I've been working at a LARGE book retailer for a month now. This is definitely the other side of the craft, so I thought I would share some random musings about the biz from this side of the cash register.
There is an entire aisle of shelves devoted to "Teen Paranormal Romance." (Is there any other kind?) Anyway, to be a teen fantasy romance, you must have a black cover with ethereal girls drooling blood. Just an observation.
The only people who browse the "Religious Fiction" aisle are there deliberately. Readers skirt that aisle, preferring craft books or biographies for their trip to the cookbooks or bathrooms. Very depressing.
There are millions of books written by celebrities. I think they should move over and give the rest of us a chance. They're taking up valuable bookshelf real estate. And honestly, just because they're celebrities, doesn't mean they have something worth saying or that they can say it well. Keith Richards' autobiography (riiight) is 564 pages long. And he should have waited until his migraine passed before having his photo taken for the cover. The pain! And, honestly, the picture books written by celebs are awful. If you know of an exception, I would love a title.
The gardening books are by the door to the restrooms, and each and every one of them has a green spine. People, can we show a little creativity here? Thanks.
I'm pleased to say that many people pay attention during book talks on television and radio. They usually wait a few days or a month before toddling into the bookstore. By then, they can't find the piece of paper where they've scribbled the author's name or the book title. No matter. I love helping these people find their books. It's the best kind of treasure hunt. Once found, the book usually gets a hug to the heart. You have to love people on a quest for a good book.
At the cash register, the books I scan most are about girls with dragon tattoos kicking hornet's nests. You were right, Latayne.
Don't bother writing a cookbook unless you have a cooking show on a major network. The cookbook section is the toughest section to zone (neaten). First, cookbooks tend to come in odd sizes. Second, there are a gazillion of them! There's the butter section with Paula Deen and the grillin' section with Bobby Flay. If you don't have a television show, write a gluten-free cookbook or a diet book with promises of quick weight loss. These sell well too.
Here's a myth debunked: I've been told by people in the publishing biz that face-out books have been financed by the publishers for that privilege. Not so. Here's the rule: If there are four or more titles on the shelf, face them out, OR if putting them face-out (they're fat) will provide more space on the shelf for other books, face them out. There are promotional tables in the store where, perhaps, publishers have paid for the placement. No one admits to this. It is true that product placement is 100% the dictate of headquarters in New York City (where else?).
Our book-search software tells us exactly where each book SHOULD be. My personal experience? I believe the books come to life at midnight and dance around the information desk before settling into a new place. Just saying. The computer doesn't know everything.
If you have to work retail, a bookstore is a great place to be. Not only is the ink intoxicating, but the coffee drinks waif over the books all day long. More importantly, the people who shop in bookstores are good folks--sensible, passionate, literate. Oh, there are a few who act inappropriately. Some forget the bookstore is not at library. They come to read. They crease a page or use a bookmark to return to their reading the next day. Some are brutal on the spines, and the books must be returned. And there are others who have questionable taste in "books" who leave them in corners of the store. Ick!!!
eBooks are very, very exciting to people who love to read. We have a new model at $249, and people aren't blinking at the price. The digital format is here to stay.
And yes, I get an employee discount. And no, I haven't brought home a paycheck yet. For me, working in a bookstore is a bit like being an alcoholic in a liquor store, intoxicating to be sure. You might want to pray for me.
Here's a bright spot: I answered the phone in my chipper bookseller voice, and the person on the other end of the line said, "Do you carry The Queen of Sleepy Eye by Patti Hill?" (And it wasn't my mother.) Sadly, we didn't.
What makes a bookstore great? What titles are you buying for Christmas presents this year? So far, I've purchased Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris. Do shop for books online or at a brick and mortar store? MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION: Is there a street shoe that wears like an athletic shoe? My. Feet. Hurt.