How to Win Readers and Influence Booksellers, a word to the wise writer

Seen at my fave used-book store – B Street Books (San Mateo, CA) – a long time ago.


I once had a survival job* at a brick-and-mortar mega-bookstore. Authors would sometimes come in to see how their books were doing, where their books were displayed and so forth. Those of the narcissistic variety were sure to posture and try to throw their weight around. They would want to talk with the manager and a bookseller or two, hoping to get sales stats and to bully staff into recommending their books to customers. There was little trust. They were sure their publishers weren’t reporting sales honestly. This last, of course, would affect royalties. These writers were condescending as well as rude.

As you might imagine, strut-and-push strategies achieve nothing. Bookstore management and staff are forbidden to share sales data with anyone, including authors. Staff don’t have control over the placement of books in the store. That’s dictated by corporate, which has negotiated contractual agreements with publisher regarding book placement.

Having said that, it’s actually a good idea to go into bookstores and talk to staff. If it’s not a busy day, introduce yourself.  You might ask about their jobs, how they like them, what kind of books they read. Show some interest in booksellers. Remember the adage about honey vs. vinegar.

“I did discover that if you’re interested in low wages, a bookstore ranks below retail clothing sales, except the hours are worse.” Sue Grafton, American novelist (detective stories)

Working in a mega-bookstore might sound romantic to a bibliophile, but it’s hard work. It’s pretty thankless and it’s not well-paid. It involves lifting and moving heavy boxes of books, pushing H-carts, dragging hand trucks, dealing with demanding customers and stressed managers. There are no civilized corner offices with windows. There are shabby lunchrooms and rushed-half-hour lunches, two ten-minute breaks. There are sore feet and aching backs. Our regional manager used to say that if you didn’t hurt at the end of a shift you weren’t doing your job.

Resetting the store after closing is not the sweet enchanted thing illustrated in the video below. It’s fast paced and onerous. Everyone is tired.  Some people will close the store late at night and have to be back early in the morning without having had enough sleep.

If you do visit bookstores, say “thank you” for all the hard work. Congratulate the booksellers on the store’s appearance. Drizzle a little honey. Booksellers will remember you as kind and be more inclined to read and recommend your books.

* a survival job is not a career position just something taken to pay the bills until more appropriate work is found

Note: If you are viewing this post from an email subscription, it’s likely you’ll have to link through to the site to play the video.

This post is dedicated to booksellers everywhere. 

© 2016, Jamie Dedes

LATE BREAKING NEWS: London Book Fair Announces International Excellence Awards Winners

The London Book Fair 2016. Few minutes before opening. Olympia, London UK

The London Book Fair 2016. Few minutes before opening. Olympia, London UK

· French publisher Actes Sud wins Adult Trade Publisher
· Readings in Australia crowned Bookstore of the Year
· US and Chinese publishers lead the field with two awards each
· Sudan, Brazil, Poland and New Zealand also won awards

The winners of The London Book Fair International Excellence Awards, in association with The Publishers Association and sponsored by Hytex,  announced at a prestigious awards ceremony held on the first day of LBF.

French publisher Actes Sud took home The Bookseller Adult Trade Publisher Award and was commended for its “depth and breadth of publishing, second-to-none design and production values, and a ground-breaking list”. The judges also praised its imprint Sindbad “which champions writing from the Arabic and Muslim worlds”.

In a new category for 2016, The Bookstore of the Year Award went to Melbourne-based Readings for “its community outreach, support of Australian authors and its help for non-profit organisations working on literacy initiatives”.

The US had another successful year at the awards, with two wins overall. Words Without Borders won The Publishers Weekly Literary Translation Initiative Award with judges reflecting that “literature in the translation sector is flourishing with momentum, passion and innovation”. In The Global Rights 365 Literary Agent Award category, New-York-based The Barbara J. Zitwer Agency, who had previously been nominated for The Outstanding Contribution Award 2014, took the crown and was praised for “for the grace and persistence of her dealings”.

China had a fantastic night and was awarded two highly coveted prizes. The BookBrunch Children’s and Young Adult Trade Publisher Award was presented to Jieli Publishing House Co. Ltd because of “its broad and inclusive approach” and its catalogue reflecting “the best of both home grown and international authors and books”. Meanwhile, China also won the Market Focus Achievement Award as accepted by government owned CNPIEC (China National Publications Import & Export).

Jacks Thomas, Director, The London Book Fair, said: “The awards represent the very best the publishing industry has to offer across the globe, and we were delighted to see winners from countries as far afield as Sudan, France, Poland, New Zealand and Brazil. For me, meeting and celebrating these publishers’ hard work, dedication and talent is such a fundamental part of the Book Fair. It is these inspiring companies and people around the world who make publishing such a special industry, that I am privileged to work in.”

Earls Court Exhibition Centre from Warwick Road SW5, near to Kensington, Kensington And Chelsea, Great Britain. During the 2009 London Book Fair

Earls Court Exhibition Centre from Warwick Road SW5, near to Kensington, Kensington And Chelsea, Great Britain. During the 2009 London Book Fair

Stephen Lotinga, Chief Executive, The UK Publishers Association, said: “The International Excellence Awards provide an incredible opportunity to recognise achievements within the publishing industry globally. It showcases the wealth of cultural diversity driving the production of enriching works enjoyed by people worldwide. From France to New Zealand, from Sudan to China, the commitment and dedication demonstrated by the publishers has been none other than inspirational and it has been an honour to hear their stories and celebrate as part of the London Book Fair.”

The full list of this year’s International Excellence Awards winners is below:

· The Bookstore of the Year Award
o Readings (Australia)

· The Literary Festival Award
o Flupp (Brazil)

· The Publishers Weekly Literary Translation Initiative Award
o Words without Borders (US)
· The Knowledgespeak Academic and Professional Publisher Award
o Auckland University Press (New Zealand)
· The BookBrunch Children’s and Young Adult Trade Publisher Award
o Jieli Publishing House Co. Ltd (China)
· The Bookseller Adult Trade Publisher Award
o Actes Sud (France)
· The China Publishing & Media Journal Educational Learning Resources Award
o SuperMemo World sp. z o.o. (Poland)
· The Global Rights 365 Literary Agent Award
o The Barbara J. Zitwer Agency (US)

· The Education Initiatives Award
o United Nations – African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) (Sudan)
· The Market Focus Achievement Award
o Market Focus China (China)

· The Total Licensing IP Rights Across Media Award
o The Night Zookeeper (UK)

Also hosted on the night was a selection of awards held in association with The London Book Fair:

· The London Book Fair Simon Master Chairman’s Award
o Ernest Hecht

· The Quantum Publishing Innovation Award
o Reedsy

· The IPA Prix Voltaire 2016
o Raif Badawi (Saudi Arabia)

· The London Book Fair Trailblazer Awards
o George Burgess, Entrepreneur and Marketing Lead at Gojimo
o Clio Cornish, Executive Publisher at HarperCollins
o Nick Coveney, Head of Digital at Kings Road Publishing
o Ella Kahn, Co-Founder of DKW Literary Agency & Bryony Woods, Co-Founder of DKW Literary Agency

· The Association for Publishing Education Dissertation and Project Prizes
o Best Dissertation for a Postgraduate: Veronica Morgan, University College London
o Best Dissertation for an Undergraduate: Fiona Parker, Loughborough University (BA Publishing with English)
o Best Overall Project: Amy Ellis, Oxford Brookes University

· Accessible Books Consortium Award for Accessible Publishing: Initiative (Joint winner)
o Action on Disability Rights and Development (ADRAD) (Nepal)
o DK & the DK Braille Concept Development Team (UK)

· Accessible Books Consortium Award for Accessible Publishing: Publisher
o Elsevier B.V

· The London Book Fair Lifetime Achievement Award
o Gail, Baroness Rebuck, DBE, Chair of Penguin Random House, UK

The awards, which celebrate international excellence in the book industry, cover the whole scope of international publishing, including academic and scholarly publishing, children’s publishing, literary translation and digital innovation. In each award category the judging panel was made up of experts in that sector.

The awards were presented at The London Book Fair, London Olympia Conference Centre on Tuesday 12th April. The drinks reception was sponsored by UKTI.

Announcement courtesy of The London Book Fair; photo credits, 2016 (the first photograph) courtesy of Arielinson under CC BY-SA 4.0 license , 2009 (the second photograph) courtesy of R Sones under CC BY-SA 2.0 license