There was a point a few months ago when Gary Mazzone couldn’t see his fireplace. A stack of books, mostly advance reader copies (ARCs) from hopeful publishers, filled his living room. It is a recurring theme, but the literary clutter doesn’t last long. For one thing, Gary can’t stand to not have his home in perfect order. But mostly, as the outreach and sales director at Magers & Quinn Booksellers in Uptown Minneapolis, Gary wants to match those books with the right readers.
For the past two years, Gary has made it his mission to build and create partnerships within the greater Twin Cities community by helping organizations buy meaningful books in bulk.
Gary’s clients include schools, churches, businesses, and nonprofit organizations. He meets with his customers, asks them what they are looking for, and suggests a book list. It’s not an easy or quick process, but Gary’s focus on relationships, and his attention to matching what customers truly need with what he knows is being published, brings value to both customers and publishers.
“When publishers send me ARCs or promo books, I look through each and every book,” Gary says. “I am a connector, and I take those books and I give them to various organizations.” Recently, Gary turned 25 ARCs of one book into a business-to-business sale of 800 books, with another pending sale of 500 books.
Teachers and school media specialists want books that create an ongoing culture of learning and authors who have a passion for literacy and education. Gary helps those educators bring authors to their classrooms when they buy books for the students. Teachers want sustainable resources that complement core standards. Gary helps them find complementary, quality resources and recommends replacement titles when books go out of print.
How does Gary’s bulk selling make a difference? “Two books come to mind that have helped me and so many others,” he says. He presented Every Human Has Rights to educators and convinced several school districts to buy the book for every school in their district. “It was a great teaching tool to help students embrace diversity and learn about human rights,” he says. Several religious and nonprofit organizations also bought the book in bulk.
“The other title is Agate: What Good is a Moose,” Gary says. “I had this book sitting in my office when an educator from a local school district and I were meeting. The educator bought a copy for every elementary school in the district.” He adds, “Again, this was a great way to teach younger students about diversity and the acceptance of all. Plus, this title also makes students feel good about themselves. I was also able to get this book into other schools.”
Before coming to Magers & Quinn Booksellers, Gary worked at Borders as the district event and sales manager for seven and half years.
“With both of these career positions, I have been surrounded with many creative pieces of work and have been able to use my creative talents to connect books to others,” says Gary.
His success in both positions is in part due to his ability to remember people and conversations. “I am blessed with a great and wonderful memory, and I do a lot of research for our clients!” he says.
Granting this interview, he smiles and says, “We met in a past life.” He thinks on it for a bit and then recalls a conversation from almost ten years ago, saying confidently: “We talked about your deployment book when I was at Borders.”
What Gary loves most about his work now is being part of a family-owned independent bookstore.
“I truly feel blessed to be a part of an award-winning and family-owned independent bookstore,” he says. “It reminds me of my grandparents’ meat market on the south side of Chicago. My grandparents immigrated here from Austria, and right next to their meat market was the Austrian Bakery. These family-owned businesses are what helped build America, before the big mega stores came in.”
Magers & Quinn Booksellers has grown to be more than a neighborhood mom and pop shop. Regular customers, as well as visitors from around the world, praise the friendly and knowledgeable staff, the community events, and the amazing selection, calling it a “wanna be library” of used and new books. One visitor was so surprised and impressed by the inventory, he said he was “seriously considering grabbing my tent, and taking up residence in one of the aisles.” For book lovers wanting a reprieve from today’s electronic-overloaded world, it is easy to lose track of the hours amidst the expansive collection of real paper books.
The outreach part of Gary’s job title takes that special Magers & Quinn quality beyond the stacks. Referring to owners Denny and Mary Magers, Gary says, “It helps to have great leaders who encourage and uplift my creative partnerships and talents.” Their community outreach philosophy allows Gary and his team to stay involved in inventive ways, such as helping nonprofits participate in author events, and an annual Visit with Santa fundraiser to support Way to Grow’s early childhood literacy program.
Before his career in the book world, Gary was the supervisor of airport operations at Trans World Airlines (TWA) for twenty-nine years. He lives near Lake Nokomis, Minnesota, where he enjoys taking long walks with his two rescued dogs, Emma and Wanda. Gary also volunteers in classrooms, reading books to students and talking about his unique career.
If you visit Gary at Magers & Quinn Booksellers, there is a good chance you will meet Emma or Wanda and other book-loving dogs. And, Gary is likely to have a book to recommend that matches what your organization needs.
As for that fireplace … “I still have some very special books by my fireplace,” says Gary, “so if I have visitors, I can share those books with them.”