An Open Letter from One Bookseller to Another

You are the unsung hero of publishing. You are the last link between writers and readers. You matter more than you know. And you never get enough credit, so the first thing I really want to say with this letter is thank you—for every box you’ve unpacked, every book you’ve stacked, and every time you’ve been berated for explaining the difference between a bookstore and a Starbucks.

I used to be a bookseller. The year after I graduated college I worked four jobs in order to keep myself fed and caffeinated while I was writing a novel, If We Were Villains (which comes out on April 11th, two weeks from today). Bookselling was easily the best of the four jobs, because in between the unboxing and the book-stacking and the umpteenth explanation of why we don’t sell Amazon gift cards, I got to be on the front lines of fiction. That’s why any bookseller I’ve ever known started selling books to begin with. From the first day until the last, you get a little rush every time you persuade someone looking for a good read that one of your favorites might end up being one of their favorites, too.

Believe it or not, being an author is actually a lot like being a bookseller. Case in point, I’m about to try to sell you a book.

If We Were Villains is a book about books and the people who love them too much. It’s about art and passion and poetry and all those things that made me a reader. It’s also about ambition and danger and drama and all those things that made me want to write. It’s about being young and reckless and finding out the hard way what consequences really are. It’s about Shakespeare. It’s about death. It’s about academia. Most of all, it’s about words.

I love words. Chances are, you and I have that much in common. If we didn’t, I wouldn’t be writing this letter, and you probably wouldn’t be reading it. I hope you’ll read If We Were Villains and fall in love with the words inside. And if you do, I hope you’ll do a fellow bookseller a favor and push it into the hands of every customer who’s looking for something good.

On slow days at the bookstore, I used to wander through the fiction section and linger in the Rs, staring at the imaginary space between Rice and Riordan and saying to myself, “Someday your name is going to go right there.” For me, If We Were Villains is a daydream come true. But now, dear bookseller, I need your help to keep it alive. All I can offer in return is a chance to read this thing I wrote, and my eternal gratitude.

Once again, thank you, for everything you do.

Wishing you peaceful lunch breaks, hot coffee, and nice customers,

M. L. Rio