A Chat with Janeen Solberg, 2012 RWA Steffie Walker Bookseller of the Year
Congratulations, Janeen! RWA authors will want to add your romance-friendly bookstore to their mailing lists. Where can they send congratulations or promotional items (and to whose attention)?
Turn the Page Bookstore
18 N. Main St.
Boonsboro, MD 21713
Tell us about your professional journey, and how you came to work as the manager of Turn the Page Bookstore (owned and operated by Bruce Wilder, husband of Nora Roberts).
I’m a former high school English teacher with a masters in literature, so I’ve always been drawn to book stores, especially small independents. When I decided to leave teaching to raise our children, I found myself on the local library board with Nora’s husband, Bruce Wilder. We hit it off, and that turned into just the kind of part-time job that fit my schedule at the time.
I’ve become more and more involved in the operation of the store over the years—planning book signing events, hosting Girls’ Night Out gatherings, leading the book club, maintaining our Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb subscription service and working hard to promote the Shop Local movement in our community.
What do you think makes Turn the Page Bookstore stand out in this age of e-books and e-retailers?
We have a charm and a uniqueness that can’t be achieved with a download. Stores like Turn the Page are a place apart, where you can come to relax and browse and be reminded of your love of a good story. We serve quality organic fair trade coffee and have a place to sit and catch your breath. There’s always someone willing to discuss books with you and help you find just the right one. Our collection is hand-selected and we’re always open to suggestions from our customers.
There’s also a tactile pleasure to reading a “real” book—the color, the art, the texture are all part of the experience. To me, reading an e-book is on par with drinking champagne out of a Styrofoam cup, but sometimes the need for convenience rules the day, and we understand that in our busy, modern world convenience becomes a necessity. At Turn the Page, we hope to continue providing a place and a product line that meets the needs of readers and the community at large.
Describe how your book club works and how you connect authors and readers through other store events.
The Turn the Page Book Club has been a real joy to me. We meet faithfully on the second Wednesday of each month at 1 p.m. We don’t bother with food or wine, which I know is rare, but we devour our books and have wonderfully lively discussions. About once a year, we try to work in a book where I can have the author attend the meeting and join in the discussion with us. Aside from being interesting, this is a learning opportunity for the reader and the author.
I also invite area writers to attend our Girls’ Night Out events that are held twice a year. These evenings feature refreshments, champagne, lots of door prizes, hand treatments, free samples of our local products like locally roasted coffee and hand-crafted soaps, and the opportunity to mingle with authors and artists from the community. These events have become so popular that other businesses have started to host similar events throughout town.
The longest standing tradition at Turn the Page Bookstore is our signings featuring Nora Roberts and always at least five other authors. We host these events seven times a year and draw crowds of 150 to 300 fans. A reader may come for one author, but find herself introduced to a new love. Our job is to connect readers with writers, and our book signings are a consistent way for us to accomplish this. An added advantage is that we have signed books by many authors available year round, which has been a pleasant surprise for many customers.
What types of romances seem to be the most popular with your customers? Do you see a trend with a specific subgenre, or does it vary?
I’d have to say that it really varies when it comes to the popularity of subgenres of romance. Historical, paranormal, classic romance, contemporary, magic realism, mythological, young adult, suspense, erotica . . . there are waves of popularity for sure, but what I’ve found is that customers like what they like. If they’ve attached to a particular subgenre, then that’s their go-to unless you can convince them to stretch a bit.
Do you have any suggestions for romance authors who want to develop a relationship with their local booksellers?
We meet authors in a lot of different ways--sometimes through the WRW retreat participants, but more often than not, they just show up. Some start out as customers; some come in and show us their new book; others call and ask to sign stock; and many send emails. Of course, the personal touch is always best whether it’s direct or indirect. For example, we’ve had long-time customers connect us with authors with conversations that begin with, “I’m a big fan of so-and-so and she would really like to sign here. Can you invite her?”
What does it mean to you to be the 2012 RWA Steffie Walker Bookseller of the Year?
I’m incredibly proud to receive this award and represent Turn the Page Bookstore—not only Nora and Bruce, but our staff. We’re a small team, but we have a big love of romance. We value the industry and the bricks and mortar stores that are putting books into the hands of readers and providing a sense of community in our neighborhood—be it the streets of Boonsboro or our friends around the globe.
RWA will present Janeen Solberg the RWA Steffie Walker Bookseller of the Year Award at the 2012 RWA Conference in Anaheim, California, on July 27.
Photo credit: Bruce Wilder