Bank of Books’ romance novel giveaway
by Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer
Red roses are on order, grocery store aisles are awash in red, heart-shaped boxes abound and restaurants are promoting their overpriced prix fixe menus. It’s Valentine’s Day! One of the best local V-Day traditions, though, is of the literary variety: the Bank of Books’ annual romance novel giveaway. Every year, owners Clarey and Debby Rudd gather up hundreds of love stories , set them out in boxes and let the public have at it. “We’re spreading the love and encouraging romance on Valentine’s Day,” Clarey Rudd says with a smile.
The tradition started nine years ago in 2007, mainly for the PR. “I don’t know another store that’s doing it,” says Rudd. “We have so many books, so to me, it’s just a nice gesture to get new people in the store.” The romance novel giveaway typically brings 50 or more customers — of which Rudd estimates about 60 percent are new — into the shop each day. The clientele runs the gamut, from teenagers to readers in their 80s. “People of all ages come in . . . but 98-99 percent are women.” And, Rudd adds, the occasional man, whom he suspects is probably shopping for a gift for a wife or girlfriend.
Book giveaways are not a new thing for the 17-year-old used bookstore. Rudd estimates that some 300,000 books have been offered for free over the last six or seven years alone. Of course, Bank of Books sells a lot, too. Rudd’s large collection of rare and vintage editions is world-famous; the bookstore ships to 90 countries and every state in the U.S., and has sent books to the Library of Congress, the White House and even the Statue of Liberty. Actor Anthony Hopkins, a self-professed “book geek,” once called Bank of Books “the best bookstore I’ve ever been in.”
Credit that to the owners: When you’ve got half a decade in the business, you’re going to learn a few things. “I grew up in bookselling,” says Rudd, an Oxnard native, explaining that his parents owned bookstores during the 1950s. Rudd and wife, Debby, purchased their first bookstore in 1974, and have owned several throughout Southern California. Midtown Ventura’s Abednego Book Shoppe was purchased in 1998; in 1999 the couple acquired downtown’s Second Time Around and renamed it Bank of Books. Together they make up one of the largest book trade centers in Southern California, boasting 2 million titles covering nearly every genre. Of those, some 60,000 are romance novels, which include contemporary titles as well as books first published in the 1800s.
Used or hot off the press, romance is big business. According to statistics reported by the trade association Romance Writers of America, romance novels account for around 13 percent of all book sales, bringing in over a billion dollars in revenue and making it the most popular book category in the U.S. publishing industry. Rudd says it’s one of the best-selling book categories at his store, too.
The romance novel first came on the scene in the 18th century, with Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded, written by Samuel Richardson and published in 1740. Composed as an epistolary novel (written as a series of letters) Pamela sought to instruct the reader as it entertained. What made Pamela unique at the time was the central focus of its love story, told from the perspective of the female protagonist, and a happy ending — parameters that have come to define the romance genre. As a portent of things to come, Pamela was also the first best-seller.
Today, there are numerous styles and subgenres within the romance category: chaste Regency romances, sex-fueled bodice rippers, sci-fi and fantasy crossovers, contemporary love stories with more modern sensibilities, works that focus on particular ethnic groups and LGBT characters. No matter how a reader likes to look at, think about or read about love, there’s a romance novel that meets the criteria.
All of these reads will be available to the public — free of charge — at Bank of Books starting February 12. Customers can browse paperback titles from Nora Roberts, Sherryl Woods, Judith McNaught, Kathleen Woodiwiss and many other popular romance novelists, and are welcome to take home two or three if the fancy strikes. You may or may not find love between the sheets this Valentine’s Day, but between the pages? It’s guaranteed. F
The Bank of Books Romance Novel Giveaway runs Feb. 12-14. For more information call 643-3154 or go to www.bankofbooks.com.