For a bookstore, location is important, as I discovered in Point Reyes, California yesterday. I love to visit because they have wonderful oysters and the Cowgirl Creamery. I was shopping in the market there when I saw a bookstore across the street and stopped in. If it had been squirreled away in a side street, I would never have known it was there.
Point Reyes Books has been there for fourteen years, and has fulfilled its original intention to enrich the local community.
One of the owners if Kate Dawson, Ph.D., herself the author of a book, Emotional Currency, is proud of the literary journal that they publish, the West Marin Review, which accepts fiction, non-fiction, art, and music submissions. The store also sponsors a conference every March, the last one themed Women and the Land. The 200+ attendees go on field trips, have dinners, and hear writers and poets speak. The most recent one featured environmental activists. The main speaker was Diana Beresford-Kroeger, who inspired an environmental movement called Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees. Her book, The Global Forest, aims to educate the world about the importance of trees. See how a bookstore can bring together local communities with some of the most influential voices in the world!!!!
Kate says that over the years, they have raised $550,000 for local non-profits.
I was interested to find that the number of readings and other events is going down. It takes energy and time to organize these events and the payoff is not significant enough to warrant their continuation at the same rate.
From my own experience, and that of my author friends, I have found that bookstore readings often don’t pay off. They must be well advertised and supported, and it is rare that this happens. There is a tug-of-war between author and bookstore owner in this regard. The author is looking to increase sales of her book by reading to the bookstore’s clientele, and the bookstore is looking to increase its clientele by bringing in fans of the author. A well advertised and well attended bookstore reading benefits both author and bookstore, but they usually turn out to be poorly attended because the author is not familiar enough with the local territory to bring out a large number of attendees, and the bookstore is too busy with its everyday activities to publicize the event widely enough. The store doesn’t want to expend precious funds on paid advertising which is not likely to pay off in sales.
The good news from Point Reyes Books is that their business is stable and growing, reflecting a national trend. It seems that those data crunchers who warned that reading would soon be virtual or electronic were wrong – people like to read books, to hold them in their hands, and to talk about them with knowledgeable, bookstore staff. There’s plenty of knowledge and enthusiasm at Point Reyes Books.
They are assisted in their success by the 2.3 million people who visit nearby parks throughout the year, but I also noticed a couple of shelves of books labeled for local customers who had ordered them through the bookstore. When these customers come to pick up their books they’re likely to have a conversation about other books they might be interested in reading in the future. Reading is not a solitary experience; sharing our preferences with others is part of its joy and stimulates further interest in books.
If you’re ever among those 2.3 million tourists, you might like to include Point Reyes Books in your itinerary. You could eat at one of the oyster restaurants along Tomales Bay, or at the Osteria Stellina right down the street from the bookstore. What better combination — a delicious meal and some great conversation about books.