What are some upcoming trends for 2014?
One thing that I hope will come to pass in 2014 is the return of the long novel. Obviously, Eleanor Catton and Donna Tartt are getting a good deal of press, but we have a generation of Harry Potter readers that have followed the same essential story arc for thousands of pages. Now that they are adults, we do have to give them something compelling to read before their phones destroy any attention span they may have left. Also, and this may be [because] I have a 4-year-old, but I am in love with so many of the incredibly smart and creative picture books coming out, including Jon Scieszka’s Battle Bunny and Aaron Becker’s Journey, many from smaller presses. We need to get in front of any of these and get them into as many hands as possible.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
One of the continuing currents in modern literature that I love is the novel with genre elements: the children of Borges, Kafka, et al. Being able to sell to someone who considers themselves a fiction reader but not [a] sci-fi/fantasy [reader] or a romance reader but not a [literary] novel reader that we can pull into other sections of the store. Victor LaValle, Dan Chaon, Colson Whitehead, Heidi Julavits, Gary Shteyngart, Robin Sloan, Ben Marcus, even someone as established as Margaret Atwood. These are fabulous authors to unlock some self-imposed mental blinders in the bookstore. That, and I want Frank Rich to write another book.
What don't you ever want to see again?
Poorly researched history books by pundits, 95-plus percent of the books written by someone on TV, established novelists defending their misogyny in print, and books about a single household item that are more than 150 pages (except Scotch tape; I will give that one 250 pages).
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
We seem to live at an intersection of interests and perspectives. We have a very literary audience that shops at our store, as well as an audience with more commercial tastes—both voracious readers. Sure, our core customers, demographicswise, are very similar to customers at most independent bookstores, but we still have customers that can get James Patterson at 40 percent off at the grocery store that are still coming in to see us. What we have found, with the reported death of the bookstore and…the physical book itself, is that very few of our customers need to be sold on the value of time spent with a physical book and the value of an independent bookstore with actual booksellers…regardless of their individual reading tastes. Maybe it is just my being optimistic, but the idea of shopping local seems to have really found some purchase.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Michael Link has spent the last 12 years as an independent bookseller. He was the general manager of Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., and is currently the publisher relations and events manager at Joseph-Beth Booksellers. He served as a member of the Bookseller Advisory Council of the American Bookseller Association from 2011 to 2013, and is a proud member of the American Booksellers Foundation for the Freedom of Expression, the industry’s free-speech advocacy group. He also currently serves as a board member at Wordplay Cincinnati and the Urban Legend Institute (WordPlay's social enterprise), as well as the co-author team and bookstore operation head for the Books by the Banks Literary Festival in Cincinnati.