On Writing Well: An Interview with Christin Evans of the Booksmith

As a part of our On Writing Well series, we reached out to the incredible Christin Evans, the owner of the best bookstore in San Francisco, the Booksmith.

Christin’s job connects her to a large number of great writers, and her advice on writing  is very welcome. Thanks Christin for your wise words!

1. What would the best advice you’d offer writers about the writing process?

Join a writing group! Or even better, join several.  One of the hardest challenges for authors is finding an audience for their work and it helps to get a start on that process before your work is published.

With so many new titles coming out every year, established and debut authors struggle to find readers.  Writers who are the most successful marketers of their work are usually affiliated with a school group or with a writers’ workspace or a tight-knit group of local writers who support one another. I’d advice every writer to find their support group as they continue to craft their work.

2. How important is it for a writer to have community support? What are the main benefits of community?

The main benefits are feedback, support and encouragement, and helping writers spread the word about what they are writing and why it’s worth consideration from readers.

When an author starts the process of marketing & selling his/her work, they often start with friends and family.  You can always try to get into the NY Times or on Jon Stewart, those are both very good ways to go, but for most authors, they start by planting many seeds with people who know them, then it works out over time.

3. Why is the independent local bookstore valuable for a community? How does the Booksmith fulfill that role?

A major publisher revealed to me that although independent bookstores represent less than 10% of their overall book sales, independent bookstores account for about 50% of sales in the first 6 months after a new title releases.  This indicates that physical bookstores are still very important in the discovery phase.

Local bookstores provide a cultural experience for readers, provide a nurturing environment for emerging writers and they enable positive social change in their local communities.

When we took over the reins of the Booksmith four years ago, we sought to strengthen what was at the core of this landmark bookstore in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.  Through a remodel, we worked to make the space welcoming and great for browsing.  We also host several Community Forum events throughout the year, which are focused on topics critical to our neighborhood.

4. What is your favorite book?

Pia, you know that’s the hardest question to ask a bookstore owner!  I have so many favorites.  If I were stranded on a desert island, I’d take Pride & Prejudice (I’m a romantic at heart).  But there have been so many great books that have come out recently that I can highly recommend including, books on Wikileaks and New Media including “The Late Age of Print” by Ted Striphas.  There is great narrative nonfiction by Bill Bryson, Steve Martin (“Born Standing Up”), Ruth Reichel (“Garlic & Sapphires) and Erik Larsson (“Devil in the White City”).  And of course my favorite literary fiction titles including “Interpreter of Maladies” and “Unaccustomed Earth” by Jhumpa Lahiri.

5. What is your favorite thing about HubPages?

It’s a great concept! To provide writers with a space to bring a community of support around their writing.  As a reader, I also like the features you offer for new discovery.  I enjoy flipping through the front page feature articles to see the diversity of stories offered.

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