The importance of handselling
By Michael on March 22nd, 2012
Handselling. It’s what makes someone a Bookseller rather than a salesperson in a bookstore. I know they sound like the same thing but as someone who has worked in a bookstore for nearly 10 years, I can assure you, they are not.
When I started at The Scholastic Store, I was a salesperson. I came from another kids’ retailer and while I knew about Harry Potter and Clifford the Big Red Dog, I couldn’t have told you anything about Jaclyn Moriarty’s Ashbury High novels or even, gasp, Captain Underpants.
Somewhere along the way, I became a Bookseller. I can’t tell you the exact number of books I needed to read to become one. I also can’t tell you the amount of time I spent talking with store guests, authors, editors, teachers, librarians and experienced Booksellers. I can tell you, all of these were invaluable in making me the Bookseller I am today. A passion for books emerged from my experience of what retailers call ‘product knowledge.’ For most of you, that’s simply called reading and that makes being a Bookseller more than just a retail job. It’s a profession with a success factor that cannot simply be measured in sales figures.
That brings me back to handselling. There is a human connection when you handsell a book that can’t be found in any other promotional vehicle. You are sharing the sum of your reading experience and giving it to your guest. The ShelfTalker Blog over at PW (which provides me inspiration as a Bookseller and blogger regularly) said this about handsells earlier in the week:
“I read a lot of books, we all do, but when I wake up in the morning eager to read rather than get ready for work, well, now, that’s a good book.”
It is that level of excitement about a book that allows you to handsell it. I’ve watched a previous manager at the store talk many, many adults into reading Suzanne Collins’ earlier book, Gregor the Overlander, simply because he enjoyed it so much. My current staff member, Abbey, sells Dear Mrs. LaRue and The Invention of Hugo Cabret in greater numbers than most of our new releases. I love the Keys to the Kingdom series and Book! Book! Book! and they both outperform some of the ‘classics’ in the store.
At the time The Hunger Games wasn’t published and there was not a Caldecott seal on Hugo. They were just books my staff felt everyone needed to read. I am glad to read in the article referenced in Morgan’s post on Monday that Booksellers are given some of the credit for the success of both books!
Have you ever bought a book simply because of a Bookseller’s recommendation or is there a Bookseller who is your ‘go to’ person for book recommendations?