Interview with a Bookseller: Conversation with Gayle Shanks
     Victoria Grossack

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

Gayle: Changing Hands Bookstore.  Our website is . There is an e-mail link on the website.  Our address is:

Changing Hands Bookstore,
6428 S McClintock Drive,
Tempe, AZ 85283
Phone: 480.730.1142

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

Gayle: I have been a bookseller for 33 years now, opening my store in a tiny space near Arizona State University in 1974. Changing Hands has grown organically over the years, has changed locations three times and now 'lives' in a suburban shopping strip mall with plenty of parking, great retail and residential neighbors. We also share space with a great cafe called The Wildflower Bread Company.

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

Gayle: We began as a used bookstore, hence the name, but quickly started carrying new books as well. We now sell not only books of all kinds but also a large array of unique gift items from all over the world, including from craftspeople in our own community. We specialize in fiction, spirituality and regional books and have a huge children's section in the store. We have a calendar of events with something occurring nearly every day of the year. Signing up for our e-mail newsletter which can be done on our website will bring you our calendar of events twice monthly as well as newsy chats about books.

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

Gayle: The most noticeable change that I've seen in bookselling in the last year is the increase in fiction paperback originals from publishers. I think publishers are trying to reach a larger audience with the novels they publish and are trying this as an experiment. They are hoping that the novels get reviewed and that consumers buy them in larger numbers.

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

Gayle: I think we might see books published in many formats in the next year--e-books, audio books, downloadable books, a choice of paperback or hardcover.

Victoria: How should a would-be writer approach a bookseller, say, for example, for a reading or signing, or simply for advice?

Gayle: We are approached by writers regularly. There is a link on our website regarding readings/signings in our store. Each bookseller has his/her own way of handling events. An unknown writer will always have a difficult time garnering an audience for a signing unless he/she invites all the people in their address book to come to the event. A bookseller can help a bit by advertising the event in the store but it is a very, very hard task for us to develop an unknown writer into a known entity; one of the hardest things that we try to do.

Victoria: What is your opinion of the POD books from places such as Booklocker, Publish America, and so on?

Gayle: I think POD is a great idea for writers. It can save them thousands of dollars and keep them from being 'taken' by vanity presses. I don't personally know of the names you asked me about but my advice to a writer would be to do their own POD at a local printer or print no more than 200 copies of a book at any one time. If they list all the people in their lives that might buy a book and then add 50 more, they might have the right number to start with for a print run. Even small established presses are using POD as a means to save money. Sometimes authors are 'sold' on hyped-up marketing plans promised them by vanity presses but these are generally useless and serve no function other than wiping writers out of their money.

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

Gayle: I think they publish too many books each season and should be more selective.

Victoria: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Gayle: Don't stop writing. Find a good editor. Find a good agent. Keep trying to reach the market with your writing.

Victoria: Thanks so much Gayle, for sharing your experience and expertise!

Note to readers – before signing with any POD, make sure to do your research by googling for information and looking beyond what is listed on the website of the place offering services. There’s a lot of competition in this area these days, and some deals are much better than others.

Questions or comments? Contact me at grossackva at yahoo dot com.

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About the Writer:

Victoria Grossack is, with Alice Underwood, the internationally published author of Iokaste: The Novel of the Mother-Wife of Oedipus, and other books coming out in the series called the Tapestry of Bronze (Tapestry of  You can also read more of her articles on writing by ordering the e-book, Levels of Structure in Fiction from

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.