Inside the Australian and New Zealand book industry

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Meet the ABA Young Booksellers of the Year: Aisling Lawless from Dymocks Joondalup

In the lead-up to the Australian Booksellers Association (ABA) 2019 conference, Books+Publishing spoke to each of the five shortlisted nominees for the Young Bookseller of the Year award ahead of the winner announcement on 23 June.

In this instalment, we talk to Aisling Lawless from Dymocks Joondalup in Western Australia. ‘Aisling has worked hard to foster a lively and engaged community of local readers and writers in Perth’s northern corridor,’ said author and WritingWA deputy chair Holden Sheppard. Author Tess Woods said she ‘can’t rave highly enough’ about Lawless, who ‘single-handedly’ arranged her latest book launch and marketed the launch so well it sold out in two days. Woods said ‘nothing is too much’ for Lawless, noting that ‘she has a beautiful gentle way with customers’.

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

I wish that I had more of an awareness of our local authors and publishers like Fremantle Press. Thankfully, through my position I have been able to learn about the great job they do for the creativity and endurance of the book industry, but I would love this to be more widely known within the general community.

Second, that some books have different titles in different countries! That would have saved me a lot of headaches when I first started out as a bookseller, and a few embarrassing moments telling customers ‘that book doesn’t exist’.

And third, that I would need to set up a savings plan, to not only fund the mountain-load of books I have gathered over the years as a bookseller, but also the bookshelves I would need to buy to house them all. It’s a real problem that I suspect I will forever be battling with.

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

Without a doubt, I am the most proud of being an integral part of building the now-thriving book community we have in Joondalup, a suburb 30 minutes from Perth. Since launching our Books at Bars series of events and YA Book Club, which we run monthly in-store, I have met and become friends with so many warm and friendly booklovers and had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing so many amazing local WA authors.

I was also ecstatic to be involved in bringing the Penguin Teen Roadshow over to WA last year—it was wonderful to see a room of about 300 YA book lovers together!

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

How to ask the right questions to determine the best recommendation for a particular customer. Very often these book chats also result in a recommendation for me too, so it’s a win-win situation.

I’ve also become very adept at successfully googling book requests with minimal or no information such as, ‘it had a green cover’, or ‘it is about a ship’. I identified so much with Elias Greig’s book I Can’t Remember the Title But the Cover is Blue (A&U)—what we did without Google, I don’t know!

What do you think this industry could do better?

Avoid the lure of conglomerates like Amazon, department stores or online retailers. The level of knowledge and passion the staff have in our locally owned and operated bookstores should be treasured and supported, and they provide creative spaces to browse and find inspiration away from a screen.

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 hope that bookstores and small publishers will be flourishing and our communities will be continuing to support and celebrate local authors and local bricks-and-mortar bookselling.

I’m not sure exactly where I will be in 5, 10 or 20 years’ time, but I do know for certain that wherever I will be, I will be surrounded by books! I’ve also always harboured a dream of owning a bookstore cafe (I’m sure I’m not alone there) so perhaps I will be working towards that.

What’s the strangest/funniest thing that’s ever happened to you at work?

We used to have a customer who visited our store regularly, and obviously liked us a lot, because he always gifted us with six or seven packets of Tim Tams! This happened without fail every week for a few years, and although we don’t know what happened to ‘Tim Tam guy’ in the end, he will forever live on in our memories … (although our waistlines are quite thankful!)

The 95th ABA conference runs from 23–24 June at Pullman Melbourne on the Park.

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.

 

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