Friday, June 4, 2010

Handselling: 'This Simple, Physical Gesture Can Change Lives'

This was a piece today in Shelf Awareness that I thought I would share with you guys. I know I've been MIA this week (just taking a little blogger vacation). I'm back and I've got some summer read recommendations and some reviews to post here for you all.

Handselling: 'This Simple, Physical Gesture Can Change Lives'

I love, love, love this article. Handselling, to me, is such an important part of bookselling and I think it's going by the wayside with all of the big box stores. I've lamented the fact before, but in my day (oh, so very long ago -- 4 years to be precise, tee-hee) my coworkers and I, for the most part, were all readers. We all had our favorite genres. We knew if someone came in looking for a sci-fi/fantasy read who we should send them to. We know who to go to if a customer had a question about a science book. We knew who could help our customers find what they were looking for and make other suggestions.

It's an industry that thrives on word of mouth. It's an industry where I think there's a market for just about every book released if only you can get it into the right customer's hands. It's a market that shouldn't lose the intimate connection that readers have with one another. Bookstores should cherish their good employees. Rather than cutting long timers' hours because they've capped out on salary and eliminating full time positions so you can cut overhead cost, you should hire people who love the product and can share that love (I know I sound super hokey, but it's true) share that love with customers who are outwardly seeking it.

Book readers love book suggestions (for the most part). Half the fun for us is discovering something new. Knowledgeable booksellers can play a pivotal role in whether a customer walks away happy. And I'll say that lazy, unknowledgeable booksellers can immediately turn a customer off of your store.

I can so easily see how this industry can benefit from a huge boost in something as simple as talk. But if you shop at a big box store these days (and in many cases, this is your only option because this is the only store in your area) you're really missing out on one major aspect that the big box stores are not delivering: handselling. It's an integral part of the book business and if it stops altogether (I can't walk into my local *Big Box* and get a suggestion on a book), the impact would be huge. The impact on readers, potential readers, publishers, and bookstores would be astronomical.

I could go on for days on this, but personally have seen how much even one book can benefit from handselling in a store. I've seen how readers benefit from it (and obviously the article above stresses that), and I've seen how the booksellers and the store benefit from it. It gives you a good feeling to know that you may have turned someone onto something new and ultimately it increases sales for your store, it increases sales for the publisher, and it increases sales for the author. It's a win win situation any way you look at it.

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