Do our staff need ‘fluffers’ who help them prepare in advance, working up their self esteem, talking through the (frequently two- four sentence) review going over numerous angles and insights before anything is committed with pen to paper?
At the moment I am told ‘Megan, we don’t have the books I like in stock.’ True, but this has not always been the case. Another one of the deep ironies of bookselling is that the staff are typically wiley, unusual readers, who don’t care for the flavour of Picoult’s moral muffins or the Rubik plot twists of Dan Brown and his criminal counterparts.
For many years working across several bookshops it’s been my observation that requesting a review can spook staff. This isn’t because they don’t read. Quite the opposite. A book after all is a solitary experience, even the teenagers that come in packs to Borders to languish in the forgotten aisles, legs crossed, books ajar, are together and yet alone. We read in private, sharing our enthusiasms afterwards. Yet, recommending a book, putting it into the hands of a new ‘lover’ is one of the great experiences of bookselling. This is probably why so many customers urge me to read their favorites.
In late 2009 a middle aged man swept into store eager to scoop up The Girl who Played with Fire. I handed it to him and he asked the million dollar question: ‘Have you read it?’ I shook my head. ‘No, but everyone keeps telling me too.’ ‘You must,’ He said. ‘You’ll be hooked.’ ‘What is it about this series?’ I asked, hand on hip, ever the skeptic of a new marketing ploy. ‘It’s her, the main character,’ the customer smiled, departing for the tills.
Lisbeth Salander, genius computer hacker – an uninhibited bisexual with a photographic memory and of course, a dragon tattoo. I can see how Lisbeth appeals. Throughout the Millennium Trilogy (I still haven’t read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest) she shows great initiative and she never wants to talk about her childhood – no matter how much Blomkvist begs her too. Lisbeth’s a victim but not in her actions or attitude. She’s a best seller but she’s no sell out. I can also imagine if Lisbeth Salander worked in a bookstore she’d be quite resistance to writing a staff review…
by Megan Dunn, Borders Wellington