Independent Book Shop Week 2023

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Our first independent bookshop week was an interesting and rewarding experience. 

The industry support was quite startling, given my only real comparison is Record Store Day. For that, record shops already operating on very thin margins have to pay to be part of the event. That gets them access to a massive list of overpriced records, mostly reissues of existing work in a different sleeve or different colour vinyl. They then have to buy them, paying upfront, and have no option to return them. No wonder chops are starting to do their own thing. 

My experience for IBW was a whole load of support, in the form of graphics to share, bunting for the shop, POS items, the Indie Book Awards, which created an additional buzz as well as providing 20 great books to showcase. Publishers created special offers. We were sent £5 to give out, for free, to customers. There was a sense of not just celebration, but unity in the sector too. 

Although we’d only just opened, I felt a need to ‘get involved’ and managed to organise three events. I’d spent years running music events, but this was still a little disconcerting. The same old questions; would anyone turn up and would the venue work?

At least I could control the second part to some extent. I made the events free to attend as there were no real costs for me, and I wanted to get folk in the shop and get a different vibe going there. Though I did get some wine and beer in for good measure, we were celebrating IBW afterall. 

We ran our first storytime sessions on a Saturday morning and afternoon. They weren’t hugely attended; I think events like this need regularity. But the space did work and I’m always happy to have more young people in the shop, making a bit of noise. 

Douglas Jackson joined us for our first author event. Born in Jeburgh, he became a journalist, writing locally and then leaving Jedburgh to pursue his career, which ultimately took him into writing Historical Fiction. I enjoyed hosting and interviewing him. I’m always interested to hear how and why people write and the connections from his early life in Jedburgh to what he came to write were clear and interesting. 

It was pleasing to see the space worked too; a cosy atmosphere with the audience up close and no need for microphones. It was also nice to sell a few books too!

Our final event was with Mary W Craig. Her book Borders Witch Hunt has been a good seller for us and she was kind enough to travel down from Stow. I couldn’t attend this as Jayne was so keen to hear her speak, she ran the evening with questions posted by James P Spence. I loved hearing (albeit secondhand!) about her insights and deep knowledge of her subject. 

Both evenings sold out and I now know we can fit 30 people in the shop for events. I’m not sure that IBW really drew in any extra customers, beyond those events. I think we are still in our honeymoon period of people coming to support the shop regardless. But it certainly raised our profile and I learnt a lot during it too. The whole experience made me feel really positive about the world of books.

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