Why this bookstore sells just 10 titles at a time—and why it works

Why this bookstore sells just 10 titles at a time—and why it works

Former Simon and Schuster editor Martha Sharpe stocks 10 titles at a time at her indie shop, Flying Books. We asked her about the future of small-batch bookselling

You went from publishing books at House of Anansi to editing them at Simon and Schuster to selling them at Flying Books. What’s with the reverse trajectory?
When I moved back to Toronto from New York two years ago, I noticed that there were so few bookstores left. I just didn’t want to believe that Toronto couldn’t sustain more of them.

Martha Sharpe
(Image: Darren Calabrese/National Post)

But you only sell a few titles at a time. Why?
My little mission is to pick something that’s great but won’t get much attention. When customers find out about my background, they often say they can trust me to survey what’s out there in the book world and narrow it down. One early pick, A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride, was a book I acquired for Simon and Schuster. If a customer asks how I know it’s good, I can say, “Well, I worked on it.”

How do you choose the books you sell?
They’re books I want in my life, and I want other people to know about them, too. I organize them into themed “flights.” Last year was an amazing year for fiction by women, so that was my very first flight.

So how does one make a living operating the cutest little bookshop in Toronto?
I’m expanding. I have three new locations opening in the spring—one at the Gladstone Hotel, one in Northwood General and one at Ezra’s Pound coffee shop.

What is your one must-read book this spring?
I’m dying to get my get hands on City of Thorns by Ben Rawlence. It’s a non-fiction book about the world’s largest refugee camp, in Kenya. It’s difficult to read but urgently important—anyone who reads it will understand what life in one of those camps is like.

More from our spring books guide