Snowball

A few years back I had an idea that seemed as though it could be quite nice, a small personal project that I can do in my down time from work, something that may be fun and give me something to do on the darker evenings.

I’ve always had a pile of little projects floating around the Internet when something takes my interest, Tumblrs, Flickrs, WordPress and Blogger blogs, and lots of other little bitty info dumps. Lists, galleries, maps, all the techy things that took my interest at the time.

I also had what felt like a good domain and twitter account hanging around from what was going to be a collaborative project with others which just fizzled into nothing and the domain was at the stage of keep or let it go back into the ether.

Why not list and make a map of as many bookshops in the UK as you can and visit as many as you can?

Even though that is still at the core of everything I do it quickly got out of hand, and I mean really quickly.

One of my earliest twitter posts was seen and boosted by the wonderful Michael Rosen and suddenly I had several hundred people suggesting their favourite indie bookshop, and the rest as they say is history.

Some of the most recent stats from the project are these:

  • averaging 800 hits a day on the blog
  • averaging 300 clicks out to bookshops a day
  • over 12000 followers on twitter
  • tweets got over 1.5 million impressions in the last 28 days
  • average of 2% tweet interaction (seemingly that’s good?)
  • seven Patreons!

Overall the project feels successful and popular and is building more and more momentum daily, there was some project creep when those pesky independent publishers joined the party but it’s ok as most of them seem quite nice.

There is still so much more I want to do with the website, some plans for the future are:

  • restart and expand the Browse a Bookshop feature
  • restart and expand the Publisher Profile feature
  • visit as many bookshops and publishers as I can to take pictures and talk for:
  • a YouTube channel and podcast highlighting bookshops and publishers

What this project has also done has made me realise I needed to consolidate all my little bitty projects onto my personal blog Big Bearded Bookseller.

I love all the people I meet doing this and I’m having great fun, though at times it does feel like a lot of work it’s work that I’m still doing for me and if others get benefit from it that’s brilliant.


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Big Bearded Bookseller) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.

Cogito Books, Hexham

Today we have been blogging about Indie Bookshops for a year and it’s appropriate that the Browse a Bookshop feature is for a bookshop I’ve only visited three times but have loved every time I’ve been in, Cogito Books in Hexham is a short detour from my usual route up to Edinburgh and is always worth a visit.

5 St Mary’s Chare,
Hexham,
Northumberland,
NE46 1NQ
Tel: 01434 602555

Website: https://www.cogitobooks.com
Twitter: @CogitoBooks
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CogitoBooks/

How did you come up with the name of your bookshop?
As people step over the threshold, we often get asked about where the name of our bookshop comes from. The name ‘Cogito’ is taken from Rene Descartes’ ‘Cogito ergo sum: I think therefore I am’. His philosophy seems to fit well alongside our idea of creating an Independent Bookshop for Independent Minds; a place where people can linger, browse and discover our unique selection of books.

General background – history of the shop
Claire’s dad, Alan, opened the bookshop in May 2001 in a small upstairs premise in Hexham. A change of location swiftly followed, when the chain Ottakar’s suddenly moved into the town 18 months later. From our new space we have not looked back. Helped by both Claire and also his wife, Julia, Alan turned the shop into a real landmark in the local community – a place where people could be sure of finding a warm welcome and the right book for them. Author events became a regular treat, with literary lunches and crime suppers, and the shop also became the official bookseller for the Hexham Book Festival, a major event each year for the town. Since Alan retired in 2012, Claire runs the shop with help from a great team of booksellers Hilary, Mandy and Alice (and several others over the years!). It continues to be a focal point for the community, a place of discovery and bookish chat for all.

What makes your bookshop special?
We’re very proud of the welcoming ambience that we’ve created at the bookshop, our careful curation of books and the personal connection that we forge with our customers. The bookshop is a very friendly space where both adults and children can (and do!) browse for hours, join in storytelling, book groups and activities. We stock a whole range of contemporary and classic fiction as well as an eclectic range of non-fiction for all ages. Personal attention for each and every customer is very important to us. It’s a great feeling when you find just the right book for someone, and that’s what drives us! We developed the Cogito Reading Treat as an extension of this – a bespoke consultation in which we personally recommend six new books for the lucky recipient that will hopefully become some of their favourites (and yes, tea and biscuits are involved too!).

What’s the best thing about being a bookseller?
There are so many! For us, one of the biggest highlights is talking to customers about books – the bookshop is a place where some wonderful conversations are sparked around books and reading, and recommendations are shared. Being an independent bookshop gives us the freedom to stock a huge variety of titles, and we’re always on the lookout for new and interesting reads that we think our customers will enjoy. It’s certainly inspiring being surrounded by books all day, and we, as well as our customers, are continuously inspired to try new things.

What little-known book do you think is underrated?
The Priory by Dorothy Whipple is a wonderful read. It was recommended to me by my colleague Hilary and between us we have introduced many customers to Dorothy Whipple’s brilliant novels. It’s published by Persephone Books, who reissue neglected writing, mainly by women, from the last century – there are some real gems! Here’s Hilary’s review:

The novel ostensibly tells the story of the Marwoods – an ancient country family fallen on hard times and prey to delicious eccentricity – initially in a similar vein to Nancy Mitford’s ‘The Pursuit of Love’. However, Dorothy Whipple is able to take a much more dispassionate view of the behaviour of this and other social classes. She cleverly interweaves the lives of the family with an interesting array of characters from the ‘outside’ world, revealing the backdrop of social change as the characters motives for their actions are examined. Servants, lovers, self-made men and women all appear as brilliantly complex characters as their relationships with the Marwoods are described in the author’s beautifully clear lucid prose. Dorothy Whipple is particularly good at describing life’s small disappointments, humiliations and frustrations which we all experience and must all overcome using the whatever means are allowed to us. Above all, the gently subversive tone and dryly humorous style make this novel a complete joy to read.

Name three books on your TBR
I have several tottering piles beside my bed but the top three on the nearest pile are, Austen At Home by Lucy Worsley, Lowborn by Kerry Hudson, and Island Song by Madeleine Bunting.


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Big Bearded Bookseller) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.

The Stripey Badger, Grassington

This month’s featured bookshop is a lovely little bookshop in North Yorkshire, near Skipton. It also has a cafe attached which looks so comfortable and tasty. So if you’re ever near Harrogate or Skipton this would always be worth a visit.

7 The Square,
Grassington,
Skipton
BD23 5AQ
Tel: 01756 753583

Website: www.thestripeybadger.co.uk
Twitter: @stripeybadgers
Facebook: @thestripeybadger

In their own words…

How did you come up with the name of your bookshop?

Wind in the Willows is one of our best loved books from childhood, with a fondness for Mr Badger. Originally, the name did not go down too well with other partners, so a suggested ‘working title’ was agreed. And, of course, the name stuck. But honestly we could see the fun we could have with the logo, especially with a great artist friend who got caught up with the idea. We now have Stripey Badger mugs, notelets, cards and tote bags!

Who are you? Owns the bookshop? Bit of a bio and pics, please

The bookshop is owned by mother and son Linda and James and the next door cafe by sister Jackie. Mum Linda has always wanted to work in a bookshop, and when the family moved back home to the Yorkshire Dales from Keswick, we searched for a bookshop to work in. But there weren’t any. The only option was to open one and with James home from university, the dream became a reality. With Jackie’s background in catering, the obvious bookshop/cafe combination took off. one year ago in August 2018.

Do you stock a variety of genres or do you specialise?

We stock a variety of genres but delight in specialising in Science (James’ subject) and customers are getting to know about this and with our range; natural history and travel writing and childrens. All new.

What makes your bookshop special?

I would say that we do not stock thousands of books but that each one has been thought about and personally curated. A review we received this month sums us up “The bookshop is not overly stocked with titles but what it might lack in quantity it makes up with quality. It is exceptionally well-stocked.

What’s the hardest thing about being a bookseller?

The hardest thing about being a bookseller is keeping up with publishers and their imprints. Finding out who publishes which books, POS, offers, discounts etc is a full-time job in itself.

What’s the best thing about being a bookseller?

The best thing is books! Choosing stock and displaying and selling. Seeing someone else loving your choice. Discovering new authors and new books that you would not have thought of and letting your customers know about them.

What’s the most surprising thing about being a bookseller?

The most surprising thing is that we are now part of an amazing community ! Friendly, supportive, funny, fellow booksellers, associations, wholesale, publishers.

What are the goals for your bookshop?

Our goals are to run a Science Club, Book Club in 2020; have more author events, increase our stock a little, improve our window dressing skills!

Do you think owning a bookshop has changed your life? How?

Our lives have totally changed. We are now part of the village community, each on an event committee; we talk books constantly; read exciting books we would never have dreamt of.

What book do you wish would sell better?

We are surprised that popular fiction books are not bought as regularly as others and it has made us review the books that we buy.

What well-known book do you think is overrated?

Not as much overrated as bought elsewhere with discounts, we find the David Walliams books are talked about by younger customers – but there are amazing children’s books out now.

What little-known book do you think is underrated?

The Snow Child by Ewyn Ivey is the most wonderful book and one that I recommend all the time.

What is your preferred reading genre?

We used to read historical fiction/science but now we don’t have a preferred genre and take delight in reading out of genre and discussing with each other. I didn’t really rate crime fiction as my genre but have read some superb ones now. James was all science but now enjoying fiction such as Washington Black and Whiskey When We’re Dry.

Describe your store in three words.

Welcoming. An Adventure. Ever-changing.

What book is your greatest treasure? Why?

Linda a very old Pears Encyclopedia. James a Planetarium book.

What was your favourite childhood book? Why?

Linda: The Lion the witch & the wardrobe. James:Paddington

If you could invite any author for a book signing at your shop, who would you choose?

Michael Palin – for his Monty Python history; his intelligence and warmth and his writing.

Where do you think the biggest change in book publishing will come from?

Audio books will rise in popularity. We would like to see a reduction in hardbacks which don’t sell hardly at all in our shop, unless there is a promotion behind them.

How do you reach potential readers/customers?

We haven’t got a website yet but do use social media and send an e-newsletter.

How do you choose the books you stock?

We read reviews from the press/ Gardners’ catalogues/emails from publishers and reps. Then we discuss between ourselves.

Do you have a favourite publisher? Why?

We love them all! But always look at Nosy Crow and Bodlean.

What are you reading at the moment?

James: Consider Phlebas by Ian Banks. Linda: a proof copy of After The Flood.

What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from selling books?

It’s so much more than selling books! That’s almost the easy part!

What music, if any, do you play in your shop? Why?

We don’t have a licence to play music. So, none.

What is the best book-related gift you’ve ever received?

Narnia tea!

What is the weirdest thing a customer has ever asked for?

A customer who came in for a gift but said she didn’t want a book.

What do you get up to in a normal bookselling day?

Our building is 400 years old so the first thing we do is dust! Then we re-curate. James re-sorts when he is in the shop and I do the same . Which is strangely not annoying! It keeps us on our toes, refreshes the shop and brings different books into the limelight. It’s an aspect of the shop our customers enjoy – they say the bookshop always looks different each time they come in – which it does!

What is the nicest thing a customer has ever said to you?

“the village is a much nicer place to live in now that you are here”


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Big Bearded Bookseller) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.

Read Write Walk North East

LJ Ross

LJ Ross

I received a press release over the weekend and have been dying to share it with you all!

LJ Ross, yes that LJ Ross, has launched an initiative to support the North East through these difficult times and into the future. Celebrating and recognising the area as a culturally important region.

In this initiative there are going to be multiple programmes, all related to and based in the North East, and all sound absolutely brilliant. There’s a brief description of each below but for more information visit her website at ljrossauthor.com

Literary walking trails
Walks where you follow the footsteps of DCI Ryan. But with more, GPS linked to your smartphone. Hopefully you won’t find any grisly remains, but these will take you around the North East and help boost local communities.

Northern Photography Prize
Now, I’m actually going to be entering this, a prize for photographs celebrating the North East. Landscape and portrait categories, all again through LJ Ross’ Dark Skies Publishing arm.

Lindisfarne Prize for Crime Fiction
This has been going on for a couple of years and will continue, with submissions for 2021 open already.

Lindisfarne Children’s Prize
This is new for 2021 also, a prize and celebration of young writers in partnership with schools in the North East.

Lindisfarne Reading Challenge
An extension of the pilot of a reading scheme developed to help disadvantaged teens, encouraging them to read books that they want to read and supporting their choices.

Dark Skies Community Fund
This is a bit of a biggie, a fund to help North East small businesses to have a bit of breathing space and do something active to respond to what’s happening.


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Big Bearded Bookseller) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.

Book Corner, Saltburn

The Book Corner has a beautiful new website where you can now buy books online from them.

Our next shop is the wonderful Book Corner in Saltburn where I got some translated works which were hard reading but well worth it, ran and owned by Jenna who is so nice and friendly. It also has the advantage of being in a wonderful little town on the coast.

Book Corner
24 Milton Street
Saltburn-by-the-Sea
TS12 1DG.
Tel: 01287 348010

Website: www.bookcornershop.co.uk
Facebook: https://en-gb.facebook.com/pages/category/Independent-Bookstore/Book-Corner-Saltburn-1506322029595573/
Twitter: @BookCornerShop

Open 10am – 5pm, 5 days a week (closed Wednesdays and Sundays).

In their own words…

How did you come up with the name of your bookshop?

My shop is called ‘Book Corner’. I wanted something which described exactly what I sell. My original shop unit was in the corner of the town square, so it seemed right. I’ve since moved so I’m no longer in a corner, but I’ve kept the name.

Why a bookshop? What made you want to get into bookselling?

I used to work in a commercial art gallery, which I loved, but I was made redundant when it sadly closed. It felt like the right time to do something on my own, and my time at the gallery had made me realise I enjoyed working in retail. Books were something I was passionate about, so it seemed like an obvious choice when I thought about it!

Do you stock a variety of genres or do you specialise?

I sell a variety of genres, but I’m particularly drawn to ‘up-lit’, fantasy, literary fiction, nature writing and beautiful picture books.

Do you mainly sell new or second-hand books?

New

What makes your bookshop special?

I choose every book myself. I suppose that’s something that makes all independent bookshops special: that their stock is carefully curated, and every bookshop has a different range. My shop also has a sea view!

What’s the hardest thing about being a bookseller?

It can be hard working on your own when the shop is quiet.

What’s the best thing about being a bookseller?
The variety of the job, and being able to see what wonderful books are coming out in the future.

What little-known book do you think is underrated?

I don’t know how little-known it is, but I think ‘The Understudy’ by David Nicholls deserves more love. Everyone I know who’s read it seems to love it; I just feel that it deserves to be more widely read. It’s one of my favourite books of all time.

BookCorner Interior

BookCorner Interior

What is your preferred reading genre?

I have two. I love ‘up-lit’ (eg Matt Haig,
‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’, ‘The Rosie Project’), and also accessible sci-fi and fantasy (The Wayfarers books by Becky Chambers are a particular favourite).

What book is your greatest treasure? Why?

I have a beautiful illustrated edition of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ by Gaston Leroux (another favourite book).

If you could invite any author for a book signing at your shop, who would you choose?

David Nicholls!

Where do you think the biggest change in book publishing will come from?

I think more books will be crowdfunded, using models similar to Unbound. I’d also like to see some major publishers opening offices in the North (and by that I mean the ‘proper’ North, Leeds upwards!). I think this would bring real change, and I just hope it happens.

Name three books on your TBR.

The Rosie Result by Graeme Simsion, Winter by Ali Smith, and Echo Murder by Laura Laakso.

What are you reading at the moment?

Wise Children by Angela Carter, for my book group.

What music, if any, do you play in your shop? Why?

Mainly classical. I listen to Classic FM, because I feel that it’s good ‘browsing music’. But sometimes I rebel and put Smooth on.

What is the weirdest thing a customer has ever asked for?

Shoes.

What is the nicest thing a customer has ever said to you?

A customer once gave me a box of chocolates as a thank you for ‘being kind to his mum’ and tracking some secondhand books down for her.


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Big Bearded Bookseller) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.

Browse a Bookshop

Forum Books

Forum Books

After having a lovely response for our Bookshop Advent where 24 bookshops sent us answers to some Christmas related questions I thought I could expand it into a questionnaire/interview format and ask bookshops to talk about themselves.

After thinking a wee bit, chatting with some bookshops and putting together some questions I decided to go with this format.

What follows is the list of questions that will be sent out to any bookshop that wishes to participate in this and I’ll ask each bookshop to answer several of the questions, send some photos and their shop details. One of the things I do want to know is whether or not the shop sells mainly second-hand or new books to add a new feature to the Google map.

I will then make this into a feature post on the site whose regularity will be based on the number of bookshop responses I get.

I am hoping to have at least one a month but would love it to be so popular that I can post one a week as I do have at least 700 bookshops on the map to contact (now 1400)!

I have let this slip by the wayside due to stuff, but will be highlighting book shops in this format again from now

Question selection

  • How did you come up with the name of your bookshop?
  • Who are you? Owns the bookshop? Bit of a bio and pics, please 🙂
  • Why a bookshop? What made you want to get into bookselling?
  • General background/history of the shop please
  • Do you stock a variety of genres or do you specialise?
  • Do you mainly sell new or second-hand books?
  • What makes your bookshop special?
  • What’s the hardest thing about being a bookseller?
  • What’s the best thing about being a bookseller?
  • What’s the most surprising thing about being a bookseller?
  • What are the goals for your bookshop?
  • Do you think owning a bookshop has changed your life? How?
  • What book do you wish would sell better?
  • What little-known book do you think is underrated?
  • What well-known book do you think is overrated?
  • What is your preferred reading genre?
  • Describe your store in three words.
  • What book is your greatest treasure? Why?
  • What was your favourite childhood book? Why?
  • If you could invite any author for a book signing at your shop, who would you choose?
  • Where do you think the biggest change in book publishing will come from?
  • How do you reach potential readers/customers?
  • How do you choose the books you stock?
  • Do you have a favourite publisher? Why?
  • Name three books on your TBR.
  • What are you reading at the moment?
  • What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from selling books?
  • What music, if any, do you play in your shop? Why?
  • What is the best book-related gift you’ve ever received?
  • What is the weirdest thing a customer has ever asked for?
  • What do you get up to in a normal bookselling day?
  • What is the nicest thing a customer has ever said to you?

and could you send stores details; social media links, website, address, and lots of photos!

updated 1st November 2020


If you want to help and support this blog and my other projects (Indie Publishers and Big Bearded Bookseller) you could become a Patreon which would help pay for my hosting, domain names, streaming services, and the occasional bag of popcorn to eat while watching films.

If you can’t support with a monthly subscription a tip at my Ko-Fi is always appreciated, as is buying things from my Ko-Fi Shop.

You can always email me on contact@bigbeardedbookseller.com with any suggestions.