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Where Am I Going to Sell Books?


Where Am I Going to Sell Books?

Things I’ve learnt this week: Taking on a commercial lease is no mean feat, and not one for the faint of heart, or indeed those over-excited at the idea of becoming a bookseller (that’ll be me then). Perhaps it had been a good thing that the first To Let sign that had sparked my imagination to open a bookstore was already under offer.

And yet I was determined not to let the minor detail of not having shop premises put me off having a shop. I just had to think of other options.

My plan for the store when it does open, is to make it a backdrop for a community arts hub, a place where visiting authors can come and give talks and host workshops, where I can run writing courses, where I can hang the art I love on the walls and beg the artists to come and run classes for kids. And so it seemed sensible that I must first engage the local community, get to know them, find out what they want, and most importantly get them to believe in me and what I hoped to give back to them.

And I wasn’t going to be able to achieve that online. Yes, an online bookshop would be part of my plan, it means I can sell to anyone and everyone who wants to support a girl with a dream, but if I want a bricks and mortar shop, I need to meet the people that I hope will be shopping in it.

But how was I going to do that?

Remember also, we writers are such insular creatures, we’re far more comfortable hiding away at home, peeping our heads above the parapet to write a tweet or two and then scurry back to the comfort of our shells and heated throws. We enjoy our hermitic existence, we actively seek it. So I also have to be sure I am happy and able to meet and greet customers each day.

There seemed to me only one way to find out.

My first thought was a market stall. Here in Tunbridge Wells, where I live, we have a regular (and rather posh) market down on the Pantiles, so I emailed the organisers to ask whether they would consider giving me a spot too. But weeks have gone by and I still haven’t received a reply.

The next thought was the local council, perhaps I could get a licence to trade on the street from my market stall. It would be a great way of meeting shoppers, and yet… and yet, I couldn’t shake the thought out of my mind of these winter months to follow, my frozen fingertips blue as I inputted a sale on my card machine, the rain lashing at the canvas sides of my stall, soaking my books (and me) to the core, and my lack of central heating failing to warm me (and them) each night.

The council were very approachable, I dropped them an email and they pointed me in the direction of the licencing required for street trading. It would cost £70 for the licence and £28 a day for a spot right in the middle of town, which seemed very reasonable indeed and yet…those images in my mind, my chattering teeth, frostbite even. Was it the right time of year to be outside selling books? I wasn’t convinced.

Enter fate. A few days later, I was in my local bakery having a cup of coffee with friends when I told Alex, the baker, that I’d had my eye on the little shop that had been for let. Alex thought for a moment, and then mentioned another shop in that row that would be perfect for a pop-up, not only that, but the shop’s current keeper was looking for someone to share her space for a couple of months.

This couldn’t be more perfect. It meant that me and my books would have shelter, in the exact spot where I wanted to be to meet the community I would like my little shop to serve. Not only that, but I would be doing it at the best time of year – the Christmas shopping season.

Alex put me in touch with the shopkeeper and within a couple of days we had spoken and made a plan. It was meant to be.

And so, just like that, I have shop premises, albeit for now a pop-up, but watch this space. I will reveal more about the location very soon. Now, I just need stock…

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