Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

Image. Advertisement:

Meet the ABA Young Booksellers of the Year: Annie Waters from Mostly Books

In the week leading up to the Australian Booksellers Association (ABA) 2018 conference, Books+Publishing spoke to each of the five shortlisted nominees for Young Bookseller of the Year ahead of the winner’s announcement on 17 June.

In this last instalment, we speak to Annie Waters from Mostly Books in Torrens Park, SA. Waters has worked at Mostly Books since 2011 and in that time, has progressed from casual bookseller to manager and book buyer, taking control of the shop while owner Charmaine Power took a year’s sabbatical in 2017. Waters is also a previous co-director of the National Young Writers’ Festival, has worked with Adelaide Writers’ Week, Writers SA and the Quart Short Literary Salon, and has recently started a podcast, Books on the Go.

What are the top three things you wish you’d known when you were starting out in the book industry?

When I started as a bookseller, I definitely thought I read across all genres—I now know this to be untrue! Military history, music and sporting biographies are unquestionably not in my wheelhouse, although I’ve had many fruitful conversations over the years with knowledgeable customers that have helped me expand my knowledge of these categories.

I wish I had written down all the books I read as a younger person; this is something I started doing three years ago and is invaluable to my recommendations (as well as an interesting snapshot of my reading tastes).

I have also come to the conclusion that bad books are not worth finishing—something that would have saved me many frustrated hours!

What has been your biggest achievement or proudest moment as a bookseller?

I have many proud moments, many of which involve finding the perfect book for the perfect person, particularly when they do not consider themselves a ‘reader’. I think my biggest achievement to date, however, is conducting a renovation of our little shop in August 2017, which I planned, budgeted and managed. We painted, rewired, moved furniture and books around, and installed a new computer and phone system in just five days, maintaining sales with a pop-up stall outside the store. The end result created a more inviting, comfortable and practical space that many people have commented is much improved.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned on the job?

That selling books is all about talking to people! This probably applies to lots of different jobs, but my favourite thing about bookselling is the wonderful conversations that occur on all number of topics. People have so many varied passions and being able to know a little bit about lots of subjects (or just being inquisitive) often opens up a gorgeous interaction, which most often ends in the customer purchasing a book.

What do you think this industry could do better?

I think we are moving towards better representation of marginalised communities in the books that are published in Australia, but we certainly have a long way to go. People of colour, Indigenous people, LGBTQIA+ people and those with disabilities are shockingly underrepresented in the books that we sell and I hope that we continue to move towards inclusion of these communities at all levels of bookselling and publishing.

Where would you like to be in five (or 10, or 20) years’ time? And what do you hope the industry will look like then?

I’m certain that I’ll still be reading and talking about books to anyone who will listen! I think working in a bookshop and with bookish events has probably spoiled me for any other work, so I’ll definitely be involved in the industry somewhere. Despite the moral panic that books are disappearing, I’m relatively optimistic that books offer an experience unlike any other, especially in our increasingly fast-paced world. I hope that the book industry embraces the best opportunities that technology has to offer and continues to evolve, while never letting sight of the key things that draw people to books: beautiful writing, skillful editing and quality design.

The 94th ABA conference runs from 17-18 June at QT Hotel, Canberra.

To read all the interviews with the ABA Young Bookseller of the Year nominees, click here. To stay up-to-date with Australian book industry news and hear about the ABA Booksellers of the Year winners, sign up to our Daily Newsletter and Weekly Book Newsletter.



Category: Daily Newsletter Feature Features