Tag Archives: Hive

Buying Books or In praise of the Independent Bookshop

Reading books, the whole blog is about books. Organising books, I’ve blogged about that too. And about decluttering books. And about publishing our own book. But I haven’t yet blogged about buying books. So here goes.

Second Hand Bookshops

166 Mr WestonI love exploring these. I get tempted by the old orange penguin books (which must be why I have got two copies of Mr Weston’s Good Wine by TF Powys. Some people would argue that you can’t have too many copies of Mr Weston’s Good Wine. And indeed it is a very intriguing and original book.) I love picking up copies of books I should have read but have passed me by, or even books that I read from the library and now want my own copy.

I like the idea that other people have read them, although I recently came across a reference to baking books from Boots Circulating Library in the oven to remove ‘other people’s germs’. And sometimes I find bookmarks between the pages, or pencil notes in the margins indicating someone else’s interest.

Occasionally I buy second hand books on-line, but this is not as enjoyable as browsing through the shelves of the local Oxfam shop. The chief attraction of second hand books is the serendipity, finding that book. I found several novels by Elizabeth Bowen in this way, and my copy of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock was (to coin a quite dreadful phrase) pre-read. It also means I sometimes obtain a copy of a book I think I really should have, only to get it home and find I went through the same process about 3 months previously. There is the second copy already on the shelves!

I make contributions to these second hand bookstores as well. It’s part of helping books go round.

Bookshops

166 Perseph bppkshop intHow bookshops have changed. For a start there are fewer of them (fewer than 1000 independent shops in the UK). So it is a rare treat now to come across an independent book shop, reflecting the individuality of the owner. Perhaps a cat lives among the shelves, or a dog guards the till. There may be a jug of flowers on the table. A chair invites you to linger, perhaps by an open fire. A local author has signed five copies of his book and they are waiting to be bought, by the till. There are maps and local walks, railway histories, an intriguing selection of fiction and that category called gift books.

The second thing that’s changed is the pricing. Who pays full price for books these days? It seems that books are marketed like pork pies or crumpets, as if one book is the same as any other. The principal idea is BOGOFF (Buy one and get one for free). And you can buy them in supermarkets along with your pork pies and crumpets. Chain bookshops blast you with offers, or the apparent attraction of being newly published, or that they are recommended by the staff. This last I do find interesting, although rarely decisive.

And then, of course, there is Amazon. Loved that they made it possible to buy any book, and quickly. Hate that Amazon is taking over the world. I don’t believe that Amazon acts in the best interests of authors, publishers or readers.

When I buy on-line I go first to Hive, still discounted, still free postage and in some mysterious way, supporting local independent bookshops.

But my ideal book buying experience is without stress. The shop feels domestic, cosy but full of possibilities. The shelves are interesting, inviting, categories easy to find, and the staff knowledgeable and opinionated. It is an independent bookshop.

In 2014 Dulwich Books was awarded the title Independent Bookshop of the year in the Bookseller Awards, Children’s Bookseller of the Year was The Edinburgh Bookshop.

Persephone Book Shop, Lambs Conduit Street, London

Persephone Books window

Persephone Books window

Last week I visited a bookshop that I love. Persephone Books sell their own books, those lovely dovegrey volumes by (mainly) women, books that need publishing. Books such as these, reviewed on this blog:

They are objects of aesthetic pleasure, chosen with great good taste. And they offer 3 for £30, or £12 each. This week I bought

  • The Happy Tree by Rosalind Murray
  • A Writer’s Diary: being extracts from the diary of Virginia Woolf
  • No Surrender by Constance Maud

166 Perseph bkshelvesThe pleasure of buying new books is enhanced by the domestic feel of the interior, the wooden furniture, cushions and fabric for sale (echoing Persephone’s trademark end papers and bookmarks, chosen from fabric designs contemporaneous with the contents of the book).

On the day I am there, as on previous occasions, office activities (such as receiving orders, enquiries about the Persephone Biennial Catalogue, payment issues) go on in the back of the shop.

Visiting Persephone Books reminds me of the importance of independent publishers, of the pleasures of buying books in nice shops and that I am not alone in wanting to go on visiting bookshops. (You can order their books online through the website as well as signing up for the daily Persephone Post, a visual treat).

Visiting Persephone Books reminds me that I am part of a community of readers.

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Filed under Books, Older women in fiction, Publishing our book, Reading, Reviews, Virginia Woolf

Holding Our Nerve and Finding a Publisher

It’s hard to remember – now that publication is upon us – how long it took to find a publisher for our book about retirement: Retiring with Attitude. It was frustrating, emotional and hard work. One of the blessings of writing collaboratively is that when one of us is ready to give up the other stays optimistic and we both go on having ideas about who to approach next.

photo by Robert Taylor

photo by Robert Taylor

Our first contact with a publisher was informal, asking for advice. She was very encouraging, even considered the book for publication, but decided it didn’t quite fit her list.

Another publisher advised us to find an agent. Using personal connections and the listings in the Writers and Artists Yearbook, we began to send out our proposal and chapter examples. BUT agents either did not reply – so rude – or said they didn’t want to represent us although they said it was a good book and worth pursuing. Then one told us, ‘you have a strong proposal for this book and you are published writers. I advise you to approach publishers directly. ‘ So we did.

The publishers were not as enthusiastic as we were. One problem was that there are plenty of books about retiring already on the market. Some publishers who had these in their lists did not want to publish a book that they saw as competition. They could not see how different our book was from the rest. And other publishers told us they didn’t take that sort of book. ‘Not for us,’ they said.

One publisher suggested a tie-in with a national newspaper. So our final idea for a publisher was the Guardian. If this approach failed, we decided, we would rethink our strategy. In anticipation we attended workshops on e-publishing and self-publishing. However, we did not need to go down this route. We heard from an editor at GuardianBooks:

I’m really interested to see more, as it looks like a really strong idea. It’s great to see an intelligent book about retirement; it would resonate really well with our readership.

Would you be able to send me some sample chapters? 

We did and although it was not all plain sailing after that, it was the start of the publication story. (More about the later stages in a subsequent blogpost.)

During the long period – two years – when we had to hold our nerve, believe in our project, write the chapters and keep on sending out the proposals, these were the things that helped us:

  • That initial favourable response from a publisher,
  • The advice from the agent to go direct to publishers,
  • Our belief in the book,
  • Our experience as published writers,
  • Our mutual support, courage and humour,
  • The response of people in our circle with whom we discussed ideas,
  • Encouraging responses from publishers even when they declined the book,
  • Redrafting the proposal for each submission in the light of comments received,
  • Publishing articles in niche magazines on the way,
  • Feedback and encouragement from our reader, Marianne,
  • Having an alternative strategy for publication in case we needed it, and
  • Repeating our Mantra: Hold Your Nerve! (Caroline had been to an Arvon fiction course, and this had been the advice from the agent to the aspiring writers who attended. He had reminded us that the publishing business needs our books!)

That agent was right. We needed to hold our nerve. On the eve of publication of this book, we are beginning again with another book. We’ll have to say Hold Your Nerve! again to ourselves. Marianne, our reader, has joined us as a co-author, by the way. It’s great!

101 RWA cover

You can pre-order Retiring with Attitude at the Guardian Bookshop or at Hive and other on-line stores. It will be available from bookshops from 24th July.

Caroline Lodge and Eileen Carnell

Do you have advice for writers seeking a publisher for their book? Or useful experience to share?

 

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Filed under Publishing our book, Writing

Ways with Words

Ways with Words is a ten-day ‘Festival of Words and Ideas’; the setting, a beautiful estate in Devon, Dartington Hall. 108 Courtyard

And on Monday 7th July all these are on the programme:

  • Noah and the flood
  • Rod Liddle
  • HRH Princess Michael of Kent
  • Angela Neustatter
  • Jill Dawson
  • The Wordsworths
  • Bloomsbury Group foodies
  • Dylan Thomas
  • And us, Eileen and me … promoting our about-to-be-published book.

It’s the first public outing of our book Retiring with Attitude: approaching and relishing your retirement, published by the GuardianBooks on 24th July. A public outing and also an opportunity to promote it.

101 RWA coverWe are in the Great Hall at 7.30 for a session with Angela Neustatter who has recently published The Year I Turn … a quirky a-z of ageing. We have been put together in a session called Growing Older.

Growing older is just that – a time to grow. It is possible to become more active, read that novel, learn to dance and mainly to keep changing. (from the programme)

I am very familiar with being in the audience at Dartington. I have been to previous Ways with Words Festivals and sung in the choir of the Summer School, as well as attending concerts there throughout the year. The Great Hall is a beautiful setting, especially on a summer evening when the windows are open. Inside the high ceiling, the baronial banners, the huge fireplace, the wooden floors and stone walls make an imposing setting for any performance.

108 Great HallI used the Great Hall in an unfinished short story, as the setting for a renown author’s reading and Q&A. He has been asked about a book he referred to, which no one in the audience knew of. It’s the moment before the denouement of the story.

The lecture room was quite still. Sounds from the outside drifted in through the open widows, calls of young people playing with a Frisbee on the grass quadrangle, a bird singing in the creeper under the window, footsteps on the flagstones, greetings, a distant dog. A breeze brought a hint of newly mown hay from the fields beyond. A member of the audience coughed.

I am a little in awe of the setting as well as the company. But I’m confident that we have something to say. I have been working out my contribution today. You could join us and see how we do.

You can pre-order our book from Hive here, or from other on-line book sellers. Or buy a copy at the Ways with Words Bookshop.

 

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Filed under Books, Publishing our book