The Power of the Handsell

Josie Leavitt - March 19, 2012

This is a simple post about the power of passion in book sales. I have read and fallen in love with two adult books, The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown and Carol Anshaw’s Carry the One.  Yes, I handsell books every day, but every once in a while there are books that just captivate me to the point where I hand them to customers even before they’ve mentioned what they’re looking for.
I love this part of my job. Folks have come to rely on us for recommendations every day. But when anyone on staff has a book she just loves, well, it makes easier to sell. Passion sells books. If  I walk into another kind of store, say a kitchen store, and someone approaches me and says how much they love this new kind of pan and they’re clearly in love with the pan, I will be much more inclined to consider the pan. It doesn’t really matter that I came in to get a new spatula. It’s the same thing when the wine store owner stops me and tells me how much I’m going to love this new wine he just got in. I buy the wine because I trust him.
Bookselling works the same way. I read a lot of books, we all do, but when I wake up in the morning eager to read rather than get ready for work, well, now, that’s a good book. I think it’s good for customers to see me go crazy for an adult book or two. Too often folks forget that even though we’re children’s book specialists, we also read and adore books for adults.
What’s been great is to see how many more copies of each of these we’ve sold in the last few weeks. I came to each book differently. Carry the One is written by one my favorite writers, so I leapt at the galley when it was offered and couldn’t wait to sell when it came in. Weird Sisters, I hate to admit, had elluded me until several weeks ago. I decided to read it because so many customers had asked if it was good or not. I had a galley from last year that I just missed, and now am kicking myself for not reading it sooner. The good thing is, as with the Anshaw book, I just loved it. What is ironic is that both of these books are bestsellers and have gotten rave reviews, but my love of them has helped their sales soar and has justified buying them in carton quantities.
Are there any books that you are particularly enjoying this season?

9 thoughts on “The Power of the Handsell

  1. Ellen Scott

    I just read My Name is Mary Sutter and also, The Kitchen House for an adult book club to which i belong– just to get my self out of the children’s dept. a bit. Loved them both! Civil War nurse who aspires to be a surgeon and Irish immigrant child who grows up as a slave on a pre-civil war southern plantation, respectively. It is good to read widely across genres and age levels!!

  2. R.A. Deckert

    I think fantasy novelist Alma Alexander’s new book, ‘2012: Midnight at Spanish Gardens’, is ‘her best one yet. It is a genre-busting novel that is hard to fit into a category– contemporary fantasy? magic realism? Or that rarest of books, something that is truly unclassifiable?
    In the book, five friends are given an extraordinary choice — the chance to live a totally different life, with the understanding that at some point they are going to have to choose whether to continue in the new life or give it up and return to the old. All of them pass through a portal and into drastically changed lives. They change occupations and families; one changes gender; a woman falls in love — with another woman. In the end, four choose to return to their original lives. One doesn’t.

  3. Loretta Ellsworth

    Thanks for the recommendations, Josie. I plan to add both books to my reading list. I just finished Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet for my book club. It’s a bestseller, but a book I hadn’t gotten around to reading before, and one I absolutely loved.

  4. Cindy

    I’ve loved The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh so much that I’ve been trying to get everyone I know to read it.

  5. Laurie Miles

    What a wonderful feeling to have a book that you want to live in! I have just finished Geoff Herbach’s STUPID FAST and highly recommend it. I don’t have a teenage boy in my house any more (he grew up, at least in theory) but the voice of 15-year-old narrator Felton Reinstein brought it all back and reminded me how hilarious and tragic that adolescent world can be. If I had a bookstore, I would hand-sell this novel!

  6. Geoff

    I heard of The Weird Sisters when the author, Eleanor Brown was interviewed by Elaine Charles on her radio show, The Book Report. She sounds like a great character and she made me want to read her book, which confirms your point about enthusiasm selling books. If an author is not enthusiastic about their book, then who is. You can listen to the interview on

  7. Shelver506

    I have pushed – and will continue to push – The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner on anyone who will listen to me, and many have. Amazing book. So much fun. I’ve sold it to kids looking for their next Greek-flavored thrill after Rick Riordan, especially.

  8. Lu Matro

    Jane, indirectly you came up with a good idea, “Family Book Club.” Once your husband will finish reading THE HUNGER GAME, you, him and Lucas can have a family book club gathering to talk about the book. It can bring families together, if all members of the familly will read the same book like every 3-4 months (not to put pressure on a family member who isn’t an avid reader) and get together at the end to talk about it. By the way, my last novel was written after I saw the movie THE HUNGER GAMES and was mezmerised with Katniss.


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