The UK is in its second lockdown, and although it’s supposed to end in early December, it’s not set in stone. Bookshops are suffering, it’s a sad state of affairs because just before COVID-19 ran rampant through the UK, bookshops in this country were starting to make a comeback. After a 20 year decline, it was reported that bookshops were bouncing back after two years of small progress. Glasgow saw the UK’s second LGBTQ dedicated shop open with Category is Books, and the beautiful Lost in Books in Cornwall opened up. So it’s doubly hard to see bookshops suffering again when it seemed they had finally turned a corner in what is a very treacherous market.
During the first lockdown, independent bookshops did everything they could to ensure they didn’t have to close their doors permanently. They offered delivery and online ordering to ensure they could bring great books to your door and not get swallowed up by the aforementioned giant online shops. Some of these bookshops even took orders over the phone. They did what they could: some did not make it, some are hanging on by a thread. I’ve written before on great indie bookshops in the UK and now is the time to support them more than ever.
During this new lockdown, there’s a new initiative started by superstar Holly Bourne, YA author of the Carnegie Award–nominated novel The Places I’ve Cried in Public and many more amazing YA novels. This campaign is also supported by other great authors here in the UK. Christmas is the biggest sales period for these bookshops and as the length of this new lockdown hangs in the air, the #SignForOurBookshops campaign could not have come at a better time.
From the #SignForOurBookshops website: “It’s a national show of support from UK authors, urging people to keep buying through bookshops by offering exclusive signed bookplates to stores and customers. Over 200 authors have taken part so far, including Matt Haig, Dolly Alderton, Malorie Blackman, Michael Rosen, David Nicholls and so many more.”
What’s a #SignForOurBookshops bookplate you ask? It’s a signed label that you stick in the front page of the book. It’s the perfect way to get a book signed for someone. Around this time, authors spend tons of their time travelling to bookshops so they can be sold before Christmas, but obviously that cannot happen this time around. Ordering a bookplate turns a regular book into a special, personalised item.
To get involved, or to buy a book connected to this campaign, just follow the #SignForOurBookshops hashtag on social media. You can also click here to visit the website. By checking out the hashtag, you can see which authors are involved. Some authors are sending personalised bookplates to customers while others are sending packs of bookplates to specific bookshops. There is a wide array of bookplates available from several different genres including crime, mystery, romance, nonfiction, children’s and YA, and much more.
This is a UK-only campaign, although there are Irish authors who are also pledging bookplates for their customers.
It would be an amazing thing to see book lovers from around the UK come together to support their independent shops. These shops are for me, part of what makes the UK a unique place and visiting these shops is nothing short of a magical experience. As Daniel Ross, owner of Storysmith in Bristol told The Guardian, “independent bookshops are important because we’re a refuge, and we’re dead against everything becoming the same. We decided to open because we believe in bookselling as an essential function of the community, and real bookshops that inspire a lifelong love of reading.”