Bookings podcast bringing new life to bookstore

Photo: Kheira Morellon

Photo: Kheira Morellon

The King’s bookstore podcast Bookings isn’t just bringing friendly, bookish conversations to King’s: the show is also bringing awareness to the bookstore’s existence, while boosting sales in the process.

The bookstore has been at King’s 11 years, but according to manager Paul MacKay, many Haligonians still don’t know it exists. And unlike most university bookstores, the King’s bookstore is independent, making it more like Halifax bookstores Bookmark and Woozles than the Dalhousie bookstore.

Since launching Bookings, they’ve been able to build better connections with authors and publishers, which in turn help to incorporate the store into Halifax’s literary community. Authors that appear on the show have asked the bookstore to sell at their book launches and events, like the launch for Lezlie Lowe’s book No Place to Go at the Halifax Art Bar. MacKay says that publishers doing book launches in Halifax usually think of Bookmark before them when it comes to events, but the podcast is helping to change that.

The show, which started in March and has eight episodes to date, features MacKay and Jesse Hiltz, a member of the bookstore’s board, chatting with an author about their work. So far, the show has about 1,000 downloads, and people everywhere from Canada to Germany have been tuning in.

After the podcast began, MacKay saw sales go up. Since they created what MacKay dubbed the “podcast shelf”, those books have sold more copies than they ever did. It’s helped to sell both new titles and older ones that have slipped out of the public eye, like Laura Penny’s Your Call is Important to Us: The Truth about Bullshit, which was originally published in 2006. Penny was the show’s first guest.

While the podcast brings more recognition—and therefore more sales—to bestselling authors from Nova Scotia, MacKay and Hiltz are clear that it’s not just for Nova Scotians. Most of the authors that they’ve had on the show—the majority of whom are from Nova Scotia—have been national bestsellers, and almost none of their books focus on Halifax.  

“One of the things that we’re trying to do is show that the talent in Halifax is actually national and international talent,” says Hiltz. Halifax, according to Hiltz, has an “inferiority complex.”

“If anything comes from Nova Scotia, or Halifax, it’s always billed as Canlit—which is fine—or local, which I think is not fine.” (Canlit is an abbreviation for Canadian literature.)

As soon as you say local interest, people assume the focus is going to be on lighthouses and Maud Lewis, says MacKay.

Bookings is a collaboration between MacKay, Hiltz and King’s’ radio technician Mark Pineo. The idea came about after conversations between Pineo and Hiltz about doing a science fiction podcast. Pineo had also spoken to MacKay about working on a podcast—and so, as Hiltz says, “the power of three combined.”

Their biggest struggle at the beginning was figuring out what to call the show, with the name Bookings being a throwaway idea they later went back to. It’s meant to be a pun, if perhaps a too-subtle one: Book…Kings.

Neither MacKay nor Hiltz had radio experience before starting the show (they credit Pineo for helping with a lot of the technical stuff) and they don’t run the show the way a journalist might.

“We do the taboo thing of circulating our interview questions to our interviewee before we do the interview, because we’re not Anna Maria Tremonti,” says Hiltz.

“Not yet,” replies MacKay jokingly.

Bookings can be found on iTunes, Soundcloud and Google Play.