22nd June, 2020
4 min read
Supporting Your Local Independent Bookshops
Back in 2020, Troubador author and Author Ambassador Jude Hayland wrote a blog for us exploring the significance and importance of local, independent booksellers when it comes to promoting your work as an independent author.
To celebrate this year’s Independent Bookshop Week – taking place from 17–24 June 2023, we thought this would be a good time to revisit and reissue her blog.
Jude is the author of three novels and works hard at getting out and about to promote both herself as a writer and her books, all while supporting other self-publishing authors too.
Jude says: ‘No doubt the dream of many independent writers – and fledgling writers, in particular – is to walk into Waterstones to see their book boldly displayed on one of the prominent tables, grabbing the attention of every browser and customer loitering in the shop. I must be a real writer – a professional! the feeling would surely be. But the dream is entirely misplaced. It’s an aspiration that should be redirected away from the giants of the book trade and onto independent stores. After all, as an independent writer – the focus should be on the markets and outlets that best accommodate and reflect that status.
The independent bookshop is a place to treasure. And despite the difficulties of surviving financially, given High Street rents and associated costs with such a presence (let alone our current crisis) it appears to be thriving. And so it should. After all, who does not want to walk into a shop run by people passionate about books, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and welcoming? People whose working day is driven by a commitment to the stock they have selected and for whom the loyalty of their customers is key.
As independent writers, we need to value what these bookshops can offer us and in turn, realise how we can serve them. A two-way process, as it were. For writers of non-fiction and local history, the independent bookshop is, of course, a gift. What better place to seek out a readership than in the locality with which the book is concerned? And however long people have lived in an area unless they are local historians, their knowledge of the region is so often woefully lacking, a vacuum that they may be all too willing to fill if there is a relevant book on the shelves.
Fiction writers too can exploit a local shop that links with the settings of their novels. People like reading fictional stories about places they know. There is even an element of flattery in seeing their village or town featured in a story and it provides the bookseller with a hook to encourage a sale. I went to a book fair in Brighton and was among twenty or so writers marketing and aiming to sell our books. On that desperately wet and dark late November day, the author who writes crime stories set in the Brighton area was the one who gained the most attention.
Wonderful independent bookshops are part of the community where friends can meet, socialise, browse and share in the wonderful world of books. As independent writers, we know that writing our books is the relatively easy part. It’s finding outlets to sell them, to seek out and communicate with a readership that so often entirely baffles and bewilders. That’s why we need to connect and befriend our local independent bookstores. Surely, as writers and readers, we applaud everything they stand for – a love of books, a belief in the power of the written word to entertain and to communicate, a desire to reach out to the local community with more than just an eye on profit. Of course, as businesses they must make a profit to survive – no good being ingenuous about that. But if we, as local writers can be part of that process, by offering to take part in author and reader events to increase sales, by befriending the shop and encouraging our friends and family to do the same, the healthy survival of our vibrant and proudly independent bookshops will be helped.
So, during this year’s Independent Bookshop Week, let’s make sure that any book purchase we make in the next seven days is from one of them – and keep the habit going. After all, we need them just as much as they need us!’ Jude’s blog remains just as relevant today, where post-pandemic consumer behaviours have changed and there is a larger focus on shopping and buying locally than ever before. During the 2023 Independent Bookshop Week, we have several authors working with their local bookshops holding events and launches.
While Independent Bookshop Week might focus on the importance of indie bookshops, as authors we can (and should) engage with bookshops all year round. As Jude points out, being a regular of your local bookshop makes approaching them and asking them to consider supporting your own published books much easier.
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