A Book Coach Goes to a Bookstore in Cambridge, MA

Sometimes, the things a book coach sees at the bookstore can help writers learn something about the world of books. Here are two posts from my bookstore visits of the past -- Post 1, Post 2.

This past weekend I was in Boston and visited Porter Square Books in Cambridge.
 

Right inside the front door on the front table was a signed book on display about creative “types.” This concept connects to one of my obsessions (creativity) and to a book one of my clients is writing, so I grabbed it. Upon arriving home, I checked out author Meta Wagner's website and can already tell it will be a new favorite. 

 
 

The Staff Picks table is always the best part of any bookstore. What do the booksellers love and why? This is a question everyone needs answers to! I love how this store offers 20% off these titles -- what a great way to get people to try something new.
 

 
 

A new book by Anita Shreve caught my eye. on the display just behind the Staff Picks. I had seen the cover somewhere else (a magazine? newspaper? website) but didn't realize that the cover has beautifully little shiny foil flecks on all the sparks. It's always a thrill to see what publishers do for their superstars (sparkly sparks!)  I loved Shreve's The Pilot's Wife and this book looks fascinating. If you want to read book jacket copy that really draws you in, check hers out, below.

  • Note the killer one-line summary at the start
  • Note the combination of specificity (five months pregnant, forcing them all into the ocean as a last resort) and mystery (and then the unthinkable happened.)
  • Note the heightened language (watches helplessly, frantically protecting, glorious new freedoms)


INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Weight of Water and The Pilot's Wife (an Oprah's Book Club selection): an exquisitely suspenseful new novel about an extraordinary young woman tested by a catastrophic event and its devastating aftermath -- based on the true story of the largest fire in Maine's history

In October 1947, after a summer-long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast from Bar Harbor to Kittery and are soon racing out of control from town to village. Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her husband, Gene, joins the volunteer firefighters. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie's two young children, Grace watches helplessly as their houses burn to the ground, the flames finally forcing them all into the ocean as a last resort. The women spend the night frantically protecting their children, and in the morning find their lives forever changed: homeless, penniless, awaiting news of their husbands' fate, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists. In the midst of this devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms--joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain--and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens--and Grace's bravery is tested as never before.

 
 

On the back cover of the Shreve book jacket were blurbs by a bunch of literary luminaries, including Pulitzer-prize winner Richard Russo, and strangely enough, when I turned around, there was a new book by Richard Russo! Weird! But also proof that the literary universe is small!

Also see that cover on the Dennis Lehane book? I've seen that cover in several places and it always stands out.

 
 

Near the Russo book was a display caught my eye because there were so many autographed copies -- see all the little white circle stickers? They indicate autographed copies. The creative type book at the top had one, too. Clearly, this is a bookstore that attracts writers -- that celebrates them, welcomes them, and promotes them. 

Here was a display of books that caught my eye because I had read nearly every one of them!

 
 

My daughter, Carlyn, commented that SHE had read nearly every book on the Hugo Award winner shelf. The Hugo Award honors the best in science fiction.

 
 

I  turned around and was stopped cold by the yellow cover – my client Tracey Cleantis’ first book, The Next Happy, had this exact title as the working title. How strange to see a book with that actual title! I checked it out with Tracey, and it turns out that this author contacted her publisher to make sure the title was available. The author had seen an early announcement of Tracey's book with that initial title.

I am often asked if you can publish a book with the same title as another book. You certainly can if it's a different genre (The Cake Bible could be a cookbook and a novel....) or if you are clearly connected to that title in some demonstrable way (Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run has the same title as a famous book about running -- he gets that one!) but that everything else considered, if is probably best to find an original title.
 

 
 

There was a giant display of cycling books. My husband is a cyclist so I took a picture for him. Who knew that cycling was its own genre??
 

 
 

Bookstores sell more than books. I bought a pair of reading glasses and a slipcase. We saw some gorgeous journals and some excellent greeting cards.

 
 

These sweet sisters were reading to each other in the children's corner. I asked if I could take their picture and they said yes -- but then changed their mind and said they should probably ask their mom. We went to ask their mom, and the mom agreed. I told her she was raising some seriously fantastic kids -- polite, self-aware and READING. If there is hope in the world, it is contained in kids who read!

 
 


My girl (okay she's a young woman -- she's almost 25) sat down in front of a middle grade fantasy shelf to drool over new versions of her old favorites – the Redwall books (which she’s holding), the Tamora Pierce books and Ella Enchanted – which is possibly her all-time favorite book. These are books that helped form her, inspire her, lead her to a career, and filled our home with joy.

 
 




I ended up buying Carlyn a copy of the same book I just bought myself (The Girl Who Drank the Moon) so we can read it together, and I bought her the top book on her wish-list. In hardback -- because when you are making your own home, you need books on the shelf that you can keep forever. 

Here's what she posted when she got home: