Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Guestbookselling for a day can be murder

On Small Business Saturday I took up Sherman Alexie's challenge when he asked in his words 'gorgeous booknerds' who happen to be writers to get out and be books sellers for a day at their local Indie bookstores.  My mission, which I chose to accept involved guestbookselling in three counties over two bridges and in my favorite places. Bookstores.
10:00 Semi-caffeinated I drove from San Francisco to Oakland, murder capitol of the US, and home to three independent bookstores. Hardly any traffic and I flew over the Bay Bridge to Montclair and Kathleen Caldwell's A Great Good Place for Books. Feeling the need for more caffeination I grabbed a double espresso walked into the shop and smiled. 'I'm guestselling for small business Saturday and can offer you book recommendations.' Several of the customers edged away and I realized my pitch needed to be honed. I hovered near the new fiction table found some of my friends books and in an hour sold a French cook book, an Andrea Camilleri mystery set in Sicily - the customer loved the mention of all the food in his books.  And had one of the booksellers pose with my friend Ann Mah's book on food and life in Paris.
12:15 Time to hit the road and go back over the bridge to San Francisco. Every time I emerge from the Bay Bridge tunnel and the SF skyline appears it hits me how lucky I am to live in a city where our alcohol consumption dollars are par, according to a NYTimes survey, with book purchases. Now I rounded the city - still light traffic - into the neighborhood where Neal Soffman's Bookshop West Portal thrives. No time for caffeine and I rushed inside to meet Michele Gagnon,  fellow Soho writer and author of thrillers and amazing YA. Neal seated us near the children's section, had our books out and said 'just sit and talk and shmooze it's all good - we love authors hanging out with us'. We did feel guilty since we were supposed to be selling books but most of the people in the kids area were looking for books on dinosaurs. I did hook a grandmother looking for a teen book on Michele's YA titles, turned a browser who's going to China onto Lisa's Year of the Rat and another Grandpa-type from Boston onto Jim Benn's Billy Boyle series. Michele and I laughed a lot, caught up and she ended up barcoding my head, so much for our expertise in bookselling. 
2:30 No rest for the wicked so it was back in the car and over Twin Peaks and down and traffic, traffic, traffic to Laurel Village and search for $ for the parking meter. Running now I made it a few minutes late to Books Inc run by Ingrid Nystrom, mystery lover extraordinaire who's had many of our fellow MIE books as picks for her Foreign Intrigue BookClub. 'Can I recommend any foreign mysteries for people on your holiday gift list?' became my new pitch. This went down better and I hung in the HUGE mystery section. Not only did I sell the first in several series like Jassy Mackenzie's Jade de Jong series these customers sold me on some new authors I'd never heard of. The biggest book literally flying off the shelf here was Donna Tart's Goldfinch - a big huge tome that Jim the bookseller had to keep re-stocking before my very eyes. Soulwarming to see a bookseller pulling a box from the back and loading copies to a shelf!
4:15 Hugs to Ingrid then jump in the car and head over the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin. As usual the bridge was shrouded in fog, unsuspecting tourists walked bent in thin windbreakers braving the wind. Traffic, traffic then through the rainbow tunnel and now it was Marin County - termed locally as the land of fruit and nuts as some NYers like to call California. Once through the tunnel the sun blazed, we're all about microclimates here, and late, late I pulled into the parking lot at Book Passage. Now, in desperate need of caffeine and chocolate - all day and I'd forgotten to eat. Or was it the effects of Michele barcoding me? Anyway I jumped in line at the cafe and inhaled a double chocolate brownie and double espresso. Sam Barry, events mgr and brother of that other Barry guy in Florida met me and told me about his gig last week at the Miami Book Fair in the Rock Bottom Remainders with Amy Tan, Stephen King, Scott Turow you know those guys and now fully caffeinated I hit the fiction table and tried my pitch. Again, I sold an Andrea Camilleri mystery, a Swedish author I've never read and on and on. But hanging with Nick, the bookseller who I've known since he ran Black Oak books in Berkeley was the best. Sam called me a bookslut, which works for me because these folks feel like my tribe. I wouldn't win awards for bookselling by these are my people. Here's Sam, moi and Nick.
Cara bookslut - Tuesday 


  1. WHAT A DAY! But that's why everybody loves you...and enables you to even greater caffeinated highs!

  2. Bookslut's me...it was really fun and rewarding. These folks support us deserve our thanks my 2 centimes!

  3. Whoa! I'm exhausted just reading your post! What a day, Cara! But I wanted a picture of the barcode. And hey, there's the name for a GREAT indie bookstore: "Booksluts 'R Us."

  4. Cara, what a day! Kudos to you for getting to so many places and for sticking up for the Indies--places we all need--as writers and as readers.

  5. The hardest working woman in crime fiction strikes again!