Edith here. I’m so happy Sarah Knight could join us today to talk about her job at the fabulous and thriving independent Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vermont. Author Sara Henry introduced Sheila, Tiger Wiseman, and me to Sarah this summer when we were on a writing retreat at Tiger’s Vermont home. Sarah agreed to visit and tell us all about the different hats she wears on the job. Take it away, Sarah!
Sarah: My area of expertise at the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont is as an adult bookseller, the adult book merchandiser, and adult mass market buyer.
As a bookseller I’m often asked for recommendations. I have a series of questions I ask to find out what type of books the customer likes to read. I begin with very general questions like fiction or nonfiction, hardcover or paperback. Then my questions become more specific. If it’s a mystery the customer would like to read I ask what was the last mystery the person read and liked. Then I suggest a few titles and, if they like one or two, we’re set. If not, I continue on.
As a merchandiser I’m in charge of the displays and work with other booksellers to select interesting titles for our customers to buy. I’m in charge of the mystery section. After listening to cozy readers’ comments and questions, I decided to have a dedicated cozy section within the larger mystery section. This has been very successful and the number of customers who buy cozies has increased. Plans are in with works to enlarge the cozy mysteries both in number of titles and space in the section.
Edith: The Wicked Cozy Authors approve, Sarah!
Sarah: As an adult mass market buyer, I buy what I think our customers might be interested in both established and new authors. Also, I like to bring in titles that might surprise our readers. I try and buy a variety of cozy mysteries. I order electronically online from publisher catalogs.
Edith: How did you start working at Northshire?
Sarah: One evening I mentioned to my husband that, rather than sell Asian antiques, I would like to work at the Northshire Bookstore. The next afternoon on our kitchen table, I noticed a copy of our local paper open to the help wanted section. A big red circle was drawn around an ad for a bookseller at the Northshire. That was 25 years ago and seems like yesterday.
Edith: It was meant to be!What are three things we should know about your area of expertise?
Sarah: You don’t have to read every book you sell, but it helps to read some of them. If I’ve met an author, I will work harder to sell their books and prominently display them in the store (one of the perks of being in charge of displays). After I met you, Edith, I brought in several of your titles and faced them out. All sold.
Edith: Aw, thank you! That’s awesome.
Is there a general characteristic that experts in this field all share?
Sarah: A general characteristic of booksellers is that they are passionate about books and reading and have homes or rooms that have so many books they qualify to be featured on a hoarders reality show.
Edith: What do people usually get wrong when writing about your field?
Sarah: Booksellers do NOT get to read while on the job, I repeat, booksellers do NOT get to read while on the job. We are there to sell books to customers to read.
Edith: I did not know that! Next question: what is a great idea you’d love to share?
Sarah: Find time to read everywhere you go (except when you’re a bookseller at work).
Edith: And what are you working on now?
Sarah: I am looking for a cozy mystery which features a protagonist who loves adult coloring books that are all the rage now. Any thoughts? I am organizing my advanced readers copies by publication month trying to read them in this order. It’s hard when the publisher sends me an advance copy of a book by a favorite and the book release date in next February. I’m trying to be a more disciplined reader.
Edith: That’s sounds like a great premise for a new series if it hasn’t been done yet. Sarah, thanks so much for visiting us. I’m looking forward to getting back to Northshire for another visit.
Readers: What else do you want to know about the job of a bookseller, bookbuyer, and book merchandiser? Ask Sarah – she’ll be popping by today to reply to comments.
Agatha Award -winning author Edith Maxwell writes the historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries (Beyond the Page) and short crime fiction. As Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries series and the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries (both from Kensington Publishing). She lives north of Boston in an antique house with her beau, where she writes, gardens, cooks, and wastes time on Facebook.
View all posts by Edith Maxwell