The UK Booksellers Association, under the auspices of IndieBound UK, “a community-oriented movement begun by the independent bookseller members of the American Booksellers Association and adopted into the UK in 2010,” is backing Independent Booksellers Week (IBW), “a national celebration of independent bookshops,” due to run from June 29th to July 6th.
IBW includes the inaugural Independent Booksellers Week Debate, “The Perfect Storm: Why bookshops are in the frontline in the battle for the High Street,” at the Royal Festival Hall in London’s South Bank Centre, at 6:30pm on July 3rd, as well as National Reading Group Day, which opens NBW on Saturday June 29th.
Independent booksellers have access to posters and other resources through the IBW website, with social media support for the whole effort via Twitter and Facebook.
Authors are also benefiting through the IBW Book Award 2013, based on a shortlist of titles selected by independent BA members. “Shortlisted titles will be heavily promoted by and to all participating bookshops in the UK and Ireland,” according to the IBW website, and authors are invited to participate in the IBW events.
When I asked Meryl Halls, Head of Membership Services at the Booksellers Association, for her view on how self-publishing and independent authors can work with independent bookstores, she said:
“Bookshops are always looking to break new talent, but it has to be done in a way that works for both parties. The best way for self published authors to help indie bookshops is to educate themselves about trade terms and structures, and go to the bookshop with a professional approach to stocking and selling the books; not as a favour but rather with a properly commercial approach. Then the bookseller can judge the book on the same level as the other thousands of books they are selecting to stock in the shop. Where it works, a local author and their local bookshop can be a great team.”
As for booksellers becoming independent publishers, she added, “it can work very well for the right bookseller. Several are already doing it—Ron Johns who runs publishing venture Mabecron Books as well as owning bookshops in Falmouth and St Ives, and Jane Streeter at Bookcase in Lowdham. Many booksellers do some local publishing, as they are well placed to spot gaps in the market.”
However, she continued, “this model is more suited to traditional publishing than epublishing.”
Asked about the competitive pressures most critical to UK independent booksellers, Halls actually cited rising rents and business rates above competition from book chains, Amazon’s e-retailing operation, or e-books. “We will continue to make further representations for booksellers on these issues,” she told me. “The Government needs to take action sooner rather than later in order to prevent more closures.”
During IBW, participating bookstores will be offering IBW Bookseller Collectibles, “a small range of titles, in association with supporting publishers, of IBW product, available only through independents.” IBW is “working with as many publishers as possible to achieve this, and in doing so, creating reasons for consumers to visit indie bookshops during the Week,” building traction in their local communities.
“Most booksellers stock many non-book products, ranging from art and art materials, stationery, gifts, jewellery and children’s toys to coffee, cake, and sometimes lunch!” Hall added. “They will sell book-related merchandise, often sell tickets for local theatres or music venues, and of course run regular events programmes. All of which creates reasons for consumers to visit the bookshop for a whole range of reasons—independent bookshops are real hubs in their communities and can often be the beating heart of their high street.”