Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Books and Mortar: As Big-Box Stores Struggle, Oklahoma City-Based Mardel Picks Up the Slack

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Books and Mortar: As Big-Box Stores Struggle, Oklahoma City-Based Mardel Picks Up the Slack

Article excerpt

It surprised many people that former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin chose Mardel's Tulsa flagship store for a book signing on "Black Friday."

When former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee followed last week, marking two presidential hopefuls visiting that store within four months, it spurred some debate over who Mardel could attract to complete a most remarkable hat trick.

"We've put in a word for George W. (Bush) when his book came out, but that didn't materialize," Mardel Marketing Director Kelly Black said of America's former president, whose autobiography came out in November.

While such prominent authors put Mardel in the Tulsa spotlight, the reason for their visits represented nothing new for the Oklahoma City-based retailer.

"We do local author book signings in all of our stores," Mardel President Jason Green said, "national authors as well as local ones."

For years, local or specialized bookstores promoted author book signings in bids to even the playing field against giants like Barnes & Noble, Borders and Books-A-Million. In many markets, these big boxes followed suit to strike back against Amazon and other electronic sellers.

Such e-sales present a chill to authors and publishers, who have always considered shelf-browsing their best marketing tool next to word-of-mouth.

With the brick-and-mortar sellers struggling to survive, and many strapped publishers having long since scaled back their marketing and support budgets, many authors now spend their own dimes and nickels reaching out to specialty sellers like Mardel for personal visits.

"The number of requests to do those has gone up significantly," said Green. "As a business, bringing authors to our stores who our customers want to meet is a top priority. From faith-based living and faith-based finances to Christian history, the world of Christian-focused books has skyrocketed, and you'll continue to see more in-store appearances from the authors who write them."

With 34 stores across six states, its metro stores ranging from Colorado Springs to Kansas City, Little Rock to Houston, Dallas and Oklahoma City, the Christian bookseller offers a prime opportunity for authors to take promotional tours across the central U. …

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