When launching ALLi’s new #Authors4Bookstores campaign during IndieReCon, English historical novelist Piers Alexander captivated the audience with his nostalgic explanation about why he was so determined to launch his debut novel in print and sell it via bricks-and-mortar bookshops. Here’s an extract from his launch speech.
I grew up in Luxembourg, and the best bit of visiting England as a kid was coming to bookshops with a sweaty pawful of pocket money. Sometimes even being allowed to sit in a dark corner on the third floor and read about history. Not much has changed, I can tell you…
After leaving university, a friend of mine went into bookselling and was soon fulminating about the demise of the Net Book Agreement. At the time, I couldn’t see the fuss about books getting cheaper. Now, as someone who has a fairly literary adventure jostling for shelf space with celebrity biographies and ghostwritten recipe books, I can tell you that I am VERY angry about it.
Booksellers are nice, thoughtful, helpful people, and their lives have become a lot more difficult in the age of the Internet and book discounting. Even so, I frequently find them going out of their way to place books that they personally like, that they think their customers will like, rather than just going with the obvious bestsellers. [I promise not to complain about this when I have written an obvious bestseller.]
How My Love of Bookshops Affects My Self-publishing
Anyway, when I decided to publish The Bitter Trade independently, I was very keen to get good reach through bookshops. The thing is, I like proper books. I like holding them, infusing them with my own peculiar musk, and then passing them on to unsuspecting friends. And in an age when millions of writers are desperately trying to game the Amazon system, when quite ruthless email marketing companies drive everyone towards 99 cent ebook promotions, I love the fact that people pay good money for good books and find them in good bookshops.
So I decided to print them in the old-fashioned way, which is a bit of a commitment. Going from 100 to 500 paperbacks halves the cost of production. Going to 2000 plus halves it again – and you can’t do that on Createspace. That means it’s an all-or-nothing thing. I’m pleased to say that I broke even within seven months… until we print the next batch. Which is bigger! Ladies and gentlemen, don’t try this at home. Stock control is a NIGHTMARE.
And here’s what happened: I’ve sold copies to I think about 10% of the UK’s high street bookshops and libraries through the lovely people at Gardners, one of the UK’s leading distributors. That’s very cool.
Even cooler is that the fiction buyer for WHSmith – who just loves historical novels – agreed to take a consignment for all their airport shops, and the book has been in the charts since October.How a love of bookshops affected my indie author ambitions by @TheBitterTrade #Authors4Bookstores Click To Tweet
OVER TO YOU
Did you love bookshops when you were a child? Have they influenced your attitude to the way you self-publish your books? We’d love to know.
We’re currently compiling an anthology of nostalgic pieces by authors reminiscing about bookshops they loved when they were young. More information about this anthology, along with instructions as to how to submit your piece, will be announced shortly.