Bookseller spotlight: Kate Menday from Kinokuniya Books
What’s the first book that you remember having an impact on you?
The first book I remember becoming mildly obsessed with was There’s a Sea in my Bedroom by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Jane Tanner. I loved the possibilities of imagination, empathy and nature. I also remember how wildly I responded to the sea being in MY BEDROOM!
Who were some of your favourite authors as a child?
Some of my favourite authors from childhood are Jeannie Baker, Emily Rodda, Judy Blume, Robin Klein, Dianna Wynne Jones, Tamora Pierce, Melina Marchetta, S.E Hinton and Michael Ende.
How long have you been working at your bookstore? Can you tell us about the store and the community it serves?
I have worked at Books Kinokuniya Sydney for nearly two years after working at a number of indie bookstores in Sydney. Kinokuniya is a Japanese company and is located in The Galleries in Sydney’s CBD. Our community is varied, and includes dedicated Manga readers, people looking for titles in Japanese or Chinese, and city commuters who pop in to browse on their lunch break. Other customers include a visit to Kino on a day trip to the CBD and we have a website which for those who can’t always visit us in person. Our customers are as broad as our range is!
What drew to you becoming a bookseller?
I am an accidental bookseller, one of my first jobs was as a bookseller at A&R. Many years later I was completing a PhD and a mate hooked me up with a summer job with a great team of booksellers and customers at an indie bookstore in Newtown, and I’ve been around bookstores ever since.
What did an average day look like for you pre-COVID? And post-COVID?
Our day’s pre-COVID would consist of customer service, shelving and merchandising, ordering, fulfilling webstore orders, running events and welcoming authors to sign their books. As a larger bookstore, we have different departments and bookselling roles, making working here quite different to smaller bookstores.
Post-COVID has changed the city landscape a bit, with people moving their work to home. While it was quiet in the weeks after lockdown, we are seeing more people returning to the city, either for work or shopping, and we’ve all become much more aware of social distancing, queuing and mask wearing. It has been lovely to have some pre-COVID normality return recently with more of our regular customers, authors, publishers and sales reps returning to store visits.
What’s the best part about being a bookseller?
My favourite part of bookselling is knowing people are curious about the world. I love customers walking out of the store with a book they may never have considered reading prior to seeing it on the shelf or talking to a bookseller. Also the people and being part of a bookselling team is pretty fabulous!!
Any memorable customer interactions
Bookselling is a mix of memorable moments, many lovely and of course many Black Books moments! There was the recent, infamous moment when I misheard a very time poor customer asking for books about rigor mortis. Five recommendations later I discovered they had actually asked for a Rick and Morty title.
What advice would you give someone wanting to work in bookselling?
Talk to your favourite bookstore and booksellers, finding your first job in bookselling is often pure luck!
Curiosity for knowledge is essential, so are good research skills, I’m always in awe of colleagues who one minute may be recalling the title of a book about the long grasses of South-Eastern Australia and the next moment finding a copy of a great picture book about a flamingo for a five year old.
Bookselling attracts passionate, creative people, and combined with a great team, a lot of fun will be had. Every day will be interesting and bring the unexpected, and it will also bring hard work, time on your feet and many, many hours of repetitive tasks and unpacking boxes.
Who are some of your favourite Australian authors?
Australian authors headline my reading pile. My favourites include Claire G Coleman, Peter Polites, Emma Viskic, Ellen van Neerven, Jess Hill, Favel Parrett, Julie Koh, Wai Chim, Andrew Pippos, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Claire Atkins, Inga Simpson, Alison Whittaker and Jennifer Mills.
Do you have any favourite UQP titles?
Tony Birch’s Blood is an absolute cracker and one of my favourite reads. I also love Portable Curiosities by Julie Koh and This Taste for Silence by Amanda O'Callaghan. Anything Claire Zorn writes is gold!
How can we follow your bookstore online?