I have been a bookseller for almost 15 years, and have been indulging in conversations with colleagues about selling my own book for every single one of those years. “Can you imagine if my book was sitting here, on this shelf, in the Ds?” I might say.
Now that my first book is out, my workmates have been relentless in their enthusiasm, as if it is happening to them too. They feel like my very own supportive army; an army whose weapon is to be extremely polite and gently persuasive. Most booksellers have made me feel like this.
I’m lucky to have done bookshop tours in Australia and the UK. If I visit your shop, you should know: when it comes to talking to booksellers, I will take up your time. I want to know what you’re reading, selling, who you’re reading next, what kind of customers you have. I want to see how your shop is set up. I want to know it all.
Booksellers are essential to our industry. I am not saying this because I am one; I am saying this because I’m not sure I would have been a writer (or a reader) without them. One essential thing they do is build a bridge between authors and readers. (Booksellers are also designers, negotiators, marketers, babysitters, social media experts, counsellors, and so on.) They make authors and readers accessible to each other, in real life or through the page. They can do this because they possess the most wondrous skill: when a bookseller reads a book, they read it from the point of view of every person who might arrive in their bookshop. It’s an incredible attribute, one I have often thought might make things a little better for everyone, were we all to learn it: the ability to understand another’s version of the world.
I think the best-case scenario for the selling of any book—particularly a début—is that booksellers and authors are able to work on it together. It seems an absurdly obvious thing to say, but I’m not convinced it always happens. If an author is given the chance to connect with a bookseller and understand their version of the world (and vice versa), then a book has been given its best possible beginning.
Brooke Davis’ début novel, Lost & Found (Hutchinson), is out now