Article published on July 28, 2016.
Peter Snell from Barton’s Bookshop in Leatherhead, Surrey is a member of our Love Your Indie loyalty card scheme and was willing to let light in on magic!
I hope to be able to let you into some of the secrets behind independent bookshops over the next few issues of nb magazine. Only a very little of what I tell you can be applied to other Indies. That is the whole point; we are independent and all do things our own way. For the full story behind Barton’s Bookshop and our history do have a look at our website and gain a greater appreciation of our ethos.
I still read voraciously but have almost entirely surrendered my choice in books to others. We can’t compete with supermarkets and big chains who have best sellers on offer at less than it costs me to buy them in. I see it as my role to find the new and different and to seek out authors who are not yet well known but deserve to be. [Ed: Sounds like a philosophy we share!] My to be read pile, therefore, is largely pre-pubs, proof and review copies of new titles and books submitted to me by indie and self-published authors and small independent presses.
This is where innovation lies in the book world today. I read 20 books a month and evaluate three new manuscripts each month for a small publisher. I like to champion new voices but dare not offer an author a signing session until I have read their book. I have built up my reputation with my customers and they accept that if a book has my seal of approval then it must be good. It might not be to their taste or in a style they enjoy, but a large part of the art of bookselling lies in matching titles and readers. I believe that we do a pretty good job of that.
I am currently busy working on author events and signings for the last quarter of the year. However, I would just like to single out three books for your attention and, I would suggest, great ideas for Christmas presents. To begin, two adult titles: The Last Fiesta by Andy Rumbold – a great homage to Hemingway in which a group of young people with unfinished business between them meet in the mountains in Spain and then take part in the bull run in Pamplona – and The Silent Children by Amna K Boheim – Max has been estranged from his mother for many years but after her death as he starts to unravel some buried family history the past comes back to haunt him in a very real way.
The children’s title is A Library of Lemons by Jo Cotterill. No plot spoilers but I loved this tale even though it made me cry twice. Here is a quote from the back matter. “Since her mother died Calypso’s dad has grown distant, and keeps to himself. But when she uncovers the sad secret hidden in her father’s library, she realises that something is very wrong.”
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