We’re excited to welcome Lexi Beach, co-owner of the Astoria Bookshop in Queens, NY as our featured bookseller. Lexi is a NetGalley member, an American Booksellers Association member, and just celebrated the Astoria Bookshop’s 2-year anniversary! Keep reading to discover how Lexi became a bookseller, what upcoming books she’s excited about, and her tips for writing in-store recommendations!
A nice place to start is with your bookseller origin story – how did you become the co-owner of the Astoria Bookshop?
I had been working in various areas of book publishing for almost 10 years before I thought about opening a store. At the time, I was in a job that was increasingly a poor fit, and I started hearing from friends & colleagues in Astoria that the neighborhood needed a bookstore. I started asking other bookstore owners about their work, trying to figure out if this would be a viable next step in my career. And the more I learned, the more it seemed like a great idea. And then I got laid off from the job I didn’t want anymore, which gave me the chance to pursue the plan for real. That was three years ago, and I’m celebrating 2 years in business this week.
The Astoria Bookshop opened in 2013 in Queens, NY in a neighborhood (and borough!) without any indie bookstores – how has your shop been received by the community? Do you host any special events that have encouraged a relationship with those in your area?
The community has been incredibly supportive of the Bookshop since well before we opened our doors. We ran a very successful crowdfunding campaign, we had people offer to help us move bookcases & shelve books before we opened, and we had repeat customers after one day. We host two reading series that are curated by local writing groups, we’ve held lots of readings with Queens-based authors, we run book fairs at many nearby schools, we offer writing workshops led by writers who live in the neighborhood, and we’ve partnered with some local organizations for events of all kinds.
Your store sells physical books and also ebooks – what led you to make the decision to carry both formats? Do you think it has helped contribute to your success thus far?
Indiecommerce (the ecommerce solution offered to ABA member stores) makes carrying ebooks very easy, using the Kobo platform. I’m very happy that I can offer my customers a choice of format, but the sales of ebooks are minimal to say the least. The vast majority of our sales are physical books sold in the store.
We talk a lot about various communities, especially when it comes to those who love and advocate for books – have you found the indie bookseller community unique in any particular way? Has anything surprised you since you’ve opened your store?
Indie booksellers are the best people in the world. Every time I go to an industry event, or meet up with my colleagues, I walk away feeling like I invited myself into the greatest club on the planet and everyone welcomed me with hugs & kisses & industry data.
As a bookseller, do you have any tips for writing customer-facing recommendations that appear in-store, perhaps on a shelftalker?
- Keep it short – The goal of a shelftalker is to get someone to pick up the book. You don’t need to tell them the whole plot.
- Make it personal – Shelftalkers are written by real people, not a computer algorithm. A personal anecdote can be especially helpful. (I recount how I read the final chapter of The World According to Garp while driving myself to work because I couldn’t bear to put it down. True story.)
- Change them up – Just like you would change up a display table, it can help to rotate shelftalkers in and out. If your staff is very small, recruit local authors or librarians to write some for you so that the suggestions are more varied.
Which upcoming book(s) are you the most excited about recommending to your customers?
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff is definitely my adult fiction pick for fall. I read it two months ago and I STILL can’t shut up about how great it is. Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash is a wonderful YA graphic memoir that I’m very excited about. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson is insanely funny.
If you could bring 1 author into your bookstore for a special event, who would it be?
Since we already hosted a reading with Roxane Gay, next on the wish list is Lev Grossman.
Your favorite aspect of The Astoria Bookshop:
Our customers. They are just incredible—so generous, so savvy, so cool.
The book you’ve hand-sold the most lately:
Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me
The last book that made you smile:
Mitford at the Fashion Zoo, a picture book about a giraffe who wants to work in the fashion industry.
Thanks so much to Lexi and make sure to visit the Astoria Bookshop’s website, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!
You can see more tips for writing reviews here – and booksellers, don’t forget to add your ABA number to your NetGalley profile so you can start receiving the free Digital White Box!
*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret