I picked up this book at the event BookMachine meets Bloomsbury back in September of 2019. I thumbed through it but felt it needed my full attention, so every morning for the past few weeks I sat down at the table, coffee in hand, and read a chapter every morning before work.
Honestly I wish I’d come across this book sooner. No, let me rephrase that. I wish I’d taken it off my shelf sooner! It’s more of a textbook, and that was actually perfect for me, an editor new to London wishing to learn about the basics of the publishing industry. I often felt guilty at events when I would speak to someone and have no clue about what they meant when they said they worked in production or marketing.
This book laid it all out for me. My understanding of the people, processes, and issues facing the industry has grown substantially, to the point where I now feel I can ask more appropriate questions.
What I want to share about this book is that people interested in publishing should START here. Read through it and see where your interests actually are. I’m an editor, but I was astonished to find that I’m very interested in the digital aspects of the industry. It’s one of those “you don’t know what you don’t know” discoveries.
Prior to the fifth anniversary of the London bookshop crawl, an event I volunteered for despite being new to London and knowing nothing about the areas I would be guiding tours in (Richmond, Sheen and Barnes), I picked up this book. The Diary of a Bookseller shines light on the people behind the counter and the untold hours, annoyances, and sometimes unimaginable circumstances of unsaid business and difficulties in running an indie bookshop, with dry humor running throughout.
How realistic is the portrayal of Shaun’s coworker Nicky? I cannot say, but she stole every scene she was in.
The people and places in books, even non-fiction, often dwell in the imaginative part of my brain, as if it’s not possible for them to exist in the real world. No one could be more surprised than me when, on my last day out in the real world, Friday, the 13th March, 2020, at the Tate Britain, I came upon a portrait of the 2nd Earl of Wigtown, from 1625. Now, under lockdown, I’m fantasizing about a trip to Wigtown and being in as remote of a location as possible.
After finishing this book, I had an enjoyable bookshop crawl, during which I think I learned the secret all independent bookshop owners should follow: pay someone to be visibly browsing the stacks of books. Often I would peer into the windows to see if there was anyone else in the shop before going in. I don’t know about you, but I like to see other people inside before committing to entering. So, I would wait and look at the books shelved outside or in the window display. Nine times out of ten, other people would see me browsing and then enter the shop. Could be a good role for an intern?
Or, perhaps easier, write a memoir.
What do I want to remember about this book: I read this book right before the 2020 lockdown began, and it was a good reminder that every person should be treated with dignity and respect. Everyone wants to be heard and listened to, and for heaven’s sake don’t ask for a discount—they’re already scraping by as it is!
I read a lot and I hope to help authors with the craft of writing. I share good examples of difficult aspects of writing: point of view, narration, world building and more.