Sara Crowley has had fiction published by Pulp.Net, 3:AM, elimae, flashquake, Litro, Cella's Round Trip, Dogmatika, Red Peter, Better Non Sequitur, and a variety of other lovely places. “Salted”, her novel in progress, was shortlisted for the 2007 Faber/Book Tokens Not Yet Published Award. She is, among many other things, a bookseller at Waterstones and if you visit her blog you’ll be able to see photographs of some of her displays of the short story collections she so enthusiastically promotes—including one with Tania’s book in centre-stage. I wish that every bookshop had its own Sara Crowley, and offer her my warmest thanks for this piece.
I am a writer, mother, and part time bookseller in the fiction section of a large branch of Waterstones. I like to read and write short and long fiction; each has its own craft, skill, and reward. Novels outsell short story collections though, and there are a number of customers who are resistant to them. I understand how satisfying it is to immerse oneself in a lengthy story, but just as we are capable of listening to, and appreciating, both singles and albums, I don’t see the need to pick one form of writing and reject the other.
I maintain a short story collection display case and have no difficulty in filling the nineteen available spaces. I like to mix classic must-reads (Sylvia Plath's Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams, Raymond Carver's Where I'm Calling from) with new voices (Lee Rourke's Everyday, Neil Smith's Bang Crunch) and contemporary greats (Lorrie Moore's The Collected Stories of Lorrie Moore, Ali Smith's The First Person and Other Stories). I hope there’s something for everyone, and regularly change things to keep the display fresh. My colleague (who runs the fiction section) has a vast knowledge of fiction past and present; between us I think we offer wonderful range.
Customers often bring in reviews they have cut from the paper, or ask for a book they heard about on the radio. I’m not sure that short story collections get the necessary publicity in the press to generate buzz about them so one way of attracting potential buyers is to write a bookseller’s review. One of my favourite authors is Janice Galloway, so I ordered in copies of her superb collection Where You Find it, wrote a glowing review, and have sold 55 copies so far. It really pleases me to think that I have helped people to discover such a talented writer, and it proves that if good quality work is visible then people will buy it. Tania Hershman’s name may not be familiar to people yet, but if they read my recommendation and pick up The White Road and Other Stories they will see that it is beautifully produced and it offers something a little different, as Tania prefaces the stories with snippets of scientific articles that have inspired her. She is a very skilled writer, so reading a passage or two is likely to make the customer buy the book.
It’s sad to think that without publicity some wonderful books can remain undiscovered.
Two weeks ago we heard how Tania Hershman promoted her book, The White Road and Other Stories; and last week Jen Hamilton-Emery of Salt Publishing discussed some of the difficulties involved in running an independent press.
If you'd like to be in with a chance to win a copy of The White Road and Other Stories, then answer this question: which magazine's articles inspired many of the stories in Tania's collection? Answers to firstname.lastname@example.org. You have until May 27 to get your emails to her, after which time she will select one winner at random from all of the entries she receives.