Pictured are authors Kat Van & W.F. Walsh with Shari Stauch — Q&A: Pool player turns publishing expert —
by Mary E. Regan — Like so many, I was so excited when Main Street Reads opened its doors last year.
Owner Shari Stauch has an interesting background; she is also CEO and creator of Where Writers Win, which offers authors marketing services. Stauch has been involved in publishing, marketing and public relations for 35 years, and is co-creator of “Pool & Billiard Magazine,” the sport’s oldest monthly magazine.
Stauch also is the co-author (with Gerry Kanov) of “Precision Pool” and “Pool Player’s Edge.” A former pro player herself, Stauch was inducted into the Women’s Pro Billiard Tour Hall of Fame in 2004.
The bookstore used to be a sports shop. She has always been super helpful in referring authors for me to profile in this Arts column, and I recently joined the store’s new “Believe in Your Shelf” book club which offers several perks. For one, I got to sign a copy of the children’s classic, “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White who wrote it in Maine (my home state) in 1952, the year my parents were married.
That book will be donated to a local school. I will also have my name on a plaque on one of the bookshelves — cool. The store offers so much, such as a weekly writer’s group, four book clubs that meet regularly, and a friendly staff. As a former literacy tutor, I urge all to embrace reading, your local bookstores, libraries, authors, and literacy efforts.
Regan: Tell us how Main Street Reads came to be?
Shari Stauch: Pool & Billiard Magazine’s offices were here at 115 S. Main St., but we really didn’t need the space anymore (most work is jobbed out to journalists/photographers scattered around the world). We knew the square was being renovated and, since I work with writers at Where Writers Win and knew a lot about bookstores having had authors on tour, I thought it would be fun to change the space into a bookstore. Summerville hadn’t had an indie bookstore since All Books closed down years ago and, as popular author Neil Gaiman puts it, “a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.” It all just kind of came together perfectly; we did our ribbon cutting on March 1 last year, the same day the square had its ribbon cutting and, despite some rain, it was a packed house!
R: What is the best thing about this store – is it creating a sense of community and love of books & reading?
S: Yes and yes! Along with most indie bookstores, we focus on the three c’s to serve our customers-community, curation, and convening. We’re all about providing the best books to readers and (under normal circumstances) inviting customers to gather with writers in person, chat about books, and have meaningful discussions. (Harvard did a study exactly about this and how bookstores are leading the way in community/local businesses:
R: You’ve been in publishing a long time. What’s your sense of the printed word vs. e-Books & audiobooks—do people still like a physical book in their hands, or are e-Books & audio books increasingly in demand?
S: Despite digital disrupting other industries, when it comes to books, print still rules. eBooks made up less than 10% of book sales in 2019, and that preference applies to all ages. New research even suggests that Millennials read more than their parents and, contrary to popular belief, they prefer print books to digital. (Great article on this:
R: What is your view on the state of Publishing and the resurgence of indie bookstores?
S: The rise of many small presses, hybrid publishers, and self-publishers has exponentially increased the number of books published each year. This all makes indie bookstores even more relevant as we curate from the millions of titles out there to recommend books readers will enjoy and benefit from. It’s a lot of fun but also a big responsibility, one we take seriously. There’s no greater feeling than when a reader takes one of our recommendations and returns to tell us they loved the book!
R: Your favorite book is “The Water is Wide” (Memoir) by Pat Conroy – why that book?
S: Well, it’s one of my favorites, as is anything by Pat Conroy, in part, because my daughter teaches special ed at Alston Middle School and I so admire her and the teachers out there making such a difference in our kid’s futures. Yet, I can’t pick just one author. I adore Barbara Kingsolver, Kristin Hannah (“Nightingale” was amazing); Bren McClain (“One Good Mama Bone”), and locals like J.C. Sasser (“Gradle Bird”), Kat Varn (“Gardenia Duty”), and local favorite Mary Alice Monroe. I have three or four books I’m reading at any given time and am constantly surprised by how much great work is out there.
R: You’re so busy between the store and Where Writers Win! What is your biggest piece of advice for writers?
S: I work a LOT but it’s not really work when you love what you do. Thankfully, our booksellers (Hannah Summers and Emma Wood) run things at the store when I’m working through an author website or book launch. Advice? Make the book perfect BEFORE you start pitching it. I’m a book marketer and the marketing is important but writers have to start with the very best product before they begin marketing it. That means hiring professionals, getting the right editor, reading and re-reading, revising, and re-revising ’til you’re downright sick of it. Think of that book as a sculpture; you start with forming a figure out of that block of stone but it’s all those final fine touches that carve it into a masterpiece.
R: What is coming up for new things at Main Street Reads in general & in terms of summer reading recommendations?
S: Our virtual events introduce readers to new and fascinating writers several times a week. Those who subscribe to our newsletter get updates on new events and releases in addition to our monthly “Indie Next” update which highlights the books indie booksellers are highly recommending to readers. We’re eager to return to live events and book signings and hope we can begin doing that safely this month! All are invited to stop by and we’ll find you a book you love!