Let me first state that I support independent (and second hand) book stores. The booksellers in my street (four stores total) and I have a first name relationship, and that's not because they wear a name tag (they don't).
Still, when a run to a post office to pick up a book delivery from the Netherlands (Autobiographical Notations: Words and Images by Shinkichi Tajiri) took us to West Seattle's Westwood Village, I was the one who insisted on checking out the new Barnes & Noble store.
In 1999, when my book Creative Acts of Healing came out, and I was planning a book tour from Seattle, WA. to the eastcoast, a friend in the New York publishing business told me, that I shouldn't be surprised if the larger chain book stores wouldn't pay me for the books they bought.
"Knowing that, you should still read at their stores, you need them, even if they don't pay."
What he said turned out to be correct. In the case of Barnes & Noble that is. In one store in the middle of Indiana, ten people bought my book, I know that for a fact —buyers came to have their copies signed— but I never got my pay.
At Borders Books though, a friendly store manager, sorry that nobody showed up for my reading, sat through my —one woman for one man— presentation and bought ten copies, for which I got a check in the mail.
So when I entered the signature behemoth on Monday the 16th (Martin Luther King Day), it was with reservation and even slight apprehension. I noted there were not too many literary magazines availablele; the focus in Westwood was on home decoration, crafts and sports.
Therefore it was to my great surprise that I did see piles of Night on a central counter. I picked up a copy and noticed Oprah's sticker.
Puzzled I stared at the book cover. A sales girl in her mid twenties, her cardigan barely covering her lingerie, raced across the floor to cater to my needs.
"That book's fantastic!" she said, smiling her pearly whites bare.
More puzzled, I opened the book, was it really Elie Wiesel's Night she called "fantastic?"
"Have you seen him on Oprah, fanTAStic, would you like to get a copy?
I decided she could not have read Night Even a highschool student knows better than to call this book "fantastic". Incredible, heart rendering, I would have bought, but fantastic? No.
I put the book back on the pile. Wiesel visits Oprah, and before the show has aired local time, a bookseller calls one of the most important memoirs about the Holocaust fantastic. As fantastic as she no doubt called James Frey's A Million Pieces, or Binjamin Wilkomirski's Fragments: of a war time childhood. What would Wiesel say about that?
Meanwhile I'm cured from visits to the mega book stores. I'll stick to my personal neighborhood booksellers, the people who know their stuff, their customers, and above all authors and their work.