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I met Lucy Abarcia at the Romance Writers of Australia conference this year in Sydney. In order to serve the members of RWA with what they need, she brought a miniature version of her bookstore, EVER AFTER, an hour north of her location in Wollongong up to the conference in Sydney. I was impressed with both her willingness to work so hard to help us out and her great selection of writing books!

People often ask me what made me open my own romance bookstore and I always say the same thing…I hated my old job in retail but I enjoyed interacting with people and LOVED reading romance novels.

I’ve been a romance reader since I was around 13 and have always secretly wanted to have my own bookstore. Of course, I’ve spent half my life in the closet, so no one knew I wanted to have my own “romance” bookstore—I would have been so embarrassed. Why? Well, you all know the stigma attached to the genre and I was one of the shy ones. Even my family didn’t realise I wanted a “romance” bookstore and, when I told them what I wanted to do, well, they all had doubts that I would succeed. They all changed their minds when RWA asked me to run the bookstall three years ago for the Sydney conference. Mum and my oldest sister gave me a hand that weekend and they couldn’t believe the amount of writers that attended, not to mention the sales we made that weekend! It was a real eye-opener.

This year, when I was asked to do it again, I was excited but, at the same time, a little overwhelmed (it is a big job). I knew people would want new craft books, so it took awhile to organise and it didn’t help that I decided to go to the U.S. six weeks before (attending RomCon and the national RWA)! Silly me! But I have great staff and they knew what to do. We’re only two hours away from Sydney, so the logistics of getting everything up there isn’t a big pain and, financially, we do very well but, boy, the ordering and paperwork is a nightmare.

I love going to conferences! The atmosphere is electric and I become such a fan-girl. It’s loads of fun. I love chatting with aspiring and published writers, and even other booksellers (most of the time we meet sitting outside the publisher signings) and this year was no different. I adore reading debut novels, so when I meet someone who has a book coming out, I always ask for an ARC (advanced reading copy).

I cannot tell you how important it is for an author to promote themselves by sending out ARCs…if other booksellers are like me, it will make a huge difference in sales if we read an ARC and like it. It’s exciting being able to tell people that a new author will totally blow their minds with their debut novel. It’s happened here many times and there are many authors that owe a lot to booksellers for their constant vigil for an entertaining romance novel.

Lucy Abarcia is the owner of Ever After, a romance book shop in Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia. You can browse the store at where you can find information on book signings, book club meetings, and more.

I’m loving this series we are doing on librarians and booksellers—they add a new perspective for us. I’ve known Cathy Sorensen for years and years. We lost touch, but reconnected on Facebook. I was thrilled to learn that she has her own little bookshop, Sorensen Books, in Victoria, B.C., Canada. She’s even online, so please support this independent bookstore. What makes me laugh about Cathy’s post is that she is obviously a bookseller. Note that she is hand selling even here! Yes, a good bookseller is a writer’s best friend.

I sell new and used books and have been selling books for 20 years. There isn’t much space in my 900-square-foot store for books that don’t sell.

I sell a lot of children’s books. They are allotted two prominent bookcases right in the centre of the shop. For me to order a children’s book, the artwork is admittedly the biggest draw. The books are paraded before me in catalogues with usually only the briefest synopsis of the content and the front cover image. Believe it or not, your book design and cover are important. People are drawn to lovely artwork, fonts, paper, French flaps* and texture. Don’t take the time to write something and wrap it in a boring package. Presentation matters. If you are not an artist, do not do the artwork yourself.

When writer Tim Beiser teamed up with artist Rachel Berman, they created a marvelous children’s book. Bradley McGogg the Very Fine Frog not only had a delightful story but also stunning artwork to match. I recommend this book to customers all the time and children love the rhymes and the images.

Which books sell the best in my shop?

1. Promoted books. The more press your book gets the better: talk radio programs, face out presence in the bookshop, poster ads. If I like your book I will hand sell it to customers over and over again.

2. Well edited books.
A good editor is hard to find and essential. They look at your work in a technical way finding errors both in grammar and factual accuracy. Don’t self edit, you are not an editor. Poorly edited books with factual errors are scorned by book critics and rejected by publishers. Hopefully, if you have a publisher, you won’t have to worry about this.

3. Interesting subject matter.
One of my best-selling books is a self-published book written by Ken Roueche about the history of the neighbourhood of Fairfield in Victoria, B.C. Not a history of the city, just one community.

This books also sells because it is well promoted, hand sold by the bookseller and skillfully edited. The artwork on the cover was soundly chosen. Robert Amos, the artist, lives and paints in Fairfield and locals instantly recognize his work. All these factors contribute to the success of Ken’s book.

With the days of the eBooks now upon us, trying to sell an actual book is becoming more difficult and publishers and booksellers are looking for quality, originality and distinctiveness, something that sets your book apart.

*(Glossary: French Flaps (from A book with French flaps indicates a trade paperback with long covers which are folded inwards. This gives the book a more expensive look, creating the half assed illusion of a hardback. The flaps make the front of the cover seem thicker, although not as thick as a standard hardcover book, and additional information can be printed on them, such as the plot synopsis, blurbs and the author’s picture and/or biography. )

Cathy blogs at: