Friday, December 28, 2007

Holiday Bookselling

I work retail, so the holiday season is massively important to our bottom line. Things were tough this year, with high gas prices, high temperatures (nobody wants to buy Christmas presents when it's 80 degrees outside), and no breakout bestseller, but we held our own.

Years with no breakout books really should be a boon to indy bookstores: instead of everyone coming in knowing exactly what they want (and not being able to get it because the publisher ran out and won't be reprinting until frickin' January. Not that I'm bitter.), people come in knowing they want something, but not necessarily what that something is. This opens the door for all of those handselling fools you've got running around on the floor to suggest their own favorites to the befuddled masses (this works best just before Christmas Eve--people will buy anything just before Christmas Eve). This cadre of book proselytizers is the biggest thing that sets us apart from the big chain stores; we're all readers, and part of being a reader is the desire to tell others about this great book you just read.

And it doesn't stop with customers. I do some of my hardest handselling to my friends and co-workers. Heck, I handsell to the reps who come in to sell books to me!

Being a buyer as well as a bookseller lends an odd perspective to the holidays. When great big stacks of something you took a chance on fly out the door, there's nothing sweeter. And when other stacks just sit there, it can drive you crazy. Why isn't that selling? We sold tons of that other book last year, and this one seems tailor made to appeal to the same audience, but it just sits there. Staring at you. Mocking you with its enormous stacks. Bastard!

Ah, well, at least I have something to get me through the post-holiday doldrums: P.Craig Russell's Coraline graphic novel, Ann & Jeff VanderMeer's anthology The New Weird, which joins the line-up of amazing books coming out in February 2008: The Somnambulist, The Resurrectionist, Charlatan, The Monsters of Templeton, and The Outlaw Demon Wails. What is it with February, anyway? There weren't this many good books for Christmas!


Richard Nash (Soft Skull) said...

Just heard about your blog from Jeff, much fun, it's on my feed now!

Also, I know what you mean about the piles of unsold books. As a rule, especially in our old and bigger office, the biggest piles of a title tended to be of the ones that didn't pan out. And we could never keep the ones that were doing well in the office.

A good discipline I suppose to be surrounded by your failures, not your successes...

Peggy Hailey said...

Richard! It's great to hear from you!

I guess it's instuctional to have those piles of books mocking you. There is often a difference, sadly, between books you love and books you can sell. But I can't help feeling like if I had just been able to get the right bookseller to read the book, then it would have taken off.