A Bookstore Perspective
Interview with Erin Matthews,
owner of The Last Word
Bookstores, Mt. Airy and
How does a woman with a classics degree become the owner of two bookstores? I asked Erin Matthews, owner of The Last Word Bookstore, located in Mount Airy and Savage Mill, Maryland.
“I’ve always loved bookstores,” she said, “and when I found out that the bookstore in Glenwood, MD, was for sale, I was very interested.”
So how did she become a bookstore owner? She learned the previous owners of the bookstore in Glenwood wanted to sell the store but couldn’t find a buyer, so Erin negotiated an excellent deal with them that included the fixtures and the store inventory at a huge discount. “I happened into a situation where the owners wanted to sell but also wanted to keep it going,” Erin says.
With supportive parents and an aunt and uncle willing to help with financing, Erin was able to complete the deal. She decided to move the store to Mt. Airy, MD, and then was able to acquire the bookstore in Savage Mill.
At first Erin found it hard to let the non-selling books go, but she had to move on. She has trouble acquiring enough inventory, but she gets a lot of donations. She also goes to church and library sales and at the end of the sale is able to buy what didn’t sell at a big discount.
Erin also handles the bookstore at the Maryland Writers’ Association annual conference and also co hosts MWA’s Author Showcase, held this year in April and November at the Savage Mill store.
“She has been wonderfully supportive of the Maryland Writers’ Association,” says Amy Kaplan, MWA president.
Many authors have turned to self-publishing, so I asked Erin how self-publishers could best work with her. First, she says, authors need to know the bookstore and its client base. Would the author’s book fit? She sells mostly used books but new books turn over faster. Authors should know that the person at the front desk is not the decision maker. They should leave a bookmark or other item that provides necessary information. Most publishers send out catalogs.
Find out if the bookstore accepts consignments. Like most bookstore owners, she prefers to order from one source, such as Ingram, and receive one invoice than to track many invoices on consigned items.
Also, Erin says, the books should be produced well. Authors need to hire a professional proofreader and have their work professionally edited. And they should do their research. She keeps getting queries from authors who misspell her name or address her by the wrong gender, wrong name, wrong bookstore in emails riddled with spelling errors. And like most bookstores, she won’t buy a book published by Amazon.
Nov. 12: Maryland Writers' Assn Author Showcase, The Last Word Bookstore, Savage Mill.
Apr. 26-28: Malice Domestic Annual Conference, Bethesda, MD.
Here’s research for you. My husband and I took a brief trip to the North Carolina mountains to pan for emeralds. Sapphire, rubies, garnets—we’d be okay with those, too. I’ve just finished writing my latest book, tentatively called A Fear of Emeralds, and wanted to check out a few things.
I love reading and writing mysteries. Here are two of my latest.
From Kirkus reviews -
“... fast-paced and multilayered thriller with well-developed characters and colorful settings.... An engaging tale for aficionados of psychological suspense.”
The House on
"“An engrossing tale of suspense, treachery, and bad choices made for good reasons…. Historical novel readers with special interest in a suspense story that embraces civil rights activism and gang activity will find The House on Hatemonger Hill hard to point down.” – Midwest Book Review