A Challenge

Consider this an open letter to the top earning authors out there.

Dear Very Rich Authors,

Last week I had an interview back in the village I grew up in. I’d been back a few times since I left, mostly around the holidays and so, I hadn’t really taken much notice of the shops. Going back last week though, I walked along the rows of shops and past the local bookshop, only to find that it had closed down.

That’s the place I first bought a book from with my own money. Even the first place I ever bought a comic book. And it no longer exists.

People put the blame on a lot of things. Supermarkets selling cheap books, Waterstones with offers and a good selection, Amazon slashing prices and probably not paying tax. But you know what people aren’t doing? Providing solutions.

So there’s things like Books are My Bag. But really what is the point in it? A fancy tote bag? A kind of cool in a nerdy way slogan? But it’s not driving new people into bookstores, and it’s not getting people who don’t already go to indie shops, to go there. It’s a redundant exercise.

But you know what? You guys, you top earners you, could save them. Let’s face it, you earn enough money from us lot buying your books (even at £3.99 from Sainsbury’s) that perhaps you could give something back. James Patterson does.

So here’s what I propose:

The top earning authors should each purchase a bookshop and hand it over to a willing team of people in whichever town or city they do it in.

The bookstore will have the author’s name prominently displayed on the top (JK Rowling’s Books) and this should feature heavily in the marketing.

There are caveats that I’m sure I haven’t considered, I’m not particularly business minded. But I do know, the kind of pull that celebrity names have. Shops and restaurants owned by big names always do well, people buy into names and brands, and will likely pay more (or equal) to shop there.

If it pays off, there’ll be a whole new group of independent, author led bookstores. It’s already being done in comics, with Mark Waid recently opening up a comic book shop.

I’d be very interested to hear what you think about the idea. Let me know in the comments!

10 thoughts on “A Challenge

  1. This is an excellent idea. And I’m not saying this just because I used to work in that very same bookshop. I’ve seen far too many independent bookshops fall victims, as this one did, to crippling overheads and impossibly fierce competition.

  2. What a splendid idea!!
    If I were a top earner, I’d do it like a shot. Alas, I am not so I shall do my best to support the bookshops I frequent (and they’re generally the smaller independent ones like the excellent Book Hive in Norwich where I seldom emerge without a substantial sum of money leaving my hands)

  3. Yes! I’d love to see this in the US as well. And honestly, I think it’s probably in authors’ interests, because the shops that are able to survive in my neck of the woods are the ones selling secondhand books, and those don’t bring in many royalties!

  4. A Top Earner in the US has done exactly that in the Miami area. That I can’t recall the author or find it with a quick online search strongly suggests that MORE authors need to do this. Great idea.

  5. Oh I so wish!!! What a great idea tho Rowling does give a lot to Gingerbread and childrens’ charities. The ones I’d like to see clobbered are the ”celeb” writers who get 6 figure advances for not-really writing a book..or getting a ghost writer to write them….let them pay…..

  6. I hate this idea. Booksellers are passionate about books and their writers. They order in books to sell, but they also love pushing authors they like. The thought of a shop being named after Helen Fielding or David Walliams is horrible. Sponsorship takes away the feel of independence and specialism which, ultimately, will be the thing that secures the long-term future of bookshops. The bookshops catering to the mass market are the ones that are struggling. It’s one thing selling a window or a promotion into a shop. It’s another thing to change your branding.

    It reminds me of the time the briliant Dog & Partridge pub in Didsbury changed its name to the Beautiful South as an album promotion for that band. To quote a well-known book: “The horror! The horror!

    • Thanks for reading it, I was hoping a bookseller would reply too. I know what you mean, and actually I hadn’t even thought of it being sponsorship, although clearly it would be.

      I still think it could work and would be interesting to see. There are plenty of comic shops owned by creators which are frequented by lots of people, retain an independent atmosphere and are not biased. Perhaps it is something which works for comic shops, which tend to all cater to the same market and don’t need to specialise (I suppose by their very nature they are already specialists).

      • Yeah, they are specialist, so you could probably get away with it. You’d still want your own brand, though. Good bookshops last way longer than authors’ reputations and, dare I say it, lives…

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