Indie Bookstores, I Love You

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I received an email telling me that I was going on a “Pre-Pub” trip to meet some important indie booksellers. Denver, Boston, Seattle, LA. What is a pre-pub, you might ask? I hardly know. I was sure these things didn’t even exist, or if you are like my husband you will squint at me strangely, think that I am making this up and actually going to spend next week at the Comfort Inn down the road so I don’t have to care for our toddler. 

Because, c’mon, this is a pretty improbable thing. Here we all are worrying the publishing industry, and yet the very savvy publicity people at Putnam have decided to send a very un-savvy first-book-of-short-stories-writer (short stories!?!) off on a little cross country adventure, with drivers waiting at airports, nice hotels, and restaurant dinners booked. You must think I am delusional. Yes, shake your head and tell me again that this kind of stuff just doesn’t happen in today’s publishing world.

But, by some incredible miracle, this is all about indie bookstores. Indie bookstores are making my writing dreams come true.

I noticed that there was something going on a while back when I got an email from my editor, Amy Einhorn. This email used exclamation point, and lots of them. Amy Einhorn does not generally use exclamation points. She told me that my collection, You Know When the Men Are Gone, had been chosen as a Signed First Edition Book Club of the Month selection by Elaine Petrocelli, owner of Book Passage. Awesome, I thought. But Book Passage is a Bay Area book store, how many people could belong to this book club? A little research later, I found out that the crystal-ball-viewers at Book Passage have an uncanny ability to pick books that will be prize winners, from the Pulitzer to the National Book Award. So when Book Passage speaks, a lot of other bookstores and readers listen. OK, now I am VERY excited too.

Then there was the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association Conference in mid-October. I was supposed to have dinner with some of the Putnam sales reps and their indie book store accounts. And the extraordinarily busy Amy Einhorn flew out from New York to join us. Oh my goodness, indies, obviously you are a TREMENDOUS deal. 

That night, we all met at a lovely tapas restaurant. I was so nervous I took too many sips of my wine (white, in case I spilled it all over myself). I had looked up each person we were meeting and each new Google search frightened me even more. Someone had Jonathan Franzen in her store recently? Someone else had hung out with Anthony Bourdain, Salman Rushdie, Isabel Allende, Michael Cunningham? They had hosted rock stars and presidents, they raised money for charities, they created programs for children.

But they didn’t grill me, they didn’t test if I had read my Russians or knew my Proust—they were nice. Half way through dinner, I realized I was having so much fun that I forgot to be nervous. I was talking books with a table full of people who knew literature inside and out, who had met America’s finest authors and chatted and joked with them the way they were with me.

When we were getting up to say goodbye, I realized why Putnam was cherishing these connections, spending money on strengthening them at a time when other publishers seemed to be tightening their purse strings and book bags, sending me out in hopes that I would make an impression. These strangers that I had just shared garlic fries and steak bites with already felt like friends. Which is why we all love independent book stores, isn’t it? That feeling of welcome when we push open the door, the personal touches, the conversation and eye contact that these true book lovers bring to their stores every day. They press books into the palms of their faithful readers, saying things like, “I know you will just adore this book.” And we trust them, we read their recommendations, we tell our friends.

And we authors, well, we are so grateful for all that they do.

Here are the links to some of the amazing indie bookstores who were so gracious to me:

Book Passages

Capitola Book Café

Books Inc.

Copperfield’s Books

A Great Good Place for Books

Rakestraw Books

Category: Uncategorized | Tags: , , 10 comments »

10 Responses to “Indie Bookstores, I Love You”

  1. Alex George

    Great post, Siobhan – how exciting for you! I hope you’ll post about your pre-pub tour as it’s going on. Looking forward to reading more about it – all sounds terribly glamorous! Yes, indie bookstores are the best. We had one in Columbia, MO, until a few years ago – I’m still in mourning from when it closed its doors. There are still some great ones in Kansas City and St. Louis, fortunately… they are to be cherished all the more in these days of Kindles and the like.

  2. admin

    Thanks! It is exciting; I am still dumbfounded about the whole thing. I always thought everything boiled down to book reviews so it’s really amazing to see what goes on on a different level from the printed word– how important the sales reps and booksellers really are in this mad game we are playing. I’ll let you know how it goes.
    Thanks so much for reading and commenting,

  3. Amy

    I started my own unbelievable pre-pub journey around this time last year. Yes, yes, I thought as I read your post, that’s what it’s like, book people are the best! Now I’m smiling to myself as I think of all the booksellers and librarians and teachers and bloggers that I’ve met over the past year, and I’m grinning from ear to ear. Very excited for you.

  4. admin

    Thanks so much for your comment– it is such a wild ride, and book people really are the best.
    By the way, LOVE your website and you blog about conferences, touring, etc. Congrats on all the acclaim surrounding your gorgeous graphic novel!

  5. Amanda

    I’m a military wife living in Okinawa, Japan. My husband and I are originally from Rockland County. I can’t wait to read your book. Unfortunately it will have to be on my Kindle since we don’t have the indie bookstores here in Oki (something I really miss from back home!). Thank you for giving our story a real voice. I cried while reading through your Q & A page and looking through your photos so I can just imagine the feelings that will come from reading your book.

  6. admin

    Wow, Amanda, thank you so much. I had family that lived in Rockland for ages, and I spent a year teaching English in Abiko, Japan, so looks like our lives have some parallels as well as the military spouse connection!
    I hope the stories don’t disappoint.
    Thanks so much for your feedback on the site and for saying hello/ konichi wa.
    My Japanese was never good to begin with, but Gambate (that means cheers, go for it, you can do it, rah rah rah right?)! We are moving overseas ourselves soon and though I am incredibly excited, I know I’ll wake up every day missing home.
    All the best and thanks again,

  7. Emily Crowe

    Dear Ms. Fallon:

    My name is Emily Crowe, and I am both a bookseller and a blogger. I very much enjoyed reading your forthcoming collection of stories, and you have a fan in both me and in Karl Krueger, who is one of the Penguin sales reps in New England.

    I look forward to more of your work. Will you be at Winter Institute by any chance?

    I did a brief review of You Know When the Men Are Gone, if you’d care to take a look at it here:

    Best wishes for a successful book tour and congrats on being picked for Book Passage’s First Edition Club!

    All best,
    Emily Crowe
    The Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, MA

  8. admin

    Thank you so much for the review. I don’t think I will be at Winter Institute but as soon as I finish writing this I will go and check it out online! And I agree with you, Karl is lovely. I met him last month and he was great fun.
    Thanks again and I hope our paths cross,

  9. Betsey Van Horn (aka switterbug on Amazon)

    I so loved YOU KNOW WHEN THE MEN ARE GONE. Even living in Austin, Fort Hood seemed so far away. Now it feels close and incandescent.

    Please come to Austin, Siobhan. We have a great indie bookstore called Book People that brings wonderful authors in to talk. The best Book store in Austin. Also, Austin has LOTS of readers!

    I posted a 5-star review of your book on Amazon (I am switterbug on Amazon, a top 500 reviewer). I haven’t been this impressed with a debut book in quite some time! (I made one or two typos in it and submitted my corrections but still waiting for Amazon to post my edits).

    Anyway, this is my review.

    Thank you, Siobhan Fallon. Hope you will have a second book soon!

    Betsey Van Horn (aka switterbug)

  10. Cheri Baldwin (Seattle)

    May God continue to Bless you during your next adventure in life.

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