Book Sense Helps Sales Blossom at Garden District Book Shop

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At the Garden District Book Shop in New Orleans, author events are a pretty common occurrence -- the independent bookstore averages around 30 events in a year. However, author Susan Vreeland's appearance at the bookstore this past February was different. The author of The Passion of Artemisia (Viking hardcover, Penguin paperback) and Girl in Hyacinth Blue (MacMurray & Beck hardcover, Penguin paperback) came to the Garden District because the owner and staff of the store had nominated her titles for the Book Sense 76.

Left to right: Amy Loewy, Brice Tritton, and Susan Vreeland

"Vreeland's appearance was indicative of a real Book Sense success story," said Garden District's owner, Britton Trice. "When [she] noticed that the Book Sense quotes for both of her books came from the Garden District Book Shop she told her publicist that, if this one store was doing so much to talk up her books, then a stop in New Orleans was a must on her recent tour for the paperback release of Passion of Artemisia."

The 25-year-old Garden District Book Shop, a 2,500-square-foot store specializing in signed books, which is located in New Orleans' garden district, has been a Book Sense member "since the very beginning," Trice told BTW. "It seemed like a natural idea -- the public voice for the independent bookseller."

One of the key components of the Book Sense marketing program, Trice noted, is the Book Sense 76 list of bookseller recommendations, and he and his staff consistently nominate books for the list.

In 2000, Trice chose Vreeland's Girl in Hyacinth Blue for the 76 list. The book debuted at number two on the November/December 2000 Book Sense 76 and included Trice's quote. "I'd read the book and just loved it and sent a quote," he explained. "I told our sales rep that our quote was used, and he told [his publisher], but I think [Vreeland] had her tour planned already at that time."

Two years later, Garden District Book Shop Assistant Manager Amy Loewy nominated Vreeland's The Passion of Artemisia for the Book Sense 76. As a hardcover, the book was number one on January/February 2002 Book Sense 76, and the paperback edition was number two on the January/February 2003 Book Sense 76. Loewy's quote was published in both lists. Additionally, Vreeland's book, with Loewy's quote, was spotlighted in a Book Sense ad in the January 27, 2003 edition of the New Yorker.

"I told our sales rep our quote was used again," Trice said. "[Vreeland] e-mailed us, 'Thanks for the support.' We replied, 'We'd love to get you down here for a signing.'" Since Vreeland was planning a tour to promote the paperback release of The Passion of Artemisia, an appearance was scheduled for February 2003.

The event was a success, Trice reported, and the author promised a return visit. "She read and did a slide presentation of Artemisia's artwork," he said.

Overall, Trice explained that, by participating in the Book Sense marketing program and by nominating books for the 76, he's increased his name recognition dramatically. "Book Sense 76 allows you to [recommend] the books you love, and hopefully, if your quote is chosen, you'll get national recognition -- especially when a [top pick] is put in the New Yorker," he said, adding that many customers have noted the store's name in the New Yorker.

Furthermore, the Book Sense program and 76 lists have driven store sales in a myriad of ways, Trice stressed. For one, even without Vreeland's appearance, the fact that his quote and store name was included in the Book Sense 76 increased sales of Girl in Hyacinth Blue and The Passion of Artemisia, he said. "We can highlight our [Book Sense 76] quotes in the store. Also, [when a book is recommended in the 76] it gets our staff to read a book," which makes it a better handsell, he said.