Notes from a Book Buyer

At the “Writer’s and Scribblers” retreat this past August, I was able to attend a lecture from local book buyer, Jeanne Costello, buyer for a medium-sized indie bookstore in Durango, CO. She had a lot of great insights! I go into a little more depth in the podcast, but there’s a written set of notes below.


  • There are 40-50k books published every year by traditional publishers (This doesn’t take into account all the self-published books)
  • Maria’s Bookstore (mid-size store) carries about 10k books in their shop
    • 2/3 are older books
    • they pick up about 5k new titles per year
      • 25-30% of those are returned to the publisher with ZERO sales
      • many books only sell ONE copy/year
      • decent sales for regular books are 2-3/year
  • When thinking about approaching a bookstore to carry your books, consider how people discover books and where your would be found on a bookshelf
  • Each bookstore has specific needs
    • Durango:
      • literary fiction, travel/outdoors, natural sciences, unplug/retreat/de-stress
  • With Fiction:
    • representation matters a lot
    • to the buyer and the reader
      • is it a professional product?
  • Cover art is IMPORTANT
    • needs to speak to the person who will love your book – not just to YOU
    • should be used as a marketing tool
    • Being simply an extension of your art doesn’t always work if it’s not communicating the right message
    • must indicate clearly to readers WHY they want to read your book
    • acts as a “short cut” to telling readers about your book
  • It’s important to understand destination and discovery
      • have a particular book in mind before approaching a book buyer
        • specific topics/need
      • work to have “critical conversations” about your book to garner interest
      • there are SO many books to compete with
      • cover must speak to readers and buyer
        • pay attention to conventions of genre
      • know where your book would be placed on the shelves (specific category)
        • ask yourself where readers who will love your book will go looking for it
      • know comparable books
        • easier for staff to recommend to readers
  • Identify what your ambitions are
    • big chain store? small to mid store?
    • 2-3 sales/yr? 100s sales/yr?
      • if booksellers love your book it’s a great way to make inroads and gain exposure
      • having a book on the shelves alone will NOT help you reach critical mass goals
  • Self-published
    • what the book buyer needs to know:
      • how to buy your book
      • how to reorder
        • direct from author is very hard on buyer!
        • returnable is very important to stores!
          • allows them to “try out” books
        • local stores sometimes offer “consignment basis”
  • Book sales are up…
    • but not in proportion to number of books being published
  • Amazon doesn’t sell books to make money
    • they sell them to attract shoppers who will then buy more expensive/profitable items
  • Indie stores are more relevant the last five years – important to communities and creating buzz in communities
    • 6-7% up in sales
    • paperback book sales are up
    • ebooks sale have plateaued

For a more detailed discussion, listen to the podcast!

Perspectives on Crazy


The Edible Animal Cell cake for my daughter’s science class. Cakes are NOT my specialty! Obviously, lol!

I’ll start off by saying this post has nothing to do with writing. Maybe that’s because I haven’t done much writing lately. Either way, this is what I felt compelled to write about.


Last week I had kind of a lousy week at work. Patients weren’t showing or there were already holes in the schedule to start with. I only work 12 hours a week, so every hour missed makes a big difference. Then we got to Thursday (last day of the work week for me) and I actually had a full afternoon of patients I always enjoyed seeing.

When my last patient came in, I immediately recognized that on the verge of crying look a lot of young moms get. The one I still get on a fairly regular basis, especially lately. When I asked her how she was doing, she started off by saying it had been a rough week. It snowballed from there. And let me tell you, I totally sympathized with everything she was saying, from struggles with the kids’ school to toddlers refusing to potty train to feeling like your dental cleaning was the highlight of your week because it was the first alone time you’ve had, because I’ve been there many times.


The infamous Giant Marshmallow. Thank you for that, YouTube.

So, I started telling her about the 6 college classes I’m taking and the massive amount of homework they require, the crazy things my kids did when they were little and the crazy things they’re still doing, the many projects my kids have done in the last month-for school and because my daughter really loves YouTube craft videos (FYI: avoid the giant marshmallow), the soccer team my husband and I got suckered into coaching and the crazy ref who started harassing me after I complained to the league about him yelling at the girls all game and taking off without telling anyone after enforcing the mercy rule , and how stressed out my husband has been trying to finish a bunch of work so he can transition into his new position.



Note taking on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I don’t get this play…

We spent most of the appointment laughing with each other.


At some point my patient-still laughing-said she was suddenly feeling better about dealing with her toddler. The funny thing was, I was thinking the same thing after telling her about how hectic things were for us. It wasn’t a competition to see whose life was crazier. Toddler years were tough. I’m glad we’re not in that stage anymore. We have new challenges now, a lot of them just as much of a struggle as trying to keep you little one from climbing up on the table and sucking all the chocolate off the toffee you just made (you can imagine the mess I had to clean up after that one, lol!).

My kids are now 10 and 13 and we’re dealing with mean girls at school instead of potty accidents, but chatting with my patient reminded me that all of these things are temporary. I may not be blogging or writing very regularly for a while, but eventually soccer will end and the semester will finish and all the other stuff will level out. More crazy will line up, it always does, but we’ll get through that, too.


My son’s 2-foot tall model of a platinum atom.

So, if I’m not around much lately, be patient. I’ll be back when the crazy dies down. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Gateway to Mythic Fiction @MythographyS

RuinsMythography has recently introduced a great new service highlighting mythic fiction. Personally, I love mythic fiction, and I know a lot of my readers do to, so I wanted to share a few details about this service.

On the site you can find a variety of mythic fiction books currently on sale or special offer. Because not everyone likes the same mythology, the deals are divided up into specific pantheons, so readers can go right to their interest and see what’s available.

This is brand new, so new titles are being added all the time. Check back often or subscribe to the newsletter to get updates.

Aztec Carvings

 Your Gateway into Mythic Fiction

Genre Tropes are like Bunnies

2015-04-21 09.07.18Just to clear up any confusion right off the bat, bunnies are the worst! Sure they may look cute, hopping around with their cotton tails and twitchy noses, but it’s all a trick. They will destroy your grass by eating it down to the roots and by peeing and pooping on it like mad-which also kills the grass. They will also gnaw off the bark of your fruit trees, which is not good for them at all, and those freaky jackrabbits’ giant creepy teeth, I’m pretty sure, could chew through your ankle if it got the chance.

Bunnies are NOT cool.

And, neither are overused genre tropes.

What is a trope?

Trope DefinitionA trope is a familiar and repeated (aka overused) symbol, meme, theme, motif, style, character or thing (anything) that is spread throughout a particular genre.

The problem with tropes is not necessarily that it kills your story, like bunnies will do to your lawn, but they have the potential to kill your readers’ interest in your story.


When a reader picks up a book and sees the same types of characters, the same pattern behind a storyline, the same hints that his 16-year-old nobody is destined to save anything and everything by discovering their deeply buried inner strength/power/importance/etc., they start to see how the story is going to end, because well…they’ve read it before. Maybe the names have changed, or the setting, or the mythology, or whatever, but if the overall concept is something every other genre writer is using, readers are going to pick up on that.

Is that to say you can’t ever write using some of these tropes?

Blonde Upper BodyOf course not. The key is to use them in their barest form. Strip them down to the essence of what makes readers connect with the trope to begin with, and add from there.

Weak, friendless, unimportant teen becomes the hero? Check. We’ve all been there, so we identify with those emotions and frustrations, and especially the hope for something more.

Self-conscious, doesn’t understand her own worth heroine who thinks she’ll never find love. Again, check. Everyone has those moments of thinking they aren’t good enough to find their happily ever after.

The problem with tropes isn’t that they exist and are used. The problem arises when writers stop there, and don’t expand, delve deeper, experiment, make it unique.

If your male lead has commitment issues, give him a REAL reason for his fears or avoidance. Being too awesome to be tied down isn’t going to cut it in most cases.

Your teen hero is going to save the world? Fabulous, but make him or her take a different path to get there than the typical camp/school/mentor/etc.

What new, exciting, difficult, gut-wrenching ways can your characters develop into their final self? It doesn’t have to be so complicated that solving the prime number equation looks easy, but it does need to be unique to your story, character, and plot.

Working with teen writers over the summer, most start out with fan fiction. It’s a great place to start, because a lot of the difficult world and character development is done for them and they can focus on the story and figuring out their style. It’s a great learning experience, and it’s okay that their stories often end up being a mishmash of all their favorite books, because they’re working on their craft.

However, as that writing skill develops, we need to move away from well-worn tropes and begin experimenting with new, fresh concepts that will take a story from something frustratingly familiar to one that stands out from all the others.

So, don’t let the bunnies destroy your grass, and don’t let your story get passed over because it’s just more of the same.

Open Blue Book

Memory’s Edge Pre-Order

ME preorder 99It’s taken me a long, long time to finally get around to cleaning this book up and putting it out there, but Memory’s Edge is finally up for pre-order and will release on Kindle and #KindleUnlimited on August 21st!

Can’t wait to share this one with all my readers!!

Memorys Edge FULL WRAP

Pre-Order now for only $0.99

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