Answering the #FridayFive today is Ieva Wade, bookseller at Heywood Hill independent bookshop.
Tell us a bit about your job?
I’m a bookseller at Heywood Hill, an independent bookshop focusing on a personal, curated reading experience. In my role, that translates to matching customers to their perfect next read. That can mean anything from recommending a new crime novel, to tracking down a special edition of Jane Austen, to carefully curating a reading list for a frequent customer.
The New Books department isn’t just on the shop floor, though: we cater to customers all over the world. As a part of my personal bookselling, I spend time developing relationships with long-term customers, and get to know their reading tastes over time. I really enjoy this aspect of the job – there’s nothing more rewarding than picking out a book you think someone will like, and them coming back to tell you how much they loved it.
What are the key ingredients for success?
It goes without saying that a love of books is a must! There’s no better way to get a customer invested in a book than being passionate about how much you enjoyed reading it yourself. As a result, I spend a lot of my spare time reading the popular new books in the shop, on top of what I like to read for fun. It’s also great for recommending books – when someone comes in the shop looking for a historical fantasy with themes of anticolonialism and a dark academia atmosphere, it helps to have read Babel by R.F. Kuang.
Being organised is definitely an asset too. Since the New Books department encompasses various aspects of the business, there’s often a lot of plates to keep spinning. With a combination of rigorous note-taking, a digital to-do list, and good memory, you can just about keep track of it all!
Could you describe a normal day?
On the shop floor, most of our days start with the practical parts of running a bookshop: unpacking stock, organising the shop floor, and counting the previous day’s sales. It’s always a good chance to get to know the newest releases, and make sure our displays are up to scratch!
After that, I spend most of my time at the front of house. My desk is conveniently behind the till, so I can easily move between the urgent tasks on the shop floor – posting orders, chatting to customers, answering the phone – and more long-term projects. These will often involve helping out other departments with their work as well. The Libraries team, for example, who design bespoke libraries for clients, might ask for recommendations on a certain brief, or check in about what’s been selling well on the shop floor.
Most weeks, we also have author signings in the shop. I always love the chance to chat to the minds behind my favourite new releases, and pick up titbits that’ll help sell their books later.
For those trying to break into the industry, could you explain how you got to where you are today?
I’m only just starting on my journey in the book industry at the moment, so my advice is fairly limited so far! The main thing I’ve learned so far is to keep pushing, despite all the rejections – without the various rejections I received, I wouldn’t have got the chance to have the great role I have now. In short, don’t give up!
What are you reading, watching and listening to right now?
Right now, I’m reading Jennifer Egan’s The Candy House, which one of my colleagues recommended to me. I love speculative fiction, so I’m hugely enjoying it. It’s like a Black Mirror episode, if it was longer, sharper, and even more of a poignant comment on current technology.
For films, my favourite holiday watch has been Knives Out: The Glass Onion, for quite similar reasons. I’m also trying to get more into murder mysteries – Heywood Hill has a very vibrant crime section that I’m yet to explore – so I love Rian Johnson’s more tongue-in-cheek take on the genre.
My go-to podcast at the moment is the Uncanny Magazine Podcast, the audio version of the amazing science fiction and fantasy magazine. It’s great for keeping up to date with what’s going on in the genre, and for a regular dose of fantastical literature!