Monday, July 30, 2007

Behind The Scenes - Bookselling

It's surprising that there aren't more books published about bookselling. Every independent bookstore would stock books on this topic! I've gathered a small collection of these titles and will post reviews here occasionally. Here's the first:

Shelf Life: Romance, Mystery, Drama, and Other Page-Turning Adventures from a Year in a Bookstore
by Suzanne Strempek Shea (Beacon Press, 2004)

The tables are turned on author Suzanne Strempek Shea. She finds herself behind the counter of a bookstore selling books by other authors! It was an eye-opening experience for her to learn the routines of bookselling; unpacking boxes, receiving shipments, shelving, customers (some very quirky customers, indeed), displays, suggesting books, and of course, author events. It gave her a new perspective about the realities of independent bookstores, and when she went on her next national book tour, she had a foot in both trenches, author and bookseller. Shelf Life spoke to me particularly because it is about a bookstore in Springfield, MA that is set in a dying Mall. My first bookstore job was also in a Mall (in Massachusetts) that was half-closed. It generated an otherworldly aura...and Shea perfectly describes the apocalyptic feeling provoked by that environment. Shelf Life is an amusing must read, not only for booksellers, but for all writers. Also worth reading is Shea's charming novel, Selling the Lite of Heaven, which is also set in Western Massachusetts.