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All I Really Need to Know I Learned in My Bookstore
By Diane Kudisch
I have owned the San Francisco Mystery Bookstore on 24th Street for a little over a year. Owning a bookstore had been a dream of mine for many years, and the dream finally came true last April. A few weeks ago, I was talking to a friend about the highs and lows of bookstore ownership, and he asked me what, if anything, I had learned. As I started reeling off my list, he laughed and suggested that I write it down. Well, here's what I came up with:
Reflections After a Year of Tending a 26-Year-Old
San Francisco Bookstore
Don't panic between 11 and 2 in the afternoon if only a few folks have shown up. Relax. The store is an afternoon store, and if you have books, they will come. Anyway, there's always Goodwill Industries.
Regardless of how large the "San Francisco Mystery Books" sign is (and we have a BRAND NEW SIGN -- have you seen it?), how colorful it is, or how much it cost, inevitably someone will walk in and ask if you have any books on breastfeeding, or on the history of Belgium. My favorite: "Is this a spiritual bookstore?" Actually it is, sort of...
How exciting it is to introduce customers to new authors. I'm amazed at the satisfaction I get from my customers' enthusiasm.
Publishers are people too, aren't they? Bruce Taylor, former owner of the bookstore, always smiled vaguely when I asked him about his dealings with publishers. Now I know why.
Always make friends with folks in the various credit departments of publishing companies.
If you write a mystery set in Venice, it will sell.
Authors are just as insecure as bookstore owners. I recently spoke to a local author who was coming to the store for a signing. I was complaining about the lack of attendance at our signings. She laughed and said it works both ways: The bookstore owners worry that the authors will think no one ever comes into the store. The authors worry that the booksellers will think that no one ever buys their books!
Recycle those Safeway bags. Don't just depend on the kindness of others, i.e., loyal customers who bring in their own plastic bags (or backpacks).
Publishers' catalogs breed overnight.
Don't trust anyone who insists that Stephen King is a mystery writer.
After I've been sitting in the near dark for most of an evening (I sound like a Jewish mother, don't I?), someone will always come in at five minutes before closing and wander around for 20 minutes and then walk out having bought nothing but having said, "This is an incredible bookstore!"
You can never have enough Donna Leon books. They take place in Venice.
Gary McDonald is usually right, but I'll never tell him that. He's been the manager since I bought the store, and I couldn't have done it without him. But I'll never tell him that either.
Noe Valley is a great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to park here.
How depressing it is when the neighborhood eating establishments recognize your voice when you call in an order.
My funniest title: Mounted in San Francisco.
The most important thing I've learned this year is that the San Francisco Mystery Bookstore could not have been located in a better neighborhood than Noe Valley. The people here have been incredibly supportive and encouraging, and because of that, the store is flourishing. Thank you -- and thanks for the plastic bags!
If you'd like to be on the mailing list for book signings and other events, call 282-7444 or e-mail Diane Kudisch at email@example.com. You can also check out the store's web site at www.sfmysterybooks.com.
THE SIGNING MYSTERY
(not a Stephen King novel)
I still haven't learned the whys and wherefores of holding a successful signing. We have wonderful authors coming in, and they are always anxious to meet their fans and the bookstore staff, and to talk about their books. But sometimes hardly anyone shows up. What to do?! Please clue me in, Noe Valleyans (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Meanwhile, take a look at this fabulous lineup for July. I'd be thrilled if you'd drop by, even if it's just to say hello. (The San Francisco Mystery Bookstore is located at 4175 24th Street, between Castro and Diamond.)
Saturday, July 13, 2 p.m.
Berkeley resident Ayelet Waldman will sign copies of A Playdate with Death, the third in her "mommy-track mysteries," a funny series set in Los Angeles.
Friday, July 19, 5 p.m.
Michael McGarrity signs The Big Gamble, a thriller featuring his favorite sleuth, Santa Fe Police Chief Kevin Kerney.
Saturday, July 20, 2 p.m.
Learn about mystery and feng shui on July 20, when Denise Osborne stops by to sign the second in her Salome Waterhouse series.
Sunday, July 21, 3 p.m.
G.M. Ford, a writer from Seattle, will sign his second "Renegade Reporter" Frank Corso mystery, Black River. Joining him will be San Francisco author Lynne Murray, who will sign her third Josephine Fuller mystery, A Ton of Trouble.
Let Bylines Be Bylines
The Noe Valley Voice would like to publish your reflections on life in and around the neighborhood. Mail manuscripts to Bylines, Noe Valley Voice, 1021 Sanchez Street, San Francisco, CA 94114; or e-mail your essay to bylines @noevalleyvoice.com. Please include your name, address, and phone number.