Why bookshops are failing

Manuscript Found in Accra No 28 in WHSmith

Manuscript Found in Accra No 28 in WHSmith

Within a space of five years we lost a quarter of all our indie bookshops. The chains are faring little better.

It is easy to see why they are failing, and it is not the internet or Amazon which are simply scapegoats for bad practices, bad businesses acumen, and failure to know anything about books.

Independent bookshops are being put out of business because we do not operate in a level playing field. The chains Waterstone’s and WHSmith are offered massive discounts which are not available to the little guys, which enable the chains to offer books at anything up to 75% off.

But even with these massive discounts the chains are failing.

A couple of years ago we saw the Aleph fiasco. Walk into Waterstone’s they did not have it on display, the staff did not have clue what it was. A book by a leading author, an international best seller, and the staff did not have a clue, the shops did not have on display.

The same happened last year with NeverSeconds, by Martha and David Payne. There can be few books that has as much publicity, it was a potential Christmas best seller, it was launched in Waterstone’s in Glasgow, and yet lucky to find a copy in Waterstone’s, the staff did not have a clue, it was not on display.

Last Thursday, the eagerly awaited Manuscript Found in Accra was published. Another international best seller from an internationally acclaimed author.

Thanks to the publisher failing to set an embargo (at least better than Aleph where they actually forgot the book was published), Waterstone’s and a few indie bookshops stole a march on Amazon and not only put it on sale, but put it on display. But why not on display in the window? No mention in e-mails from Waterstone’s, that has been published, is in their bookshops.

Last week WHSmith had Manuscript Found in Accra on display in store (if you looked hard enough) at half price. But why not on display in the window and why so few copies? In one store three copies, in another store two copies. The day before publication they did not have a clue when I asked.

Note: Manuscript Found in Accra, opened at No 2 in Barnes and Noble on day of publication. Maybe unlike WHSmith, they made it readily available.

Note: Manuscript Found in Accra, opened at No 2 on Amazon. Which only goes to show the demand and where it could be in WHSmith if they got their act together and actually sold books!

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