Reading to ease the mind

with Coco Meurer of @literaturensohn

The owner of literaturensohn, Coco Meurer, is not your typical book person. She is also not your typical entrepreneur. Unlike other savvy readers, Coco came to literature via heartbreak and to selling books via blogging. In September, she opened her first bookstore in Berlin Mitte, a physical extension of the homonymous Instagram account @literaturensohn—where she has been sharing book recommendations since 2019.

Scrolling through the account, it becomes clear that opening a bookstore in 2023 requires a creative mindset as much as an entrepreneurial spirit. Coco is intrigued by the challenge. She is unafraid to appear in her posts, punctuate the feed with colorful outfits, and start a dialogue between her favorite book-covers and her own wardrobe. It makes sense. With a background in marketing and a store to run, she is too busy to mind preconceptions about style and intellect. Great books and great looks are not mutually exclusive here, and judging books by the cover is kind of allowed too.

Three months into running the space, she is in good spirits, chatty and confident. When we visit the bright space on Brunnenstraße, she is thinking about how to engage people who identify as non-readers. “They just haven’t found the right book yet” she tells us and scans our expressions for clues and preferences. She then turns away to embrace the carefully arranged bookshelves. There are personal favorites, “books that everyone should read”, and a generous selection of titles by emerging authors.

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“What would you really do if you did what you really really wanted?” And the answer was “have a bookstore.”

Givn Berlin: How did all these books find their way into your life? How did it all start?

Coco: Many people say they started reading when they were very young. I didn’t. I always loved words and writing, but I was not obsessed with books. I started reading, really reading, through the guy I lived with for twelve years. His mother gave me a book, RUMO by Walter Moers. It’s a fantasy thing. It’s not something I would read today, but it's still my favorite book. And the only one I read twice. I remember her speaking about how much she loved it. And that’s how I started.

Givn Berlin: Before becoming a bookstore, literaturensohn was an Instagram account for book recommendations. What inspired you to create the account?

Coco: It all started in 2019. My boyfriend cheated on me. And it was a big mess. I was so heartbroken and couldn't read. My mind was all over the place. Later, on my birthday, I was celebrating with my twin sister, and she was like, “you should start an Instagram account with your book stuff”. I had been sharing recommendations on my private account but no one really connected to it. She convinced me to try and have a good time with books again. This was right before COVID. By the time we went into the first lockdown the account was set up and everyone was sitting at home looking for book recommendations. So, it was perfect timing to be honest. Soon after, I was nominated for the newcomer bookstagram prize.

Givn Berlin: What happened after that? How did you go from book blogging to opening a physical space?

Coco: It was all pretty fast. Through my Instagram, I got a job in marketing with the publishing company Rowohlt. Their headquarters are in Hamburg and I worked remotely. This was 2022. It was a crazy year, because I had a boyfriend who was an author so everything was about books—my private life, my job, my Instagram. I was just doing book stuff. Then, at the start of 2023, after a few years of working for Rowohlt, I felt the need to change again, but also to travel. I had never done that because I was always in a relationship or I wasn't brave enough to go on my own. So, I booked a one-way-ticket to Portugal and quit my job. This was the first week of January. I took some time to think about what I wanted to do next. My first instinct was to start working freelance, doing campaigns and cover designs and all the things I had done for Rowohlt. But then I was like, “what would you really do if you did what you really really wanted?” And the answer was “have a bookstore.” Soon after I saw the vacant space on Brunnenstraße.

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"My focus has been on women, [...] people who are interested in feeling good rather than feeling smart."

Givn Berlin: What kind of readers did you have in mind when you first envisioned the bookstore?

Coco: My focus has been on women, you know, younger women, but also internet addicted people, like me, who are not bookish or intellectual in a stereotypical way, reading classic literature. People who are interested in feeling good rather than feeling smart. Something I really dislike about the literary field is how coded it is. And this tendency among the older generations to talk about books as if no one else could understand them.

Givn Berlin: Speaking of feeling good, what does that look like for you? What kind of rituals do you associate with reading?

Coco: Before opening the bookstore, I would go to Dussmann after work one evening every week. That was really my go-to place. I even became good friends with someone who works there, because I went so often. So, the ideal scenario would be to go there, find a great book, maybe even a few, and then go home, lie down in a comfortable place – I need to lie down to read (laughs) – and then decide which one to read first. And of course, I wear something comfortable for this. The first thing I do when I get home in the evening is put on comfortable clothes. I take off all my jewelry, my contact lenses, fake lashes, and brush my teeth. Then I lie down with a book and it’s the perfect feeling.

Givn Berlin: Has this ritual changed since you opened literaturensohn?

Coco: Now, on Saturdays, when I leave the shop, the last thing I do is stand in front of the shelf and choose a book for myself.

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"What I love most about reading is that it calms me. [...] When I read, everything that is happening in the book appears in my head."

Givn Berlin: In an increasingly digital world, why is it important to maintain physical spaces for engaging with books?

Coco:
I think everything is too much, so it’s great to have a person who can recommend what to read for the situation you are in. Someone who can direct you to the right story. And this focus on one story can do a lot for your brain. What I love the most about reading is that it calms me. Focusing on one story instead of scrolling through the entire internet and being bombarded by visuals, movies, sounds. When I read, everything that is happening in the book appears in my head.

Givn Berlin: Yes, when we read the mind has to make the connections, fill in the blanks…

Coco:
I recently read a book in which the authors look at the current surge in anxiety and depression and say that to understand the issue, we need to look way back, because there are figures that show that the information and input, we deal with in one day, on average, comes close to the amount of information that people used to deal with in one year. The brain struggles to compensate for the stress of dealing with all this information. But when you focus on a story you are not processing three things at a time. You need to follow to keep up with the words and the story. You need to keep in mind what is happening on the first page to understand what happens on the last page. And this is something I needed in my life.

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"Don't let people fool you, and surround yourself with supportive women."

Givn Berlin: What is the most important thing you learned as a founder in Berlin?

Coco:
Don't let people fool you, and surround yourself with supportive women. That's such a big topic for me, to be honest. I remember when I opened the store this summer. The way men and women reacted to the store was super different. While I was painting and furnishing the space, a lot of women would stop by and stand at the door. They were curious, they would say, "Ah, you're new, what are you up to? What is this going to be?” Whereas men were quite assertive, walking in, commenting, and offering advice I hadn’t asked for, saying no one could live off books today.

Givn Berlin: Do you have a recommendation for people looking to open a bookstore or start a small business?

Coco:
My main tip is “stay focused”. Ask yourself, “do I really, really, really want to do this?”. And never open a bookstore without having another source of income. What kind of work can you do help set things up and cover initial expenses? Living solely off selling books is not an option. It's so sad, but it's not possible.

Givn Berlin: Success is often defined as “the attainment of wealth” or “the achievement of a high position in a particular field.” If you had to write your own definition, what would it be?

Coco:
To me, success means achieving a lightness that makes me carefree in my everyday life. It doesn't have to be financial wealth, but an income that is simply enough. And, more importantly, I will feel successful when I have become the person I thought I would be when I was young. This requires a moral compass and a lot of ease.

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Images: Mick Rock
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Many companies spend lots of resources and effort to create a blog that supports their business, particularly the sales process. Yet many corporate bloggers complain that while blogs contain relevant information and attract visitors, they can’t track how their blog has influenced sales. Social media has raised customers’ expectations about the information they need before they purchase. If your blog content is relevant to prospects’ and customers’ needs before and after purchase and your products deliver on their promise, you can convert your blog into a sales machine.

3 cs of using your blog to sell

Content. Provide useful, educational and entertaining content. Present information based on your product offering and customers’ problems or needs.

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Commerce. Once you’ve given your readers useful information in a meaningful setting, they may be interested in actually plunking down their credit card. Unfortunately, here’s where many business blogs stop. Blog editors, familiar with their company’s e-commerce site and how to find specific products, can assume readers innately know how to find the product or have the motivation to track it down. Don’t get me wrong. Some very small percentage of prospects will to go extreme efforts to find the product. Unfortunately, the rest will just leave or worse go to your competitor.

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To make your blog an effective sales machine, integrate your product into your content in a way that doesn’t scream BUY, BUY, BUY. Here are five steps to provide relevant information and eye-candy to lure readers in and help convert blog posts to sales receipts.

Provide useful, relevant information. Show prospects how to use your product, give them instructions or how-tos, and/or entertain them.

Showing making procedure is a good way to guarantee product quality

Include a variety of different forms of content. Photographs and videos are particularly important because readers tend to be visual and want to see your product in action.

Get customer attention by clean visual and video

Make it easy to buy by eliminating stumbling blocks to purchase. Don’t assume customers know which item you’re talking about in your post. Provide a link directly to the product page or just link the product to your blog so they can buy if they want. If it relevant give readers more than one way to get to the product.