What’s your favorite area of your bookstore?
The post office because it means I’m shipping more books!
What’s the coolest book cover that you like to have facing out on the shelves?
One book cover that always gets a lot of attention is Lost Words. It’s also a giant book and partnered with Lost Spells it makes them both seem quite opposite in size. People always want to open it an flip through. I also like the cover for Handmaids Tale and Testaments with their hidden elements. I know there are some others but those are top of mind.
If you had a staff pick for a recent new release, what would it be? Backlist pick?
I really enjoyed Dead Romantics. It had everything I needed in a book at that moment. It’s absolutely one I will recommend forever. For middle grade: New From Here is a must read but I really enjoy all Kelly Yang’s books. I will always carry Justina Ireland and one book I share with everyone as a must read is Ophie’s Ghosts, but Dread Nation is a fabulous historical fiction too.
Do you have a strange customer story?
I have certainly had some interesting people in the store but nothing overly unusual for retail. Not totally strange but we had Dread Nation on the shelf for our book club and a woman walked in and asked if she could sign them, she was the author, Justina Ireland. That was the start of a cool friendship.
Recently we had someone call saying they wanted to return a book they bought from us on Amazon. We don’t sell on Amazon but through some discussion I was able to determine the book was one we had donated to a scrap place who turned around and sold it with our sticker on it. The poor person couldn’t get in touch with the Amazon seller and tried to come to us.
What author have you been starstruck to meet, or have you gotten to host a fun virtual event?
I was star struck meeting Joe Hill at BookExpo in 2019 but I’m also still in awe working with so many authors that I get to meet.
Two virtual meetings that I still think about are Bruce Goldfarb with 18 Tiny Deaths and Judy Melineck M.D. and T.J. Mitchell talking about Working Stiff. Mostly because Bruce was my very first pandemic event and Working Stiff was surprisingly relevant.
What are some misconceptions people have about working in a bookstore?
Absolutely that I read all the time and know everything about every book. I do LOVE to surprise people with spot on recommendations or finding a book they thought was impossible to get for a reasonable price.
What is your least favorite bookstore task? Favorite part about working in a bookstore?
I hate returning books because I over-ordered or discounting a book I really thought was going to be popular and didn’t sell. I definitely enjoy when people return and tell me how much they liked something I recommended. It’s even better when they send friends to tell me how much the person enjoyed it and now the friend wants recommendations too.
Can you recommend an underrated read alike book for one of the store’s top titles? (For example: If your store sells a lot of The Song of Achilles, you might recommend Tin Man.)
One series I recommend often when I’m told the person likes Wings of Fire or Erin Hunter books is Redwall. It’s older so I don’t think it comes to mind for a lot of people but Redwall is one of my favorite series from my childhood. For Hufflepuffs, I recommend WilderLore series. For Jenny Lawson Fans I always recommend David Sedaris and vice versa, but another memoir that I loved is I Tried to Change So You Don’t Have to by Loni Love.
Ellen Whitfield is senior publicist at Books Forward, an author publicity and book marketing firm committed to promoting voices from a diverse variety of communities. From book reviews and author events, to social media and digital marketing, we help authors find success and connect with readers.