by Lucas K. Law
Forster’s Book Garden is an independent bookstore in Bolton, Ontario, a community of about 26,000 people and about 50 km northwest of Toronto.
Paul and Donna Forster got into the bookselling business because they were (and still are) voracious readers. Since the closest independent bookstore was 20 to 30 minutes away and their small town of Bolton didn’t have one, they hoped they had filled a niche with Forster’s Book Garden.
This is a recent conversation with Donna Kamiel-Forster.
We have 6 authors coming. Two of them, the Runcimans (Mary and Steve) have written some children’s picture books and will be doing a story time at 12:30 pm.
After that, they will join the other authors (Kelley Armstrong, Alyxandra Harvey, Carole Stavely, Maria Coletta McLean, Karina Sumner-Smith) milling about with customers chatting about the books they like and the books they have written and will be signing books as well.
We will have refreshments to offer everyone as well coffee donated by Starbucks and a large cake with our logo and the Authors for Indies logo on it.
What advice do you have to offer to an author who would like to conduct an event at Forster’s Book Garden?
Any author can contact us for an event. They just need to get behind the promotion of that event with us to help make it a success.
Both you and Paul are very active in the community, often helping or hosting a good cause. Name some of your memorable causes.
We have run many shop local events as well as our own in-store events (including, of course Harry Potter parties with each new HP release).
We had a very successful book and gift drive this year for Christmas with books and gifts going to our Caledon Community Services. Through the summer and fall of 2013, we collected used books for a school in Cambodia. The used books were sold to pay for the shipping of 36 cartons of children’s book to the school and we had enough left over to send the school $850 to buy books in their own language and whatever else they needed….a very successful drive.
Based on your bookstore sales, has the public reading habit changed in the past five years? What genres and subjects are popular then and now?
I don’t think the reading genres have changed too much, unless you count children growing up and beginning to read books with more mature content. The erotica section has grown because of the 50 Shades phenomenon, though.
What is your plan for Forster’s Book Garden in the next few years?
We plan to hold more events and will try to keep on top of all the latest trends to keep our customers happy and hopefully encourage new ones.
What the books are on your and Paul’s personal bookshelf to read? What does each of you enjoy reading? Name both of your recent favourite reads. Why?
As far as our favourite books, we really don’t have any favourites. Paul is more of a non-fiction reader and I read mostly fiction. My favourite is often the one I’ve just finished…but we do have a wall of “Staff Picks” with book reviews.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to get into the bookselling business?
Anyone who wants to get into the book business needs to love books.
Selling books is not like selling toys or clothing or electronic devices. I entail knowing the books well and understanding that reading is very mood dependent. That means that one must sell the customer the book, not just sell the book to the customer. One must also have knowledge about the appropriateness of books for specific age groups. Selling “Twilight” to 9 year-olds is not appropriate even though the books were highly popular and there was no “described sex.”
This business is tough right now due to the varying ways people can read, so book buyers have dwindled. A store needs good sidelines as well in order to keep going. We sell very unique gift items (that can’t be found in Wal-Mart) and rent DVD’s to bring in customers other than book buyers.
Visit Forster’s Book Garden (http://www.forstersbookgarden.ca) at
266 Queen Street South, Unit 2
Canada L7E 4T7
Mon. & Tues. 10am – 7pm
Wed. & Thurs. 10am – 7:30pm
Fri. 10am – 8pm
Sat. 10am – 5:30pm