August 2, 2018

What Do You Want in a Bookstore?

Aisle between bookshelves leading to large window with text: Imagine Your Ideal Bookstore...

Like most writers, my love affair with books goes way back.

As a child, I lived for the Scholastic Book Fairs at school, when I’d spend almost every penny of my allowance on books. In my teens, I hung out at a local used bookstore with a strong science fiction section, so I’ve read most of the classics of the genre.

As I got older—and burned out on the required reading of college—I stopped reading fiction until the Harry Potter series tempted me back. Since then, my to-be-read pile of physical books has taken over a corner of my room (after filling several bookshelves), and my hoard on Kindle is enough for several lifetimes.

In addition, unlike when I was in a cultural-desert as a child, I now have 5 libraries within easy distance. And I’ve visited every one.

One thing I haven’t discovered near my current home, though, is a good bookstore. Like many, while I love the convenience of Amazon, I’d also love to shop locally and do my part to delay Amazon taking over the world, in Pixar’s Wall-E “Buy n Large” style. *grin*

Buy-n-Large logo with text: Warning! Evil Corporation at Work

So I’m tickled beyond belief that my writing bestie, Angela Quarles, is opening her very own bookstore. (Let’s not think about how I’m also feeling bummed that I don’t live closer to her Mobile, Alabama location. *smile*)

Author Dreams: Working with Books

Many authors dream of working with books beyond just writing them. Some authors are also editors, and some are agents. Some are librarians, and some run bookstores. In fact, Angela’s not the only author who’s dreamed of owning a bookstore.

Famously, bestselling author Nora Roberts and her husband own Turn the Page Bookstore in Boonsboro, Maryland. Fans of her romance and futuristic (under her pseudonym of J.D. Robb) books travel from across the country to visit her store, where every one of her books still in print can be found on the shelves and customers might even catch La Nora herself in town.

Just a few years ago, beloved author Judy Blume and her husband opened a Books & Books location in Key West, Florida. Other author/booksellers include Emma Straub, Louise Erdrich, and Ann Patchett.

The Different Personalities of Bookstores

With Amazon and big box stores, convenience and price often weigh more heavily than the “vibe,” hangout potential, or community involvement of independent bookstores. But even with the special offerings of indies, not every bookstore is a haven for every reader.

What would your ideal bookstore include? Click To TweetSome independent bookstores have a reputation of being the store equivalent of literary snobs, not carrying many genre books. Or if they do, they’ll stock only the mega names that have crossed over to mainstream or commercial fiction, such as Nora Roberts or James Patterson.

Even those that carry mysteries, thrillers, or other genre stories often won’t carry romance books. I live in the Phoenix area, the fifth or so largest city in the U.S., and yet this map by Smart Bitches shows a void of any romance-friendly bookshops in the whole metro area.

What Makes a Bookstore Worth Visiting?

Contrary to all that, The Haunted Book Shop in Mobile, Alabama, will have its own unique vibe. Angela named her store in honor of her grandmother, Adelaide Trigg, who started the original shop of that name in 1941, and it stayed in operation until 1991.

As a USA Today bestselling author and winner of the 2016 RITA award from RWA for paranormal romance, Angela Quarles is determined to ensure her version of The Haunted Book Shop is genre friendly—even for romance.

In addition, she’ll be catering to authors and writers at her store, with writing workshops, a whole selection of writing craft and research books, as well as the usual book signings and readings (including an open-mic night). Beyond the usual, she envisions a consignment program for selling print books by indie authors and a writer-in-residence program with a space for writing that includes access to WiFi, printer, and a Keurig—and visibility to potential readers. *smile*

For readers, she’ll be hosting book clubs and date-night/group activities, like wine tastings and movie nights paired with books. A special reader lounge will offer comfy seating and provide space for events.

She’s scheduling her grand opening on the second Friday of October (Oct. 12th) to coordinate with the local LoDa Artwalk community event. Obviously, I’m excited for Angela, so I want to help her out with her dream! *smile*

Even if you’re not local to Mobile, here are a few ways to get involved:

  • Let her know: What would you like to see in a bookstore? Do you have ideas for events, services, or fun things that would make you want to visit a local bookshop (or travel to one)? (Leave a comment below.)
  • Donate to a GoFundMe to raise money for the redecorating of the space.
  • Purchase items from an Amazon Wish List that she’ll be stocking in the writing room, readers’ lounge, and children’s area.
  • Sign up for mailing lists to match your interests and keep up to date.
    (Authors: Sign up to the “Author Events (as an attending author)” mailing list to hear about future offerings, such as the potential of managing signed books, etc.)
  • If you’re an author, send swag! *grin*
    Have bookmarks, posters, or other swag? You can send it to:
    The Haunted Book Shop
    C/o Angela Trigg
    951 Government St.
    Suite B
    Mobile, AL 36604

Do you have any great bookstore memories, and if so, what makes them great? Or if you have bad bookstore memories, what was bad about the place? What makes a bookshop perfect to you? Is it about the books in stock? The friendly and helpful employees? The store’s overall vibe, welcoming space, or personality? The events or special features? Share ideas and help Angela make this store a destination for readers and writers! *smile*

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Comments — What do you think?

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Bran Ayres

I’ve never had much access to bookstores, always lived in small rural towns where even having a library was iffy. Now that I live in a bigger town I find that many of the local bookstores are very ‘Christian’ as in hardly any genre books and forget anything LGBT. Even the local B&N is thin on LBGT+ related books and absoultely no LGBT+ fiction unless it is a mainstream literary book which often are angst porn and love to highlight how utterly awful it is to be LGBT. -_-

I’d love to be able to walk into a bookstore and find works by Megan Derr, Holly Evans, K J Charles, and Jordan Hawke (maybe even myself one day ;P) in among the other romance novels.

Hearing all the things she has planned makes me wish I lived a lot closer. I have a feeling she’d get sick of seeing me there XD.

Angela Quarles
Angela Quarles

Hi Bran,

Thank you for the comment! I’m going to definitely have LGBTQ+ books. I already have a healthy selection of Mystery and am working on Romance, so I really appreciate you naming some of your faves!!

Lee K
Lee K

I adore Powells Books in Portland. I could go there every week and just stand there, swooning. They have a healthy romance section, and a killer SFF section.
Also, in Seattle there’s a trend for cats in bookstores. I don’t know why, but Twice Sold Tales (they sell used books, which is amazing) boasts four cats. They don’t have a great romance section, though.
I’m lucky to live near Porter Square Bookstore in Cambridge. Their romance section is small, but the bookstore will happily special order any in-print book for you. This includes print-on-demand by CreateSpace. They also have a good selection of small press and indie books, as well as local indie author book signings.

Elizabeth Searle
Elizabeth Searle

I would love to see a bookstore with a glass-walled room filled with cats up for adoption. (The glass-walls are so everyone can see in, but people with cat allergies aren’t bothered.) Inside the room would be cat-friendly seating and a selection of frequently-rotated promoted books. The idea is that visitors might stop in to visit the cats and go home with an unplanned book purchase and possibly a new companion. We visited a cat cafe in San Francisco that left a few donated books scattered around the cat room. They also sold tea (which you could drink in the cat room) and food (which you hat to eat next door, but you could still see the cats through a picture window). I thought the only thing missing was a bookstore (and possibly wine!). Also note that they charge $25/hour just to sit and play with the cats, and they are frequently sold out — so this could also be an additional revenue stream.

Angela Quarles
Angela Quarles

That’s awesome! I’m limited in space and funds, so can’t do a glass-fronted room, but I will be having my cat Mr. Bingley in residence, and I’m also coordinating with a dog rescue place to foster a dog at the store so that it might help get the dogs into their forever homes.

P.I. Barrington
P.I. Barrington

Wow! I’ve been thinking about my old book stores for the last few days! In my favorite bookstore (in my teens & twenties) decades ago, there wasn’t really anywhere to sit but the walls were literally crammed with books and had aisles (again, packed tightly) but I loved it because there were books in the amount of my dream book life! I also had a library that I haunted literally and I lived to see it rebuilt with an actual coffee shop inside. As an author, I loved hearing about Angela’s bookstore and would love to participate as much as I can! I’m out of swag right now but hopefully can get more to send the The Haunted Bookstore (LOVE LOVE LOVE that name!) I am now located in Tennessee so I’m not that far away and I’m in edits with my publisher for The Brede Chronicles, Book Two & would
love to do a signing at some point! Feel free to contact me if I can help with anything.
Oh, and thanks Jami for posting this info!

Angela Quarles
Angela Quarles

Awesome! Be sure to sign up for my mailing list for authors to learn more about how to do signings!


Hmmm…reminds me of a joke about librarians, “their ideal library is one with zero circulation and all the books correctly arranged on the shelves.”

My ideal bookstore would be empty, all the books will have been bought, and someone would be reading every one. 🙂

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara

My ideal store has new books and secondhand books.

Angela Quarles
Angela Quarles

Cool! That’s what mine will be 😉


I’m lucky enough that the Philadelphia area is home to many, MANY Barnes and Nobles (I can name FIVE within a forty-five-minute drive from my house, and my closest one is also the closest to my all-time favorite author, so squee!) but there’s only a handful of indie bookstores. It was so shocking when I realized how lacking my area is, despite have such a literature-rich history and being pretty hipster, with lots of relatively wealthy millennials having moved in in the past few years. The few bookstores around aren’t very accommodating to genre fiction, and they seem very cramped and unorganized – not at all hospitable to relaxing or generally enjoying the spirit of the place.

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