Some Exciting News... I Have a New Job!

Image from Bookshelf Porn

After seventeen years and three months as a bookseller, I have hung up my name tag. Since the beginning of September, I have happily been working as an assistant to a literary agent! Even the most mundane part of my job is interesting to me and there are other parts that are just plain exhilarating and very intellectually stimulating. The agent I am assisting has an incredible list of clients, most of whom I have been enthusiastically reviewing here for the last four years, and I have to keep myself from squealing when I answer the phone and one of them is on the other line. I am getting to see the manuscripts and illustration for books one to two years before they hit the shelves and I am also getting to read manuscripts and make notes on them, from clients and authors hoping to become clients.

What will this mean for Probably less time to blog. So far, I have been keeping up pretty well, but I have also been spending almost all of my weekends (I have weekends now!! For the first time in 17 years I have Saturday AND Sunday off!!) reading and reviewing. It also means that I will no longer be reviewing books by clients of the agent I work for in the interest of remaining as impartial as possible. Of course I love every book published by clients, but reviewing them on my blog feels a bit too promotional. The upside of my new job is that I can feel my critical abilities getting stronger every day and hopefully my reviews will become more streamlined, specific and shorter. I don't have time to ramble and reminisce like I have in the past. And, while I often feel overwhelmed by the stacks of review copies I receive and compelled to read and write about all of them, I have already noticed that my new job skills are helping me to sort through the piles and glean the best of the best to share with you. 

And finally, in a bout of survivor's guilt, I want to use this space to ask all of you to please be as kind as possible to those who work retail and food service. In fact there was an eyeopening article on the front page of the NY Times Sunday, October 28 titled, A Part-Time Life, as Hours Shrink and Shift by Steve Greenhouse, who did a great job detailing the stressful and tenuous work experience for retail workers, most of whom are part-time because that's all the company will offer. Retail and food service workers rarely get two days off in a row, rarely know their work schedule more than two weeks in advance, often work shifts that make many aspects of life difficult and are compensated very poorly and rarely rewarded for knowledge and experience. And, if the worker is not full time, s/he is subject to shift cuts when sales are low, leaving a skeleton crew of full time managers to keep the business running. I received a 25 cent an hour annual raise which I eventually lost when I hit the "pay ceiling," meaning I was earning the highest amount possible compared to other retail workers in my region. While a 25 cent an hour raise was insulting, losing that was demoralizing. I feel utterly grateful and fortunate to have this new job and know that my experience as a bookseller and blogger helped me to obtain it. But, honestly, I was so done being a bookseller. I did my 10,000 hours and I mastered my job. The most rewarding part of book selling was always helping customers find books, talking to customers about books and learning about books from customers. However, as people started shopping online and reading eBooks, the customers stopped coming in and the face of the bookstore changed to accommodate this. Step into any Barnes & Noble today and you'll find just as many toys (for kids and adults) as books. While I think they actually do a really good job offering a selection of quality toys, I grew increasingly weary (and frustrated) by having to clean those toys up over the course of any eight hour shift. In part, Barnes & Noble cultivated a community environment and positioned themselves as a cool place to hang out, so it's hard now to get too upset with the people who schedule play-dates with friends at the store and sit and drink coffee while their kids dismantle the displays and smash snacks into the train table or people who pull a pile of magazines off the rack and spend hours reading them, leaving them on the floor for a bookseller to clean up. I seriously doubt that anyone reading my blog is guilty of any of these acts, but hopefully next time you enter any store you might look at your surroundings differently and remember that someone is getting paid very little money to stock the shelves you are shopping, maintain a knowledge of the products so they can help you and, ultimately, clean up after you.

And finally, I want to ask all of my readers to please, please, please seriously consider your choice to purchase books, or anything, from Of course, as an employee of Barnes & Noble, they were our competition and for that reason alone I did not have good feelings about them. However, as a book lover and lover of bookstores, I think that is singlehandedly responsible for undermining the publishing industry and bullying anyone who doesn't want to do business their way. Rather than listen to me ramble on, read this article from The Nation written by Colin Robinson in 2010. Since then, Amazon has begun their own publishing house, which can only mean more bad news. I know, I know, they sell books at an amazing, unreasonable discount and you can get free shipping most of the time. But did you know that most online booksellers are very competitive with Amazon's pricing and shipping. Support an independent bookstore! Visit IndieBound to find one near you OR one that can ship you books at a price that is competitive. Or, try Powell's City of Books! Based in Portland, OR, Powell's has a place in my heart as I spent a lot of my college years there. And they are very competitive online! And SO SO knowledgeable!

But, best of all, a reader of created this super cool new BUTTON that I will be adding to all reviews from now on! When you click the button a window will pop up where you can click through to GoodReads, Indie Bound and the Seattle Public Library for more information about the book OR to purchase it... This button was created by Ian Gilman and I just want to give him a HUGE THANKS for sharing this with me! I had been meaning to do something like this for so long but was ambivalent about my options - until Ian presented me with this fantastic button that gives YOU options (and he kindly removed from the pop up window at my request...) Hope you all appreciate this and please be sure to leave feedback in case there is room for improvement - on my blog or the button!

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