Virtual Bookshop Tour: Storysmith, Bristol

Day Five: Bristol

I’ve only been to Bristol once, and it was to visit the S.S. Great Britain – a brilliantly immersive museum experience onboard a historic steamship. You’ll find the S.S. Great Britain situated within the equally historic Floating Harbour, which is what brings us to Bristol today. Readers of The Jack Hansard Series may be aware of the trans-dimensional properties of the harbour… Don’t fall in, that’s all I’m saying.

About ten minutes away, south of the harbour and across the river, you’ll find our bookshop stop for today: the eloquently named Storysmith.


Storysmith Shopfront
Storysmith
49 North Street
Bristol
BS3 1EN

How beautiful is this shopfront? I love how glossy and elegant it is. Those striking shutters open to reveal a colourful window display underneath as well.

Inside, a small set of stairs divides two floors of books. It’s an open, comfortable space with tall bookshelves and scattered seating so you can browse at a leisurely pace. The books you will find here have all been hand-picked by the Storysmith team; with an eclectic but accessible collection, they believe in presenting people with high quality and beautiful books. It’s this personal flavour and attention to detail which behemoth corporate retailers (like the mighty ’Zon…) cannot possibly replicate. In this, independent bookshops will always be king.


Storysmith Bookshelves
Dibs on the comfy chair.

“Because we’re a small shop, we pride ourselves on our careful curation. Hopefully customers will see just enough books they recognise, but plenty more interesting-looking titles that they don’t. Also we have a shop dog named Roy, who is always on hand to give recommendations.”

Dan from Storysmith

And like many independent bookshops, Storysmith keeps a lively roster of sell-out events – take a look at all the authors they’ve previously hosted here. There’s plenty of floor space to comfortably host groups and they run not just one, but four monthly book clubs which they’re currently keeping alive online during lockdown. Not only a bookseller, but a meeting place and community hub, too.


Bookshop Dog
Roy the shop dog. I know you all wanted to see the pupper.


How can I support Storysmith?

Storysmith have their own online shop right on their website. At a glance you can see they’re not kidding about their goal to curate beautiful books. There are some seriously gorgeous titles on display.

Here’s a selection of just a few that caught my eye, and frankly they can all go on my Christmas list. (Friends and family, hope you’re paying attention). Click on the covers to go straight to their Storysmith product page.


War of the World
I love this book but have never owned a copy, and this cover is gorgeous
The Girl and the Dinosaur
I can’t wait for when my daughter is old enough to read books like this

A Natural History of the Hedgerow
History and countryside, this looks like a calming read
Help the Witch
Horror, folklore, and English landscapes? It’s like it was written for me. I NEED IT

Looking for a book gift but not sure what to buy? Maybe try a Storysmith gift voucher instead.

You can also purchase book subscriptions ‘for curious readers’ starting from £45 for three months – each delivery will include extra notes on the month’s book selection, and a bag of indulgent Triple Co Roast coffee. They also offer a wonderful baby book subscription (sans the caffeine) – a lovely idea for a newborn or first Christmas gift.

To see more photos of Roy the dog (and keep up with news about the shop, of course) you can follow Storysmith on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



One final book suggestion above: if you’ve been enjoying our Virtual Bookshop Tour, then Bookshop Tours of Britain by Louise Boland might be right up your street. I came across it while browsing Storysmith’s Twitter!


We’ve reached the end of Day 5 on our Virtual Bookshop Tour! Tomorrow we’ll be heading all the way back to the Lake District to visit the small village of Grasmere.


Photos reproduced with the kind permission of Storymith.

Virtual Bookshop Tour: J. E. Books, Hull

Day Four: Hull

The next step of our journey brings us to the Humber Estuary and Kingston upon Hull, the port city that lies on its north bank. It’s in a riverside warehouse complex that we visit ‘The’ Market in The Jack Hansard Series – that is, the annual gathering of Black Market traders showing off all their mythical and occult wares. I’m happy to say today’s bookshop is based in a rather nicer location. Let’s take a look at: J. E. Books.


J. E. Books shopfront
J. E. Books
12 Hepworth’s Arcade
Hull
East Yorkshire
HU1 1JU

Situated under the stunning glass roof of Hepworth’s Arcade, a grand Victorian covered passageway housing a number of quirky small businesses, J. E. Books looks to be at home among friends. This is quite a young bookshop compared to others we’ve visited: J. E. Books opened just two years ago in 2018. But this doesn’t mean that it’s lacking in character or personality. Indeed, the location within the Arcade itself is already an extraordinary introduction to this little bookshop.

The ‘Go away, I’m reading’ tote bags hanging in the window evidence the owner’s sense of humour. As you enter, it looks as though they are doing a lot with a small space, and you might be momentarily fooled into thinking this single room is the whole of the bookshop. But venture up the stairs and you will find plenty more new and second hand books waiting for you to peruse.


Hepworth Arcade
The stunning Hepworth’s Arcade
Photo by Tim Green from Bradford, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

J.E. Books certainly makes the most of its location for hosting events, as well. Not troubled by limited space, they have previously run author book signings, poetry readings and storytelling right outside the front of the shop – a real treat for shoppers passing by. Especially the… ‘Poets with Megaphones’ event in 2019? That sounds amazing.


Bookshop storytime in Hepworth Arcade
A story time and music performance at J. E. Books, February 2019
Poets with megaphones
People gather to get shouted at by poets at Hepworth’s Arcade, December 2019

How can I support J. E. Books?

You know the drill by now – start by heading to social media!

Across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram J.E. Books have been creating a Virtual Bookshop Window for you to enjoy nearly every day. Here you’ll find their latest themed recommendations for sale by mail order. And of course, if you want a personalised recommendation, just ask!


Murder Most Festive book cover
Two ‘festive’ picks from a recent Virtual Bookshop Window
Christmas is Murder book cover
Can I add this one to my wishlist, please?

“As an independent bookshop owner I can offer a personal and individual service even during lockdown – customers can email me at jlellam@hotmail.co.uk or private message @jebookshull on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram at anytime and I will get back to you as soon as possible to take orders.”

Julie from J. E. Books

They also have a wonderful range of gifts – I’ve picked out a few for you below.


Go Away I'm Reading tote bags
Go Away tote bags for £6
Bumblebee shapes tea towel
Do you know your bumblebees?
Tea towels £9.95 and just £1 postage
Butterfly Notebook set
I like this sweet butterfly notebook set
Cicero quote tote bag
£8.99 for the Cicero quote tote

It’s also worth knowing that J. E. Books is currently offering postage for just £3 or under, and FREE for orders over £40.

To order, send Julie a direct message or email: jlellam@hotmail.co.uk

And finally, for more bookish content check out the bookshop’s blog here – the latest posts are a series of author interviews. Hit follow and give them a like on social media if you can. A small gesture can be a big help to small businesses.


We’re now over halfway through our Virtual Bookshop Tour! Our next stop tomorrow is at another port city: Bristol.


Bookshop photos reproduced with the kind permission of J. E. Books.

Virtual Bookshop Tour: The New Bookshop, Cockermouth

Vritual Bookshop Tour Banner

Day Three: Cockermouth

Cockermouth is a peaceful market town on the western edge of The Lake District in Cumbria. It marks the point where the Rivers Cocker and Derwent join, and a 13th century stone castle looks over the town from this river junction.

The Lake District is featured several times throughout The Jack Hansard Series. Jack first travels there to meet the Witch of the Lakes and then moves on to spend some time in Cockermouth – where he falls victim to an invisible thief, and meets a morose shellycoat lurking in the river. During his mad dash through the town, it’s quite likely that he would have passed right by the doors of The New Bookshop, our tour stop for today.


The New Bookshop Street Frontage
The New Bookshop
42-44 Main Street
Cockermouth
CA13 9LQ

“The bookshop has been here for 52 years, endured some hard times but has sat solidly on Main Street as a welcoming, friendly space known and loved by the town.”

Catherine from The New Bookshop

The New Bookshop has a large, attractive blue and white frontage on Cockermouth’s high street. I love their bird logo and style of the shop interior; it projects a smooth and calm character to me.

Inside, it’s a spacious shop with grey tiled floor, with large open bookshelves and table neatly stacked with hand-picked titles. This is a bookshop which gives you space to appreciate the book-browsing experience.


Inside The New Bookshop

They also have that most coveted of bookshop add-ons: the coffee shop. It boasts homemade cakes with good tea and coffee, alongside a scrumptious Breakfast and Lunch menu if you need a heartier meal.

I love a good bookish coffee shop. Books – whether in shops or in libraries – are often at the heart of communities, and providing an extra meeting space with seating and refreshments just naturally rounds out their underlying purpose as a community hub.


The New Bookshop Coffee Shop

The importance of community can also be felt through The New Bookshop’s events programme. Lockdown and social distancing restrictions have understandably wiped out their 2020 calendar, but as well as the usual author book signing events, they’ve also previously hosted musicians, a regular social book group, and a children’s story time group.



How can I support The New Bookshop?

Like many independent bookshops during lockdown, The New Bookshop has taken to social media to help you find the books you need. Follow them on Instagram for book recommendations, Facebook for more detailed news, and Twitter for the bitesize version.

If you prefer a more traditional online shopping experience, then you can now browse their collections on the new indie bookselling platform uk.bookshop.org. Here The New Bookshop have curated themed selections to help you discover exactly what you’re looking for – and every purchase you make also goes towards funding independent bookshops around the country. (To learn more about bookshop.org you can read my previous post about it here.)

Remember though, it’s often still better to buy direct from independent bookshops if you can, so take a moment to check out their special Christmas stock. They have some cool gift ideas in, like this very cute range of felting kits and their ‘Lucky Dip’ themed book bundles.


Lucky Dip: 3 Paperbacks for £15
Email to grab a bundle for yourself!

And if your bookshelves are currently too full? Well, you can donate a children’s book to a Cumbrian family in need this Christmas. This is an initiative The New Bookshop runs each year. They donate a large collection themselves and take donated books bought by customers to pass on to their local Foodbank. I’ve done this myself and it’s super easy: just pop them an email with a price range and title – or you can ask them to pick out a book for you instead – and they’ll sort everything else.


You can donate books up to 6th December
SCIENCE! Browse these kids’ books and more on their social media pages

You can get in touch with The New Bookshop via their social media, or by email: info@newbookshop.co.uk

During lockdown there will also be someone in the shop between 9am and 1pm Monday-Saturday if you want to give them a ring: 01900 822 062


Three days down, four more to go. Are you enjoying our Bookshop Tour? Tomorrow we’re heading to Kingston upon Hull, on the Humber Estuary.


All photos reproduced with the kind permission of The New Bookshop.

Join me on a Virtual Bookshop Tour around the country

Are you fed up with being stuck inside during lockdown? Missing the ability to travel and explore new places? Me too. That’s why I’m running a Virtual Bookshop Tour next week!

Join me on 23rd – 28th November for a journey around England to visit major locations from The Jack Hansard Series – and at every stop we’ll be throwing the spotlight on a local independent bookshop. One of the joys of indie bookshops is how unique they all are: worth visiting as much for their character as for the books they sell.

We’ll sight-see some dramatic locations, gorgeous furnishings and quirky features (although sadly I cannot reproduce the authentic bookish smell). Whether you miss the thrill of travelling, are hankering for some Christmas book-shopping ideas, or simply ADORE bookshops, join us Monday-Sunday for the tour and show these independent booksellers some love!

Here’s your Tour Itinerary:

Necessary Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of these bookshops and gain nothing apart from enjoyment from this exercise. 🙂

Step aside, Amazon. A new Indie Bookseller is in town.

Indie bookshops are turning to online solutions as coronavirus closes doors again.

Yesterday the publishing world was awash with news of the UK launch of uk.bookshop.org, a new book-selling platform geared towards helping independent bookshops in the online marketplace. It first launched in the US back in January and has since then partnered with over 900 indie bookshops and raised over $7.5m in funds to support them.

“Bookshop.org is an online bookshop with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.”

In their own words.

This new platform – simply named Bookshop – provides an online space for physical bookshops, authors, and influencers to band together in order to funnel money towards independent booksellers. Money is earned in two ways: by commission, selling through virtual shopfronts or with affiliate links; and through payments from a central pool of profits which are shared out equally to bookstores. A bookstore can earn the full 30% from sales through their shopfront plus a share of that central pool, while Affiliates can earn a 10% commission on each sale they prompt.

Like many indie authors (not all, I hasten to add) I am a reluctant Amazon-user. I distribute my book through Amazon out of necessity – I would lose too many potential readers if I ignored it. (EVERYBODY uses Amazon, and the Kindle is one of the biggest ereaders out there.) So the arrival of a new indie book platform with the express intent of rivaling Amazon feels like a brilliant step forwards.

It sounds like a win-win-win.

However, there are a few less positive opinions of Bookshop.org bouncing around as well. One view is that the platform doesn’t actually help physical bookstores as much as it claims to. It’s still often slightly more profitable for a bookshop if you buy in-store or from their official website, rather than to buy through their Bookshop.org page. It’s also been suggested that all of the Affiliate pages might drown out the shopfronts of actual indie bookstores. While Bookshop.org is intentionally encouraging the bookloving community to jump in and create lists of books and drive traffic towards them, some indie booksellers feel this might be pulling traffic away from their own storefronts.

The upside of this, to my mind, is that every Affiliate sale also contributes to that central pool of funds which is shared among the indie bookstores. So Affiliates like authors and book reviewers – who often use Affiliate links to other book-selling sites anyway – can still earn a profit from their links while ALSO helping out indie bookshops.

Another advantage is that Bookshop.org takes care of fulfilment – they handle the physical work of packaging and shipping the books to customers. As the next lockdown looms large in the UK, this ability for bookshops to go completely (and hopefully only temporarily) virtual is a literal lifesaver to some businesses.

“It has been an utter lifeline. Sales flooded in as soon as we announced our temporary closure.”

Bookshop.org helped this business survive through the initial onslaught of Covid-19

So far, it looks like the majority of opinion from the indie community is overwhelmingly positive. Frankly anything that encourages readers away from Amazon – and nudges them back in the direction of local independents – is an idea to be celebrated.

Below, you can see what my Affiliate Author page currently looks like. (Yes, this is an Affiliate Link.) I’ll use it to list my own books and a couple of relevant collections for those who like to know what I read. Anything you buy from my page will earn me a 10% commission, and it will be matched by another 10% which goes towards supporting indie bookshops. But for a much broader and less eclectic mix of titles, you should definitely use the map tool to find your closest indie bookshop and browse through their page as well.

You can see that when I wrote this, they’d already raised over £22,000 for indie bookshops since launching yesterday.

If you’re an indie bookseller, feel free to drop your bookshop.org link in the comments along with an intro to your store. I’ll share the hell out of it where I can. Look out for more posts about indie bookshops coming soon!