Great advice

Jennifer of Books, Inc., aka literaticat, answers the question What advice would you give to someone just starting their first job at an independent bookstore? Her answer is not only good advice for new booksellers, but a good reminder for veterans:

“I get a lot of dreamy-eyed people telling me how jealous they are that I get to work in a bookstore. ‘Imagine!’ they’ll say, ‘all that time to read!’

Um, not really, unless you are in a failing bookstore.

My advice is, don’t read at the counter, don’t stare off into space, be self-motivated and find things to do if you aren’t busy with customers (make cute displays, shelve, dust, etc) – greet customers, make an effort to figure out what the neighborhood is into. Learn at least a couple books in every category that you can handsell, even if it isn’t something you normally read – you always want to give the impression that you are intimate with every part of the store, even if that isn’t exactly true. Be confident, people like buying things from experts, you are an expert. Get used to being poor.”

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3 comments so far

  1. debbi on

    Great advice! I return to bookstores where I feel like the staff really listens to me and understands my reading tastes and doesn’t just try to give me whatever is most popular. I’ve made some fabulous discoveries when booksellers put books I’ve never heard of into my hands!

  2. amy on

    “OH, you work in an independent YARN SHOP! You must just get paid to knit ALL DAY!”

    No, I don’t, but wouldn’t that be nice!

    (This is no longer my job, sadly, but for the sake of drawing comparisons…)

    Instead, they pay me to:
    -teach people how to knit
    -give remedial help when they have trouble and update their skills
    -problem solve when patterns don’t make sense
    -organize the shelves so everything looks nice and you can find what you need
    -come up with creative and appealing displays
    -design project kits, variations on existing ideas and new patterns that will be both interesting for customers and profitable for the business
    -clean up the gazillion dust bunnies that accumulate daily (you have no idea the amount of lint that a whole room of yarn produces)
    -help find projects and patterns that people find interesting, exciting, challenging and within a reasonable range of difficulty and affordablilty
    -help them find the right materials to complete said project, and encourage them to explore their options and experiment, perhaps outside their comfort zone
    -keep up to date on the latest trends and be able to explain new methods to people, whether or not I have ever done them before
    -SOUND LIKE AN EXPERT, even though I may not have done what someone wants to try, so that they leave with enough confidence to tackle it (because even though maybe I have never completed a sweater with all kinds of crazy cables, I know you can, and I can tell you how to do it).
    -build and draw people into the community of knitters and crocheters so that their yanr-related social needs are met and they feel they have a reliable place they can go where they and their work are appreciated
    -provide the personalized and reliable attention that Big Box chains cannot provide
    -And then, maybe, if it’s a quiet day and the shop is looking spectacular, I might have time to knit a sample sweater or a bag or a hat…for the shop.

    Jennifer is a smart lady. Booksellers and I have a lot in common. We should hang out.

  3. Jessica on

    Hey Stephanie,

    Can’t find your email, so I’m soliciting you via comments! Would love to have you take part in the project below, and/or post/forward to anyone else you think might be a good candidate… Love reading Bookavore, and thanks for the kind words about the graphic novels panel at BEA!
    Jessica

    * * *

    Independent book wholesaler BookStream acts as an intermediary for more than just physical books. The BookStream.com website is a venue for information and conversation between the various parts of the book industry: booksellers, publishers, authors, and others. We’re looking for professionals willing to write about what they do, in order to provide education and an exchange of ideas within our industry. Guest posts on BookStream.com can take on one of two topics:

    A Day In The Life: Write about a typical (or atypical) day, whether you’re a bookstore owner, publicist, events planner, editor, journalist, literary agent, author, or other book industry professional.

    What Works For Us: Write about something unique that your store, company, or group is doing that’s working. It may inspire someone in your position, or bring new attention to your project

    Whether you’re a pro blogger or you’ve never written for the internet before, we’re interested in your perspective on the book industry; your passion for your craft and the knowledge you have to share is more important than your writing experience. Not only will you be improving the knowledge of the industry as a whole, you’ll be getting some free publicity for yourself and your project or company as well! And if you don’t feel this is for you, please feel free to forward this invitation to others within your organization or throughout the industry whom you think might be interested.

    While we’d suggest posts of around 1,000 words or so, there’s no minimum or maximum word count for a guest post (posts are subject to editing). To submit a piece or for more information, please contact Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, booknerdnyc@earthlink.net


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