P.J.Boox was founded by award-winning author and illustrator, Patti Brassard Jefferson in the summer of 2015. As an independent author who published her first book with an indie publisher and Kickstarter funding, Jefferson relates to the challenges and struggles of non-traditionally published authors. Through her experience as a board member of the Florida Authors and Publishers Association, Jefferson began to connect with other indie authors and see the need for avenues to help. She opened the Gulf Coast Bookstore with a partner in April of 2015 and was immediately inundated with responses from authors around the world. It was then that the idea of P.J. Boox was born... a large-scale bookstore just for the little guys.
My background is actually in media arts and advertising. It seems that I have always chosen the creative path career-wise: I have owned my own graphic design business out of college, worked for an independent music label as a marketing director, opened an paint-it-yourself pottery studio with my mom, owned an art gallery in the Keys and then decided to finally follow a passion and released my first children's book in 2013. This industry can be pretty complex and frustrating but the rewards are so worth it. To date, I have written 2 children's books and illustrated a total of 9 with 3 more coming out before the end of the year. When I believe in something I really latch on!
I know it doesn't necessarily sound like it, but becoming a bookstore owner seemed like the next natural step to me...
Where did the concept of a bookstore exclusively for indies come from?
Being an indie author myself-- AND having a regular job (illustrator) -- AND handling my book marketing -- AND trying to squeeze in time to write the next book -- the usual stuff that indie authors deal with everyday -- made me realize that none of us have a lot of time to get our books into retail locations. And , even when we do get in a bookstore, more often than not we are buried spine out between hundreds or even hundreds of thousands of other books and frequently give up 40% of the income on each sale. The traditional bookstore model didn't work for me and I figured I couldn't be the only one.
I experimented a bit to test my theory and opened a small local indie author bookstore with a business partner and fellow indie author, Tim Jacobs, in April 2015. It currently houses 54 local authors and we have a decent waiting list for space. The response we got from that venture was overwhelming and so I was more convinced that indie authors needed something like P.J. Boox.
What’s in it for the authors?
Obviously, any additional exposure for an independent author is a plus but I think we do a couple of things that are incredibly different:
All of our books are displayed front facing. Despite the old warning, people DO judge books by their covers and that's great for the indie author. We are all in the process of building our brands and name-recognition, so along the way, any way to get a reader to pick up our books is bonus.
The authors keep a very large percentage of the sale. In-store sales are 98% (we keep a 2% transaction fee to cover those costs) and on-line its 80% ( we handle the orders and fulfillment for 20%). Thats more money in the hands of the authors.
We don't deal with 3rd party distribution. All of our authors are also independent business people by default and so we works closely with the authors themselves. We are building more than just a bookstore, we are building a community of like-minded people who support each other.
On a similar note, we offer a strength from a social media standpoint. With hundreds of authors in our store, all marketing for themselves, us and, essentially, the other indie authors, it is easier to create a bit of a buzz.
Most importantly we are bridging that gap between indie author and their readers. When we have a book club read a book from our store, they can invite the author in for an in-person visit or we can Skype them in if the author isn't physically close. That isn't something that happens at a big box bookstore.
Are certain genres particularly popular?
It goes it cycles - due mainly by word of mouth from the authors themselves. If an zombie author like Shana Festa decides to take a shelf in the store, she shares with her author groups (many who write in the same genre) and, for a few days, we get a rush of interest from that genre. Then two days later we will get a rush of mysteries or thrillers for the same reason. Suffice it to say that there will be a little something for almost every reader imaginable.
How do you curate your collection?
Our basic selection process is pretty simple. Award-winning books are almost always pre-approved for inclusion in the store. We do check covers to make sure they look professional, read blurbs to make sure that subject matter is appropriate for us, and read reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Once in the bookstore, it seems a given that the success or failure of a particular book will depend on a very similar process from the readers.
How does an author based in Europe get their books to you in Florida? And how do they get paid?
A lot of authors in countries other than the US, send us POD inventory through third party publishers like Create space (Amazon). The only way it would be easier is if I opened a P.J. Boox store right there in the UK! As for being paid, a majority of our authors are paid through Paypal even here in the US.
Tell us a little about your plans for the future.
Well it's pretty clear that I am starting a bookstore empire, isn't it! Haha! Seriously, right now running 2 books stores as well as illustrating and writing keeps me pretty busy. I'd like to add consulting to others who want to start pop-up bookstores on small scales like the Gulf Coast Bookstore and, possibly, if it is successful, extend P.J. Boox's reach to other areas. That will be up to the readers and the indie authors...
Finally, what kind of books do you personally love to read?
Top three genres:
Since I was a kid, I have loved to read mysteries (from Encyclopedia Brown to Nancy Drew & Trixie Belden) and anything that made me try to solve a puzzle.
Of course, I love children's picture books and am sometimes the only grown-up sitting on the floor in the kid's section of our local library without a toddler in tow.
I enjoy memoirs of the famous, infamous and the extraordinary. The personal glimpses of people who lived through history and watching how either they were effected by historical events or created them is very interesting to me.
At the start of the year, I made a personal challenge to read only indie books. My "to read" pile is, as you can imagine, huge at this moment!
PJ Books opens on October 1st 2015 and we wish Patti luck and success! Find out more here: http://www.pjboox.com/