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The Value of Handselling
In my world, November means display month. We, and the other companies like us spend approximately 6 weeks lugging a truck full of books to different locations across the province where we participate in book fairs for the major school boards. We set up on average 30-40 tables stacked high with our newest fiction & non-fiction pics for the season, and work one-on-one with the Teacher Librarians to recommend books to purchase for their libraries.
While the whole process is physically exhausting, (it really is comparable to a whirlwind trip where you are in a different city each day) my favourite part is having the opportunity to handsell books. In the digital age, where so many people are purchasing books online, the value and importance of handselling books can often be lost. Take for example the new picture book I Am Jazz
This is a wonderful & uplifting story about the now 12-year-old Jazz Jennings, a Transgender girl. With the timeliness of the topic, I naturally assumed that the book would fly off my table. Little did I realize that from the cover & the first few pages, people were not guessing what this book was about. One customer told me that she glanced at it, but thought it was just another girly book about the colour pink & mermaids. Another great book that I discovered required some explanation is Hello from 2030: The Science of the Future and You.
This is a seriously cool book. Narrated by a robot, it makes some predictions about what the world might look like in 15 years from a science point-of-view. It looks at medicine, technology, environment and more, and it's well-written, colourful & interesting. For most of a day it sat on our table and nobody was even picking it up. But as soon as I took a few copies over to my feature area and started suggesting it to customers, the book started flying. (Too bad I didn't do it sooner) What I've discovered over and over again is that despite what we might think, (established, popular series & authors notwithstanding) few books sell themselves. It doesn't matter how many starred reviews the book has received, or how good the cover or blurb on the back might be- most books (children's books especially) still need someone to champion them & tell someone how amazing they are to make them successful.