Interview with a Bookseller: Cindi White of Title Wave Books
     Victoria Grossack

Cindi White is a third-generation Alaskan who has worked at the bookstore Title Wave Books since June 1996. She has seen the bookstore grow through three locations, from less than 1,000 square feet to over 30,000 square feet. In the same way, she, too, has grown, starting off as a bookseller and eventually making her way through the ranks – pocket paperback pricer, genre fiction manager, lit & genre fiction manager, floor manager – now she’s manager of the processing department, managing a staff of 10 or so who receive all of the books, both used and new. She’s also the Alaskana buyer for this store – Alaskana means books related to Alaska – which involves dealing with national vendors as well as plenty of self-published authors.

In her spare time Cindi helps out at Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage Alaska – she’s shown here with a gyrfalcon.

Victoria: Tell me about Title Wave Books.

Cindi: Title Wave Books is the largest independent bookstore in Alaska, and one of the largest independent new-and-used bookstores in the country. We have about 300,000 titles in stock, plus a great selection of discounted audiobooks, music CDs, movies, cards and gift items.

Steve Lloyd and Julie Drake opened the doors of the first Title Wave in 1991. Since then, the store has grown to over ten times its original size. It’s now located the Northern Lights Center on West Northern Lights between Spenard and Minnesota. This is the same mall as REI and the Alaska Club. Electronically, you can find us at

Title Wave has the largest collection of Alaskana books outside the library, and this is one of my specialties in the store. For me, as a third-generation Alaskan, it’s very special. Alaska is a young state and a large state. There’s still a lot to be written about us.

Victoria: What are the most recent events with impact in publishing?

Cindi: Well, last year I was caught up by the James Frey fracas. I remember when I was reading his book – and I think he’s a compelling storyteller – I remember wondering, how could he remember every word that people said? Of course, he couldn’t, especially given his drug-addled condition at the time. Anyway, I thought the whole episode was handled badly by everyone. They pushed him too high, and then they pushed him too low. I mean, no matter what you say, he wrote a good story that inspired a lot of people.

Victoria: Can you tell me about some trends in the industry?

Cindi: One of the trends that we don’t like has been these larger sized paperbacks. They’re more expensive – it’s hard to expect customers to pay ten dollars for a paperback. And the change in the book size is greatly disturbing for everything we do. These books don’t fit into our boxes. There are also some problems with quality – the spines tend to split.

Victoria: What else can you tell me about trends?

Cindi: Publishers are putting some books into hardcover when they shouldn’t – many of the titles would do better in trade paperback.

Also, there’s been more sex and violence in some of the Young Adult titles. Parents shouldn’t assume that these books are innocent simply because they’re labeled Young Adult; they may want to take a look at the contents.

Victoria: What are some changes you see in the future?

Cindi: First, I hope that the publishers listen and that the new out-sized paperbacks go away! Second, I’ve seen a greater diversity in the Christian market – Alaska is in some ways very independent, but in other ways very conservative – and we sell a lot of Christian-oriented titles. We’ve been selling Christian diet books, for example. I’m wondering when we’ll start seeing some “Christian erotica” – I know that it sounds like a contradiction in terms, but I bet there would be a market.

Victoria: What advice would you give to an author or writer coming into your store?

Cindi: I get asked this question a lot – in fact, so often that I’ve prepared a form for the authors to fill out, especially for those who are self-published. Authors need to know the basics: the title, the ISBN, the discount schedule. And the discount schedule should apply to my ordering one copy; authors shouldn’t expect me to order twenty to fifty. If it sells, we’ll order more. Finally, for those who are self-publishing, make sure that the titles of your book appear on the spine as well as on the cover.

Victoria: What do you like most about selling books?

Cindi: I like seeing all the different types of people who come into the store. From skinheads to gentle grandmas. Often they’re not reading what I would read – but at least they’re reading.

Victoria: Thank you, Cindi, for sharing your time and your expertise with us!

Questions? Comments? Do you want to use this article? Contact 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 From Leaves to Forests and Writing Historical Fiction workshops for Coffeehouse for Writers.