This month’s Bookseller in Spotlight is Emma Pei Yin from The Book Cow.
How did you get into bookselling?
One day, I was walking past my local bookstore (The Book Cow, located in Kingston, ACT) when it hit me that I didn’t only want to buy and read books – I also wanted to talk to people about them and share my thoughts. So, what better job to have than bookselling? Plus, I’m working on a novel of my own and hope to be published someday!
What do you love most about being a bookseller?
I love introducing readers to unique and different books that they might not have been able to find five or ten years ago in the market. There’s so much diversity and inclusivity in books these days, and it’s such a joy to sell these titles and know that households, especially ones with children, will forever be changed. Oh, and I love merchandising the shop windows.
What’s your pet peeve about book retail?
‘Excuse me. I’m looking for a book. It’s got a blue cover, I think. Or maybe it was green. I don’t know the author, title or plot, but I saw it in the paper several weeks ago. Do you know the book I’m talking about?’
What can publishers do better?
I think publishers are doing a great job. Seeing how they readily support and promote diverse voices and stories brings me the most happiness working in this industry.
Has bookselling changed in recent years/during the pandemic?
Absolutely. Lockdowns provided many people with the time to slow down and fall in love with books again. It’s also wonderful to see the next generation of readers on BookTok. I hope every day that independent bookstores will continue to thrive in Australia.
What kinds of books do you gravitate towards?
Novels that are Own Voices or historical fiction, involve dual narratives or focus on family sagas.
Is there a book that you think everyone should read?
There are two: When Things Are Alive They Hum by Hannah Bent, published by Ultimo Press, and Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, published by Bloomsbury.
What was the last interaction with a customer that made you laugh?
Some books have ‘offensive’ words on the titles, so it’s always funny when children shout it aloud in the store. For example, one book is titled Space is cool as F*** and when a child shouted that, their dad turned around, laughed, and said ‘Yeah, buddy, it really is.’
What is a recent Australian title you loved?
Raised by Wolves by Jess Ho, published by Affirm Press.