Thank you to Cassandra Cassandra Willis (Book Buyer and Wholesale Administrator) and Holly Bennett (Online Shop Administrator + events, social media) for their answers!
Tell us the origin story of your bookshop
The people of New South Wales had a passion for art, and the Art Gallery of NSW had its first public exhibition in 1874. It turned out the people of NSW also had a passion for art education, artistic reproductions, and excellently-priced museum souvenirs, so the Gallery Shop evolved from a kiosk window, to a small gift store, to a cultural retailer with an extensive book range and multiple pop-up exhibition shops every year. All of the proceeds from the Shop support the Gallery financially, and we’re also crucial to the Gallery’s publishing division with our wholesale operations. Our events program hosts book launches, artist and author talks, an arts-loving book club, museum sector celebrations, and the creatively costumed extravaganza that is Love Your Bookshop Day.
What's your favourite bookselling memory?
There would come a certain time every year when an art teacher would visit our store with a list of her students’ Year 12 end of year major works, looking for appropriate books to support them. We’d always chat about the books, and her students’ projects, and it turned out she was always buying the books with her own money to make sure her students had the best chance of doing well.
Being absolutely schooled in literary truth by a 9-year old. I was trying to reassure her that her choice – a fairly high-concept novel from the general adult fiction section – was a good one, by saying “It’s a bit hard to figure out what’s going on at the beginning, but it all comes together and makes sense at the end.”
She listened patiently, looked me dead in the eyes and said “So… like most books, then.”
What do you tell people (or wish you could tell people) who say bookselling is a dying industry?
Stories never go out of style. The delivery technology can change the way people tell and receive them, but on our end, we see more people than ever who want to connect and engage with stories (and pictures!), and then share their own experiences with others. Our customers are the kind of people who have MULTIPLE favourite bookshops – this has us feeling pretty inspired about the future of the bookselling industry.
I let them know the statistics that show people remember the content better from reading a physical book much more than when they’re reading digitally, so the book will never die out!
What books make you happiest to see people buying?
Specialty publications I’ve found at book fairs that may not have any other Australian supplier, where I’ve met the author and know how much it means to them to have an audience for their book. It’s always fantastic to see how well the Gallery’s own publications are received, and see the rising interest in books on Australian and Indigenous artists. I love selling children’s books that encourage creativity and experimentation, and beautifully illustrated kids’ books - and of course, our staff picks and our Art Gallery Book Club choices.
What are you reading right now?
We’re reading a host of Australian art world fiction to try to narrow down our next Art Gallery Book Club pick. So far this has included ‘Painting in the Shadows’ by Katherine Kovacic, ‘Hare’s Fur’ by Trevor Shearston, ‘Where the Trees Were’ by Inga Simpson, and ‘The Biographer’s Lover’ by Ruby J Murray. We try to tie our Book Club reads to the Gallery’s exhibition schedule, and with the Archibald Prize coming up, a behind-the-scenes art tale could be a real winner.
-- Recommendation Challenge --
Someone comes in looking for a present for their sister who works in a bookshop. She loves to read everything and anything but has a million books already. What would you recommend?
I would recommend a gift certificate to the Gallery Shop, because there’s nothing booksellers love more than visiting other bookshops!
Bookselling is in the blood at Sequel Books. Sequel has been supplying books to schools, libraries & the general public in Queensland since 1996, but they have been pillars of the bookselling community in QLD and all of Australia since 1907.
Dan Ferrett, the current General Manager of Sequel, says “Growing up, we knew nothing else but the book industry as a family.”
harking back to his great grandfather George Herbert Barker, or GH as he was known to family, who started the bookselling tradition by working at Angus & Robertson out of school in Sydney, 1897. In 1907, at the suggestion that GH should open his own bookshop, he sailed to Brisbane and started Barker’s Book Store with some cases of second-hand books and a loan from a friend.
Barker’s outgrew its space on Albert Street, particularly due to its student customers, and moved to Adelaide Street and then Edward Street.
GH was a founding member of the Queensland Booksellers Association and the Australian Booksellers Association. He was even an ABA President from 1949-51 and helped Australian booksellers negotiate terms with Britain.
In 1954 GH retired and left the running of the bookstore to his son, George Edward Barker.
Dan’s father David George Ferrett, George Edward Barker’s son, has been a bookseller for 60 years this year. He started working at Barker’s Book Store when he was 15 years old and stayed on when it was sold to Angus & Robinson in 1973.
Dan tells us, “After about 6 months it became very apparent that the educational division of the old Barkers was not of interest to A&R and was not being looked after. With this my father and George [his father] along with an industry colleague, Charles Conlan, started Barker, Conlan & Ferrett (BCF) in 1974.
“BCF operated until closing in early 1996, during it’s time BCF had warehouses and offices in West End, with retail stores in Elizabeth Street and then Edward Street, Brisbane, Rockhampton and Townsville.”
BCF was a true pillar of the QLD bookselling community, and eventually to the industry as a whole when they founded Moreton Bay Publishing, which was later purchased by Nelson.
In 1996, after the closure of BCF, David Ferrett, his father George Edward Barker and a handful of loyal employees and friends started Sequel.
“Sequel was the second instalment for Dad and being in the book game thought it was quite an apt name. Sequel started in the shed of a family friends plumbing business and then moved to West End and we are now based in Moorooka.”
Dan remembers bookselling as a large part of his growing up, from his father working the back-to-school rush as all educational booksellers do, to working in the stores from a young age.
“I am one of six children and we have all at some time or another worked at either BCF or Sequel. I actually started working for dad at BCF in my school holidays when I was 13 for pocket money, along with my two older brothers. All through secondary school all of us and our mates from school would work at BCF during the Christmas holidays.”
But Dan wasn’t given any special family privileges, “I was even sacked by dad when I was 18 for not pulling my weight. In fact, I think my brothers might have been sacked also, probably about the same age and for the same reason… must have been ‘bigger than our own boots’ just-leaving-school attitude.”
After this, bookselling wasn’t on the cards for Dan, “until in 2005 when working and living in the UK, Dad and I had a phone call one day and a couple of months later I was back in OZ at Sequel.” Dan has been at Sequel ever since, it will be 14 years this year.
The bookshop today supplies to over 300 schools around Queensland with new release and backlist library books, primary & secondary textbooks and educational supplies. They have 10 staff but at the back to school rush, there are up to 50 casual staff from school students, university students and friends and family. Through it all, Sequel is still the family business it always was.
“Sequel has a strong family base with Dad still coming in everyday, myself as General Manager, my younger brother Tom is one of our Sales Rep’s visiting schools in SE Qld and my younger sister Anna works in our office and retail shop, taking care of all social media and marketing and looking after our retail shop.
“As with any small family business, we have to make sure we adapt, change and grow with what our customers are telling us. We need to ensure we stay in touch with the needs of the market and continue the strong publisher relationships we have that have been developed by David over his many years in the industry.”
“We noticed about 5 or 6 years ago an increase in purchases of digital format books and thought it could have been the start of the eBooks take over from physical books, however it was just a new market for us and another book to sell. eBooks have their place in the market, but will never replace the actual book… books still very much have a place in the industry and book community.”
“We deal with librarians all over QLD and the majority of them would say they love nothing more than the feel and smell of a new release novel or textbook.”
Sequel has remained a cornerstone of school and library supply for 23 years now. Throughout all the changes and challenges, floods and moves, name changes and generation changes, the family have passed down their love for books and education for many years, and many more to come.
Every year at the Australian Booksellers Association (ABA) gala dinner, booksellers from all across Australia come together in their glitziest attire to sip cocktails and celebrate the achievements of their hardworking peers. The ABA Bookseller awards recognise booksellers for their exceptional performance at the bookshops they work, as well as their contribution to the book industry and the local and wider community.
Feeling guilty for buying yet another new book?
Toss those feelings aside because here are the reasons why shopping at your favourite bookshop is for the greater good.
When you shop at your local bookshop, the money you spend stays in the community, benefiting other local businesses, schools and hospitals.
There were balloons and cupcakes galore as the book industry came together on Sunday for the official launch of Love Your Bookshop Day 2017.