This month’s bookseller in spotlight takes us to the ACT as we get to know Jessica Rowe, manager of Bookface Gungahlin.
How did you get into bookselling?
I was actually running my own life coaching business from home when I saw an ad for a new book store opening up in my local area and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be lovely to run a book store?’ and also ‘Wouldn’t it be lovely to take home a regular pay check every week?’
What can publishers do better?
I’d really like to see more marketing materials available to local booksellers for their local authors and titles, rather than for the bestsellers and big names. I would love if publishers would reach out to the independent book stores who are local to an author when they have a new book coming out, and take orders for marketing materials. If I got an email saying, “this author lives in your suburb and has a new book coming out on this date, would you like a poster to put up in store?” I’d be thrilled.
Has bookselling changed in recent years?
I’m in my fourth year of bookselling, and the biggest change I can notice in that time has been my own learning curve. But I have a long history working and managing within the retail sector, which has certainly changed. Where we used to drive sales through tracking profits and doing add-on sells to our customers, I now find that the human connection side of the business plays a much larger role in building a stable business. We can’t beat the prices offered online or by department stores. What we can do is connect with the people in our local community, listen to their needs, and provide a place for them to feel ownership.
What kinds of books do you gravitate towards?
I personally love experimental and literary fiction. Books with ambiguous endings, unique prose styles and challenging, non-linear storylines are the ones I love the most. The power of an opening line is something that can’t be understated.
Is there a book that you think everyone should read?
I love, love, love Customer Service Wolf by Anne Barnetson! I’ve been a big fan for a long time, and honestly feel like he is my spirit animal. I really enjoy when he jumps across the counter and eats his customers. It is so satisfying!
If everyone read this book:
A: they would have a laugh! Laughter is so good for you and we could all use more of it.
B: they might empathise with the people who serve them in retail and hospitality, and perhaps be slightly kinder.
What was the last interaction on the floor that made you laugh?
A young boy of about 5 or 6 years poked his head into the office and asked wide-eyed ‘Is this your room?’ I told him yes, this was my office. He responded by stating, ‘You sure have lots of books in your room! I’ve got a couple of books in my room but mostly I’ve got toys.’
He disappeared only to come back a few minutes later with a copy of Magda Szubanski’s biography and asked if the lady on the book was me. When I told him it wasn’t, he asked whether she was my sister. I said that unfortunately I didn’t know the lady personally and got a really suspicious side-eye as he walked away. He definitely thought I was lying.