By Natasha Radford
Being a bookseller is a relatively new occupation for us, only having opened our doors 5 months ago. However I would say that we have always been booksellers at heart, recommending books to anyone who will listen.
The most exciting part of the job is choosing new titles for the shop. We have got to know our customer base pretty well and are aware of what they like and are looking for. As we have a Waterstones, WHSmith and The Works all within close proximity, we strive to offer something a little different from the usual. Yes, we stock J.K.Rowling and Enid Blyton (still incredibly popular), but we also ensure that there is a very large range of books which are not found elsewhere, such as Mo Willems’ superb ‘Don’t Let the Pigeon’ series, the brilliantly inspired Barrington Stoke collection of dyslexia friendly texts and anything else that catches our attention. Poo-related books go down a storm! Nosy Crow can always be relied on for innovative books for the younger market, with superb illustrations at the centre of their stories. I can’t recommend them highly enough if you’re looking to find out ‘how it’s done’.
As well as the ordering of the titles, there is also the displaying of the books. This has evolved (and will probably continue to do so) as we have become more familiar with what people are looking for and how people shop. I always used to get frustrated when I went into the supermarket to discover that aisles had changed, but now I understand the cunning marketing plan behind such actions. We move sections around every couple of weeks and change our window display weekly. Why? Because people look but they don’t always see. You have to draw the eye in and it’s true to say that people (including me) do judge a book by its cover. We are very lucky as we have some extremely knowledgeable reps that really know their stuff and let us know of new titles which suit us.
The children’s market is absolutely saturated at the moment, which is wonderful because there’s so much to choose from! I would say that you have to be incredibly selective these days, especially when it comes to some self-published books. Self-publication can be the ideal way to break into the market, as it is difficult to ‘get in’ with publishers; however such books come with a health warning. We get sent a lot of self-published books and I have to say that the quality varies hugely. Many of the titles we have been sent will never make it onto our shelves. There are key issues which seem to recur. Picture books are often too wordy. Text is important, but the text and illustration needs to match. Also, the illustrations need to be of a high quality. Unfortunately there are authors out there that take on the job of illustrator too. Of course it can work beautifully – Anthony Browne is a fine example of such a master of the picture book – but all too often that is not the case. As I have already said, we do judge a book by its cover! Having said that, we currently stock a very well put together collection of London guides, aimed at families on a budget, who want to explore our great Capital city. (Step Outside Guides, www.stepoutsideguides.com).
The diary format has become incredibly popular, largely due to the now infamous Jeff Kinney. These are a very effective way of persuading reluctant readers to pick up a book and they are certainly good sellers for us. Writers are becoming more creative with the genre; for example, branching out to history (Diary of Dorkius Maximus, Tim Collins). They’re good fun and accessible to a wide range of readers, which can’t be a bad thing. Fantasy and humour are also featured highly. The series can be problematic for us as booksellers. We find that the first two or three titles in a series sell well, but the later editions tend not to do so well. This has been true of almost every series we have stocked, apart from Andy Stanton’s ‘Mr Gumm’ and Enid Blyton.
YA fiction is very exciting at the moment. The border between what constitutes YA and what is Adult has blurred considerably and we are finding many adults are coming in to buy YA titles for themselves. In particular Michael Grant’s ‘Gone’ series has proved very popular. There are elements of ‘Lord of the Flies’ brought bang up to date, in this pacey series. Interestingly, more boys are selecting titles from our YA range than girls. Robert Muchamore and Charlie Higson both provide a macho world of escapism which is welcomed, even by the more reluctant reader.
The children’s book market continues to expand, pushing the demand of quality higher and higher. Articles that claim children no longer read are nonsense. They do read, avidly at times, they just happen to do other things too.
The Chicken and Frog Bookshop is open Mondays to Saturdays, so do be to sure to drop in and say hello:
7 Security House