Bookstore Interview – Sally Sue Lavigne of The Storybook Shoppe


Image from http://www.thestorybookshoppe.com

 

Bookstores are magical places: shops where you walk in and are immediately presented with thousands of portals to other worlds. But we also hear a lot about the difficulty of maintaining an independent bookstore nowadays, with quickly changing technology and ease of online ordering. Despite that, many independent bookstores are thriving in their community, and today I’m excited to feature an interview with Sally Sue Lavigne, the owner of The Storybook Shoppe.

 

Image from http://www.thestorybookshoppe.com

 

The Storybook Shoppe, located in Bluffton, South Carolina, has been featured on local TV and in Shelf Awareness Pro. It offers a story hour every Monday morning at 10am, along with other in-store promotions and events. For instance, on National Coloring Book Day–August 2nd–The Storybook Shoppe discounted all coloring books (even the “adult” ones!) by 50%.

Enjoy the interview below with Sally Sue, and be sure to check out all the ways you can connect with her and The Storybook Shoppe below!

 

1. How did you first get into the bookstore business? Have you also worn any other hats related to publishing, books, or small businesses?

I got into the business completely on a whim. I purchased the shop from the owner when she moved to Asheville, NC. She had the shop up for sale, and I saw it in her newsletter. I asked my husband if he wanted to buy a bookstore, and he didn’t say no!

I was a substitute teacher before that, and I was always reading so that when kids came into the library and said they didn’t know what to read, I would ask them if they had tried this or this. And I’ve always been an avid collector of children’s books myself. This gave me the opportunity to still be around books and work with children, or recommend books for children to read.

 

2. What have you found most challenging about the bookstore business?

Part of it is just keeping up. In the publishing industry, things are coming out all the time. For me, my biggest challenge area right now is young adult books–getting that group to come in and purchase books because they think of us as a children’s bookstore. We’re trying to get the older youth to realize that we do cater to them, and we don’t stop at just, say, eighth grade. When you go to high school, you’re not too old to enjoy bookshops. And that age group is so aware of what’s going on in the world, and are on their phones and social media, that a lot of times, they know what’s published before I do. It’s a really quick curve because it changes so quickly.

And young adult books are often better written than many books written for the adult market. They have more challenging word choices than even adult books, and they’re written on topics that really make you think. They are on things like terminal illnesses, the racial divide, or topics of acceptance in sexual diversity, and so there’s a lot more edgier topics being written about these days than ever before.

Another of my biggest challenges is that at least once a week, I have someone come in to me with their book they wrote or self-published. It’s so hard for me to say to them that it doesn’t really fit in my store, and to turn them away, but you can’t put everybody in. If I took every self-published book, I wouldn’t have room for anything. You have to, as a bookseller, be conscious of what you’re selling, conscious of the quality, and what you bring to the table. The self-published author is a challenge. Because it’s their baby. They put their time and effort into it.

 

3. What is something that surprised you about the bookstore business?

I guess one of the things that was surprising to me is how many advanced copies of books you get, and how often you get to read what’s coming out ahead of the curve, so that you can know and you can decide what you’re going to carry and what you’re not going to carry. Also, the willingness of other booksellers in other parts of the country to give advice and be encouraging. About six months into owning the store we went to Children’s Institute, and it was really interesting to talk to other children’s bookstores, and to get to meet authors like Kate DiCamillo–people that are the rockstars of the bookstore industry. They’re all kind and encouraging.

I’ve also been surprised by the encouragement I’ve gotten from adult South Carolina writers. Mary Alice Munroe writes in the adult book space. She lives up in Charleston and she comes often to the Bluffton area, and she’s been so supportive and so encouraging. She has some children’s books that have spun out of her adult books, and any time she’s in town, she comes in and signs any copies that we have.

 

4. What is something that most authors don’t know about the bookstore business?

Successful published authors realize that the picture book industry has changed, from being text heavier, even when I was a child, to now. People want something that’s quicker and easier. A lot of books may be fabulous, but if they’ve got too much text, people won’t buy them anymore. I’m finding that to be a trend. I also have the challenge that people will bring their six or seven year old in, and want a book for them to read, and will tell them the picture books are baby books. Picture books are mostly written on a sixth, seventh, or eighth grade level because they’re not written for a child to read but for a child to be read to.

 

5. What is one book–fiction or nonfiction–that you would recommend people pick up?

There’s a couple. For the picture books crew, it’s an older book, and it’s called BARK, GEORGE. It’s probably one of my very favorite books, because it’s humorous. George’s Mom asks him to bark and he meows, and then he quacks. Like all parents, she thinks something is wrong and so she takes him to the vet, and the vet pulls all these animals out of George. The greatest fun is you hand it to a grandparent, and they start reading it, and they’re laughing out loud.

My other recommendation for the middle-grade reading group would definitely be SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK by Robert Beatty. It’s a suspense-filled historical novel that has elements of folklore and magic. It’s a two-year-old book, and in the last two years, it’s still probably my number one favorite recommend, and we probably hand-sell that book two to three times a week.

 

Here are the ways you can connect with Sally Sue and The Storybook Shoppe!

Visit their site.

Follow them on their Facebook page.

Follow them on Instagram.

Follow them on Twitter.

Join their mailing list.

Last but not least, visit them in person!

The Storybook Shoppe
41A Calhoun Street, Bluffton, SC 29910
Phone: 843-757-2600; Email: books@thestorybookshoppe.com

 

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