Support Your Local Bookstore
by Tricia Dower
I have a new favourite local bookstore. One that’s nice to me. Trouble is, it’s not quite as local as I’d like it to be. It’s a half-hour drive away in a town called Sidney, population just under 12,000.
“Sidney By The Sea,” the sign says, and it’s a lovely spot, an old port that hosts a marina with fancy boats. Busy in the summer when boaters and others alight to take in the scenery, the beaches, the galleries, gift stores, restaurants and…bookstores. Nine of them, all within spitting distance of each other. It’s deliberate, part of Sidney’s marketing of itself as Canada’s “Booktown.” Each store has a different focus – adult, children’s, used, antiquarian, military, and so forth – so they don’t compete with each other except for disposable dollars, of course.
Anyway, my favourite of the nine stores is Tanner’s because, first of all, they carry my book and, secondly, because the owner Cliff McNeil-Smith seems to actually like local authors. I went into the store last Friday to sign the two copies of my book on hand and Cliff apologized for not knowing I lived in Victoria. (Such a nice guy, how would he have known?) He makes a point of profiling local books, he said. When I left, Silent Girl was face out on a shelf with bright little autograph stickers and Cliff had ordered two more books. He also took the time to tell me which regional publications to try to get a mention in and confirmed what I already knew: “Books with the biggest advertising dollars are the ones that sell.”
Well, I don’t have big advertising dollars, but I have grit, determination and email. I generated orders from three bookstores and a university library last week through my own little “Write to a Stranger Today” campaign. Over the past few weeks I’ve sent out hundreds of emails to bookstores and Shakespeare aficionados and I’m getting ready to start on professors. Some of them might delete me unread but I’m sure I’ll get through to a few.
It’s not as efficient as big-money advertising in reaching great numbers of people, but you can’t beat the intimacy of chatting with Wanda at Bookland in Kamloops, Sandi at A Room of One’s Own bookstore in Madison, Wisconsin; Jennifer at the UVic bookstore; Lynn at Blackbond in Surrey; Alex at Duthie Books in Vancouver; Joseph at Blackberry Books on Granville Island; Scott at Greenwoods’ Bookshoppe in Edmonton and -- also in Edmonton -- Steve at Audrey’s Books. Not to mention Cliff at Tanner's. If you live in their towns, seek out their stores and buy a book, even if it isn’t mine.
Photo: Outside Tanner’s with a woman who can’t seem to turn the page on the book she’s reading.