What do I know about independent bookshops? How often do I purchase from them? Very little, I'm afraid. But I intend to put that right. They need our support. I WILL support them.
So what's brought this on? Well, I visited one a few weeks ago. I didn't even know that the Saltaire Bookshop existed until I came across their website while browsing the internet for possible future venues to give a talk/reading. I found they hold regular events, with local authors as guest speakers. My book, The Dark Threads, doesn't come out until February, but I thought it best to start sussing out possible venues early.
So in I went to look around and chat up the owners. The place had a 'good feel' to it. The couple who run it are lovely; really helpful and friendly. I chatted, browsed the bookshelves, chatted some more, had a cup of coffee... and I said nothing about my book. We talked about how a lot of readers buy from Amazon and the big-chain bookstores, and never come into an independent bookshop. Yes, what a shame, I agreed. And, I was told, sometimes they get authors coming in who are only interested in what can be done for them: authors who want to publicise and sell their books there but never support independent bookshops themselves. Oh, that's wrong, I agreed, shaking my head sadly.
I must point out in my defence that by this stage I was NOT being two-faced. By then it had occurred to me how hard indie bookshop owners work to keep afloat in these days of 'big is beautiful'. It strikes me that the passion, friendliness and personal service of the small independent bookshops cannot be matched by glitzy three-for-two deals. I'm not pretending that I'll never again buy anything from big commercial chains. And yes, to be honest, I'm still hoping my book will be sold at Waterstones, Borders, and on Amazon. But I will also buy from local independents. I don't want them to go out of business. They provide an excellent service.
Ian and I are now regular customers of the Saltaire Bookshop. We've started going to their events - and very good they are too. And, yes, they do want me to give a talk there when my book comes out. Maybe that will be my easiest talk of all because by then it'll be just like home from home.