In keeping with Aussie Author Month, I thought I’d get some thoughts from the ‘other side’ of the counter. Meet Mark.
He’s part of the indie book store ‘Shearers’. These are his thoughts on selling Aussie Authors.
Mark: One of the many great things about working in an indie bookshop is the power that we have to influence people’s reading choices. I don’t mean “power” or “influence” in a Bond-villain type of way, but in the sense that indie booksellers are meant to read widely and have good taste, in other words customers listen to our recommendations. Hand-selling titles that we’re fond of makes up a large part of what we do, and nothing brings greater satisfaction to a bookseller than to have a customer take up your recommendation. That and free coffee.
Most of our customers want to support local authors and I’m often asked for recommendations of Australian writers. There’s such an abundance of choice that when I’m asked that question I always respond with: what type of book do you like to read? We have a section in our store specifically for Australian fiction and one for Australian non-fiction. But within those sections you can find literary fiction, crime fiction, sci/fi and fantasy, romance, humour, history, biographies, current affairs, philosophy, young adult and childrens, and the list goes on and on. Such a diverse range of books really highlights the depth and richness of Australian writing – and it’s extremely important that we all support it so that it doesn’t go away.
I always like it when an author visits. And not necessarily in an official capacity – David Malouf was caught browsing in Shearer’s not too long ago and an eager staff member stopped him for a chat (and got him to sign copies of Ransom). It’s always nice to have that contact, to see an author come in and look for their book (while we give each other nervous glances – is it on the shelf? When did you see it last?) We’ve also had several authors come in, not announce their presence, display their books in a more prominent location and then write to us on Twitter several hours later telling us what they’ve done. That happens quite often and never fails to make us laugh.
Twitter has become an important device for Aussie authors. It’s given them (and us) an ability to interact that we previously lacked. We can Tweet with each other on an almost daily basis and form friendships. This motivates us as booksellers as we now have something more invested in the sale – the desire to see people we like succeed. So if you’re an Aussie writer reading this and you’re not on Twitter, I urge you to join and make yourself known to all the indie bookshops who tweet, there are heaps of us!
There are many challenges that face Australian writers, publishers and booksellers at the moment. The collapse of REDGroup Retail (the company that owns Angus & Robertson and Borders) has many implications, the industry may shrink and publishers may take less risks with new writers. From the sales floor I am happy to report that interest in Australian writers has not diminished. In fact, some shoppers have become more interested in reading Australian in support of our industry.
Discovering an amazing author you’ve never read is a valuable experience. And knowing that you have the capacity to help an author succeed makes Aussie bookselling something truly special.