2016-08-25 / Arts & Entertainment News

The book reviewer discovers a bookstore worth writing about

FLORIDA WRITERS

Earlier this summer I had the pleasure of meeting Patti Jefferson, the proprietor of P.J. Boox, at her bookstore in South Fort Myers. On that day, thriller author M.A. Richards was there with his wife for a book signing. After strolling around and enjoying the distinctive layout of the store, I just had to share Ms. Jefferson’s vision with my readers.

Q: How — and why — is P.J. Boox different from other bookstores?

A: In many ways we are just like every other bookstore you’ve ever been in: We offer great mysteries, romance, poetry, children’s books and a bunch of other genres. In spite of that, almost everyone who walks through our doors knows that we are definitely NOT like any other bookstore that they have ever seen. I suppose it starts with the fact that our books are all displayed face out. You can see the cover of every book that we offer. Turns out that the adage of “don’t judge a book by its cover” is really about making assumptions about people and not books at all. Of course the biggest difference is the fact that the books we sell are all by independently or small press published authors from around the world. What does that mean for the average reader? Not much actually. I have never yet met a reader who cared who the publisher of a book was; they just want a good story with characters they can love or hate. Working with these authors directly gives us different advantages than a big box store does. For instance, most of our books are signed by the author and we can Skype or Facetime with them for a book club.


Patti Jefferson at her bookstore, P.J. Boox, in South Fort Myers. The store works with authors on a consignment basis. 
VANDY MAJOR / FLORIDA WEEKLY Patti Jefferson at her bookstore, P.J. Boox, in South Fort Myers. The store works with authors on a consignment basis. VANDY MAJOR / FLORIDA WEEKLY Q: How does your selection process work?

A: For a long time, independent or small press publishing had a bit of a stigma as being an inferior product to traditionally published books. In the recent years, however, independent authors have fought to correct that ill-conceived notion … We get submissions on our website directly from authors, and we also solicit select authors online. We judge the books by their cover designs and by whether the manuscript was professionally edited. We look at reviews in places like Amazon and Goodreads. We check out the author’s other marketing platforms, and we are especially interested in books that have won national or international book awards.

Q: What is your business model?

A: From a customer standpoint, we run just like any other bookstore: We have books available in many genres, and we have places that a reader can sit and enjoy a chapter or two. You can talk about books and literature with the staff.

Behind the scenes, however, our business model is something new to the book industry. We work on a consignment system similar to how antique malls have always run. The authors rent shelf space and we pay them out 98 percent of all sales. It is difficult sometimes for independent authors to get into a brick and mortar bookstore, and when they do, often the store will take between 40 percent and 60 percent. Those margins don’t always work out well for the author. As an author myself, I get that.

It’s also challenging to find the time to balance between work, family, writing and marketing. P.J. Boox strives to offer another avenue of promotion for authors who don’t have big publishing houses behind them.

Q: Have you made discoveries you’d like to single out?

A: One of the things we pride ourselves in is the number of national and international book award winners that we have on our shelves. Children’s book author Lee Ann Mancini has won more than a dozen awards for her “Adventures of the Sea Kids” series. Lawyer/author Russel Lazega has won numerous awards for his memoir “Managing Bubbie,” which was just done as an audio book featuring actress Linda Lavin. Our readers are discovering authors that really resonate with them. ¦

P.J. Boox

>> Where: 13550 Reflections Parkway (near Jason’s Deli), Fort Myers

>> Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday.

>> Info: 437-3227, info@pjboox.com or Pjboox.com

— Phil Jason, Ph. D., United States Naval Academy professor emeritus of English, is a poet, critic and freelance writer with 20 books to his credit, including several studies of war literature and a creative writing text.

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