A Doncaster bookseller who starred in a best-selling novel has landed a new job with a London-based publisher.
Leilah Skelton, who works at Waterstones in the Frenchgate Centre, is joining Fulham-based children's publisher Little Tiger as a publicity and marketing executive.
In 2016 Leilah was honoured by best-selling novelist Jessie Burton who featured her in her latest book The Muse.
Burton was so impressed by Leilah's efforts to boost sales of her debut novel The Miniaturist that she named a setting in the follow-up book after her.
Set in 1967, the book features Trinidad immigrant Odelle Bastien beginning a new job as a typist at The Skelton Institute in London.
And now life will be mirroring art with Leilah also set to begin a new job in London when she quits Waterstones in June.
Lauren Ace, PR director at Little Tiger described her as a "creative and dedicated bookseller" with a "huge amount of passion for getting books into readers' hands".
"She brings with her unrivalled market knowledge and a unique perspective from outside the London bubble.
"At Little Tiger we are striving to make books as accessible and inclusive as possible and as part of this we are thinking about how to reach the broadest audience.
"I feel really excited about what Leilah will bring to the team and how she might challenge us to think differently about how we approach finding readers for our books.”
Writing on Twitter, Leilah said: “As of 2nd June I will no longer be a bookseller. I’m giving up a job that I’ve given everything to for twelve years. I’m leaving behind a town full of the most wonderful customers. It’s just getting too hard to sell books the way I like to sell books. I’m exhausted too often… And there’s never getting the opportunity to escape the nest on my own because of the High Street’s retail wage.
“It’s either the bravest or the most stupid thing that I’ve ever done. I’ve never been comfortable with taking risks and yet here I am, leaping into something unknown.”
Leilah, a former art student, made creative window displays for Burton's The Miniaturist by cutting out characters from the jacket to make small models.
She also gift-wrapped copies in opulent paper and even made tiny dolls’ house-scale copies of the book, handing out the free “Miniature Miniaturist” creations to customers with every purchase.
Her finishing touch involved repurposing an old shop display by installing a mechanical motor to create a flying circle for a tiny clay bird that “flew” over the window display, earning praise from Burton on Twitter, who said the bookseller was “beyond compare."
Leilah, 35, said she was “overwhelmed” by the author’s gesture and said: “I feel amazed and humbled and overwhelmed with the honour of being given my own little permanence in the world because of an author’s kindness.
"It really is something that a working-class, undereducated northerner can become an Institute of Art in London—no matter that it’s a fictional one.”