The Secret Bookseller is an anonymous Independent Bookshop manager blogging about the UK book industry
Book events, talks and signings play an important role for many a modern bookshop.
In tough retail times, they are a way for bookshops:
- to engage with the local community
- tap into the evening economy and
- create the perfect night out for punters with a huge urge to listen to random excerpts from books and sit on uncomfortable chairs.
One of the first things I was told as a rookie bookseller many years ago was the following old chestnut:
- The Customer Is Always Right.
I was also told:
- Don’t spend too much time on the toilet.
- Don’t wear a short skirt if you’re doing a window display and
- Nobody wants to see your armpits.
My UK Bookselling Diploma thus obtained, I was now clearly ready to hit the shop floor.
As a bookseller, you have to field a lot of questions from the general public:
- Is this title available in The Netherlands?
- Do I pay the actual price that’s on the book?
- Is that dead wasp part of your window display?
- Where do I catch the number 75 bus?
We all love limited edition goodies.
In fact, to accompany writing this blogpost, I’m listening to my limited edition copy of Laura Marling’s Semper Femina (with bonus extra live CD) and munching on a limited edition packet of Orchards Skittles. Any excuse!
Any keen observer on Twitter will know what life is like for today’s Indie Bookseller:
We host enlightening mulitimedia events, instigate high-profile national campaigns, collaborate with critically-acclaimed authors, and bring cultural nourishment to educational establishments and the general public.
Meanwhile, a celebrated children’s illustrator will be transforming our shop window display, while our staff members project empowering messages to the world across a range of social media platforms.
The question remains however:
What do we do on the other 361 days of the year?
December is a crucial make-or-break month for many retailers, and bookshops are no exception.
For the bookshop owner, expectation levels go through the roof in the run-up to Christmas, and this is accompanied by a constant insatiable hunger for sales, sales and more sales.
Back in July I wrote a blogpost about the new Philip Pullman book La Belle Sauvage, my main gripe being that Independent Bookshops such as my own were being completely priced out of selling any copies, due to the aggressive pre-publication discounting of larger retailers with deep pockets.
Books Are My Bag is a national campaign run by The Booksellers Association to promote bookshops in the UK.
It is centred around three main events:
- Bookshop Day 2017 (Sat 7th Oct)
- Saturday Sanctuary (Nov 25th) and
BAMB is now in its fifth year, and any campaign that celebrates the value and vital role of physical bookshops in this online age must surely be a good thing.
Many booksellers received an e-mail recently from a Public Relations company on behalf of The Booksellers Association:
The Guardian is writing a feature on the most stolen books from bookshops and they’d love to hear any anecdotes you have about books getting stolen for a light-hearted feature to run this Saturday.
Oh would they indeed?
20 Tips from a Bookseller:
You’ve written a book.
Congratulations, I mean it, and that’s coming from someone who:
- is completely incapable of writing a book and
- counts eating a whole tube of Pringles in one sitting as a typical life achievement.