Interview with a Bookseller: Mitchell Kaplan
     Victoria Grossack  

Victoria: Who are you and how long have you been selling books?

Mitchell: Mitchell Kaplan, and I’ve been in the business of selling books for about 25 years. I’ve served as president of the American Booksellers Association (ABA) and I’m one of the founders of the Miami Book Fair. Before selling books, I was a high school English teacher. I’m married with three kids.

Victoria: What is the name of your store and where is it?

Mitchell: Books & Books. It’s a locally owned independent bookstore with three locations in South Florida. They are:

In Coral Gables: 265 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables, FL 33134

In Miami Beach: 933 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, FL 33139

In Bal Harbour: 9700 Collins Avenue, 2nd Level, Suite 204, Bal Harbour, FL 33154

The Books & Books website can be found here:

Victoria: Does your store have a particular focus? If so, what is it?

Mitchell: General, art and architecture. We also focus on the literary arts, fiction, poetry and so on.

Victoria: What are the trends that you see happening in bookselling?

Mitchell: There have been changes developing for a long while and they’re still going on. Conditions are hard for small, independent businesses, and that means booksellers, too.

In the short term, things will be difficult. In the long term, small businesses will plateau. Many consumers know that “big” does not necessarily equal “good,” so there are countervailing forces. There will always be a place for the stores which are idiosyncratic, one-of-a-kind. And communities will find a way to keep stores that serve their needs. Booksellers need to be involved in their communities.

Victoria: How should an author approach a bookseller, say, for example, for a reading or signing, or simply for advice?

Mitchell: The most important thing to understand is that booksellers are inundated with requests. Authors should know the focus of the booksellers that they talk to, so that they don’t look foolish or waste time.

Another thing: authors should approach booksellers with a sense of respect rather than a sense of entitlement. You see, it costs a bookseller to carry a book – even if that book is being sold on consignment, he’s still giving up shelf space.

Finally, authors should come to booksellers with a plan of how they’re going to market the book, and not leave it all up to the booksellers. And remember, it’s unlikely that the bookseller is going to read their book.

Victoria: How do you feel about mainstream publishers?

Mitchell: Selling books would be a great business if it weren’t a business! Seriously, I’m very pleased with how well the folks in publishing understand the importance of the role of independent booksellers.

Victoria: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Mitchell: Too often writers are way too concerned with what they need to do in order to get the book published, and not concerned enough about the quality of their product. If you get a million rejections, maybe that should be a wake-up call that you should have someone give you an honest critique of your book.

I know a lot of editors and they’re not looking to turn books away – they’re trying to find good books to publish. Ultimately, it’s about the book itself.

Victoria: Thanks, Mitchell, for your informative and candid interview! If you’re a bookseller (owner or manager) and you want to be considered for this series, send an e-mail to me at Grossackva at Yahoo dot com.

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About the Writer:

Victoria Grossack is, with Alice Underwood, the author of Iokaste: The Novel of the Mother-Wife of Oedipus, which, by the way, is an excellent example of a book with plot-driven chapters and cliffhangers. There's exciting news about Iokaste: even the Greeks are reading it! Learn more about Iokaste and other books in the series at Tapestry of Bronze

Victoria was a moderator of a critique group for Coffeehouse for Writers and teaches the Writing Historical Fiction workshop for Coffeehouse for Writers.