What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
The resurgence of book clubs. We used to host only a few store-sponsored book clubs, but within the last year we’ve partnered with almost 20 more clubs. Book club selections are now our fastest-selling titles. We just doubled the space where we display them. We sell many to customers who simply want to read what our community’s reading. We even began a paperback book of the month club subscription service for readers who prefer we choose their next read.
We’re going offsite for more events this year. We’re going to our customers rather than requiring them to come to us, and this results in reaching people who find downtown parking challenging or don’t want to drive far from home. Malaprop’s is everywhere, not just in its physical location on Haywood Street in Asheville, North Carolina. This requires more flexibility and planning, but it’s worth it to get out into our city’s neighborhoods.
We created more community outreach programming: Authors for Action, which pairs authors with nonprofits to bring attention to a cause, and Rise Up and Read Together, a one-city, one-read initiative. Our first selection is National Book Award winner March, by John Lewis,
Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell.
What book would you like to see cross your transom?
I’ve gone through a number of big transitions during the last few years and find myself very drawn to memoirs by women dealing with profound change. When a writer combines beautiful writing with transformative self-examination, I’m hooked. This last year I’ve enjoyed reading H Is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald, The Middlepause: On Life After Youth by Marina Benjamin, and Guesswork: A Reckoning with Loss by Martha Cooley. I also love philosophy-drenched adult and YA sci-fi and fantasy. I’m a seeker and always curious.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
I love coloring books, but enough! My newest passion is my bullet journal. I can still get my coloring fix, as you can be as creative as you’d like with these self-designed planners. Bullet journals are, for me, a way of Kondo-ing my brain, taking all the clutter out and organizing it in the pages of my journal. Sounds weird, but it works.
How do you work with self-published authors?
We only work with locally based self-published authors. We carry their books through our consignment program. We hold events when they partner with us in marketing and promotions.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
We are the second-to-last stop in the journey of a book from the author’s conceptualization to the reader’s encounter with the creative result. We’re in the privileged position of working directly with readers as we seek to connect them with books that will change their lives in big and small ways.
Through our author event programming, we provide spaces where readers and authors meet and learn from one another. From Harry Potter midnight release parties to events like author Azar Nafisi’s talk, in which she discussed the importance of booksellers in communities, I’ve been part of incredibly moving experiences where customers and booksellers deeply felt the power that lies within the pages of a book. I feel very fortunate to do what I do for a living.
Linda-Marie Barrett is the general manager and senior buyer of Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, an award-winning indie bookstore in Asheville, North Carolina. She’s on the board of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance and has served on the American Booksellers Association’s Bookseller Advisory Council. She edited and contributed to Naked Came the Leaf Peeper, a regional bestselling serial novel featuring 12 North Carolina writers.