Northodox Press talks to Jenna Warren at Book Corner

Ted caught up with Jenna Warren from Book Corner earlier this week to celebrate all things independent bookshop for this year's #bookshopday.

Why did you decide to open a bookshop?

I was made redundant from my job as a Gallery Assistant in 2014. I wanted to do something which would combine my love of the arts with my retail experience. I’ve always loved books, so a bookshop seemed the obvious choice as I felt it was important to sell something I was passionate about.

How does an independent bookshop compare with a chain store?

I think they’re more personal, with the stock curated by a small team of people, or one person in my case! I can quickly and easily tailor my stock to meet the interests of my community. The downside is, being a small shop, I have less buying power than the chains, so discounting doesn’t really work for me. But I like to think I make up for this with personal service and an interesting range of books.

How has the Covid pandemic affected your business?

I was closed for three months during the full lockdown, so I had to adapt very quickly, offering mail order and a free local delivery service. The positive thing to have come out of this is that I’ve found there’s a demand for me to offer this service, so I’m developing this side of the business. I’m about to launch an online shop.

Are there any ways the public could help you out?

The best way to help any bookshop is of course to buy books, either in person in the shop, or by supporting my new online shop when it launches. But failing that, sharing my posts on social media and helping spread the word about the bookshop is always appreciated. Word of mouth publicity really helps.

How do you work with independent publishers?

I stock a selection of books from independent publishers in the shop, and in ‘normal’ times I also host events with their authors, such as readings and book signings. Last December, for example, I hosted a very nice event with indie publisher Louise Walters, and her author Dominic Brownlow. Dominic talked about his novel The Naseby Horses, and Louise talked about the publishing process. It was interesting as it gave an insight into two sides of the business.

Covid has sadly made it impractical for me to host events at the moment, so I’m trying to work with indie publishers in other ways. I moved my book group onto Facebook in March, and since then I’ve chosen mainly books from independent publishers for us to discuss, as a way of hopefully supporting them.

What would you expect from a publisher’s relationship with your bookshop?

It’s great to be able to share ideas with independent publishers and collaborate on events, promotions, and competitions. I would say it also helps if publishers keep in touch and let me know when they’re about to publish a new book. The major publishing houses tend to dominate advertising space, so it’s easy for books that don’t have a big marketing budget behind them to get lost. But if independent publishers contact me directly about their books, they get on my radar, if that makes sense!

What type of books sell the best for you?

Crime sells very well (you’ll be pleased to hear!), particularly the British Library Crime Classics, and crime with a Northern setting or flavour. Literary fiction also does well. I sell a lot of children’s fiction and picture books. In non-fiction, I would say nature writing is my biggest seller.

Are there any genres you would be less enthusiastic to sell?

Cookery. I’ve tried, but I think many cookery books are priced on the basis that large retailers and supermarkets will sell them at discount, and I’m simply not in a position to do this. I know some shops have made them work, but they just don’t seem to work for me, sadly.

I would also say celebrity biographies, for the same reason as above. Although memoirs about particular subjects or periods in people’s lives tend to do well.

If you could choose one author, living or dead, to have a book signing in your shop, who would you choose and why?

I’d love to host David Nicholls. He writes so beautifully, and his books are full of humour. The Understudy is one of my favourite books of all time.

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