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Hundreds of authors join signing initiative to support local bookshops | Booksellers

Matt Haig, Malorie Blackman and Adam Kay are among hundreds of authors who have come together in a “thunderclap of support” to encourage readers to buy from their local bookshop, as a second lockdown in England forces stores up and down the country to close.

Booksellers across the UK were already struggling after the national lockdown this spring, with some coronavirus restrictions still in place in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But they fear the additional impact of closures imposed in the run-up to Christmas, when some of the year’s most popular books are released and there is usually a surge in sales.

Bestselling novelist Holly Bourne came up with the idea of providing stores with signed, personalised bookplates to incentivise customers to buy from their local shop rather than online. When she mentioned her plans to other writers, it quickly snowballed, with more than 300 now signed up to the #SignForOurBookshops initiative, including David Nicholls, Dolly Alderton, Jack Monroe, Holly Webb, Juno Dawson and Dorothy Koomson.

“Lockdown was announced on Saturday and on Sunday I just woke up feeling very worried for everybody,” Bourne said, “but also worried that bookshops are just going to be decimated – they’ve made it through the first lockdown, they’ve moved mountains in order to still be operational. But this time all the Super Thursday books have just come out, people would be browsing for Christmas, and I just felt so dismayed for bookshops. I was like, I know what I’m going to do. By the end of Sunday, I had over 200 offers pledging to take part – it’s just snowballing and snowballing.”

Chris Riddell’s bespoke bookplate for the campaign.
Chris Riddell’s bespoke bookplate for the campaign. Photograph: Chris Riddell

The former children’s laureate Chris Riddell has illustrated a bookplate for the campaign. Some authors have pledged to send personalised bookplates direct to customers, so they can stick them in copies bought from bricks-and-mortar shops during lockdown, while others are offering to send signed bookplates to their local store.

”I love the idea of authors working like Christmas elves over the next month, handwriting messages for customers promoting bookshops,” said Bourne, author of novels including How Do You Like Me Now? and Pretending. “#SignForOurBookshops aims to entice locked-down customers away from the lure of a certain online retailer, by providing them with exclusive access to signed books, sold only through bookshops. It also hopes to be a thunderclap of support for bookshops, reminding people to support their local stores throughout lockdown.”

Readers can follow the #SignForOurBookshops hashtag to find participating authors, with the scheme set to run until 2 December. “My aim for the campaign is I just want every single bricks-and-mortar bookshop that exists now to still be here this time next year,” said Bourne. “Authors need bookshops as much as bookshops need authors.”

The former children’s laureate, Malorie Blackman, is another author taking part in the scheme, which is supported by the Booksellers Association. “Like a number of high-street retailers, independent booksellers are going through incredibly challenging times so I’m happy to do whatever I can to help,” Blackman said. “Signed books make lovely presents at any time of the year.”

Matt Haig, bestselling author of The Midnight Library, also acknowledged the impact of restrictions on independent bookshops, despite the surge in reading during 2020.

“This is devastating for the bookshops, obviously, but also for readers,” said Haig. “Independent real-world bookshops are essential beacons of joy and imagination and culture in our town centres, and also create a more dynamic, meritocratic and inherently human book world, away from the supermarkets and soulless online algorithms. Just as a town without a bookshop isn’t truly a town, a world without independent, informed, passionate booksellers and bookshops would be a flatter, emptier, sadder world.”

This week also saw the launch of an online initiative, Bookshop.org, which is pitching itself as a socially conscious alternative to Amazon. The site allows independent bookshops to create their own virtual shopfront, and gives them the full profit margin – 30% of the cover price – from each sale. There are now over 250 bookshops signed up, and Bookshop.org has so far generated over £50,000 in profits for UK bookshops this week.

“I really like their ethos in terms of they’re here to support bookshops, and make it easier for people, but they’re also really keen to stress that it’s always better to buy direct from a bookshop,” said Bourne. “The aim is to protect and promote and support bookshops.”

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