For this month’s Bookseller in Spotlight, Marianne Ramsay takes us behind the scenes at Kinokuniya Sydney, 2020 ABIA Bookshop of the Year.
How did you get into bookselling?
I was a keen little bean in my first year of English at uni, looking for work, and my grandmother put in a word for me at her local Angus & Robertson. They must’ve assumed that her impeccable taste in books ran in the family because I got the job, and I’ve been in books in some form or another for the seventeen years since.
What do you love most about being a bookseller?
It’s a tie between the books and the people who read them, with an honourable mention for all the generously provided reading copies that I swear I will get around to reading and reviewing very soon, I promise.
What can publishers do better?
It’s hard to ask for this in the midst of a pandemic and a possible recession, but take more risks! Less aiming to publish the second bestselling title in a suddenly popular genre, and more interesting, original, unexpected, left field publishing (although, of course, we know that the big trends in publishing do pay for all the weird indie books that a store like ours loves and sells in volume).
What was the last interaction with a customer that made you laugh?
A colleague and I were recently reminiscing about misheard customer inquiries. She had a customer ask for books on rigor mortis, and was enthusiastically recommending Mary Roach’s Stiff when they clarified that they were in fact looking for books on Rick and Morty. It reminded me of the time I thought a customer had asked for Mein Kampf, and was just about to take them over to the European History section, when a nearby colleague urgently interrupted and said, “Our Minecraft books are this way!” I’m still very grateful to have avoided that awkward moment!
What is a recent Australian title you loved?
Carrie Tiffany’s Exploded View really rocked my world – the writing is spectacular. Everything about it – the mood, the style, the way the plot unfolds – was so unexpected, I found it literally breathtaking at times, and some of those images, the feeling of it, will stay with me for a long time. I haven’t read a huge amount of Australian fiction in the past few years, but Carrie Tiffany makes me feel like I’ve been missing out!