I met Jim Hoffsis in 2008 when my first book was published. I’d attended the University of New Mexico and my wife had taught at Jemez Pueblo. We looked forward to returning to New Mexico for a signing tour. Normally, bookstores won’t host signings for unknown authors whose books are from small publishers. But my book had a blurb from then-Gov. Bill Richardson, and that got me into the stores – the chains (such as) Borders, Waldenbooks and Barnes & Noble, and the independents (such as) Booksworks in Albuquerque, Coas in Las Cruces, Imaginary Books in Cloudcroft, The Mystery Store in Chama and a bunch of others. But sales were miserable.
We spent the last day in Old Town. I spotted Treasure House Books & Gifts. I didn’t know it existed. I asked the silver-haired man behind the counter if he would take a book on consignment. He looked skeptical. Then he looked at the book.
“I’ve been trying to contact you. A lot of our customers are looking for your book.” Turns out the book had been reviewed in the Albuquerque Journal. “I’ll take 10 copies,” he said, “and I want you to sign them all.”
We were headed home when Hoffsis called asking me to sign and mail 24 more copies ASAP. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I’d travelled all over New Mexico and sold about five copies per bookstore, and this little place in Old Town had sold 10 and was looking for two dozen more! My book won the New Mexico Book of the Year Award, no doubt in large part because Treasure House sold so many copies.
I started getting emails from people who bought my book. Jim and his son John were recommending it for tourists who wanted something set in New Mexico. Since the tourists were in Old Town and the series is set there, they were buying the book.
When I did the launch signing for the second book at Treasure House, the line of people stretched onto the sidewalk. Same with the third book, which won the Lefty for Best Humorous Mystery of the Year. I eventually became a best-selling author, and I owe that to Jim and John Hoffsis.
Borders, Hastings and Waldenbooks all went bankrupt. Moby Dickens, Imaginary Books, The Mystery Store and a lot of little independent bookstores are shuttered. But Treasure House is still operating in a store that’s probably smaller than your living room.
Sadly, it will now be operating without Jim Hoffsis, who died Oct. 8. John read every one of my books from cover to cover. He gave me advice about what customers liked. He even gave me writing advice. And advice about life, which he knew well because he enjoyed 93 years of it.
John loved his family and his country. He was a major force in making Old Town what it is today, and in keeping it simultaneously traditional and vital.
And, knowing John, I think a lot of people in Heaven are reading my books.