From Bookseller to Author by Victoria Walters
Waterstones bookseller, Victoria Walters, writes a little about her transition from behind the till point to awaiting publication of her debut novel - and why she loves being both an author and a bookseller.
There was really only one part time job I wanted when I decided to try to become a published author, and that was to be a bookseller at Waterstones. I think a lot of us have a fantasy of working in a bookshop and mine stemmed from watching Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail. There is something almost romantic about working in a place surrounded by thousands of stories – ones that you love, and ones that are waiting for you to fall in love with them.
I don’t think I’ve met a bookseller yet who wasn’t passionate about books, and I don’t think I ever will at Waterstones, so it’s been the perfect place to work while writing. It’s been a long journey to find a book deal and it’s been inspiring to watch new books arrive each week in store, stories that travelled the same journey I was travelling, and which had reached that longed-for destination point.
When I signed my book deal, booksellers were one of the first people to find out, and the most supportive. We just all get really excited about books. I looked around me at work and realised that my book was actually, finally, going to be on one of the shelves. I naturally checked to see who I would be shelved next to – Sarah Waters – pretty good company to be in. It’s surreal sometimes to picture my book in the shop because I’ve dreamt about it being there for so long. I write to hopefully bring people enjoyment, to make readers laugh and cry and maybe even inspire them. I write because I want my stories to be read, and that’s why I love bookshops – they’re a place where stories wait to be read. All you have to do is pluck them from the shelf.
When my publisher sent me my cover design, I took my phone to the table in the store where the book will likely sit when it’s published next year. I put my phone down next to the other books to see how my cover looked alongside them. It started to feel real in that moment. There was actually going to be a book on the table with my name on. I almost cried but I didn’t want to scare the customers! I don’t think it will fully sink in until I see the actual book there, and maybe even open it from a tote myself, that my dream has come true and I’m not just a bookseller now – I’m an author too. Sometimes I go on Waterstones.com, or on our internal system, and just check that my novel is still listed there. You know, in case I made it all up in my head or something.
My favourite part of being a bookseller is that I am asked by customers to recommend them books to read. When I love a book, I want other people to read it and love it too, and customers are the same way – I regularly am recommended books to read by our customers, which is such a lovely part of my job. I am consequently so nervous for fellow booksellers to read my book as I know how much their opinions can make a book, and how I won’t be able to look them in the eye if they don’t like it. I will not be able to recommend my book to anyone and may even hide if I spot a customer reading the back cover when I walk past because when my author hat is on I am riddled with self-doubt. As a bookseller, I am a confident reader but as an author I’m nowhere near as confident about my writing.
The best thing about being both a bookseller and an author is that as I wait for my own novel to come out, I get to read and be excited about so many other books. Because what better way to take your mind off of your own journey in life is there than by reading about someone else’s journey instead?
Victoria's debut novel, The Second Love of My Life will be published in April 2016.