outsidestorenewsmall11. Tell us about your bookstore, Fireside Books and Gifts in Forest City, NC.

Fireside Books and Gifts is a locally owned, independent bookstore, located in Forest City, NC. The bookstore has been in operation for almost 20 years and has a strong commitment to community and promoting literacy through education. We offer readers a wide variety of genres as well as educational toys and gifts for children. Within the past year we’ve greatly increased our side lines, so we now offer gift items for every occasion. We host many author signings and events through the year, as well as children’s summer programs, always at no cost to the public. Fireside routinely partners with schools and organizations and participates in off-site events and fundraising for our local Community Pet Center and N.C. Safe Kids.

 2. What is the most difficult part of hosting an author event?

The most difficult part of hosting an author event recently has been trying to work with today’s hectic lifestyles and down economy… knowing the best day and time to schedule it so that it’s convenient for customers to take the time to attend. We plan, prepare, advertise, promote, offer contests and giveaways – do all the things we possibly can to encourage customers attend. Nothing is worse than a people-less author event.

valerie13. What do you wish authors would do better at these events?

I really appreciate authors who bring “extra” props, or authors who send promotional materials and/or bookmarks weeks prior to an event. I also really appreciate authors who are willing to walk about in the store and interact with the customers … simply introducing themselves, as in “Hi, I’m – —— and I’m here with my new book, —–. It’s about ——-…” In other words, authors who are eager to handsell their own book. It makes the customer feel so important! There’s no better way for the author to get exposure and sell books! I also appreciate authors who communicate to people when and where they’re going to be, inviting people to attend, either via the internet, through newsletters or simply by word of mouth!

4. How did you end up in Forest City, NC, and at Fireside books and Gifts?

I moved to the area about 6 years ago and took a job as a personal assistant for a local author. When Fireside was listed for sale, my boss and her sister decided to purchase it. They then offered me the opportunity to manage it.

5. What are the biggest changes from a book seller’s point of view in the past two years?

I think the biggest changes have been primarily in the two obvious areas: internet access and the economy in general. With the easy availability of the internet for most people, reading a book is not always a priority. Information is now readily accessible, and technology has changed the way people perceive books, to a degree. While I don’t think that an e-book will ever replace the experience of physically holding a book and reading, I do think that they will become more prevalent in the future. Thus, we have to adapt and look ahead to how we can make those advances work for us and for our customers. We’ve certainly noted a change of direction in the bigger publishing houses, with the reduction of new titles being published and the cutbacks necessitated by the changing economy. My concern is that it may become even more difficult for new, deserving authors to be published and for the existing authors to continue to make a living writing books. In that regard, the economy is the primary motivating factor. People who love reading and who buy books are going to continue to do so, but perhaps not as frequently – at least not in the immediate future. It is critical that we have our communities understand that buying from a big chain store may be cheaper, but it can actually hurt the community they are part of through the loss of revenue and tax dollars. There is a very real, very direct relationship between buying local and how the community benefits. Ultimately, it is up to retailers to educate the public on the benefits of buying locally. We have to enrich the whole experience of coming to a bookstore, making it worth that extra dollar they may spend.

6. What is the most exciting part of your job?

There are two that vie for the most exciting -finding the “right” book for a customer and having them later tell me how much they enjoyed/loved the book; and receiving ARC’s from authors, publishers and especially through the IndieBound program. When that box comes in each month, the entire staff is literally lined up, waiting to see what’s in it – and we all go home with a stack of books to read!

 7. What suggestions do you have for an author to reach readers?

I would suggest utilizing the Internet to its’ fullest potential – a web site (kept updated), a blog, MySpace, FaceBook, Twitter, etc. Create an email mailing list by having people sign up online – or while at store events – to receive news alerts about upcoming books and book tours. Some authors have entered the arena of book videos (or trailers), which are great to post on websites and YouTube. It’s also a good idea to network with other authors in the same genre and to offer store signings, both in the beginning of their career and also after they have solidly established their name in the business.

 8. How do you decide which books to carry in your store?

We use a variety of information to determine what books we carry, from Bestseller lists to publisher/rep. recommendations to what books are being featured on television. We also are very aware of our clientle and what authors/series/genres they request. Just because a book is on the Times list doesn’t mean it will find a home in our store. Finally, we read a lot. (ARC’s, publishing magazines, book reviews, blogs, author recommendations, and recommendations of our customers).We look at each selection with both specific customers and new readers in mind.

9. What do you like to read?

I have very eclectic taste – I read everything from paranormal romance/fantasy to science fiction to mystery to general fiction/non-fiction. I’m just as apt to read a Laurell K. Hamilton book as I am to read a book on Borderline Personality Disorder to reading F. Scott Fitzgerald.

10. Tell us something about your part of the country – we love travel.

I live in the Foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where we have typical Southern weather – hot in the summer and not too cold in the winter. Forest City is a mid-sized town, with all the charm of the old South and the convenience of modern day. We have the typical stores like Walmart, restaurants such as Chili’s, etc. along our interstate, but we also have Downtown Main Street. There you’ll find an old fashioned drug store that has the same soda fountain it’s had for decades and the pharmacist who knows you by name. There are lots of neat, independent shops as well as barbers and antique stores. We also have a Coastal League Baseball team that has games all summer long, and an Arts venue at our community college which hosts many concert and theater events throughout the year. We have a great interactive, children oriented museum that always has something going on, and lots of local talent that play at the various establishments. Most importantly, the people here are genuine, kind hearted and nice.

11. Chat about your pets – we love those, too.

I have three pets: Tsunami, Salem, and Maxie. Tsunami is our Siberian Husky/Wolf rescue that we adopted about 8 years ago. She’s slowed down a little in the last couple of years and spends most of her time sleeping in the sun. Salem is our big, fat black cat, another rescue/adoption, that we got about 4 years ago. We got Salem when he was 8 weeks old and he completely imprinted on my youngest son, Jordan. Salem thinks he is a person – not a cat. His biggest weakness is beef jerky – if it’s in the house, he’ll find it. Maxie is our gray, furry cat, who was actually Salem’s mother. We adopted her about a year after we had Salem – one of the other cats where she was staying just couldn’t seem to get along with her. Maxie is quiet and reserved (until Salem makes her mad) and typically stays close to my husband. I call her “Prissy Pot” most of the time because she’s all girl when he’s around.

12. Who is your favorite southern fictional character?

My favorite Southern fictional character is probably Serena, from Ron Rash’s “Serena.” She was so evil, she put Lady Macbeth to shame!

www.firesidebooksandgifts.com Fireside Books & Gifts, Forest City, NC 28043