Saturday, July 24, 2010

Talking With: Robin Theiss, Owner,

Robin Moore Theiss founded and operates the online independent bookstore, dealing in new and used books and offering boutique services such as book-finding. Theiss has published short stories, articles, essays, poetry, photographs, and a wide range of business communications. A former marketing executive, since 2001 Theiss has worked to further writers' organizations, most recently as president of the St. Louis Writers Guild from 2005-2008--during that time, tripling the Guild's membership.

Is a labor of love, or do you make a living at it?
It's been a lifelong dream to own a bookstore, but I didn't plan to start one. In 2006 I decided to get rid of some books to make room for others. My daughter suggested I sell them on Amazon. When they sold quickly, I looked for more, going to estate sales and buying collections. I'd caught the fever. I especially enjoy buying the books and watching orders roll in. I love to provide personalized services to book lovers. I can't believe I get paid to do this.

Does StLbooks specialize in St. Louis and regional books and authors?
We offer a financial advantage to St. Louis and Missouri authors who will consign us their books in order to have them listed in multiple online booksellers' catalogs, including all the megastores. We also purchase regional books from publishers and distributors for resale. Optionally, we include interviews of regional authors and reviews of their books. We promote regional titles on both our Amazon pages and StLBooks' catalog and Bookscape blog, including them in our Recommendations List. We host book fairs that feature regional titles and authors. We're open to new ways to further Missouri's literary legacy, too.

What does StLBooks do that other book outlets, like Amazon, can't or don't?

We love our books and our buyers. We don't have a lot of overhead or maintain a storefront, so our efforts go into choosing books our buyers want, helping customers find rare books or the perfect gift, and offering personal services such as reading recommendations. Like all independent bookstores, we find it difficult to compete on price alone with the megastores. However, we care if you like the book you buy, and we'll help you find other books you like.

Tell us about the market for books.
While the pendulum swing has favored the megastores for a decade or more, it's self-correcting. Book buyers today want both selection and service. Indies offer both. The book industry is currently in flux. I don't see electronic books replacing hardcovers and paperbacks in the near future, but they are clearly replacing a substantial number of books and they're not going away. The used-book market is unscathed by this; people still seek rare books, inexpensive books, books they read and loved in their childhoods, their grandmother's favorite cookbook.

How do you choose which books to stock?

We specialize in literature, cookbooks, graphic novels, books on writing, military books, and a few other niches. By specializing, we develop a deep knowledge of specific kinds of books. Some customers submit "wants" and we're on the lookout for books they'll enjoy. Sometimes we find gems that are not on our radar screen, but we recognize them as keepers.

If you could tell authors only one thing, what would it be?

Write to be read--not to sell books, not to become famous, not to justify your MFA tuition.


  1. "Write to be read--not to sell books, not to become famous, not to justify your MFA tuition."

    Wise and excellent quote... although, all I've ever wanted was to make enough money to pay for my next book's paper and ink... never wanted to be famous, and while I've wasted lots of money on worthless college classes, I don't have a MFA. What percentage of MFA grads are rich and famous? (Look for my reviews and buy my novel "Where the River Splits" -- I'm running out of ink.)

    Thanks Robin... great interview.