Bookselling with Kealing Middle School

kealing middle school
(Photo by John Anderson, via

~post by Children’s Book Buyer, Meghan G.

Towards the end of the school year I had the pleasure of visiting the Young Adult Literature class at Kealing Middle School with our Kids Outreach Coordinator, Topher Bradfield. Topher, as he does for schools all around town, came to talk to the kids (in his characteristically enthusiastic way) about some of the the new books we’re excited about here at BookPeople. I was invited because the students had expressed to their teacher a genuine interest in learning more about the book business in general and BookPeople’s place within that business as an independent bookstore specifically. My visit made me wish I had had the opportunity to participate in this kind of class in my middle school days. I really enjoyed my time there!

We went over some of the various aspects of how a book gets acquired, produced, bought, and sold. We also talked for a while about the kinds of questions that we in the book business ask ourselves every day: How is the book industry changing with the growth of e-books? What is the place of an independent bookstore in a marketplace dominated by big names like Amazon? How does an independent bookstore decide what to carry? What is the role of stores like ours in our communities? I talked to them about my personal perspective on some of these big questions and how we try to approach them at the store. And then we ended up talking in depth about what goes into curating a selection of books and marketing them to other readers, both in terms of how the publishers do that based on what’s submitted to them by writers and then how we as booksellers do that based on what’s published and marketed to us by the publishers.

To give them a little look into some of what we do, I left them with a few of the tools that we use to evaluate books as a store: a copy of the Penguin Young Readers Summer catalog with book blurbs from the publisher, a Publisher’s Weekly magazine with book reviews, and a box of ARCs of books that have already been published (ARCS are uncorrected preview copies of books that we get sent from publishers in advance).

Their teacher and I challenged them to select a book from the box and to write about what drew them to that one in particular, what kind of reader they think it would appeal to, and what the book’s marketing copy and cover express to them right off the bat as potential readers. What we got back is a truly thoughtful collection of essays from a group of passionate young readers. We were so impressed that rather than excerpt these for one piece, we decided to publish their work as a series throughout the month.

Perhaps these great essays will give you some insight into the bookselling process and maybe even some summer reading ideas!

Here’s the first essay:

Why I think Pretty Sly by Elisa Ludwig Will Succeed
Essay By Ellis

One of the reasons I’m interested in Pretty Sly by Elisa Ludwig is that the cover is provocative. A girl holds a bag spilling with money and looks around as if someone is following her. This makes me think that this book will have adventure and mystery.

Another reason is that, according to the summary on the back, this book has a love story. Books with romance intrigue me, because they raise the level of excitement. The characters are more relatable if they’re motivated by something universal, like love.

On the back, this book is described as ‘fast-paced’. I like suspense with my love stories, because it keep things moving and makes the reader feel emotionally involved and invested in the plot. If a book keeps me immersed in its world, I am highly likely to enjoy it.

I’d stock Elisa Ludwig’s Pretty Sly on my imaginary shelf because I’m hungry for adventure, romance, and mystery!

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