The Secret Art of Book Handselling

One of the reasons I love being an agent is that my roots come from the “front lines.”  I remember starting my first bookstore job, loving it, and my path in life being forever altered (in the best of ways).    It was at that point in life I learned the art of recommending books.  Not only did it result in happy readers (i.e. customers), but it established some fantastic long-term relationships, some of which are still around nearly 2 decades later. 

Recently a friend mentioned how hard it is to decide WHAT to read, let alone what books to buy in a bookstore.  In an era of paid/co-op partnerships between chain bookstores and large publishers, many booksellers are often forced into putting up pre-determined displays vs. their own special endcaps and book tables. 

Having worked in both the indie and chain bookstore settings, the most noticeable difference between these entities was the quirky employee book displays.  Not only does this type of presentation add zest to the bookstore setting & atmosphere, it also communicates to readers what the employees have read and LIKED. 

Speaking as someone who now feels overwhelmed with the desire to read way too many books, without the time to reach the goal 100%, book recommendations by booksellers, friends, and even those quirky displays influence my reading/book purchasing decisions.   

Yes, marketing oneself online is A-1 essential, it has been preached from this soapbox many times.  However, there is also the vast importance of people communicating the books loved and enjoyed.   Participating actively and supporting this type of “behavior” will help one’s book gain popularity. 

Ex:  Approx. 10+ years ago, someone recommended Donna
Tartt’s “The Secret History” to me, which was quite the
enjoyable read. Afterwards I told anyone looking for a
good book to read “The Secret History.” Without hardcore
evidence, I am very confident 1 in 2 folks purchased that
book, or went to the library to read it.     I know this wasn’t
a solo venture, many other booksellers were doing the same
thing.  Hence, Donna Tartt’s book is still easy to locate on
bookstore shelves, as it is a consistent backlist item.  Word-
of-mouth is a powerful tool.

Where to find some of these recommendations?  There are so many folks/sites available that today I will be referring to several Twitter friends who know their books.  If I inadvertently forgot someone, please do not take offense, it has been a busy week.   Drop me a note if you’d like to be on this list as well.

The Book Journal –

Book Network –

Book Page –

The Book Studio –

Book TV –

Daily Lit –

Good Reads –

Inside Books –

L.A. Times Books –

Lit Housewife –

Lit Chat –

Non-Fiction on Lunch –

New York Review of Books –

WeBook –

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