Monday, September 20, 2010

Bookseller Gems

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne



Last week we lost a real gem of a bookseller and a wonderful man when David Thompson, co-owner of Murder by the Book in Houston passed away suddenly. He was only 38 years old. I was stunned and devastated to hear the news. I still remember the email I received from David soon after my first book, Consequences of Sin, came out in hardcover. I was a complete newbie at the time - I had never been to a mystery convention or a MWA or SinC meeting - and I hadn't even heard of the bookstore (yes, I really was that dumb!). My publisher, Viking, had set up a local tour of bookstores in Northern California and I was just coming to the end of this when I got an email from David. He said how much the staff at the bookstore loved the book and asked if it was at all possible for me to come out and do a signing. He went on to tell me how much they wanted to try and garner support for me and my books, just as they had for authors like Jacqueline Winspear (whom they, very kindly, compared me to).


I subsequently flew to Houston to do the event and received a much needed ego-boost from them all. David would continue to email me and ask for bookmarks just so they could continue to promote me and my books. When Consequences of Sin came out in paperback he emailed me saying how much they loved the new cover and how much better they believed it would sell now that it looked more like what the book was about(:)). By the time the second book, The Serpent and the Scorpion, came out, Penguin committed to sending me on an expanded book tour that included Murder by the Book - and I think that decision was almost certainly a result of the terrific support I received from independent booksellers like David and McKenna.


It's hard to explain just how much David, McKenna and the rest of the MBTB staff's support meant to me at the time. I still believe that for new authors, independent booksellers continue to play a major role, despite the stranglehold of the big bookstore chains and online sellers like Amazon. I will miss having a champion like David in my world but am very thankful that I had the opportunity to get to know him, even if it was just a fleeting chance. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, family and friends but I think we should also take the opportunity to celebrate the power of the bookseller - the ones like David who love the genre, know just what recommendations to make, and who want their customers to become, like them, avid lifelong fans.

So for all of you who have a great bookseller story, share it now, so we can celebrate the hidden gems that mean so much to us as writers and readers.

4 comments:

  1. While my own books have not been sold in the traditional sense, I do have a story of similar bent. When I published the podcast audio of my books at www.podiobooks.com I was just another wannabe with no clue what I was doing. Evo Terra, the founder of Podiobooks, listened to my first book and helped me with some technical issues then next thing I new was actively marketing my stuff and bragging it up. Since that time we've developed a relationship that has been amazing. To the point that he has done someting he seldom if ever does and wrote a blurb for me to use on Kindle and Smashwords. I was flattered to be counted among the few he honored that way.

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  2. OMG! What a shock. He was such a young man too. And Murder By the Book is such a unique store. He will be sorely missed...in many ways. I had met David at several events and did a signing there while I lived in Oklahoma, making a trip to Houston for a book launch. My house was looking into doing another one there. Thanks for this post. David's family will be in my prayers.

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  3. Isn't it wonderful when people go out of their way to help? David was just such a person. Basil - sounds like you found another hidden gem!

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  4. Clare I was very sad to hear about David. A great loss. A gem of a bookstore in the LA area is the Mystery Bookstore. Bobby McCue, the manager, and the entire staff are extremely supportive of mystery and thriller writers.

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