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The Eric Carle Museum
of Picture Book Art
  • 125 West Bay Road
  • Amherst, MA 01002

Hours

  • Thursday, Friday10 am-3 pm
  • Saturday 10am – 4 pm
  • Sunday 12 pm - 4 pm

Closed Monday,Tuesday, Wednesday

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Picture Books We Love

How Can I Get My Book Into Your Store? -- Part One

“Do you have any books about Charles Darwin?” the anxious customer inquired. “Yes,” I answered, “I have one by Peter Sis, one illustrated by Mary Azarian….” I realized that I wasn’t responding the way she wanted me to. The customer started again. “What I need to know is, do you have the book about Darwin illustrated by him?” She pointed out the shop's door to a bearded man near the visitor services desk. I could see that he was accompanied by Rita Marshall, the brilliant book designer who has created The Carle’s exhibition catalogs since we opened in 2002. “Who is he?” I asked the customer. “That’s Fabian Negrin. We were sure you would be carrying his book about Darwin, The Riverbank.” This is a common experience. A customer approaches, asks if I have a book in stock, and then reveals that he or she doesn’t want to buy this book, but is checking to see if my bookstore is carrying it. This customer is the author, or is a friend of the author. Usually I don’t have the book. I have about ten thousand different books in stock, and there are millions of books in print. I promised Fabian Negrin’s friend that I would research the title and perhaps order it. A few days later another regular customer stopped into the store: local author Heidi Stemple. She showed me her two newest titles and asked if I was carrying them. Once again, I failed the test. This time though, I promised to order the books as soon as possible.

Local author Heidi Stemple with her two new books that Andy Laties did not currently have in stock.

Why did I promptly order Not All Princesses Dress In Pink, but fail to immediately order The Riverbank? Or, more broadly, why do I stock some books in The Carle’s bookshop, and not others? This is a complicated question, and since I get asked it quite often, I’ve decided to create a series of blogposts on the subject, called “How Can I Get My Book Into Your Store?” This is the introductory post in the series. I’m going to address the issue of stocking books by local authors. I feel that independent bookstores should support local authors. Many independent booksellers feel the same way. There are plenty of reasons, but the basic one is that we depend on each other for survival. If I don’t play a useful, positive role in the local literary and art scene, then why should local authors---those most avid of booklovers---make an effort to shop at my store and recommend my store to their friends and family? Independent bookstores that don’t make a special effort to support local authors give a single reason for this non-support: they say books by local authors don’t necessarily measure up to the store’s book-selection standards. It’s a harsh and often foolishly judgmental attitude. But being a book-buyer in a bookstore gives one a feeling of power, and this power is exercised in part by refusing to stock books one thinks aren’t good enough for one’s store. I used to refuse to support local authors, back in my early days running The Children’s Bookstore in Chicago. I would tell local authors that I treated their books the way I treated all books: I judged by a single standard. I thought this was a good way to do book selection because I thought this provided a guarantee of quality to my customers. At The Children’s Bookstore they would find only the finest books; nothing would appear on my shelves that wasn’t winnowed from a much larger selection on the basis of firm criteria. Merely because an author lived close to my store wasn’t a good reason for favoring their books on my shelves. Every author got the same opportunity to be present in my inventory. Doesn’t that sound fair? I was wrong. A local bookstore should be representative of the literary life in its region. That’s better for customers. Readers who visit independent bookstores should reasonably hope to encounter different arrays of books in different stores, and should reasonably hope to have the chance to find the work of authors who live near that store. My vaunted skills at book selection should not be called upon in this arena. So, I learned to put my critical book selection instincts aside, as I grew in the field of independent bookselling. Now, after 25 years, I am completely comfortable putting my bookstore at the service of local authors. I will carry pretty much any illustrated children’s book that is created by an author who lives within perhaps a one-hour driving radius of The Carle. I encourage these authors to arrange to make presentations at the museum, and to let me know promptly when they have a new book released. The best thing I have received in exchange is the friendship of these authors. What wonderful people are the ones who have devoted such energy to creating marvelous books for children. How fortunate I am to be in a position to help them achieve their objectives. So, the best way for any author to get their book onto the shelves at The Carle’s bookshop is to move to Western Massachusetts. (Fabian, there's a charming house for sale just up the road!)

Comments

Heidi Stemple
Wednesday, August 8, 2010 - 10:34 am
Hey--thanks Andy!!
Victor Laties
Thursday, August 8, 2010 - 1:22 pm
Dellightful! (And I am an unbiased judge of quality.)
Jeannine Atkins
Thursday, August 8, 2010 - 2:25 pm
Andy, I'm glad you support local authors and illustrators, Andy. Even here in the valley, where we are rampant.
melanie hope greenberg
Thursday, August 8, 2010 - 6:27 pm
Good read. So thankful for bookstores who support their locals (and then some).
Andy Laties
Thursday, August 8, 2010 - 8:14 pm
Hi Melanie, Great to hear from you. The way that you wrote up your appearance at the museum last year on your blog is a great example of how authors can support bookstores when bookstores support authors. http://mermaidsonparade.blogspot.com/2009/08/events-presentation-at-eric-carle.html
Heidi Stemple
Thursday, August 8, 2010 - 8:42 pm
You forgot to mention that you ordered "Not All Princesses Dress In Pink" because it is a FABULOUS book! Oh, and that your local authors and illustrators support you and the EC bookstore in return. Andy runs a spectacular bookstore where I buy many many (maybe too many) books.
janeyolen
Friday, August 8, 2010 - 7:07 am
I am so delighted that you are putting Heidi Stemple's work in your store since I love her writing and the Carle bookstore. And of course I am unbiased as you are. Jane
Andy
Friday, August 8, 2010 - 10:20 am
Hello Heidi and Jane, By accident, we have created a Yolen/Stemple Thursday/Friday blogpost double-header: check out today's post at: http://www.carlemuseum.org/blog/?p=1056 Best, Andy
Judith van Praag
Friday, August 8, 2010 - 11:09 am
Local Indies is where it's at, no matter in which village, town, city or bend in the road. Question: What's your policy regarding self-published local authors?
Sybilla Cook
Friday, August 8, 2010 - 1:08 pm
Delighted to get your blog via Jane Yolen. You have the best bookstore ever! I hope to have my bio onBerta and Elmer Hader finsihed--and published!--by the time the Hader exhibit is up and running at the Carle in 2012.
Andy Laties
Saturday, August 8, 2010 - 10:56 am
Hi Judith, Self-published local authors: definitely show me your work. I would advise that we carry the books here based on you doing an event at the museum, otherwise people won't know the book is here.
Andy Laties
Saturday, August 8, 2010 - 11:27 am
Sybilla, Yes, please do your best to have that book ready for us to sell during that exhibition!! Best, Andy
Andy Laties
Saturday, August 8, 2010 - 3:52 pm
Heidi -- I didn't read "Princesses" when you came through and showed it to me. However now that I have it in stock and have read it, I can say that I agree with you. It's fabulous and, more importantly from my standpoint, it fills a gap in the market. It isn't a "pretty princess book" and it isn't a "tomboy" book either. It somehow keeps its "message" very low key even though it's a brassy and lively book. Excellent work. Congratulations. A lot of people need this book. Andy
debbie
Sunday, August 8, 2010 - 12:06 pm
I like your attitude. Of course authors need the support of their local bookstores, but I'm sure most are happy to send the love right back to you! In my area (in CT), some stores are behind me, some aren't - and it isn't hard to guess where I send readers, order books, BUY lots of books... BTW, it's a good thing for my wallet that I don't live any closer to your store than I do, because you have the most incredible selection of picture books I have ever seen!
Andy
Monday, August 8, 2010 - 6:17 pm
Hi Debbie, Thanks for your engagement and ideas (and compliments). I think the revolution in self-publishing has created a new market composed of authors who need to get the word out about their work. At the same time, traditional publishers are spending very little on marketing for the authors they publish: they tell authors that it is for the author to carry out the marketing. These conditions have created opportunities for bookstores that specialize in assisting all authors to promote themselves. Bookstores known to assist authors will therefore have better access to the book-BUYING market represented by authors and their families and friends. So, again, it's just good business for bookstores to try hard to help all authors sell their books, and especially to try help authors who live nearby and are therefore likely to make the effort to be customers at the stores assisting them in their work.

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