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Why I Love Bookshops (#Authors4Bookstores)

Why I Love Bookshops (#Authors4Bookstores)

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.

Photo of a Piers Alexander as a small boy

Piers Alexander in his pocket-money book-buying days (far right)

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.

3D image of The Bitter Trade book cover

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


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. 


Author: Piers Alexander

Piers Alexander is the author of The Bitter Trade, a historical novel set during England’s Glorious Revolution of 1688. It has won the Pen Factor and a Global Ebook Award for modern historical fiction, and has been a top 5 European historical fiction bestseller on Amazon.com. The Bitter Trade is currently in the WHS Airport Charts and will be sold across the WHS Travel network in March. www.piersalexander.com


This Post Has 9 Comments
  1. Ever since I was a child. Walking into a place to find myself surrounded by books has always been magical. I’m grateful for the opportunities offered by e-books to me as a writer, not to mention I can store more of them on Kindle than I ever could on my shelves. There’s still nothing quite like looking up at all those shelves, the tingle of excitement which I spot a particularly intriguing title or pattern on a book’s spine. I’m enchanted every time.

  2. One of my goals as a writer was to have my novel be on the shelf at Borders. I never expected Borders to go out of business before my novel was finished. (sad smile)

  3. […] First, a new practical handbook: How to Sell Your Books Through Bookstores. This will very much expand on Chapter 4 in Opening Up to Indie Authors, which gave a quick summary of how to build a better relationship with local booksellers. It will include practical tools to help you do that. such as templates for book information sheets, feedback from a wide range of bookshops, and shared experiences of ALLi author members. It will also include some inspiring anecdotes from leading indie authors around the world, including Piers Alexander, who at the launch of #Authors4Bookstores spoke so evocatively of his own childhood enjoyment of bookshops. […]

  4. GAH!!! I feel slighted. I want the rest of the talk and cannot find it online. I was completely drawn in, and suddenly the door slammed shut! 😉

  5. What an optimistic and refreshing post! Thanks Piers and ALLi. I loved bookshops when I was little. My Granny was the one who would take me and she would buy me books as an occasional treat. I still love them – the independents, the chains, the ones with coffee shops, galleries or gift shops attached – love them all. And although I do read in both ebook and paper format, I still prefer a proper paper book. I publish in both formats and I ask bookshops to stock my books.

    Long live the real books and long live the book shops.

    And viva ALLI and Piers.

    Here’s to the #Authors4Bookstores push.

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