Publisher’s Weekly has named Saturday, Nov. 7, as the first-annual National Bookstore Day. To celebrate the important role that bookstores play in our communities, we are featuring bookstore-themed blog posts throughout the week.
Below, Steve Guynn, the owner of Sherlock’s Book Emporium in Lebanon, TN, answers questions about his 16,000 square-foot bookstore, his career and how e-books have not affected his business.
How did you come to work in the bookselling business?
Retired after the sale of my international software business in 2006. Thought it would be cool to have a rare bookstore (using my own collection) that was open on selected days or by appointment only. My neighbors heard what I was doing and asked if I would be able to get them NEW books instead of having to drive into Nashville. Checked into it and now have the largest independent bookstore and hobby shop in the entire South at 16,000 square feet.
What is your favorite part of your job?
Lived 30 years working in a cave writing software. I learned to read at the age of four, subscribe to 23 magazines a month, read 15-20 books a month and have a measured IQ of 186+. I have discovered that I am considered the local trivia king and can hold my own in a conversation with either the local mechanic or a university microbiologist. Absolutely love meeting the people who populate our little spot in the cosmos and steering them to a book that would be of interest after a 30 second interview.
Describe your bookstore. What makes it special?
My brother-in-law described it best: “It is like a bookstore inside a Hard Rock Café except that the entertainment memorabilia collection (models, posters, action figures, etc.) displayed in the store can actually be purchased unlike the guitars in a Hard Rock.”
What is the most memorable event you’ve hosted in your store?
We discovered Eric Wilson before anyone knew who he was. He was our first author signing. Two years later he was selected to write the novelization of “Fireproof.” They debuted the DVD release in our theater and the store was packed!!!
What are you reading right now?
This morning I just started a randomly selected action adventure entitled The Solomon Effect by C.S. Graham. It looks like it will get a four (out of five) star review rating.
Why is it important for a community to have a good independent bookstore?
First of all, a true independent upholds the full meaning of the First Amendment. That is, there is absolutely NO censorship of ANY kind. We don’t care what you read as long as it is legally published. Just read! It is also the only cultural conjunction for disparate income levels to gather and exchange ideas. People have their favorite bars, restaurants, country clubs, clothing stores, etc. where they feel “comfortable” among their economic peers. A bookstore on the other hand provides a “neutral” meeting ground. It is not unusual to see a beat-up plumbing van parked next to a brand new Jaguar in our parking lot.
What do independent bookstores offer that big-box stores don’t?
It is a tie between knowledge and service with no predictable winner. If you only read two or three books a year by the biggest names in publishing, then buy your book wherever the hell you can find the best price. If, however, you are looking for a sales staff that can recommend a title by a lesser-known author with a similar theme to the book you are buying, then you have been H.I.T. (Handsold Independent Title). We experience nearly a 60% HIT ratio in our store. That is, we sell a secondary title to almost everyone who buys one book.
How has the emergence of Kindle, ebooks, etc. changed your business?
Let’s be clear on this answer: IT HAS AFFECTED OUR BUSINESS IN ABSOLUTELY NO MANNER WHATSOEVER. SALES ARE UP 40 PERCENT FROM LAST YEAR.