Interview with a Bookseller: Daniel Goldin of Harry W. Schwartz Books 
     Victoria Grossack

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

Daniel: My name is Daniel Goldin, and Iíve been here for over 20 years. Prior to that, I was a publicist at a New York publishing house.

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

Daniel: Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, with five stores in Milwaukee. I will warn you up front that my e-mail is public ([email protected] ) but we will generally not take self-published or POD titles from authors unless there is a Milwaukee area-connection. In those cases, we will consider the title for our consignment program.

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

Daniel: We are general bookstores, but like many independents, our strength lies more and more in fiction and narrative nonfiction.

Victoria: Whatís the biggest change youíve seen in bookselling in the last year?

Daniel: Online availability at steep discounts continues to change buying patterns. Concurrently, we are seeing more and more print-on-demand titles with selling terms that are really meant for on-line sales only (effectively non-returnable, since the availability of the book is virtual).

Victoria: Whatís the biggest change you expect in selling books in the next year?

Daniel: I am not a soothsayer.

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

Daniel: 1. Make sure that your small press or POD title has good enough terms so you can place the title on consignment at a 60/40 split. If you can do better than that, the bookseller will be pleasantly surprised.
2. Expect to pay for services, whether it is fees or co-op. If you tell us we are lucky to not have to pay you an honorarium for your appearance, you are unlikely to get a booking.
3. Come to the bookstore with your media contacts lined up.
4. Offer to give the store reading copies. Nothing will sell your book like a good read.
5. If you are asking for advice, understand that there are other people in the world besides you, and that our professional advice would be quite expensive if we hung out a ďconsultantĒ shingle. If you take the bookseller out for coffee or lunch, pay for it. If you come to their shop, consider bringing a treat.
6. Start local, then widen your scope. I donít personally care, but some booksellers want to hear about success stories from other independents, not from B&N and Borders.
7. Take no graciously. If you are nice, the bookstore might not mind hearing from you later when youíve lined up more publicity, or have had some sort of sales track record.
8. Consider stocking your book in another kind of retailer. Certain books wind up doing better in the appropriate specialty store or gift shop.
9. If you are a nonprofit, donít expect the bookstore to take your book for a smaller cut. The problem is that we cannot deduct these as a contribution. Consider organizing a fundraising event or shopping night to benefit both the book and the bookstore.

Victoria: What is your opinion of POD books?

Daniel: 1. No matter what the promotional literature says, we see these titles as somewhere between self-published and contract press. Some of us are happy to sell these books; others arenít.
2. These books and their selling terms are often designed for virtual bookstores, not real ones.
3. If you really believe in your book, consider negotiating for Ingram returnable, full trade discount. It costs more, but it will make it easier for you to get in bookstores later.
4. When it comes to regional nonfiction, I donít care where it came from. But I still need to break even.

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

Daniel: 1. Every publisher is unique butÖ
2. We could use more regional titles, but there arenít many mainstream publishers interested in Milwaukee.

Victoria: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Daniel: 1. Donít rest on your laurels.
2. Find your hook and get your publicity.
3. Start local.
4. The world has many niche opportunities. Find yours.
5. Very few books are good enough on the first draft. Consider rewriting yours.
6. Learn to graciously accept a ďno.Ē

Victoria: Thank you, Daniel, for sharing your time and your expertise!

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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 Bronze.com).  You can also read more of her articles on writing by ordering the e-book, Levels of Structure in Fiction from  www.booklocker.com.

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.