Name: Samantha Thomas
Company you work for: WHSmith
What type of qualifications do you have and do you think it has helped you in your job?
I don't have any specific industry qualifications for this job, but retail or prior book selling experience is often preferred by employers as books are a very specialised product to sell and also something you need to know a lot about in order to sell properly. Also, employers in this industry, especially the retail sector; want people who actually read.
What does a typical day look like in your job?
Start of a shift often involves a quick check of the store to see what stock needs replenishing and making a list to fulfill that. Most often it will be the Penguin Classics and Vintage Classics lines that need the most replenishing, along with best sellers and feature titles that WHSmith will display on tables in bulk.
What do you think people ASSUME is a typical day in your job?
People assume that I simply show up and stand behind a counter reading all day.
What do you like most about your job?
We are encouraged to read the books our store sells, and are also encouraged to suggest new titles to stock to our management.They appreciate that we keep our eyes on trends and on books reviewed on radio and in the newspaper prior to release so that
we can keep up with public demand for big titles.
What do you like LEAST about your job?
The thing I dislike most about my job is customers assuming that we will stock every book ever published, no matter how old or obscure.Most bookstores, especially those located in an airport like WHSmith is, will only sell titles up to five to ten years old, and even that depends on its sales figures in years previous. Otherwise, we will sell lines of classic fiction, like the Penguin Classics. I don't think people realise that there are specialist bookstores available for that obscure psychology text you might need...
Is there a duty that you perform as a part of your job that might surprise people?
People look to booksellers as a great source of literary knowledge. I spend a lot of time researching new titles and reading author biographies in order to increase my knowledge of an author and their works, as well as reading the books themselves. Research outside of work is a huge element to being a good bookseller.
What can authors do to help you help THEM?
Insist that your publishers put a blurb on the back of your books rather than filling the back covers with flowery newspaper review quotes. People don't want to know what a newspaper pseudo-intellectual thinks of your book, they want to know what your book is about.Also, if authors could insist on a page in the beginning of their book that lists previous titles. Yes this is common, but a lot of books are still lacking this page, it makes my job especially difficult if the book is part of a large series and the customer wants to know the order in which the series runs and it is not listed.
What do you wish authors wouldn’t do?
Don't come in to chain stores like WHSmith and try to sell us their self-published book. We are retail staff and have very little say over what books are stocked.If you are interested in having your book on our shelf, you need to contact the book buyer at our head offices.
What do you like to do when not working?
When I'm not working, surprise surprise, I love to read. I have a soft spot for the classics, but am a die-hard Stephen King fan and love to read banned or controversial literature.
Three fun facts about you:
1) I read To Kill A Mockingbird for the first time at age 22, but will gladly sell it to anyone who will listen as one of the great additions to the classic American literature canon.2) I flat out refuse to read any new vampire literature. It's Anne Rice or nothing.
3) I read my first Danielle Steele novel at age 13 and the main character inspired me to become a writer. Paxton Andrews from Steele's Message from Nam remains to this day, one of my favourite literary figures.
Ereader, print book or both?
I have an Ereader, but rarely use it unless I'm travelling. For someone who both works in a bookshop and is an aspiring librarian, there is something sacred about the physical printed book for me. I delight in being able to pick up that little brick of paper, bury my face in it when the story is sad, or cuddle it to my chest when the story is romantic.
If you are a young adult author, publishing professional, book blogger or simply a book lover and would like to be interviewed for your own Feature Me Friday post, contact me at SarahBillingtonBooks AT Gmail DOT com!