Bookstore Interview – Whitney Spotts of Schuler Books


I first heard about Schuler Books when a friend mentioned they always have amazing book and author events. And lo and behold, just a few weeks later, I saw Leigh Bardugo was stopping by for a signing. Schuler Books seems to constantly have tons of great events, and I only wish that Ann Arbor was a little bit closer to Grand Rapids, or Okemos.

 

Image from Schuler Books’ Instagram

 

However, Schuler Books does have a presence in Ann Arbor–it acquired Nicola Books a few years ago, a bookstore right next to the Westgate Branch of the Ann Arbor library. Schuler Books locations each contain a Chapbook Café, along with a host of author and community events. Local authors can even apply on the bookstore’s site to be featured in an event. Chances are, if you do, you’ll connect with Whitney Spotts, who manages promotions for Schuler Books, and is responsible for a lot of their very well-known events. In fact, the friend who mentioned Schuler Books to me specifically named Whitney as the person behind the bookstore’s fantastic lineup of author events.

If you’re ever in the Michigan area, definitely look up the store. And be sure to check out all the ways you can connect with Schuler Books–and by extension, Whitney–below!

(Quick note: Since I first spoke with Whitney, Schuler Books closed their Lansing location after their lease ended, which is why you see Whitney refer to three locations and not just two.)

 

1. How did you first get into the bookstore business, including promotions? 

I was lucky enough to hire into Schuler Books when they were building their Eastwood Towne Center store in Lansing. I originally interviewed for the inventory manager position, which went to our awesome Billy Lahti, still running the ship 15 years later, so I started as a bookseller and worked my way into doing promotions for the Eastwood store. I now manage the author tours and events for all three Schuler locations. I have also worked as the Arts and Entertainment Editor for the Lansing City Pulse, where I was able, among other things, to review books and interview authors.

 

2. What have you found most challenging about your role at Schuler Books?

The most challenging thing is probably the fact that event planning and book sales are entirely unpredictable. You may think you have an educated guess as to how well attended an event might be, or how well you think a certain book will sell, but you truly never know what will hit and what will flop. There are a million factors that go into whether a book catches on, or doesn’t. It can be heartbreaking to put a ton of work into promoting a specific book or author, and not get the response you were hoping for–on the flip side, it can be very exciting to watch a book you’ve been championing really take off!

 

3. What is something that surprised you about your career?

I guess, over time, it’s been really interesting to watch the birth and rise of ebooks, which really sent the bookselling industry into a bit of a tumble for a minute–that combined with the economic collapse of 2008 caused quite a scare, with indie and national bookstores closing across the country. But, happily, we have weathered the storm so I’ve been around to see the bounce-back of brick and mortar, and the return of fondness for physical objects and in-person shopping. It’s definitely been an interesting time to work in the industry!

 

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

Given my experience, I think most local authors would be very surprised to know that we rarely make a profit off of a local author’s book. We love to support local authors, and offer consignments and local author nights to promote new works, but it truly is more of a service we are providing authors in order to promote a thriving local book scene, not a money-maker for us.

 

5. What is one piece of advice you would give to writers–whether about book publicity, finding great events in their area, etc.?

From my experience, the most important thing I can say to an author scheduling or trying to schedule an event, is that getting the event booked is the most minor of steps. The real work goes into spreading the word about that event, and you really shouldn’t solely rely on the bookstore to do that for you. Each bookstore hosts a number of events a month, and while we do have our beloved regulars who attend events often, typically they are going to choose to attend an event for a nationally touring author rather than a local author with whom they are unfamiliar. Successful authors these days are not just writing their books, but are writing blogs, active on social media, and creating audiences who are interested in what they have to say. It’s a lot of work, but it’s so worth it when you see a book fall into the right reader’s hands!

 

Here are the ways you can connect with Whitney and Schuler Books!

Visit their site.

Follow them on their Facebook page.

Follow them on Instagram.

Follow them on Twitter.

 

Last but not least, visit them in person!

Schuler Books
2660 28th Street SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49512
2820 Towne Center Blvd., Lansing, MI 48912
1982 Grand River Ave, Okemos, MI 48864
Phone: 616.942.2561 (Grand Rapids); Email: info@schulerbooks.com

 

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