This Blog Post was something i had pictured in my head ever since the UK entered lockdown. The book community is a community that I love and feel honoured to be a part of. We consist of book bloggers, authors, press officers, publishers, book promotors, blog tour organisers and Independent book stores.
In order to come out of this strange situation relatively unscathed then its a simple matter of sticking together and supporting one another. Authors have been hit with promotional events being cancelled, publication dates being put back and their anxiety is obvious. I have done my little bit by supporting Indie Bookstores, reviewing more indie books and participating in more book tours.
I took this opportunity to hear from someone else in this situation. I had the exciting chance to interview several people in the book world. Below is an interview with Katie, Co-Owner of Storytellers Inc – Independent book store.
Hi, Please introduce yourself and talk a little about your business whether that be as an Indie Publisher or Indie bookstore. What was your vision surrounding it and what was the pivotal moment you felt that you made it?
Hi Yvonne, I’m Katie and I run independent bookshop Storytellers, Inc., with my mum in St. Annes on Sea, a seaside town in Lancashire. We opened as a children’s’ specialist bookshop in December 2010, and then in 2015 we decided to expand into adult books too. Now we’re a general bookseller with active monthly book clubs.
The current Coronavirus is affecting everyone – both personal and professional. What measures have you had to put in place to ensure your business remains trading and most importantly makes it out the other side?
The staff is just me and my mum, and we’re isolating at our own homes so we haven’t been in the bookshop together for months now. The physical shop is closed for the duration, and we won’t be open for the public for a while yet. For now, we’re just taking orders through our social media. Our local customers tend to use Facebook and email or text, but people have been ordering books with me through Twitter from all over the country. This has been a really unexpected bonus for us. We didn’t ever really consider selling books online, but chatting through Twitter is just like having a conversation in the bookshop; we can make suggestions and recommendations and help readers get hold of the books they want, all from the safety of our respective homes!
Have you noticed a dramatic increase or decrease in sales, operations or is this an opportunity for more people to read more?
We are really of the mind that any sales during this time is a bonus. We didn’t expect to be able to continue trading and the way our wholesaler has adapted to make this possible for us has absolutely blown us away. Of course, sales are down overall but we’re absolutely thrilled by every order we take. It’s so nice that people want to support us and help us through this time and it’s a joy to be able to give people the same customer service they’d get in the shop. I think people are perhaps buying more books generally than they would at the moment; it’s a relatively inexpensive treat to yourself and much more likely to be immediately useful than say, a new outfit. People are sending books as gifts to friends to cheer them up or to celebrate occasions that they can’t celebrate in person. I’m regularly asked for suggestions for books to send to loved ones, and it’s my favourite thing to hear when they’ve gone down well. Some people also want surprises sending to themselves, which is my favourite type of order! I’ve requested one of those myself from another indie bookshop. Booksellers can always make amazing suggestions based on your tastes and it’s a great way to discover new authors.
Have you noticed a different trend emerging from book buying habits?
Not especially trends, but we’ve sold plenty of new releases recently via Twitter, which is a bit unusual for us. In our shop, most people are coming to buy from what’s available, rather than requesting something specific. We can’t price match for new releases and they’re so often hugely discounted through other retailers we sometimes struggle to move even a few copies of titles that are huge bestsellers elsewhere. The playing field has been (a tiny bit) levelled with Amazon not prioritising books. People aren’t looking for the cheapest deal, they just want the best books, so that’s given us a chance to get in on the action. I’ve done loads of pre-orders for upcoming titles because people want something nice to look forward to.
Do you think that the pandemic will irrevocably change traditional book promotion, will there be a move forward that focusses more on online tools rather than actual book signings and tours?
We absolutely need to learn from these experiences and I know lots of businesses will change as a result. But I also think there’s a sense that people want life to return to normal, and maybe that means forgetting any of this ever happened. So how that ultimately all balances out, I don’t really know.
For us, I would love to imagine we could continue making sales over our social media when our physical shop re-opens. Maybe customers who have enjoyed the service during this time will come back to us, but it can’t really be expected. The onus isn’t really on the customer anyway, it’s on me now to remember that book buyers are out there and some people want to support independent booksellers even when they can’t come to the physical shops. It’s up to me to keep shouting about books and reminding people they can buy them from me if they want to. It’s been a bit of an eye-opener that significant sales can be made online. I do think publishers are going to respond to that, but of course, the hunger for live events will be even greater when they’re considered safe again!
Check out Katie and her bookstore on their social channels –