Interview with a Bookseller: Mitchell Kaplan
Victoria: Who are you and how long have you been
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
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,
In Miami Beach: 933 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach, FL
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
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
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
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
Victoria: What advice would you give to aspiring
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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