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Last Saturday was Love your Bookshop Day! It was a celebration of local bookshops, big and small. A bunch of authors and illustrators came out in force to be at events across Australia, to lend our support to booksellers and attract people to their bookshops. I appeared at two different kind of bookshops, two different experiences, but both were just as joyful.
First up, in the morning I went to one of the indie bookshop gems, The Children’s Bookshop in Beecroft. When you look up passionate children’s booksellers in the dictionary, you may see a picture of Paul MacDonald. I’ve known him back when I first started my author’s journey, and he really did champion my first book Thai-riffic! Paul’s launched over 1700 books, including of my mine, Punchlines in 2012. Paul has worked his butt off in staying on the pulse of what’s hot in kids lit and has built up a network/army/fanclub of teacher-librarians and schools. It’s a very dedicated customer base and he’s always made authors and illustrators feel so welcomed, some of which were on display during a day full of events. It was like a mini writers festival. The bookshop had Aura Parker read some of her fabolous picture books, invited manga artist Matthew Lin along for a draw and tell, drawing on the front display window. I was up against Yvette Poshoglian (with her pet puppy Archer) and Nat Amoore in a Battle of the Authors. Paul MacDonald became Andrew O Keefe and hosted this game show, where we participated in some cool story games. In the end, the audience picked Nat, who really deserved the crown for her wacky rhymes.
I couldn’t stay for Jacqueline Harvey’s High Tea event because I drove across town to my Western Sydney hood, out far west to Narellan, where I did an hour of book signings at Harry Hartog. Yes, bookshop chains like Harry Hartog, Dymocks, Collins and QBD are very important to the book scene. A lot of these shops attract a lot of foot traffic (especially those in shopping centres like Narellan Marketplace) and may get people walking in, who may not be book buyers or readers in general.
The Harry Hartog bookshop had face painting out the front, with pin the wart on the Gruffalo too. Then there was me at the bookshop’s entrance, signing books and chatting to people who passing by. While the crowd at The Children’s Bookshop were dedicated fans and readers, the people at Harry Hartog were a mix of kids who had just finished sport, parents who were just browsing for picture books, or adults looking for numerology books. So yeah, I put on my salesperson voice to hand-sell my titles and this personal touch worked quite nicely. A few people were surprised to meet an actual author. I value these accidental/coincidental sales because you’re winning over new fans.
There was this one customer in particular, who was looking for books about The Backstreet Boys. She was 28 and was just learning how to read. She was reading kids books and asked me if any of my books were easy to read. I gave her Thai-riffic!, and she read the first line out loud and said, ‘yep I’ll take it’. Later that night, she emailed me, saying that’s halfway through Thai-riffic! and will get my other books.
It really made my Love your Bookshop Day 🙂
If we don’t want Bookshops to disappear, go inside, browse and show some love, not just with your wallet, but actually talk about these bookshops with your family and friends. If people know that their local bookshop exists, then they’re more likely to visit and perhaps they’ll become a bookshop lover too.