.

Kelly M said...

Browseaboutbooks at Rehoboth Beach. I love this store!!! I met Elin Hilderbrand there last summer.

Sharon said...

2nd Looks Books

JJT said...

The Strand Bookstore is amazing. Used to love Postman Books in Grand Central in NY but it closed.

Katherine Ivan said...

My favorite indie bookseller is Time Tested Books in Sacramento. The staff really make the place!