4 min read
Reaching the Retailers
One of Matador’s recent successes has been with a title called Close Quarters by Angus McAllister – which has been a big hit across Waterstones bookshops in Glasgow. The book was released 2017, and had already been well received, but the sales it achieved over the 2017-2018 Christmas season took the book’s success to a whole new level. As one Waterstones Manager reported back to us ‘It has honestly been one of the most popular books I can ever remember selling.’
Close Quarters is a murder mystery set in a Glasgow tenement. It is though primarily a comedy which satirises the traditional and sentimental view of Glasgow tenement life by placing it in a modern setting. Angus McAllister has captured this aspect of Glasgow life extraordinarily well, and the book instantly started to get great reviews because of this. As one review said: ‘In the West End he soaked up the culture, taking stock of the characters and clearly enjoying the environs of Byrnes Road and its cornucopia of shops, pubs and eateries. Drawing on these experiences McAllister has written a book which manages to combine a love of university life, the West End of Glasgow and his knowledge of the legal profession, resulting in a book which is in many ways a ‘Tales of the City’ we can call our own.’ The Waterstones bookshops in the city were early champions of the book especially their main branch in Sauchiehall Street.
As a result of the sales earlier in the year and because they were such great fans of the book, Waterstones got in contact to make sure they were going to have enough books for the demand they were expecting in the run-up to Christmas. We were delighted that they were so keen on the title, but it was going to be a leap of faith that they would actually sell the number of books they predicted. After some consultation, the author decided that the gamble was going to be worthwhile and the books were printed in good time for the Christmas rush. It would have been difficult to have organised further printing just before Christmas so the book could easily have run out of stock just as the Christmas season got into its busiest time.
The sales of Close Quarters over the Christmas period more than justified the belief that the bookshops had had in it. Just one branch of Waterstones in the city sold over 1000 copies and the combined sales of the book, in all of the Waterstones branches, were equally high. Even the bookshops found this result incredible and now see the book as a ‘Glasgow Classic’ – a title that people will continue to ask for into the future. Again, as one of the managers told us, ‘I've had such lovely feedback from customers telling me how much they enjoyed it.’ and 'Close Quarters really struck a chord with the people of Glasgow, and I am sure it has delighted every person who opened it on Christmas morning or just happened to pick it up on a whim for themselves.’ The book has been such a success another reprint is currently in place as other bookshops are now realising how well this book is doing. The great sales are continuing both within the city and now in bookshops in other parts of the country as well.
The success of Close Quarters shows how well a title can do when bookshops get behind a book, love it and actively sell it to their customers. Fiction remains one of the most difficult genres to be successful in as our authors go up against the really big names in British fiction writing. When a book is discovered though and is sold by word of mouth, as well as the traditional marketing and publicity that we can do at Matador, the results can still be spectacular. Close Quarters ticked all the right boxes. It is a great book, very well written and with a terrific plot. It is also set in a city that has some excellent bookshops, and captures an aspect of the city that has given it a terrific audience there. Waterstones in Glasgow have been wonderful champions and they thought ahead about their needs for stock of the book in the Christmas season. We, and the author, were really happy to work with them and make sure they had the stock they needed. And then the people of Glasgow just continue to really like the book.
Sadly not all books are going to do as well as this, but it is good to know that if you write the right book, and it gets the right reception from the book trade, a self-published book can do as well as the best of the books coming out from mainstream competitors. So take heart from the success of Close Quarters.