Hello, and welcome to Ask a Bookseller, in which we at Turnaround ask a bunch of questions to various booksellers. Next up is Chloe Mavrommatis from Dulwich Books, London.
What do you get up to during a normal day at work?
Once I get to work and set up the shop for the day, I have a cup of tea and check emails and the answer-phone so I can deal with customer orders from overnight. Next up, we get our main delivery of books and shelve it, have a cup of tea and then phone customers for their orders. Afternoons are for tidying, placing orders, returns, school orders and other such things. I’ll also see reps, usually about one a week and update twitter, forums or our mailing list about upcoming events. Now I’m managing the shop there is an amount of spreadsheet fun to be had, with the essential beverage to hand (tea, I wish I knew how to quit you). But then I also spend some time making feathers out of paper or trying to persuade an umbrella to stand upright in the middle of the table, creating displays with floral motifs or on certain subjects. And my favourite thing, chatting to customers about what they are looking for and helping them find something good. A few weeks ago I spent an afternoon researching and ordering “literature, poetry, history, anything really about Martinique” for a gift. I actually had coffee whilst I was doing that, it was a Friday afternoon and my brain was wandering.
What are you reading right now?
I’m always in the middle of about 5 or 6 books, but at the moment I’m charging through Career of Evil, the new Robert Galbraith.
Name three books on your reading list?
Blimey, just three? I’m looking forward to This is London by Ben Judah, A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan, and Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie.
What is the one book you wish you could sell to everyone who walks in your shop?
Three Men in a Boat by JK Jerome. Every time I read it makes me laugh, and I’d like to think it would make other people happy too.
Do you have a favourite publisher? If so, why are they your favourite?
At the moment I’m enjoying Picador, their tastes and mine seem to be really matching up. David Fickling are bringing out some really great YA reads and the Phoenix comic is so much fun. I’ve always got a special place in my heart for Walker Books. I think they are my favourites because not only do they have great lists, but they are fun and friendly, and really go out of their way to help us out.
What kind of books would you like to see more of, and what kind do you wish publishers would stop publishing?
I like when publishers take a lot of time to think about the production values of a book and make it spectacular, I think it’s important to have beautiful books. When people take a physical book away to have in their home, it should look lovely on a shelf and make them want to keep it forever.
If you agree with Chloe and would like to browse some high-production value art books, you can view our latest visual titles catalogue here.
What’s the weirdest book-question you’ve ever been asked by a customer at work?
I’ve been asked for a lot of strange books, by a lot of strange people, but the weirdest thing I think is that I’ve been asked multiple times in different shops if I’ve read every book in the shop. I really want to answer yes next time, just to see what they say.
Favourite book jacket OF ALL TIME?
OF ALL TIME?! That’s a difficult question! They did a series of TV tie in jackets of Sharpe with Sean Bean on the cover that teenage me was very attached to… On a more serious note, I think the original Tolkien illustrated jacket of The Hobbit is glorious and I have a postcard of it on my bedroom wall. Chris Ware also did a comic strip cover for the Penguin Deluxe edition of Candide that I think is super great.
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