Brandon Porter is the assistant manager for a Waldenbooks. He is told that he's one of the most knowledgable booksellers by many, but says he's just good at what he does. He loves books and plans to work with books in some capacity for as long as he can.
Tell us about your bookstore.
Well I work for a Waldenbooks in Columbia, SC. We are located in a mall, so we are on the smaller side of bookstores. We are a good size for a mall bookstore.
How did you get involved in the book trade?
I have always loved books. I worked for a different Waldenbooks a few years ago. But when I left my last job, I decided to see if there were jobs available in a Waldenbooks in the area, as I had always missed it. I am a slow, but avid reader. So working in a bookstore, or any job dealing with books is the best job for me.
What kind of books do you love to read?
I read mostly paranormal romance. I also like to read horror, mystery, a little sci-fi and even some chick-lit. Authors like Heather Graham, Linda Winstead Jones and even Nora Roberts. I love their paranormal writings. But my favorite authors of all time will be and will forever remain James Herbert, Steve Alten and Lisa See.
Are there genres you find do very well for you while others might lag?
I am not a big non-fiction reader personally, so any section that falls under that category are a little more work for me personally. But sections like business, computers and nature are some of the least popular sections in our store with our customers.
What kinds of author events have you tried? What have you found to be successful?
In my store we probably do a little more book signings than a lot of the other stores, but that is due on part to my reaching out to the authors. We once attempted to have an author luncheon, but we're not sure if it was the timing, the genre or just not something our store can support. We would like to attempt further events like luncheons in the future.
Many authors create freebies and promotional items ranging from bookmarks that stores can offer to video trailers that might be shown on a store website or on a laptop prior to an event. Have you seen an impact from these items?
We actually have received tons of promo items from lots of different authors. My staff loves passing them out and the customers love receiving them. We have seen some impact from giving these items out. We have had several customers come back looking for books that they saw on a bookmark or postcard from authors.
What factors do you think most influence which book a customer will choose?
Their general interest in what they like to read of course plays the biggest factor. But recommendations from the staff and whether a book is a big seller or not in the store also seem to be factors in the decision making process.
Is hand-selling of titles or authors still important to your sales?
Hand-selling is always important. As the more we hand-sell or push the items that we wish to recommend to customers tend to develop a great relationship with our customers. It also helps to increase sales, in that customers can easily decide to purchase a book of their choice in addition to a hand-sell that was recommended.
What factors influence your buying decisions for the store? How much impact do an author's prior sales have?
Unfortunately being that we are a corporate run store we don't get much of a say on what books are purchased for the company to sell. But we are able to order books available to us as we need them to suit the sales of the store.
An author's prior sales can influence the sales of future books, but that is the only thing that does. It can also be a matter of fanbase, the way people actually liked the previous book and of course recommendations from other people.
What gets you excited about a forthcoming title?
I get most excited about a forthcoming title usually after I have either read the author before and loved their writing or if its a sequel to a book I loved reading. For instance, I had been waiting what seemed like forever to read "Swallowing Darkness" by Laurell K. Hamilton, and was so excited when it was finally released. But it's usually only particular authors or series that really get me going and waiting for a book to be released.
What are the biggest challenges facing your store?
Well currently one of the biggest challenges is the troubled economy. But sales are always the biggest challenge to overcome.
Thanks to Dara Girard for inviting Brandon to be our guest and to Elaine Isaak for providing the interview questions.