J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter might have gotten most book world press
the last few weeks, but another of the planet's most popular authors
had a packed event on Saturday, July 16.
Drawing 275 people, Nora Roberts, best-known for her romances but a
versatile writer whose titles have about 270 million copies in print,
appeared with several other authors and signed copies of her latest
title, appearing under her J.D. Robb name, Origin in Death
$24.95, 039915289X). She also helped celebrate the 10th birthday of the
event host, Turn the Page, the small bookstore in Boonsboro, Md., in
the western part of the state where the prolific author usually begins
Turn the Page? Boonsboro, Md.?
Bruce Wilder, Roberts's husband for 20 years, explained to Shelf Awareness
: "A decade ago,
I had been doing carpentry, but that got to be too much for me so I was
looking around for something else to do. I had done retail before, and
a bookstore seemed logical." Besides, he continued with a laugh: "Nora wouldn't let
me hang around the house."
He found a spot in a house in "downtown" Boonsboro, a small town 10
miles from home, and started selling books in two rooms. Three years
ago, he bought the building next door and broke through the wall,
adding two more selling rooms.
At just 1,200 square feet, Turn the Page is still small but remains
very focused and sells mostly paperbacks. "We're in a mass market-trade
paperback area," Wilder commented. The anti-hardcover tendency is so
strong that Turn the Page stocks the New York Times
mass market and
trade paper bestsellers but not its hardcover lists.
Most nonfiction is related to the Civil War and the Revolutionary War.
(Boonsboro is near the site of the battle of Antietam.) Because of
Wilder's personal interest in the subject, he carries some photography
books, but they tend to be too expensive for the store's clientele.
Sidelines include stained glass and pottery done by one of Turn the
Page's booksellers. One room is devoted to children's books. Beyond
that, the store carries "all the genres," including horror, mysteries,
general fiction and romance, but not so much science fiction since, as
Wilder put it, "it's so broad and needs a strong client base."
The big specialty, of course, is Nora Roberts, who has a room dedicated
to her many works. In fact, "about 80%" of the store's customers are
Roberts fans. Here they can find everything of hers that's in print
from her three publishers, none of which are used because the store
stocks only new titles. Many of her books are autographed. ("I take
home tons of books to her every day and she signs them," Wilder says
with admiration.) Sales on the Internet are so important that Wilder
commented, "Walk-in traffic is picking up, but if it weren't for the
Net, I don't think we'd be here."
Events like the one on Harry Potter day are also important. "We do
about five big events a year and they always feature Nora," Wilder
said. For each of her new books, "we're the kickoff event and sometimes
we get the book early since Nora's gone on tour by the time the book is
Some events are done in conjunction with the Washington Romance
Writers, the regional chapter of the Romance Writers of America, which
has a retreat every spring at Harpers Ferry, W.V. As many as 15 WRW
writers appear at the store with Roberts, "a madhouse," as Wilder put
In addition, a fan group called ADWOFF or A Day Without French Fries
(from a line Roberts wrote), have been visiting regularly for nine
years. Each summer the group's members from around the country take
blocks of room in nearby hotels, mob the store and have a big party.
The events have made Wilder and his staff of one fulltimer and four
parttimers veterans at event management. (One tricky aspect is limiting
the amount of books people can bring from home to two per person for
the first hundred people. "For a time, Nora was signing so many books
people were bringing from home that she stayed hours beyond what we'd
scheduled," Wilder said.) Events are held in one of the store's four
rooms. "We give out 25 tickets at a time, marked A, B, C and so forth,"
Wilder explained. "This gives us time to check books and let the
previous group go through before we let them in." We hardly have any
problems because they're fans. They wait and and wait."
Wilder likes to have multiple authors at the events, usually five,
because "advertising costs the same" and "it's more people for the
attendees to see."
By the way, despite its paperback emphasis and Nora Roberts's presence
on Harry Potter day, Turn the Page has sold 49 of the 50 copies of
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
that it ordered.
Turn the Page is located at 18 N. Main St., Boonsboro, Md. 21713; 301-432-4588; www.ttpbooks.com