The Quest for NeverSeconds

Neverseconds book launch

There weren’t many left at the end of the night. – Martha Payne, NeverSeconds book launch, Waterstone’s Glasgow

NeverSeconds selling about 300 copies a day. That’s 7,500 Malawian children each day who’ll get a meal due to book. — Cargo Publishing

I think we broke Amazon by selling out … — Martha Payne

It would seem simple enough, a book that has had oodles of publicity, an author that has had even more publicity, to walk into a bookshop to find on display, piled high.

But sadly not the case. Not only do I find not on display, not in stock, the bookshops I have tried have not go a clue what I am talking about.

NeverSeconds, co-written by Martha and David Payne, is the story of Martha and her food blog NeverSeconds, currently selling at 300 copies per day, but walk into Waterstone’s and ask for a copy, and they have not a clue what you are talking about.

I tried today Waterstone’s Godalming.

I had tried last week, but in the end walked out as I got fed up waiting to get any service. The same today. I walked around the shop to see if there was anyone to ask. Nada. I had to wait. Eventually when I came to be served, the person woke up to the fact the queue was now half way down the shop and called for back up.

NeverSeconds please.

Long pause. Is it a book?

Now I appreciate it is stretching the point to call Waterstone’s a bookshop, but they are a chain that sells books. Now what would I be asking for, a Harley-Davidson bike?

Yes, it is a book.

Do you know the author?

Yes, Martha Payne, and just to be helpful I spelled Payne.

No, we do not have, but we do have one on order.

Would you like to know if any other Waterstone’s have copies.


Edinburgh has ten copies.

I was in Godalming in Surrey, south of London. Was I really likely to go up to London, catch the overnight Caledonian Sleeper to visit Waterstone’s in Edinburgh?

NeverSeconds was launched last week in Waterstone’s in Glasgow, a huge pile of books, which according to Martha, almost all were sold. Now does this not tell someone in Waterstone’s, we have a best-seller on our hands, we better get stocked up, sit back and watch them walk off the shelves? I have been at book launches, book signings, with well known authors, and seen only half a dozen books sold.

There weren’t many left at the end of the night. Our book is going to be in WHSmiths across the UK, Waterstones in Scotland and independent bookshops everywhere. I think we broke Amazon by selling out but more copies will be there tomorrow and the printers are making more today. It went into the top 200 on Amazon. You can also get it on a Kindle from Amazon websites all over the world but my favourite is in Japan! It doesn’t matter where you buy our book every copy gives children 25 meals in Malawi and that’s why we wrote it.

The pathetic excuse I was given Waterstone’s Godalming was that NeverSeconds was only published last week.

Surely you do not wait until after a book is published before ordering? You order in advance so that on publication day, you have copies on display, on the shelves.

Waterstone’s Lincoln same response, not in stock, not on order.

But it is not only Waterstone’s.

I tried WHSmith. No joy there either.

I then had the bright idea, catch the bus to Haslemere, visit an independent bookshop. The bus dropped me opposite The Haslemere Bookshop.

In one window trash the sort of trash one would find on display in Waterstone’s, only at a massive discount. Hardly inspiring. On the door a notice No coffee from Costa. I was not sure, was this anti-coffee or anti-Costa. I resisted the temptation to ask.

NeverSeconds please?

Do you know the author?

Yes, Martha Payne, which I spelled to be helpful.

No, we do not have, nor is it on order.

I expressed surprise that they did not know this book, to be told they could not be expected to know every book. I said I agreed, but I would expect them to know a book that has been serialised in the Sunday Times, has had lots of publicity. Not their department, they are not the buyers.

I suggested that as this was a book in demand, they ordered copies, put on display, and that way steal a march on Waterstone’s.

I am amazed how a bookshop like this stays in business. I visited it last year, then they did not know of Aleph, then latest book by Paulo Coelho, an international best seller.

The Haslemere Bookshop compares very unfavourably with a lovely indie bookshop around the back of Winchester Cathedral. They always have a wonderful window display, books that tempts one, a love of books.

It also compares unfavourably with Judd Books which I came across near the British Museum whilst in London last week.

A couple of days ago I contacted One Tree Books, an indie bookshop in Petersfield, a couple of years ago Bookshop of the Year (though I was not impressed when I paid them a visit last year). I asked did they have NeverSeconds? They have not had the courtesy to reply.

How do indie bookshops remain in business? Sadly they don’t. We have lost a quarter in the last five years. It is easy to why. Apart from a few noticeable exceptions, they compare very unfavourably with bookshops in Bassano del Grappa.

It is also easy to see why Waterstone’s is a failing book chain. I experienced the same problem last year when asking for Aleph by Paulo Coelho.

Amazon are not only winning on price, they are winning on service. If you want NeverSeconds, unless you live in Scotland, you have no choice than to go to Amazon, and even Amazon appear to be asleep on the job and the best they can deliver on is an e-book.

I do not wish to see all or indie bookshops wiped out, but unless failing bookshops get their act together, that is what will happen. They cannot compete on price, which means they have to compete on service.

NeverSeconds is now on at least its second print run. Maybe one day I will lay my hands on a copy, then I will write a review.

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