interview by Sharon Blumberg
Nathan Montoya’s route to owning the charming Village Lights Bookstore in Madison, Indiana was anything but direct. After an interesting life that included driving a taxicab in New York City, working as a manager at the renowned Cafe Figaro in Greenwich Village, performing with the Martha Graham Ensemble and the Pearl Lang Dance Company, and then serving as ballet and modern dance master and resident choreographer for the dance companies of opera houses Germany, Nathan and his wife returned to the States and eventually settled into the role of bouquiniste, a dealer of secondhand books. He specializes in world religions, science fiction, poetry, literary fiction (for adults and children), and antiquarian tomes. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association and the Award Panel for the Indiana Authors Award.
Village Lights Bookstore prides itself on having the ambiance of an independent store while offering the services of much larger establishments. Customers can buy both new and used books, and can order print, audio and ebooks through the store’s website, with 99 cent shipping on phyical products (or free in-store pick-up). The store also features antiquarian and rare book valuation, bookbinding and repair, poetry readings, author events, an art gallery, an 1897 Steinway grand piano, live music events, courtesy coffee, comfy chairs, free Wi-Fi, and three bookstore cats. In short, the kind of place where every author wants to spend a long afternoon.
If you’re an author hoping to set up an event with an independent bookseller, or an aspiring writer who is curious about what the young customers of independent stores are buying, Nathan Montoya offers some tips and advice below:
Sharon Blumberg: What kinds of books are popular with kids right now at Village Lights Bookstore?
Nathan Montoya: Children often come in looking for Scholastic books like the ones featured in school book fairs. Middle graders are reading all of the Harry Potter book series, the Warriors books by Erin Hunter, and books by Kate DiCamillo. Skila Brown’s novels in verse: Caminar, The Donner Party, and To Stay Alive. The graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier are also popular. These books are: Drama, Ghosts, Sisters, and Smile.
In young adults books, The Absolute Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie is popular, as well as Lois Lowry’s five books in the series of The Giver, Mike Mullin’s Ashfall Trilogy, the Divergent and Hunger Games series, as well as classic science fiction by Ursula K. LeGuin and the Tripod trilogy by John Christoper. Dystopian books that have a message for teens sell well, such as the three-book XVI by Julia Carr, set in a future Chicago. Her stories which expose sexism and gender bias.
SB: Why do you think these books are selling right now?
NM: I would say because of the high adventure and inner messages they convey with young adults. The classics are always popular with children, because children have a high desire to read them along with enjoying the illustrations.
SB: Are there any types of books or subject matters that you wish authors would write more about?
NM: I like to stock books that nurture self-confidence and foster respect and compassion for one another. In younger readers, I like books that offer a sense of humor while not being preachy. Also, books that deal with issues of diversity are great. A fine example of this is Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman.
SB: Do you carry self-published books from local authors?
NM: I don’t accept self-published books by CreateSpace because they are part of Amazon, a big competitor of ours. But regarding other self-published books, we will accept wholesale distributors such as Baker & Taylor and IngramSpark.
Also, we will not accept books that convey the message of hate speech in any form.
SB: Do you have any advice for authors who are setting up book signings or live events in independent book stores?
NM: We’d like to know if the authors have a website. The authors need to do their research to see if our store is a good fit for them, and see what kinds of books we want to sell. There is also a form they can download on our site for carrying their books on consignment.
SB: What is the best way for an author to approach you for either setting up a live event or carrying their books in your stores? Do you prefer a one-sheet with book information, a press release, a review copy, etc.?
NM: They should use the form on our website. We are a mom and pop store with few workers, so we don’t accept review copies. For an author event, a one-sheet is fine. We don’t generally offer author events for self-published authors, but we do offer a mini author fair for self-published authors.
For author events we require a headshot of the author, a digital press release, and a one-sheet PDF.
So the next time you are passing through Madison, Indiana, stop in at Nathan’s cozy and quaint Village Lights Bookstore. You will encounter small-town hospitality and the ultimate book lover’s paradise!
Sharon Olivia Blumberg is a recently retired school teacher, having taught Spanish and English for over 20 years. In addition, she is a writer and voiceover artist. She is a contributing author to My First Year in the Classroom, edited and compiled by Stephen D. Rogers, Kids Imagination Train, Guardian Angel Ezine for Kids, Foster Focus, and Voya Magazine. Visit her website at: http://www.voiceofsharonolivia.comTags: independent bookstore