BookLore: ‘Our connection to the community makes the difference’

March 25, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

“Can you believe that, on December 11th of this year,” said Nancy Frater, co-founder and owner of BookLore, “we will have been in business for 30 years?”

Today, March 28, is Canadian Independent Bookstore Day. In 2013, BookLore won the award for Best Canadian Independent Bookstore of the year.

What kind of acumen, of shrewd business savvy does it take to achieve that?

Her answer might be a little surprising.

“A passion for the written word and a connection with the community,” she replied, without hesitation. “When we all work together, that really makes things go well. When the connection influences the number of books sold, we have a great list of regulars who understand the importance of book stores and we work with all of them. 

“If, for example, we don’t have a book someone wants we’ll phone Coles and or, if a book is out of print, we’ll call Readers Choice.

“We’re respectful of the toy store because we don’t want to sell what they have because we work together, as a community supporting each other.”

Mrs. Frater is excited about the upcoming presentation at Theatre Orangeville, Books on Stage.

She extolled the two gentlemen involved: “We should be over the moon about Roland [Kirouac], what he’s accomplished in his life time and how much he has given back to the community. 

“And Michael McCreary has done comedy gigs across the country and into the U.S. They did a documentary about him on The National and Annick Press caught sight of him and published his book. He called it, Funny, You Don’t Look Autistic.”

Reflecting on what this means, she commented, “With BookLore, when I look back in our history, we’ve brought some big names to town and we’ve championed local authors. So, I’m really excited about this up coming event, April 9 at the Opera House, with these two.”

Books are still being published by publishing houses but self-publishing has risen from the days of “Vanity Press,” so many people are going that route.

As a seller of books, she told us, “Self publishing, let me explain it. These days people are driven to self -publishing because it’s so hard to get through to publishers. 

“The important thing to remember is you have to have good editing [by a third party editor] and be prepared to market the book yourself. We certainly try to help new authors Every year, at Christmas time, we write about new authors for In the Hills [magazine] and we have a special area in our shop for self-published books.

In full support, BookLore mentions those books on their Facebook page. 

“We launch them and have book signings here at the store. Unfortunately, we can’t read them all. So, you have to rely on the author. There are so many self-published books, we can’t stock them all.

“Most of what we carry is published by bone fide publishers. There is generally just so much room. When you’re choosing what to carry, in any book store, you have to be selective anyway.”

She said it like a promise: “I like to to sell books. I am in awe of anyone that takes the chance and self-publishes. The sales of those books have done very well. After the write-up in In the Hills, people come with it in hand and they’re looking for the book they’ve just read about.”

In this online life, “There are three big challengers. The first one, we had a couple of recessions but we weathered those. Two has been devices. Yet, the turnaround to come to books is really positive. For travel, people take a few books on their device.

“As for the third, online is always a challenge. You try to deal with online by offering the personal service. Often it is not that much cheaper on line and our customers are buying into local, I’m happy to say.”

We are lucky to have the chance. 

“The other thing,” she continued, “I think we’re an information hub, meeting friends, people talking about books even though they don’t know each other. We sell a lot of tickets for groups, helping them and helping the community. All sorts, Monday Night at the Movies, the Museum [of Dufferin], sports.

“Doug Gilmore and Curtis Joseph both came here for book signings. We brought them to the Tony Rose [Memorial] Arena. The place was packed both times.”

A brief history lesson: “BookLore has had some interesting firsts. There was a mass markets publisher. They allowed you to return books. We used to tear the covers off the books and to return the cover to them and we threw the books into recycling. But phone books, a shop in Brampton took old telephone books and made kitty litter of them. We called them and asked if they would take these books too and they said yes.

“From that, we formed a book group to recycle those old books. We spear-headed the system. 

“I was thinking about the programs,” she considered, “with the local libraries, doing One Book One County. We’ve done some different events with authors in Mulmur.. We have terrific friendships, with authors and with publishers.”

Not forgetting the partnership with Theatre Orangeville. Nancy and her doctor husband Tom’s profound support for the theatre and the arts in general cannot be measured. 

David Nairn, Artistic Director of Theatre Orangeville, said recently, “The Authors On Stage series, which is hosted in partnership with BookLore and Theatre Orangeville, is the driving force behind the theatre’s New Play Development.”

This fund is used to develop new plays by Canadian playwrights, in a consistent support of new and established Canadian authors, a history-long program of Theatre Orangeville.

“It has always been important to me to support and encourage upcoming Canadian writers,” said Nancy Frater.

To budding authors, she advises, “You could always try to go the publisher ride. Do a bit of research. For children’s books, there is the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, where you can get ideas of how you can submit your manuscript.

“A book call the Writer’s Market is how to approach publishers for other books. Some won’t accept unsolicited manuscripts. They just lie in the dust and never get read.”

Ready to offer something more, her comment was, “People are getting very adept on online presence. They have an online presence with a blog; it’s a new way of marketing but they’re still doing their books in print form.”

Truth is, Nancy Frater likes selling books and she has been doing a wonderful job of it for 30 years.

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