Paula Keeney, co-owner of Mainely Murders Bookstore in Kennebunk, is a strong supporter of Maine Crime Writers. She occasionally weighs in from her vantage point of bookseller.
“This bookstore is my dream job.” We hear it—or some variety of that—almost every day. But, we never grow tired of it.
A bookstore devoted exclusively to whodunits, thrillers, cozies, and the like. Wall-to-wall mysteries. Most of them used. Some first-time customers—we get lots of those during the summer months—are convinced that we “invented” the mystery bookstore and that we must be the only one. Needless to say, we didn’t and we’re not.
After eight years, we’re used to questions like that. And, “Have you read every book in here?” (No, our total inventory is about 10,000 books, with some 3,500 on the shelves at any one time. But, between the two of us, we’ve probably read most authors because our tastes are very different.) “How long have you been reading mysteries?” (Between us, we total about 125 years of mystery reading. But, no, neither of us is quite that old.)
Some people look into the shop and say, “These can’t all be Maine mysteries?” No, they’re not, but at Mainely Murders, we love books by Maine crime writers. Indeed, that’s why we give them a place just inside our front door—and unusually for us, stock many of them as new books.
It’s why we make every attempt to keep their backlists on the shelves, along with series chronologies. And, it’s why we host them at store events.
But, most important of all, we think, is how much time we spend talking with our customers about Maine writers. We can do that, first, because we personally know many of them. And, we read their books.
In the bookstore vernacular, it’s called “hand selling.” It refers to taking the time (and energy) to personally introduce customers to new (to them) authors and titles. But, we don’t do this alone.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve listened to one customer telling another about why she enjoys Barb Ross’ Maine Clambake series, why she thinks this customer would also enjoy them, and, oh, by the way, she met Barb at a Mainely Murders event and “She’s really great.”
That new customer, from somewhere in West Virginia, leaves the shop with all six Maine Clambake titles, and promises from us that we’ll send her the next one as soon as available.
A little while later, I look over to see one of our local customers explaining to a friend why Lea Wait is one of her favorite Maine authors. “I got hooked on her series about an antique prints dealer. When she started her Mainely Needlepoint mysteries, I was all over it.”
The next day, a customer wants to know if “that Portland cop” has written anything new. When I point to Bruce Coffin’s Among the Shadows and Beneath the Depths and he confirms he’s read those, I let him know that Beyond the Truth, the third in the series, is due out soon. (Note: it’s now out!) Oh, and by the way I tell him, we’ll be hosting Bruce for a reading and signing at the Kennebunk Free Library.
Not one to leave empty handed—we rarely see that—this customer decides, with only a little urging, to check out another Portland police detective, Kate Flora’s Joe Burgess. (Two weeks later, he’s back to get the next book in the series.)
Speaking of Kate Flora, another Maine author who’s been our guest, her Thea Kozak series, which debuted in 1994 with Chosen for Death, has always been a steady seller for us. That’s why we try to keep her earlier books in stock. (And because we like her and she’s been a generous friend to Mainely Murders.) Now, we can tell her readers that Thea has returned in her 9th title, Schooled in Death.
And, these are just a few examples.
We also encourage readers to check out this very Maine Crime Writers blog. What better way to learn about Maine authors? That and becoming our customers.
Note: Maine Murders Bookstore (www.mainelymurders.com and email@example.com) is located at 1 Bourne Street, steps off Main Street in downtown Kennebunk. It’s open Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with a break from January until May.