Independent Bookshop Week is in its ninth year, and shows no signs of slowing down. Support for independent bookshops is as strong as ever, with high-profile bookshop devotees such as James Patterson putting their money where their mouth is and donating to independent bookshops across the UK and Ireland.
With fierce competition from large chains such as Waterstones and the ever-present Amazon, independent bookshops are facing a challenge in standing out from the crowd and enticing readers through their doors. Here, we look at some of London’s best independent bookshops, and what useful bookselling lessons can be learnt from them.
London’s Best Independent Bookshops
Having gone from strength to strength in recent years, and now operating across six locations in London, Daunt Books brought their highly successful two-day Daunt Books Festival back for 2015, featuring appearances from authors such as Michael Rosen, Antonia Fraser and Michael Palin. The event was another sell-out success, and demonstrates the power of personal appearances and engaging talks to draw readers into independent bookshops.
Eagle-eyed Southbank regulars may have noticed that the colourful deckchairs outside Foyles have popped up again. Each summer, the Royal Festival Hall branch of Foyles creates a little patch of paradise outside the store, with deckchairs set out on a temporary lawn for readers to relax and read in the sunshine. A great way to entice readers to buy a book to enjoy on their lunch break, and a welcome sight in the rare British heatwaves!
Tales on Moon Lane
The enchanting children’s bookshop Tales on Moon Lane runs regular events such as signings and readings with children’s and YA authors. They undoubtedly tempt many of their readers inside with their beautiful and intricate windows displays, themed around popular bestsellers, author appearances or national holidays. Their gorgeous Guess How Much I Love You window, seen above, was installed for Valentine’s Day!
The winner of the Best Independent Bookshop at the Bookseller Industry Awards in 2014, Dulwich Books runs regular events with highly acclaimed authors. Run by experienced booksellers with a keen eye for the next big thing, Dulwich often hosts future award-winners long before they’re recognised elsewhere. In celebration of Independent Bookshop Week, Dulwich recently hosted Costa Award winning author Edmund de Waal (above) to discuss his celebrated novel The Hare With Amber Eyes.
Slightly Foxed Books
After book magazine Slightly Foxed took over the second-hand Gloucester Road Bookshop in 2009 and turned it into Slightly Foxed Books, they began expanding their readership by stocking a carefully curated selection of new books, including children’s and YA, and book memorabilia alongside their second-hand stock. In addition, they began to run regular events, and like Dulwich have been celebrating Independent Bookshop Week as well. They recently hosted a Summer Tea Party, offering their readers 10% off all books in store alongside a ready supply of tea and cakes!
Getting readers into independent bookshops is key to their survival, and all successful independent bookshops – like those seen here – understand the importance of running special events to entice readers through their doors. Independent bookstores are a hugely valuable resource for readers all over the country; with expert booksellers and an irreplaceable sense of community, they provide readers with expertise and recommendations they won’t find anywhere else. The Alliance of Independent Authors recently began a campaign to ignite support for independent bookshops from authors and readers alike. The Authors4Bookstores campaign aims to not only help physical bookstores survive, but to strengthen relationships between self-published authors and bookshops. Follow the progress of the campaign on their blog and on Twitter.
It’s not just here in the UK that indies are gathering steam. Against the odds, independent bookshops in America have flourished in recent years, growing 27% between 2009 and 2014. We firmly believe that with fantastic bookshops like the ones mentioned here, and loyal readers continuing to show their support, independent bookshops in the UK can follow America’s example and keep getting bigger and better than ever.
If you would like to give your lovely local independent bookshop a mention, please do so in the comments below.