Indie titles, colorful nooks at P.J. Boox
The disrupter, the hippie chick, the jokester and the new guy walk into a bookstore and turn it into a haven for local and global independent authors.
Above the archway in the store is a quote from Haruki Murakami that reads, “If you only read the book that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” P.J. Boox Bookstore is the work of Patti Brassard Jefferson, an award-winning author, entrepreneur and illustrator.
Jefferson served as a board member on the Florida Authors and Publishers Association as well as a member of the Gulf Coast Writers Association. Through an indie publisher and Kickstarter funding, Jefferson was able to publish her first book and has deep connections with struggling authors.
“As an independent author and illustrator myself, I know what the struggle is like for nontraditionally published writers,” Jefferson said. “When you don’t have a major publishing house behind you, it can be harder to find booksellers willing to take your books and introduce them to new readers.”
The search for a fitting storefront to house indie friendly publications ended with the grand opening of Gulf Coast Bookstore near Downtown Fort Myers. It opened its doors in April 2015 and accumulated 54 local authors with help from a partner.
“A newspaper article about the Gulf Coast Bookstore got picked up by Publishers Weekly and started making the rounds online,” Jefferson said. “For three full days I answered emails from indie authors who wanted to know how to be involved or even start their own stores. It was a unique concept, and the outpouring of support was almost overwhelming. I started making plans then to find a way to scale it larger and include more authors from all over.”
P.J. Boox opened shortly after in October 2015, and has become the nook for hundreds of authors from more than 12 different countries. Through reaching out to indie authors and small press publishers, Jefferson has brought more than 250 authors into P.J. Boox in the first three and a half months.
The bookstore differs from any major book retailer in that it offers titles that cannot be found at big companies. Its special two-to-three title display showcases the authors’ titles face out, so there is a more gallery feel to the shelves. Since P.J Boox works directly with most authors, it gains bragging rights that most books it stocks are signed and many of them are national or international award winners.
The color scheme of crescent moon, guacamole and panama rose have infiltrated the bookstore itself, claiming stake on the chairs, tables, walls and website of the bookstore.
“Overall the color scheme in the store is soothing and cozy with pops of pink to make you look up occasionally and keep you from running into a wall while your nose is in a book,” Jefferson said. Jefferson’s team offers the bookstore a unique set of skills, personalities and fun moments to the daily routine.
Altogether, the team shares a love of books and the industry and hopes for the store to become the next trend for booksellers.
“Probably the best part of owning a business is getting to pick the people you get to work with,” Jefferson said. Manager Amber Arvin is a prospective FGCU student and wishes to major in philosophy. She offers Jefferson great organization skills as well as spreading the sparkle and wonderment that the books bring through P.J. Boox’s growing children’s program.
Tim Jacobs, a business owner, is a partner with Gulf Coast Bookstore and offers services for authors, and is helping Jefferson create a young authors program. Event coordinator Rob Stahl has decades of experience in traditional publishing. He handles the author events and is in the process of bringing poetry events to the store, as well as a book and wine festival. For up and coming authors and writers, Jefferson advises students to be educated, study up and push to success.
“Force yourself to figure out the behind the screens and marketing aspects of the publishing industry,” Jefferson said. “Let’s face it: that isn’t the fun part. The fun part is the writing — the telling of the story — but no one will hear your tale if you can’t get it out there. You have to be educated in the industry as well as sentence structure and proper verb tense.”
Visit the bookstore and crew at 13550 Reflections Pkwy. in Fort Myers next to the Jason’s Deli. You can reach them at 239-437-3227 or online.