Introducing the legendary Catherine Schulz: manager at Fullers Bookshop in Hobart and our bookseller in spotlight for July.
How did you get into bookselling?
By accident. Some debate over this – did my mother really have a hand in it, and how embarrassing would that be? I prefer my version of cosmic coincidence leading me to be offered work in a new shop I didn’t know Clive Tilsley was opening. Three hours a week turned into 30 years later …
What do you love most about being a bookseller?
As a journalist said to me at the end of an interview – ‘so, basically, you know shit’. (The fact that they didn’t end up airing my part of the piece … yeah, dunno about that.)
More seriously: being able to exercise my curiosity and take people along with me, both through buying and shopcraft.
What’s your pet peeve about book retail?
‘Why does that cost $32.99? It’s not like it’s got that many pages.’
What can publishers do better?
Remember that we buy across many publishers and your amazing, extraordinary book of x may well be the third we’ve seen this week. Also, that customers – for whatever reason of their own – associate particular sorts of books with particular shops; something that is an enormous bestseller in other shops may not be something people want to buy from us (and happily that works vice versa!). Please don’t get too mad when we don’t buy as many as you want us to.
Has bookselling changed in recent years?
Enormously. Because, internet. With all the caveats, booksellers are no longer the holders of information – before, we were the ones who knew what was available and where to get it from. This information is now in everyone’s hands, so part of our skill is now in deciphering what – new or old – will strike a chord from a peer-to-peer recommendation.
You can have all the bestsellers in the world but if, for example, a chap in America recommends Central Cookery Book (a 1930s Tasmanian domestic science text) somewhere on the internet (I still don’t know where), you need to have it in stock NOW or at the very least an engaging narrative as to why not, coupled with an effective plan to secure a sale on forthcoming copies.
This brings to mind another change: substitutes? No, thank you. A customer will come in with a particular book they want which is perhaps 30 years old and out of print. Previously we would generally settle on something similar, something updated or something adjacent to the area of interest, but now that sale is gone. They might track it second-hand but more often they’ll just move on from the idea of a book altogether.
What was the last interaction with a customer that made you laugh?
A phrase coined to soften the blow (to receptive types) when someone has missed out on the last copy: ‘you snost, you lost’. I just heard a customer who missed out on The Yield self-apply it as ‘I snoozed, I losed’.
What is a recent Australian title you loved?
The Bluffs, by Kyle Perry – I totally knew there was something bad out there in the bush, totally knew it.