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Has a Bookseller Positively Affected Your Book-Buying Decisions?

Has a Bookseller Positively Affected Your Book-Buying Decisions?

Whether you’re a reader or an author, if you’re involved in traditionally published books, the role of a bookseller is an integral and crucial part of that industry. As a customer at a brick-and-mortar bookstore, you’ll meet a bookseller who’ll handle your inquiries and orders and take care of your complaints or returns.

The bookseller doesn’t stop there, however. Depending on the size and policy of the bookstore, their role can include everything from purchase of books from catalogs to creating in-store displays. A bookseller also recommends books to customers, which, to me, is the chief draw of a brick-and-mortar bookstore. Booksellers keep abreast of new titles and might know exactly what you’re looking for if you give them the sort of reading mood you’re in, and the genres you prefer.

And this makes a bookseller crucial to authors. It is the booksellers who will help you with a book event, launch, or signing at a given bookstore. It is they who will recommend your paperback or hardback to a customer, or place your book prominently in a display.


My secret wish has been to work as a bookseller, though I know I wouldn’t make a very good one because I’d get distracted by all the books and probably get caught reading or sniffing a book when I should be doing actual work. But I do have questions about the secret life of a bookseller.

So today, it’s my pleasure to welcome on Daily (w)rite, Mike Lasagna, a wonderful bookseller who has been so supportive of the writing and reading community. I asked him all the questions I could think of, but I’m sure y’all have others.

Has a Bookseller Positively Affected Your Book-Buying Decisions?Mike Lasagna is a romance writer and bookseller with seven years experience. When he isn’t helping you find your next favorite book, he enjoys watching F1 and Hockey. He lives in the Hudson Valley with his wife, son and giant dog.


So here we go with Mike’s interview, and feel free to ask him questions:

1. How did you start working in a bookstore? What made you want to become a bookseller? 

I’ve always wanted to be a bookseller ever since high school. I love to read and thought working in a bookstore would be the ultimate way to help others discover the same passion for reading that I had. 6 years ago I was working a different retail job and was dealing with extremely burnout. I was working 50-60hrs a week. I saw that a branch of Barnes & Noble was hiring and haven’t looked back since.

2. What’s the best thing about working at a bookstore? 

When a customer comes back and tells you that they loved the book you recommended. I really don’t think of my job as bookselling as much as matchmaking. It’s my job to help you find the next book you’re going to fall in love with. 

3. What’s the biggest challenge for booksellers today? 

 The increased pressure to censor books. With books being banned in great numbers almost everyday, it can be challenging to create a space that is welcoming to all without second-guessing yourself on what to display.

4.You work at a Barnes & Noble Bookstore. How is each branch store similar to, and different from the other? 

For the most part, all Barnes & Noble’s carry the same books, just not in the same amounts. Each store decides what books to place on display and that is the biggest difference between them.

5. How much does a bookseller contribute to what books get picked for display at a Barnes & Noble? How important are local authors to an individual Barnes & Noble? 

100%. I am always trying to create appealing displays that will make a customer stop and check out. I’ve got complete freedom in what goes onto them. Local authors are tremendously important. Being part of the community is always the goal and local authors play a big part in that.

6. What’s the best way for an author to approach a Barnes & Noble for a book signing, a book event, or to take part in a pre-order campaign? What’s the most effective way to pitch a book?

Call or email. Ask to speak with the manager in charge or events. Always have your ISBN handy because for me, that’s the first thing I ask for.

7. How far in advance of a potential book event should an author approach a bookstore? 

Two to three months. There are a lot of moving parts that go into an event, so by giving me that much time helps me plan the best event for you as possible!

8. How can an author develop a good business relationship with a bookseller? What are the do’s and don’ts? 

Do: be respectful of the bookseller’s time.

Don’t: try to talk to a bookseller on the weekend to propose a book event. Weekends are peak working days for a bookseller.

Do: have patience. I get about 15-20 emails a day asking about hosting an author event. It takes time to get back to everyone! 

9. What might be the best dates and times for an author to visit a bookstore for a chat with a bookseller about their book? What should they carry with them? Do bookstores appreciate ARCs? 

Wednesdays and Thursdays are typically the slow days for a book store, so that’s the best time to speak with someone about your book, but I would always advise calling ahead first. Always always have your ISBN with you. Absolutely, bookstores appreciate arcs! What bookseller doesn’t love a free book? 

10. You’re a writer as well as a bookseller. Tell us a bit about your writing—your creative work—and whether it affects how you see your role as a bookseller? 

I’ve been writing mostly romance in the hopes of starting to query this fall. I’m a suck for all the romance tropes especially ‘there’s only one bed’.

I would say my role as a bookseller has a great effect on my writing because I get to see and flip through so many amazing books that it’s like a master class everyday.

11. What’s the impact of an author signing books at a Barnes & Noble bookstore? 

Author signings are first and foremost a lot of fun for the store. Helping an author realize their dream is the best part of why we do it in the first place.

12. If your bookstore could expand to double its size right this moment, what would you ideally like to do with that extra space? 

MORE BOOKS!! I would increase the size and depth of every section, carry more authors and even more diverse titles than I already do now.

13. How do you make sure you’re in a position to recommend books to customers and what does the store do to make readers feel welcome? 

I myself read over 300 books a year and make a point to read the jacket copy of every book that comes out every single week. It’s all about having the right book for the customer at any given moment on the tip of my tongue. And that’s how we try to make readers feel welcome. Your next great read is just a question away. Ask a bookseller. 

What about you? Has a bookseller positively affected your book buying decisions? Do you have questions for Mike Lasgna?

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Rajlakshmi says:

    So much goes behind the scenes. This is a wonderful glimpse of life as a bookseller. I love it when booksellers recommend a book. It happens rarely now, maybe because the stores are bigger and you rarely get to talk. But I have been recommended books in smaller stalls and cozy bookstores. I could never say no. 😊

    Apart from author signing, i have also seen events like papercraft and drawing organised in bookstores. I always choose events that happen in bookstores. There is one bookstore that displays top 10 books with handwritten personal reviews. I think it is a great idea for a more personalised experience.

  • Shilpa Gupte says:

    He was the owner of a book shop where I lived earlier. And as I was loitering around the shop one day, in the hope of finding the perfect book, he casually asked if I had read The Book Thief yet. When I said no, I hadn’t even heard of it, he insisted I read it and promised I would love it. And, love it, I did! This happened eight or so years ago, and I still haven’t gotten over that lovely book. Cheers to booksellers!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      That was such an amazing experience. Thank you for sharing it, Shilpa.

  • I guess buying books and reading online is the place to go these days so I feel sorry for the booksellers who enjoyed interaction with reader buyers in the past as the future does not bode well for them when the rest of the world catches up on digital browsing. I guess libraries will eventually go online too.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Bookshops are making a comeback in some places because a bookstore is more than a shop–it is a place to build community, where people can come seeking a book, and probably go away with after an enlightening/ entertaining exchange, and perhaps a treasure. Booksellers who are knowledgeable and empathetic add so much value to the bookstore experience.

  • Fascinating interview. I hadn’t thought much about the face behind the store. And Mike brought up another point that is growing in importance–the increased pressure to censor books. Or rewrite them! Does a bookstore keep the original version, say of Roald Dahl’s books, and the rewritten one? Or pick?

    Thanks for sharing this!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, that entire debacle about Roald Dahl’s books has me puzzled. Where are we headed?

      To quote my wise author friend Preeta Samarasan who puts it better than I ever could:

      “Part of the magic of literature is to show us how uncomfortably complex human beings are. Both the authors and their characters. A person can save your life and turn around and kick a dog. A person can rescue a child from poverty, educate them, give them every kindness, and yet keep different glasses outside the house for “low-caste” visitors. A person can risk their own life to fight for justice and then a few years later rape someone. These things actually happen in real life, and I’m convinced that if we remove complexity from literature, we will become even less able to deal with it in real life than we already are.”

      and also:

      “…when you rewrite a book to reflect how you think people should think now, you’re no longer “inside the mind of another person,” and certainly not inside the mind of anyone who’s been dead for any length of time. You’re inside your own mind and your mind only, circa 2023. You’ve decided that any mind substantially different from yours is too challenging, and probably dangerous.”

      Mike’s point on censorship is so real, and so terrifying.

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