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Things I Learnt As A Bookseller

4rewhfds

Working in a bookstore was always something I wanted to do, regardless of for how long it would be. I’ve been fortunate to work as a Seasonal Bookseller, two Christmas’ in a row, at a high-street bookstore, and I thought I would share some of the things I learnt during my time there.

 

HOWEVER MUCH YOU THINK YOU READ, IT’S NOT ENOUGH

It’s pretty self-explanatory that you have to read a lot of books. But no matter whether you read 10 books a month, or 10 books a week, it is NOT ENOUGH. The book industry is constantly moving and unless you grow fifty pairs of eyes and arms, it’s pretty hard to keep up with.

 

THERE IS HOMEWORK

As someone who is very rigid when it comes to genre, you have to do a lot of relying on what other booksellers are into. If someone asks about cookbooks, it’s easily to palm that person off on your co-worker that spends all their free time baking cakes. But when a customer comes up to you with a book from the new releases section and wants to know whether it’s any good, reviews are your best friend. I spent a lot of time when the store was quiet just reading summaries and reviews of the latest releases I had no interest in reading, just so I would look like I knew what I was on about.

 

SENIOR BOOKSELLERS ARE WALKING ENCYLOPEDIAS

I lost track of how many obscure questions customers asked me where I stared back at them blankly, not sure they were talking about something real, only for a co-worker to go “oh yes I know all about that, let me show you out selection.” If you get to work as a bookseller, or the next time you go into a store, take time to talk to them. They have an endless supply of knowledge about books and various topics. I’m convinced some of them aren’t human.

 

PREPARE FOR BIZARRE INTERACTIONS

Following on from my previous point, I have my fair share of odd stories to share. My personal gem is a woman who told me she was looking for a book (handy as she was in a bookstore) and told me she “didn’t know the name of it, or who wrote it but it was on tv as a serial killer drama at the moment and she thought the cover was a light green colour.” Hoping I could narrow the search down, I asked if she knew what channel the show was on. To which she said “how the bloody hell should I know?” And walked off.

 

YOU WILL WANT TO TIDY EVERYTHING

Long after you’ve left your position (if a temporary one), and knowing the secrets of brand standards, you will struggle to avoid reorganising in stores. I have a bad habit of putting books in series order on a shelf, tidying tables before that horrible “I don’t work here” moment dawns over me and I scamper out of the store to safety.

 

SHELVING IS HORRIBLE

Is this 5-8 fiction or 9-12? Is it a biography? Travel? Am I going to leave it on this trolley for someone else to deal with? Absolutely. The only way to solve this problem is by paying attention to your surroundings and learning where everything is. There is no shortcut and it’s often a struggle to shelve books when the store is open. Also, you’ll probably get something wrong and see a senior bookseller grumbling to themselves as they move a book to the right place.

Posted in discussion

Support The Stories, Not The Author

[Brief Note: trigger warnings for sexual assualt and I also want to make it clear that these are my views and you are free to disagree.]

[Edit: Since writing this post the author I focused on for this piece has been dropped by both UK & US Publishers and their agent.]

btrb

Over the past few days, I’ve been in two minds as whether to write this blog post or not. But I feel that it’s something I need to talk about and to dismiss it lessens the importance of what is happening within the book community.

Sexual harassment is a big talking point at the moment and I am glad that it is finally being brought to the forefront of many discussions. But with those very discusssions comes people on opposing sides and I’ve found it increasingly difficult to  partake in these conversations based on what I’ve been through myself. Things like #TimesUp and #MeToo are empowering, important movements if you’re brave enough to stand up and talk about your experiences… but not everyone is and we need to remember that.

I don’t want to sensationalise victims coming forward, but when authors started indirecting about certain unnamed authors involved in sexual harrassment, I, like many tried to guess who it could be. Rather naively I thought the book industry would be different and then the bookseller survey came out.

A few days ago, these particular authors posted their cyptic tweets, and the article came out more recently and I felt my stomach drop at one of the names that came to the forefront shortly after.

I’m not going to name them here, not to protect them or anything but mainly to cover my own back. Maybe a little bit of it is that I’m still processing too. For transparency’s sake: I did wait until more information came out before making this post. I.e: a statement. But if you know you know, and if you don’t you don’t. As the news has started to extend beyond the community, you don’t have to look far to find out who they are.

One of the names in particular hit me hard because it was someone I really looked up to and admired; someone who had inspired some of my own creative work and someone I hoped I would meet one day. Like many, I felt a connection to this individual’s work as we all tend to do as readers. I found myself wanting to step up and say “no, let’s wait to hear what they have to say.” That was when I knew I needed to step back.

You may be shaking your head at me while reading this, disagreeing with me for “blindly believing the victims” or saying “it’s only real if they went to the police.” But as one who was once not believed herself, and terrified of going to the police because of the repercussions I might face, it’s difficult for me to disconnect. Anyway, I found myself not reacting in the same way I would if it was someone that I didn’t look up to and with the anger bursting online, I had to take a break from my main source of social media to try to process everything, make sure that I was alright (self care is super important), and also reconstruct my view of this particular author.

I’m incredibly close to the series and didn’t want to give that up. Their books formed the initial framework of both my blog and my channel; they were what I used when trialing new content and I especially don’t want to be seen, in the future, of endorsing this author and their actions if I chose to make a video or do another post about their stories. I want to make it clear that I won’t be buying anymore of their books, but I am tired of feeling like I have to give up the things that I love because of their creators: see Fantastic Beasts regarding Rowling/Depp.

I looked to the fandom for this particular author and saw that they have simply cast the author aside, proclaiming that the books belong to them and only them; that they are the new creators and refuse to give up the stories. While obviously it’s impossible to ignore the proverbial elephant in the room, I appreciate the sentiment.

I still don’t know what I am going to do in the future when I want to delve back into their stories soon and update my Goodreads to show what page I’m on, or post excited tweets about seeing my favourite characters again. But I do know that I will not be supporting this author. Though, I am not going to give up these stories.

I’m not letting that be taken away from me.