Two years ago, Jeane Slone of Healdsburg started looking for new venues to sell her own books, starting with her favorite local cafe, Bean Affair.
When her colleagues in the Redwood Writers club asked her to place their books as well, she took up the challenge. Now, Slone oversees a growing stable of local scribes, distributing nearly 90 different titles to cafes, health clubs and wineries all across Sonoma County.
"It's all local shops and local authors," she said. "I will not put the books in any chains."
Both the venues and the books rotate, but currently, you can find a selection of local books in 17 locations, from The Apple Box in Petaluma to Hart's Desire and Pedroncelli wineries in Healdsburg.
"I thought that authors and wineries would go well together," she said. "All the books are signed, and I rotate the books every month."
Before long, Slone also got a request from the owners of Gaia's Garden restaurant in Santa Rosa to hold a dinner showcasing the writers and their books.
"Dine with Local Authors," held on the second Monday of each month, launched last year, drawing up to 35 people for an evening of noshing and chatter, book readings and Q&As.
"It starts at 6 p.m., and you can make reservations to sit with a particular author," Slone said. "It's very fast-paced. The authors read from their book for 5 minutes, and then there's a 5-minute Q&A."
Margo van Veen of Santa Rosa, who dabbles in poetry, said she enjoys getting to chat with the authors at the monthly dinners.
"It's neat to be able to sit at a table and pick the writer's brain," she said. "When people are eating, it's a good atmosphere, and it breaks the ice."
About a year ago, Slone also hired Mona Mechling of Rohnert Park to help her distribute books at the southern end of the county, including Petaluma, Cotati and parts of Santa Rosa.
When the Redwood Cafe in Cotati asked to host an author's dinner on the third Tuesday of the month, Slone tapped Mechling to organize the affair.
Dinners in Santa Rosa and Cotati feature five or six authors each night. Their books range from self-help workbooks and memoirs to short stories and novels. About a quarter of the books are published traditionally.
Although she has no desire to work in a bookstore, Slone said she enjoys getting to know the authors and supporting their craft.
"I get a percentage of the sale, but the authors get a bigger cut than at a bookstore," she said. "I love giving authors money."
Slone gets a barrage of e-mails each month from new authors. She meets with them, then decides whether to distribute their books or not. She turns away authors from Marin and Napa as well as certain genres.
"I have started saying no to memoirs, and I shy away from poetry, too," she said. "Both are a hard sell."
She tracks how well each book sells, then posts the top two best-sellers on her Facebook page, Local Authors' Distributor.
In November, "Lipstick and the Leash" by Camilla Gray-Nelson hit No. 1, followed in December by Ken Weaver's "The Northern California Craft Beer Guide."
Before that, Arlene Miller's "The Best Little Grammar Book Ever," a concise and funny primer, held the top spot for more than a year.