At a recent meeting in the South Bank which some of us attended, Nic Bottomly of Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, the award-winning bookshop in Bath, shared his manifesto for success for independent bookshops.
Here are his 13 points, which will help guide us in making Northcote Books wonderful when we do finally open. Do let us know if you have any other points to add.
1. Create a community. Hold events and book groups that are so good people will attend even if they’ve never heard of the author and that afterwards they’ll rave about to everyone they know.
2. Don’t give excellent customer service. Give EXTREME customer service – so that you become part of the fabric of your customers’ lives. They will do your advertising for you.
3. Do one thing differently every week.
4. Tell everyone what you’re doing. Tell customers what’s happening at your shop; tell publishers which of their books you’re selling hard; tell the press anything remotely interesting. It will come back to help you.
5. Never pay for advertising.
6. Copy good ideas from other geographically-distant independent businesses.
7. Inspire 10 book lovers every day; convert one book-agnostic every day.
8. Surround yourself with creative booksellers who love books as much as you and can wax on about them even more persuasively than you.
9. Use social media.
10. Use the time you were going to spend moaning about Amazon to work out, realistically, what your business needs from publishers. Tell the publishers.
11. Sell e-readers now if you love them as much as physical books. If not, wait until the margins are plausible before you think about it and in the meantime carry on selling books.
12. Don’t buy stock from Amazon.
13. Be surprisingly cut-throat and financially driven when no one is looking; aim not to survive, but to thrive.