December 2, 2018

Delray bookstore changes with times: ‘Now we sell entertainment’

Best-selling author John Green once said that he wouldn’t have a career if it weren’t for independent bookstores. Surely, many debut writers who have gained new fans of their work by frequently hosting readings or signings at local book stores would agree with him.
Although many believe that small book sellers are doomed due to the growing takeover of the reader market by Amazon and chains like Barnes & Noble, many independent bookstores are still holding strong.
Murder on the Beach, a mystery bookstore nestled in Pineapple Grove Way in Delray Beach, is an example of such book locales that cater to both long-time customers and those who are surprised to discover it while walking around the area filled with restaurants and cafes.
Joanne Sinchuk, who founded Murder on the Beach in 1996, says that for her the most challenging aspect of owning an independent bookstore is keeping up with how the business has changed over the past twenty years.
“We used to sell books, now we sell entertainment,” Sinchuk said. “Author signings are a major source of income. Internet sales are 30 percent of our business and independently published authors are selling as well as the traditional New York published authors.”
Book signings are frequent at Murder on the Beach, and while some of the writers are debut or local authors (sometimes both) seeking to promote their novels to readers, best-selling authors like Louise Penny, James Patterson, Stuart Woods, David Baldacci and Tim Dorsey have attended past book signing events.
Despite having sold the bookstore in 2007 to BookSmart Enterprises, Sinchuk remains as the store’s manager and very much involved with the organization of literary events there. She is also the director of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association, and one of the co-authors of the book titled “100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century,” which was awarded the Agatha, Macavity and Anthony Awards for Best Nonfiction Book of 2000.
Perhaps knowing that the competition in the book selling world has become somewhat cutthroat, Sinchuk provides local readers with perks that go beyond member rewards, cafes and coupon discounts, such as offering literary lunches at Papa’s Tapas, one of the restaurants located in the same shopping plaza as Murder on the Beach.
“For one flat price, groups can come and have lunch at Papa’s, then walk a few doors down to us where an author will speak to them, and they get a paperback book of the author’s,” Sinchuk said.
In addition, the bookstore offers a Writers Workshop during the summer months which takes place on Saturday mornings on various subjects such as types of writing to how to find an agent and how to self publish.
Murder on the Beach has many traits that might appeal to curious readers, but the most distinctive one may be the fact that its focus is mysteries and thrillers, following the trend of other specialized bookstores around the country such as The Ripped Bodice, the first romance novel bookstore that opened in Los Angeles in 2016 by sisters Bea and Lea Koch, or Read It and Eat, a culinary specialty bookstore founded in Chicago by Esther Dairiam.
Having a niche bookstore like Murder on the Beach may seem limiting in its ability to please readers who cater to different genres besides mysteries and thrillers. But Sinchuk doesn’t see this as an obstacle.
“The chain stores may have breadth of inventory, but we have depth,” Sinchuk said. “If you love mystery, suspense and thrillers, you come here. Our booksellers are very knowledgeable and can make recommendations based on what you like to read. If you just want a book, you go to a chain.”
And stepping into the store, one sees why this is true. It’s not just the ample selection of thriller novels on display or the somewhat sinister butler among the stacks, but also the knowledgeable workers who are eager to help and recommend new fiction.
But is this enough to keep niche bookstores like Murder on the Beach in business?
Considering that the bookstore has been open since the mid-’90s and continues to draw in customers of all ages, it is unquestionably doing something right. There is something to be said about a smaller, personalized service in the age of massive warehouse stores and impersonal chains, and with the last Saturday in April celebrating Independent Bookstore Day, people are increasingly more aware of the service that local bookstores provide to readers.
“Our bread and butter is the expertise of our booksellers,” Sinchuk observes. “If you want to talk books, you come to us.”
Murder on the Beach
273 Pineapple Grove Way (NE 2nd Avenue), Delray Beach
Information: or 561-279-7790