Award-Winning Editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, Forever Magazine, The Best Science Fiction of the Year, and More

Dreaming about possibilities

When I started Clarkesworld Books, I always had in my mind that someday there would be an actual storefront. The cost of rent and medical insurance have always been the two big major obstacles, but I keep dreaming about it.

I live in a small town in Northern NJ. There aren’t any good genre bookstores left in this region of the country. They’ve all been driven out by increasing rent and the combined efforts of Borders and B&N. I think our town is in a good location. We have a rail line to the city and are only 10-15 minutes from several major highways. I’ve had my eye on several stores over the years and even the old library.

As I play with the numbers, I suspect that my imaginary store would need the additional income from an online presence to make ends meet, particularly in the early years. As it stands, Clarkesworld (online) is still too small to contribute enough to make this work, so I need to do something about it.

What gets you to go to the bookstore that you frequent the most? Do you care about reviews, interviews, excerpts and such? Is it strictly price? What causes you to break your routine shopping pattern and look somewhere new? I have my own ideas, but I’d love to hear what works for you.

Yes, I’m working on a plan to speed up my progress towards my goal. Suggestions welcome.


Clarkesworld Bestsellers for the Week Ending June 25, 2006


More Readercon signings lined up


  1. Selection and availability. (But I live near Powell’s.) One the best things they do is shelve new and used together (well, within genres), so when I’m looking for books by author X, everything’s in one place. I like that a lot. Service counts for lot, too, meaning availability of knowledgable staff. (Powell’s falls down on this a bit, at least in the Gold room where SF/F lives — the people in there are usually working the mysteries section and know very little about the SF/F shelves.)

    • So how would this translate to online shopping? Speed of shipping, easy searching, quick responses? For me, the big difference between online and B&M shopping is visual and tactile. It’s one of the reasons I’m beginning to think excerpts are important.

    • Sadly, and I speak from experience, Powell’s has had that problem for at least a decade. The few people they’ve had who actually know the SF section either quit because they decided to start their own bookstores (Solena Rawdah, the best damn SF manager Powell’s ever had, quit eight years back to move back to Dallas to be with her family), they could make a lot more money by going into the tech arena, or they were just too damn flaky or point-blank psychotic to be trusted with sharp objects. I’ve also noticed that Powell’s personnel tend to look down on the people in the SF section, so only the seriously dedicated or the seriously crazy want the position, and Mysteries takes it over by default. And so it goes.

  2. >>What gets you to go to the bookstore that you frequent the most?

    Selection, followed by location.

    There aren’t many bookstores in my neck of the woods–there’s the Barnes & Noble superstore and a Waldenbooks in the local mall to pick from. Selection is key–I read more than just SF/F so I like being able to shop at a store with a broad focus.

    There’s also a genre SF/F store-Fat Cat Books that supplements book income with comics, collectibles and gaming. To be honest I don’t patronize Fat Cat as much as I should–their location and hours aren’t as convenient as the other two stores, and their selection can be spotty–they don’t get many copies of titles in, though it is a good place to check if you’re trying to find an author’s backlist.

    I’ve always thought if I won the lottery I’d open a bookstore/wine bar. It would be a good way to turn $10M into $1M.

    • Ah, but with all the wine, you go poor happy.

      I’ve noticed that trend to supplement with comics or graphic novels. Unfortunately, I usually see it done at the expense of the books and eventually becoming the primary focus. It’s purely financial, and the reason I see the online store as essential. You need a bigger audience than you get in a local region.

      • A lot of that comes from impulse purchases: it’s easy to poke through a graphic novel and decide, on the basis of the artwork, whether it’ll appeal to you, but it’s correspondingly harder to do so with regular novels. (I’ve also noticed this ongoing trend in Borders stores where they still have someone in charge of the SF department: this is usually because the only people crazy enough to want that position for that pay are usually senior staffers at the local comic or anime convention as well, and this is how they pay for their manga habits while living at home.)

        • 🙂 Sad and funny. I always thought that setting up a bookstore next to a comic book store would be a bright thing to do. Then I wouldn’t have people constantly trying to get me to sell that stuff.

          • Naah: then you get the people who steal the graphic novels out of the comic shop and try to sell them to you. (Back when I lived in Portland, Oregon, all of the bookstores could depend upon a regular flood of outermost Oregonians, all of whom with family trees that would have scared the shit out of Wilbur Whateley, coming through every week. They’d start at Powell’s with their attempts to sell the old family bible or that set of Encyclopedia Obscura that hadn’t been cracked open since 1952 for beer money: the ones that accepted the fact that nobody was going to buy moldy and tattered high school textbooks would dump them in the trash cans across the street from the Powell’s flagship store. The ones with faith that they’d find a buyer would then migrate due east, hitting every bookstore or comic shop or junk store on the way, usually picking up other items from under the noses of inattentive clerks to sell along the way. By the time they hit the comic shop I frequented, they’d managed to scam quite a haul, and the owner would be regularly accosted with Kallikaks trying to sell old board games, shoes and boots unworn since Oregon was still a territory, and items so hot that they could initiate hydrogen fusion all on their own. While most were smart enough to know that many comic shops had a demand for the same items, they weren’t smart enough to realize that a wonderful newfangled invention called the “telephone” allowed the owner to check with the store where this item was allegedly purchased to ascertain its legal status. Even with the ones going to jail for fraud or theft, you had more coming in from the slopes of Mount Hood to take their places, and some days left the sidewalks of Burnside resembling a boozehound version of the march of the crabs of Christmas Island to and from the sea.)

  3. What gets you to go to the bookstore that you frequent the most?”
    It’s a B & N in the next town over, and I just like to browse such a big selection.

    Do you care about reviews, interviews, excerpts and such?
    I like reviews and such, I think all of the above help to get someone interested in an author more than a story.

    Is it strictly price?
    Price is only part of it, but I’m the browsing type. I like to just wander the titles in the store, picking up the ones that might be interesting. B & N gives me that opportunity, though there really aren’t many other stores in the area. There’s a second-hand bookstore near my comic shop, which is interesting to browse.

    What causes you to break your routine shopping pattern and look somewhere new?
    I think events help, they can interest me to stop somewhere new. Often it’s just walking traffic, something in the window causes me to stop and look (and most often enter). Mostly though, if it appears to have the type of books I like to peruse (horror and genre books, art and architecture, etc.) in a unique environment I’ll bite.

    • Thanks. I never really looked at the interviews, reviews and such as author promotion, but I think you’re right. I gives me a few ideas, like author spotlights and such.

      • Dead seriously, consider the possibility of author tours: I’m seeing more and more authors following the lead of comics artists and writers in scheduling a tour to hit genre-friendly stores. Since conventions are getting less and less of a return on the investment in both time and compensation for any author who can’t wrangle a speaking fee, I’m seeing more writers who are amenable to having a group of bookstores work to get said authors to all of the stores in that network within a particular time period. The author isn’t having to cover the whole cost out-of-pocket, the stores aren’t stuck with the complete cost, and fans who aren’t able to make one store for a signing are able to plan if the author is going to be at four or five within a given week. I couldn’t give you the particulars as to how well it works for most comics venues, but as the old joke goes about giving the deceased at a funeral a good stout enema, it can’t hurt.

  4. For me, it’s pretty much location. I’ll wander into any bookstore I happen walk past, and the ones I frequent are conveniently located.

    Reviews, interviews and excerpts don’t matter.

    • I know what you mean. I still have the tendency to stop at any nearby bookstore. Moreso if they have used books.

      Do you frequent any online stores?

      • Promise you won’t send me an e-stink bomb, but I use They’re just across town from me and I can get the latest Harry Potter almost before spoilers show up on LJ. Also, I like to imagine that a part of the money I spend stays local.

  5. If I go to a physical bookstore, rather than to an online reseller, it’s almost always because I’m not sure what I want and I need to browse. My favorite bookstores (all of which either no longer exist or are more than 50 miles away these days) have owners with taste roughly similar to mine so that I’m likely to find things I like while browsing. The books are arranged to be conducive to browsing by category and the staff is well read enough to be helpful. I don’t like B&N as much because of it’s size – if there’s a good book there, odds are that I won’t find it randomly. I wander in to new stores that I walk past, that friends recommend to me or that I read fliers about – it takes very little to get me to shop.

  6. as someone who has longer term plans to bring a SF/F bookstore back to Chicago [we lost Stars Our Destination a few years or more ago], i think about a lot of the same things.

    for me, the used bookshop in my neighborhood is my primary destination for a physical place, though a large chunk of my buying happens online [from you, actually] or at cons.

    a physical bookstore has a few advantages that i can see:
    * events. if an author i really dig is coming to town, i am going to be there. nothing gets people to show up than like a live draw. signings can be exhausting, but they can generate some significant cash and ancillary purchases do factor into it.
    * advice. if you go into a good store with good booksellers, you can get great feedback on what you might want to read next. online discussions/reviews can help, but a good handsell is significant.
    * community. Stars used to have a lot of regulars who would come in in part to chat with the staff and other regulars. it created a community space for like-minded individuals. for geeks like us, who tend to at least a little socially awkward, a comfortable place where you belong is very important.

    i’d love to chat with you at Readercon about all of this, because, well, it’s important to me too. 🙂

  7. With a genre book store, used is a must. You can start going to library book sales to fill out the stock — people discard gems all the damn time. My collection would be mediocre without them.

    Offer things you can’t get anywhere else — like imports and small press. Being able to go to a store to buy the George Martin or Robin Hobb or China Mieville or Richard Morgan in UK hardcover would be worth a trip. Being able to get Old Earth or Arkham House books in a store would also be great.

    Have a case with books that collectors can drool at. I’ve driven to book stores just to see specific collections that I have no hope of ever owning — but I’ve always bought something while I was there.

    Having a large stock of signed books will bring collectors from miles around. I’ve flown to Minneapolis just to go to Dreamhaven. Of course, having signings actually at your store is even better, if possible.

    On recent trips to the NYC area, I have lamented New York’s lack of a genre book store. It’s pretty pathetic that the worlds largest city has no haven for geeks. You could fill a big niche, Neil.

    • Several people I’ve spoken with in the last couple of months have lamented the lack of a good genre store in the NYC area. It’s inspiring, but there is a reason they don’t exist. I’m just trying to beat the system and get there eventually. It seems to me that if I did open a store here, I’d be very close to routes taken on a lot of book tours. While it would be work, I think it would be very fun.

      • Read and acknowledged about the reasons: I’ve always been amazed that the people who kvetch the loudest about the lack of a decent genre bookstore are the ones who then throw tantrums if that new genre store doesn’t give them the same sort of discount they could get via Amazon or Barnes & Noble. (Me, I’m willing to pay more for a good experience, but I also won’t pay extra solely because the booksellers whine about how “we need to support the indies”. As my Cherokee grandmother used to say all of the time, “What do you mean ‘we’, white man?”)

  8. I’m usually in my local B&N most often because they have the largest selection and they’re conveniently located. I will hop over to Waldenbooks in the mall (bleh, the mall) if B&N doesn’t have what I’m looking for. B&N has a better selection but Waldenbooks’ books are in better condition (sans the previously loved/licked look).

    For older titles I hit up one the local used bookstores (all independents). The one I shop in the most has a good selection and the copies are in good shape. Their prices are a bit higher but they have nice copies and a good selection. They also pay a bit better for my rejects too.

    Personally, I don’t pay much attention to reviews because the reviews tend to be on books that don’t appeal to me. As for interviews? that would depend upon the interviewee and subject matter (if it’s the local poetry club I’ll run away):-).

    What I like best in online bookshops is accurately described books which includes, condition, edition, publisher, copyright date and HB or Ppbk. I also appreciate a good packing job to protect the book from the mad post office beasties.

    So, in a nutshell, what I look for: large selection, good condition (because I’m fussy) and a good price.

    • I’m fussy about condition too. It’s one of the things that drove me to a do it myself… a minor factor, but it has had a big impact on how do business.

  9. Anonymous

    Price, customer service, instant gratification (includes selection and convienence).

    As much as I like supporting independent stores, like you and the local highly regarded Mysterious Galaxy, Amazon’s ~30% discount on hardcovers makes a HUGE difference with my personal finances. Things where Amazon doesn’t have much of a discount, I’ll wait to patronize either Clarkesworld and MG.

    I browse a lot at any kind of bookstore, and try to take notes and then purchase online, most of the time. MG had a birthday celebration recently with a number of authors signing, so I bought some things there that I would normally get from Amazon.

    There’s no way any book store can compete with a web broswer when it comes to “reviews, interviews, excerpts and such,” so that’s not even a factor.

    Your RSS feed is fantastic, and when you update it with the publishers’ catalogs, I frequently pre-order things that I might normally get from Amazon. The signed copies you offer often balance out the difference in discount from Amazon, but the delay for a signed copy of an anticpated new release is a different case.

    Selection matters a lot too, and if I can’t find what I want the first time I look, almost always it means that I’ll get it from Amazon, and likely add a couple of other items from my to-buy list to the order, even if I might have intended to get them from you, Warner’s last couple of Moorcock’s Elric books come to mind.

    Overall, I guess it’s pretty situational. The golden age of the genre book store is over. In particular I miss Richmond’s Novel Futures, U.K.’s Andromeda. Since I can’t count on any one vendor to have everything I want, when I want, at a price I can afford, I have to buy from a number of different stores, and if I have to do that, I might as well be as fiscally prudent as I can.

    I’m sorry to say that even if there was a physical Clarkesworld and I lived in the NYC area, it probably wouldn’t change my purchasing much. Unless I was VERY local to the shop, I wouldn’t make it my first choice unless the in-person experience was amazingly satisfying. MG is 20 minutes away, and I’m only there maybe once a month.

  10. Events and coffee, man! Events and coffee. Have plenty of both, and you’ll have a client base that are almost friends – essential! It’s a harsh opinion, but you’ve got to offer more than books at a bookshop to compete with Amazon (!) and for me and many other readers, caffiene does that…

    • Not harsh at all. You’re talking about building a community and it makes a lot of sense. At my last job, I was on the committee redesigning the Library. We spoke a lot about things like this and were planning a coffee house/commons just inside the front door. Too bad I can’t stand the smell of coffee. Add “good ventilation system” to the list.

  11. I really like frequent buyer clubs where you save up points towards discounts on future purchases. I prefer the possibility of free books in the future to discounts now, strangely enough. They attract my loyalty.

    For a real life bookstore: comfort, friendly atmosphere, a good range of works including some more obscure stuff, small press alongside the popular.

    For online purchasing — a recommendation system and a method for casual browsing is ideal. I can do this comfortably on Amazon, and often use it to look up books that I then hunt down in my library.

    I want methods to find books I’ve never heard of that I may love.

    For a real bookshop – space to sit with a cup of coffee would be nice. Browsable shelves in distinct sections, and staff who know what they are talking about and can build a relationship with customers.

    • That’s interesting. When I started, I considered a customer rewards program. Didn’t go that route since the common wisdom of the time was discount discount discount.

      I’ll have to see if I can come up with a way to do a recommendation system. I get the impression that we don’t have the sales volume to do a good one based strictly on purchases. Maybe based on author instead of title with some customer input as well. Amazon is very good at collecting customer data through their recommendation system.

      • A discount doesn’t really encourage a customer beyond the current sale. Earning a discount on the *next* book does.

        I like what itunes does, with celebrity playlists. Maybe get some popular authors to suggest their favourite books?

        My favourite Amazon feature is “People who liked this book also liked this book”.

        • Good idea! I’ll get to work on the programming needed to make that happen and then start talking to people about their suggestions.

  12. Neil, I tend to spread my buisness out.I buy from you, I still buy some from amazon, and I buy from my local bookstores. For me, online shopping is because of price and selection. Its hard to pay coverprice for a HC book , when I know i can sace 40% counting not having to pay sales tax, on amazon.

    Now, I’m lucking and that I live within 4 miles of 2 amazing genre bookstore, Dreamhaven and Uncle Hugos. I tend to buy a lot of used books at these places rather than new. Dreamhaven also sells comics which frankly is what brought me there more often. new comics come out weekly. Lately I’ve been more drawn there by author signings. They have had some really good ones lately.

    What I like about the B&N or Borders is the spaciouness. I like to browse these stores but usually only buy something there if its been heavily discounted.

    • I’ve heard some great things about both of those stores. Most people aren’t lucky enough to have one good store nearby.

      Amazon keeps increasing that discount. They can’t be making anything on books anymore after credit card fees, postage, warehousing, etc. I can’t compete with them and stay in business. I just need to find a way to be better enough that people are willing to pay a little more. Heck, I’d be happy with .1% of their customer base. 🙂

  13. Since I live in a big city (philly) I have a decent selection of bookstores to go to: big chains, independents with new books and several used bookstores. What gets me to a bookstore:

    decent selection (especially when it comes to hard to find books. I remember trying to find Storm Constantine books many years ago and it was impossible until I found some in a used store).
    somewhere comfy to sit for a while (coffee/tea/snacks a bonus!)
    cool events (authors, workshops)
    easy to get to
    friendly, laid back staff (no elitists please!)

    The unfortunate thing about the independent shops that sell only new books is that their selection of scifi and fantasy is limited. Germ books, which is great for scifi and fantasy, is a bit of a trip by bus but I’ve done it for events.

    Oddly enough, instead of a small discount for each book, I like getting one large discount (or free!) book after so many purchases 😉 B&N has a ripoff discount program, imho, where you pay $25 a year to get 10% off each purchase.

    • You’re the second person now to mention a preference for a rewards program over a discount. I guess I should rethink my way of doing things, sit down with the 2005-2006 sales database and see what would work best for the people who keep coming back to us. If nothing else, it will be an interesting exercise.

      I can’t imagine not including used books. There are too many titles put out of print each year. Some of my favorites can only be purchased used.

      • Rewards programs are cool. We have one at the video store where the customer gets a free rental after every ten. Back when I owned my own bookstore, we had a similar rewards program that offered the customer a free mmpb after ten book purchases. In both cases, the programs were big hits with the customers.

        • Where was your bookstore?

          • Here in my neighborhood in Brooklyn, back in ’97-’99. It was an interesting experience, one I would never do again.

          • That bad? Anything I should be warned about?

          • I can only speak about my own experiences. Basically, the publishers didn’t care about us. We were only a small indie bookstore trying to push their midlists, so we were below their radar. If we owed a publisher $200 they would freeze our account, while at the same time bending over backward to work with Crown Books on the west coast, who owed them millions. I can understand the business reasons behind that, but the principal angered me. They didn’t care if we sank or swam, my store meant nothing to them.

          • Thanks. I’ve already experienced this too small to be bothered with attitude from a couple of the larger houses. For the most part, I have good relationships with the rest.

          • In terms of the discount program from B&N, I actually find that I save enough with the 10% off to justify paying the $25. But then again, that’s because B&N is the only real bookstore in my area (Freehold, NJ), and so it’s got almost all of my business. It is sadly one of the reasons that I’ve turned to places like nowadays.

          • I used to work in Freehold about 20 years ago. Sad to hear, but not surprising given the rest of the state, that B&N is all that’s left. Thanks for the comment on the membership discounts. I’m leaning towards developing a rewards program for my store. I don’t like the idea of making people pay for a discount.

  14. Price, convenience of location, selection, and most of all, the staff. Not just knowledgeable but friendly and competent, which in some ways is more important than knowing about all the books. The equation bad staff=dead store is true everywhere, except at Kim’s Video in New York City.

  15. Jersey bookstore?

    >>There aren’t any good genre bookstores left in this region of the country.

    Don’t I know it, too. There are some decent used bookstores, but nothing dependable. If anything I buy more from the used bookstores than from anywhere else, so I think a good genre bookstore should have a nice selection.

    The thing that most often gets me to buy books at my local B&N (Somerville/Bridgewater) is when they send me coupons, since I belong to their reader reward thingy. Honestly, though, I’ve used such coupons for DVDs and CDs more often in the past than books, since I’d have a better chance of finding what I like online/at Clarkesworld. BN certainly doesn’t have a great selection, at least not better than average. Sure they have the big publishers there, but no Prime, occasional Golden Gryphon, very little NightShade. The only genre magazines I can find with regularity around these parts is FS&F, Asimovs, and Analog. I would like to see a nice healthy rack of them.

    The B&N down in Princeton is pretty decent, but it isn’t easy to get to from where I live. Even then, finding interesting things is almost a crapshoot.

    Author appearances/signings would DEFINTELY draw me into the store. Getting to NYC is a project from where I live, and getting home is twice as trying. (Although I keep telling myself I’ll get to a KGB reading) The only Jersey store I see with the occasional book signing is up at the top of the Parkway.

    I suppose online reviews have an effect, but more often than not the books I review encourage me to seek out those author’s backlist.

    If there was a bookclub reading or something, I would try to participate. The BNs around here don’t have genre book discussion.

    More often than not, I go into a bookstore knowing what book(s) I want to purchase. Between the forums I moderate @ SFFWORLDD and the books I review, the list of books I want to acquire and read is very long. I like to browse, too.

    I’ve had a pipe dream of opening a genre book/used book/comic store for a while, too.

    • Re: Jersey bookstore?

      Bridgewater? We’re not too far from there. I’m in the same boat with those KGB readings. I’d love to go, but I never seem to get around to it.

      • Re: Jersey bookstore?

        Actually, Branchburg. But when I tell people I live in Branchburg I get puzzled looks. When I say Bridgewater (likely because of the big mall) people say, ohhh, yeah.

        • Re: Jersey bookstore?

          I know where that is. A friend of mine used to live out there. We’re in Stirling, and when I mention this to people they think I mean NY. I can’t even use the Great Swamp as a landmark, so we’re reduced to few exits south of Morristown.

  16. Truth be told, my biggest issue with going into a new bookstore lies with the person behind the counter. I’m no fan of Borders or Barnes & Noble, but I’m desperately sick and tired of walking into bookstores run by fortysomething and fiftysomething wallflowers who glare at their customers for daring to interrupt them while they’re doing something else and then glare at the departing non-customers because the potential patrons didn’t buy anything. I’m tired of genre stores where getting the clerk away from his obsessive discussion of Dragonlance minutiae requires a blowgun and a gallon of curare, or dealing with the Cat Piss Man who has to make vocal comments on each and every last item for the benefit of the people across the highway. I’m tired of having to push my way through the contingent of hangers-on who come there only because Starbucks won’t give them an open mike night for their terrible poetry, and of the employees who bitch openly to patrons about how they’re making even less than Borders employees but who won’t leave because Borders won’t let them shove their fanzines down the customers’ throats. Give me a store that eschews all of that, and I’d be glad to make the trip, just to see such a rare creature.

    (Sorry: I just had very bad experiences with former indie bookpeople such as these, my ex-wife in particular, who had the nerve to look surprised when Borders managed to kill off every indie bookstore in the Dallas area within two years. Unfortunately, most of these people went to work for Borders because their English degrees were worthless everywhere else, which explains why Barnes & Noble is making such inroads in the book business throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.)

    • Wow! All that sounds pretty awful… and amusing.

      • There’s nothing quite like walking into the local Borders a few weeks ago and running into the Consignments manager who kept shoving my skiffy novel into the “Texana” section because I was a local author (and who then demanded that I come down and pick up the one copy out of twenty that didn’t sell because it kept ending up in Texana), still working at that same Borders. It’s especially funny because she inherited one of Dallas’s best indie stores when her father died, and she promptly ran it into the ground with her foul attitude even before Borders came along. 13 years later, and this was the best she could get: if I’d succumbed to my twentysomething revenge fantasies in 1993, I couldn’t have done anything to her that would have left her with the sad dead eyes she had as she checked out my purchase. Revenge without additional effort isn’t just sweet: it’s lightly dusted with moondust and the purest adrenochrome.

  17. Anonymous

    Why I shop where I shop for books.

    Selection and condition of new releases in genre fiction are paramount, to me. The local chains: B & N, Borders, and Books-A-Million, pretty much suck, pretty much all the time, as far as carrying ALL the new books in SF & fantasy, in hc, tpb, or pb. I KNOW what is supposed to be on their shelves. I am always looking for the new stuff, which they usually don’t carry, or maybe have one scuffed-up copy I wouldn’t wall-paper my house with. And the clerks know NOTHING about the books they sell. They could just as easily be shelving groceries-except even grocery-stores do a better job than the chain bookstores do in my area, which is Metro Atlanta & Macon, Ga… I HATE our local “STUPID-STORES” -they are an embarrassment to the art of book-selling… Sad…

  18. Anonymous


    I like the suggestions made by another poster (below). I especially like the idea of finding a book that’s not available in the US yet. And chapbooks. Odds and ends. A buyer can find these things online (clarksworld, of course), but if I had a store like yours in town, or an hour or two away, I’d visit. I also like the idea of exhibiting collections. How about memorabilia? A pen used by Robert Silverberg? Hand-written notes from a Gaimen novel? And definitely let the used books mingle with the new.

    For me, the best stores are the ones that surprise me. If, just once, I visit and find a title I didn’t know existed, or was available, it’s the jewel that keeps me coming back to the cave, hoping to uncover a few more.

    Best of luck.

    mark heath

    With a genre book store, used is a must. You can start going to library book sales to fill out the stock — people discard gems all the damn time. My collection would be mediocre without them.

    Offer things you can’t get anywhere else — like imports and small press. Being able to go to a store to buy the George Martin or Robin Hobb or China Mieville or Richard Morgan in UK hardcover would be worth a trip. Being able to get Old Earth or Arkham House books in a store would also be great.

    Have a case with books that collectors can drool at. I’ve driven to book stores just to see specific collections that I have no hope of ever owning — but I’ve always bought something while I was there.

    Having a large stock of signed books will bring collectors from miles around. I’ve flown to Minneapolis just to go to Dreamhaven. Of course, having signings actually at your store is even better, if possible.

    On recent trips to the NYC area, I have lamented New York’s lack of a genre book store. It’s pretty pathetic that the worlds largest city has no haven for geeks. You could fill a big niche, Neil.

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