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Self-publishing News: Are Bookshops Essential?

Self-publishing News: Are Bookshops Essential?

In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at what a second lockdown means for bookstores, and Covid grants for writers in Scotland that's open to indies.

Dan Holloway head and shoulders

ALLi's News Editor Dan Holloway

I'm really delighted that today I'll be talking all things creativity with Tim on today's #indieauthorchat on Twitter at 8pm GMT. Please do make a date in your diary each Wednesday for this. If you can't make it, we always write up the chat here the following Tuesday. You can find last week's chat on “surviving a difficult winter” here.

Indies in Scotland Eligible for £590k Fund

This is a story I covered last week, but it is so rare that a major scheme is open for indies, it’s worth repeating. Creative Scotland has opened a hardship fund for creative artists badly affected by Covid. £590,000 of it will be used to help writers and administered by the Society of AuthorsPlease check the FAQ here for all eligibility criteria but the fund is open to indies.

Are Bookshops Essential?

We’ve been here before. And not just the second lockdowns that many European countries are introducing. We’re seeing repeat runs of the debate about the status of bookshops. You will remember back in March, James Daunt led the way in saying that bookstores should be treated as essential retailers. That would have enabled them to stay physically open as governments across the world ordered non-essential retail outlets to close.

This time around, we have seen the same debate. Mark Williams has been following the story in France in particular. There bookstores called for the right to be classified as essential. They lost that battle. But they won what Williams describes as a Pyrrhic victory when supermarkets were told that books were among the items they could not continue to sell. This is an approach I have seen as well, first in Wales and now in England. The measure that authorities have decided will best protect small specialist retailers has not been to allow them to stay open but to require stores that have a mixed offering not to sell items whose classification has required specialists to close. And just yesterday Publishing Perspectives reported on the widening of the coalition in continental Europe calling for the creative sector as a whole to remain open.

We’ve also seen the desperation of small indie bookstores. This started with the plea to buy online from them as Wales became the first country in the UK to enter lockdown. Now we are seeing a familiar story from the first lockdown. Bookstores are starting gofundme campaigns to help them survive. The latest is the legendary The Strand bookstore in New York. Passive Guy has a really important piece on this trend. He points out that the stories we see of high profile successful campaigns are misleading. City Lights raised hundreds of thousands of dollars earlier in the year. Shakespeare and Company and The Strand will no doubt survive. But the many les famous stores, often in neighbourhoods that can’t afford fundraisers face far more uncertain times.

Bookshop.org Has Launched in the UK

But things have also improved in some ways for struggling bookstores. Through the year we’ve been hearing a lot about Bookshop.org. This is the app that allows people to buy print books online and have money from the sale go to their local bookstore. And not just their local indie bookstore, but any store signed up. This clearly offers a chance for those neighbourhood stores Passive Guy was concerned about to benefit from much wider sales. Of course, though, there is a real risk that the higher profile stores will suck in sales here too.

On Monday, Bookshop.org launched in the UK. And with bookstores closing from tomorrow for at least four weeks, that launch couldn’t have come at a better time. That said, in the UK at present, for indies to be eligible our books have to be in stock Gardners. And that's not automatic, so it's something to check.

Audible Plus Returns Hit Writers

Thanks to Nate at The Digital Reader for bringing this to my attention, and a really detailed explanatory post from Susan May. Returns have long been a bane of the publishing industry. And ebook returns have often been a cause of aggravation. But it seems audiobook returns have stepped things up to a whole other level. Audible have started using the ability to return or exchange any book for any reason as a marketing tool. Even when the book is finished. And that finished book, when it is returned, no longer pays a royalty. Given the cost of producing audiobooks that is a big problem.

To be specific, this is one of the features that differentiates the $14.95 “Audible Plus” from the $7.95 regular Audible subscription. In other words, “return anything” is being used as a selling point to get readers to part with more money. Which the author will never see. It is not a good sign for the direction of travel as we move more to a subscription model.

Indies in Scotland eligible for Covid grants, and top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Help us fill this with great online events in the coming weeks and months.

Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) – Zoom meetings the 2nd Saturday of each month


Panorama Project Webinar, 5 Nov
Society of Young Publishers, 9-13 Nov

Over to You

Let us know about online events of interest to indies in the comments below.

Author: Dan Holloway

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, which has appeared at festivals and fringes from Manchester to Stoke Newington. In 2010 he was the winner of the 100th episode of the international spoken prose event Literary Death Match, and earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transparency-Sutures-Dan-Holloway-ebook/dp/B01A6YAA40


This Post Has 3 Comments
  1. Thank you for sharing the latest news, Dan. As someone who grew up with bookstores this breaks my heart, although given the current situation, perhaps it was inevitable. I’m hoping Bookshop.org will help.

  2. Hi Dan, great to see you flag up the Audible situation – something I intend to take to the SoA as soon as I am officially on the committee. The more organisations who can object to such iniquitous behaviour the better. Susan May’s article on it is shocking.

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