Interview with a Bookseller: Karen Spengler and Becci
West from I Love a Mystery
Victoria: Who are you and how long have you
been selling books?
Karen: My name is Karen Spengler (seated in image at right); I own the store, and I have been
involved in bookselling since 1991. I started with used books in an antique
mall 15 years ago, and opened I Love a Mystery as a full service retail
bookstore (selling both new and used books) in 2000. I worked as a CPA until
I retired for health reasons three years ago. I don't work at the store, but
luckily, my best friend since we were 19, Becci West, is the store manager.
Although she came to mysteries later in life, Becci has always loved
retailing and she's now far-surpassed me in her knowledge of mystery titles
Victoria: What is the name of your store and where
Karen: The name of the store is I Love a Mystery. It is located in
Mission, Kansas, a small suburb just across the state line from Kansas City,
Missouri. Our website is
http://iloveamystery.com, and my email
[email protected] Inquiries about books should be sent to
Victoria: Does your store have a particular focus?
If so, what is it?
Karen: Our focus is on giving our customers excellent service and a
unique experience. We sell only mystery books.
Victoria: What's the biggest change you've seen in
bookselling in the last year?
From Becci West, the store manager: "The advent of the $9.99 oversized
paperback. We hate them--they don't fit our existing shelving-- and the
customers don't like them either.
Victoria: What's the biggest change you expect in
selling books in the next year?
Karen: It's hard to predict, but the big trend right now--at least at I
Love a Mystery--is international mysteries. By that I mean mysteries that
were initially published in another country. They're huge right now. We're
also emphasizing smaller, but well established specialty publishers like Rue
Morgue Press, Poisoned Pen, Hard Case Crime, etc.
Victoria: How should a would-be writer approach a
bookseller, say, for example, for a reading or signing, or simply for
Karen: I wrote an article about this subject that was published in the
March, 2005 issue of InSinC: The Sisters in Crime Newsletter. You can read
the article on our website at
Victoria: What is your opinion of the POD books
from places such as Booklocker, Publish America, and so on?
Karen: Let me count the reasons why we don't like them! Becci says, "They
are difficult to order, take longer to receive, quality is frequently poor,
bad cover art and they are usually more expensive." I would add that we
don't carry the books in the store and don't like to special order them
unless we have to, because the discounts are usually less than what we get
on other books (sometimes non-existent), and they are frequently not
Victoria: What is the greatest frustration that you
have with mainstream publishers?
Becci West: Tracking orders. We have been having a terrible time lately
with publishers dropping our orders. For example, I ordered a 6-copy counter
display of a new paperback release. The publisher decided not to issue the
6-copy display, and failed to submit a new order for the six books that
would have been in the display, as they should have. We didn't know that the
order was dropped, and as a result, we didn't receive a popular book that
customers were asking for.
Victoria: What advice would you give to aspiring
Karen: Hold out for a mainstream publisher if you can. Be nice to your
fans. Be especially nice to independent booksellers. Find a way to stand out
from the crowd. And read my article.
Victoria: Thank you, Karen and Becci, for sharing
your time and expertise! And to all the readers out there – if you have any
interest in this subject at all, do yourself a favor and click on Karen’s
link above and learn some more very important information!
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