Interview with a Bookseller: Lyn Roberts
     Victoria Grossack

Here’s an interview with Lyn Roberts, the General Manager of Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi. Ms. Roberts has served on the Bookseller Advisory Committee for the American Booksellers Association and helps organize the Oxford Conference for the Book. She is also the producer of Thacker Mountain Radio, and an alderman in Taylor, Mississippi, where she lives.

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

Lyn: My name is Lyn Roberts and I’ve been selling books for 18 years.

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

Lyn: Square Books, in Oxford, Mississippi http:

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

Lyn: We are a general bookstore housed in three buildings on the square in Oxford. Our main store has a wide variety of titles. We do excel in southern literature and history. We have another store called Off Square Books where we have events, music, bargain books, used books, collectibles, magazines, graphic, sci-fi, art, photography & architecture – the more visual sections. Last, but certainly not least is Square Books Jr – a store for children and their parents.

Victoria: What's the biggest change you've seen in bookselling in the last year?

Lyn: I'm not sure that I've seen anything entirely new, that has just popped up. I think some things are becoming more mainstream & familiar to the general population – like blogs. Electronic readers are becoming more available too. Too soon to call that one.

Victoria: What's the biggest change you expect in selling books in the next year?

Lyn: E books....

Victoria: How should writers and authors approach a bookseller, say, for example, for a reading or signing, or simply for advice?

Lyn: If the writer wants the bookseller to stock their book they should be prepared with details like ISBN, trade discount, vendors, etc. If they want to do a reading/signing I would say the best thing would be to send info to the store in advance – as much as is available, including an advance reading copy. Then get back in touch with the store. Try to do this before the book is published. Bookstores like to have events around the time of publication, not generally months later. As for advice – most booksellers love giving advice, on what to read, that is. Most are not experts on the other side of the business – getting books published.

Victoria: What is your opinion of POD books?

Lyn: The customer of the traditional publisher is the bookstore. The customer of the POD is the writer. All the support, marketing, shipping and other things a publisher does to help a bookstore sell books is either not done by PODs or not done well.

Victoria: What is the greatest frustration that you have with mainstream publishers?

Lyn: I really couldn't say. Some publishers, even the really large ones, are great and recognize the importance of independent bookstores to their sales. Some publishers, even the really small ones don't. I just can't lump them all together.

Victoria: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Lyn: Write, write, write! Buy Writer's Market. Keep your day job. Don't expect it to be easy.

Victoria: Thanks so much, Lyn, for your informative and candid interview! If you’re a bookseller 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.