Bookseller Briefing 51/18 – week ending 21 December

The Bookseller

The Reader receives £107k Children in Need funding for Liverpool reading project

Liverpool-based charity The Reader has received funding of £107k from BBC Children in Need to encourage children across the city to read for pleasure.

The funding, which will be given over a  three-year period, will be used to match children with volunteers. They will meet once a week for one-to-one reading sessions, after which the children will be offered to chance to join a shared reading group to read aloud and discuss books, poems and plays.

The Reader hopes to reach 120 children – 60 aged 5-9 and 60 aged 10-15, referred to the charity by social care partners.The Reader’s founder and director Jane Davis said: “We are thrilled that BBC Children in Need has awarded funding for another three years of our Reading Heroes campaign. The need is real, there are nearly 2,500 looked-after-children across the Liverpool City Region, but thanks to the dedication and passion of our brilliant volunteers we are able to make a real difference for the children we read with.”

From January 2019, the charity will match children with volunteers for six months of one-to-one sessions, after which the children will be offered an opportunity to join a Shared Reading group in their local community. The Reader’s Shared Reading groups, also led by trained volunteers, bring great books, poems and plays to life through live reading aloud and group discussion.

The Reader’s founder and director Jane Davis said: “We are thrilled that BBC Children in Need has awarded funding for another three years of our Reading Heroes campaign. The need is real, there are nearly 2,500 looked-after-children across the Liverpool City Region, but thanks to the dedication and passion of our brilliant volunteers we are able to make a real difference for the children we read with.

Elizabeth Myers, regional head North of BBC Children in Need said: “We’re always delighted to award new funding to projects like The Reader in Liverpool. Over the coming months, the project will use the funding to support disadvantaged children and young people in the local community and make a tangible and lasting difference to their lives.”

The Reader is actively calling for volunteers to support the project in the Liverpool, Sefton, Knowsley and St. Helens areas. More information can be found online.

Zaffre launches new website to galvanise Wilbur Smith brand

Bonnier Books UK imprint Zaffre has launched a new website for brand author Wilbur Smith in a joint venture with his creative team at Wilbur Smith Enterprises.

Following Zaffre’s famous eight-figure deal to bring Smith to the list in 2016, and subsequent publication of two new titles by Smith with the imprint, WilburSmithBooks.com will serve as “an international hub” complete with geo-responsive retail links and content “to galvanise the Wilbur Smith brand worldwide”.

According to the publisher, the new website is part of the continued rebrand for the author since signing with Zaffre. Earlier this year it relaunched Smith’s 34 title backlist with a new, modernised series design, which has been incorporated into the website’s aesthetic.

On the site’s homepage is a Wilbur Smith quiz, asking fans how well they know the 85-year-old author and his works, and an invitation to sign-up to a “Wilbur Smith official readers’ club” for news and updates.

Other features of the site include “real-world backstories” behind the novels, such as tales of piracy on the high seas in the 1600’s, and Africa’s struggle for independence. In addition, a new section of “real-life adventures” will share stories of peril and bravery from personal experience and include content from other adventure writers. “This initiative, as with the work of the Wilbur and Niso Smith Foundation, will preserve and invigorate adventure writing as a genre, and encourage and support future authors,” said Zaffre.

Stephen Dumughn, marketing director at Zaffre, paid tribute to Smith’s writing as “the benchmark for adventure writing” and shared that the publisher’s aim for WilburSmithsBooks.com was for it to become “the gold standard in author websites – an engaging, immersive and content rich destination that will enable millions of readers around the world to discover more about their favourite author and convert a new generation of fans along the way”.

The website was developed by Three Key, whose director Jamie Galloway said the concept for the site was to “lead visitors on their own adventure”, in the process immersing existing fans whilst also attracting new readers. “We believe there’s a tremendous opportunity for authors and publishers to more deeply engage both new and existing readers via digital, and that the reader’s journey should start with a compelling website experience built around content which offers genuine standalone value,” Galloway said.

Smith most recently published with Zaffre the latest in the Courtney Series, a historical fiction epic called Courtney’s War, in September 2018 and before that a memoir, On Leopard Rock, in May 2018. To date through Nielsen BookScan Courtney’s War has sold 42,124 in hardback and On Leopard Rock is on 36,451 copies across all editions; Smith’s bestseller is 2000’s Monsoon, on 293,012 copies sold to date.

Of the new site, Smith said: “I’m tickled that my fans will be able to explore my fictional universe by taking a digital adventure through my new-look website. It’s almost as exciting as being at the Siege of Khartoum itself! My thanks to the dynamic teams at ThreeKey and my splendid publisher, Zaffre.”

The website is now live.

Book sales ‘going brilliantly’ as booksellers rally for last days of Christmas trading

Booksellers are predicting a bumper end to 2018 as the week before Christmas sees strong sales, with Waterstones “sitting very handily”, according to c.e.o. James Daunt, though he warned snow could yet “unravel” a successful month.

Last year saw sales hit by snow in mid-December and a lack of standout titles luring non-traditional book buyers into stores.

But a strong festive offering from publishers saw Michelle Obama’s Becoming (Viking) beat David Walliams’ The Ice Monster (HarperCollins) for Christmas number one in a battle that tempted non-traditional book buyers into shops to bolster sales.

The former First Lady’s memoir sold 91,882 copies for £1.36m, posting the largest volume for a Christmas number one since Alex Ferguson’s My Autobiography (Hodder) five years ago.

Obama’s number one came during a stunning week for the print market, which sold 8.1 million books for £73.2m—up 3% in value and 1% in volume against the same week in 2017.

Waterstones c.e.o. James Daunt told The Bookseller: “This year is very good. We got a really good array of solid publishing across the board with enough really big books and obviously the Michelle Obama which has brought non-core book buyers into bookshops who then buy other books. It’s a much stronger offering this year which is why sales are up for everybody.”

The print book market has seen its best year since 2011 in terms of value as the biggest UK seller of the year – Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – shifts more than 800,000 copies. The latest Nielsen BookScan figures show sales for the year to December 1 are 1.3% up on a year before at £1.3bn.

Blackwell’s sales and marketing director Dean Drew said: “We have had a good start to Christmas with overall December sales so far around 2% up on last year. Larger shops are trading at a similar level as last year with footfall slightly down. Blackwells.co.uk continues to grow. Although there are no stellar names like last year, all categories are doing well.

“The Michelle Obama and Stephen Hawking books are helping drive customers into bookshops. There are lots of really interesting titles that have helped the different shops curate opportunities to select unique and interesting titles and themes to recommend to our customers – this has helped improve average spend. We have more events and activities in shops than previous years and this has helped maintain footfall.”

Nic Bottomley of Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath and president of the Booksellers Association said staff at his shop have been “flat out” as Christmas shoppers stream through the doors.

He said: “Sales are going brilliantly so far, particularly so since the end of Bath’s Christmas market which frees up the city slightly and brings all of our regular customers flooding in.”

Richard Drake, owner of independent Drake – The Bookshop in Stockton, said: “We have been quite lucky the weather has not been as bad as elsewhere and we are having a stellar Christmas. Already up on last year’s December by last Monday!

“We have sold some of lots of books rather than anything in particular. How Winston Delivered Christmas by Alex T Smith sold well in the lead up to December and since then John Cooper Clarke and The OS Quiz Book. However we are very proud that local author Glen James Brown’s Ironopolis (set in Middlesborough) has sold really well.”

With just days of Christmas trading to go, Daunt says weather permitting he is optimistic for good sales.

Daunt said: “We’re pretty clear about what’s happening to sales and book sales have been pretty good this calendar year and touch wood as long as the weather doesn’t throw anything at us December will be very good but it winds up so aggressively at this time of year.

“Every day of the month is a huge increase on the day before and you only have to have a few days go wrong in your final week and your whole month is…we are sitting very handily at the moment, it could unravel if some snow falls in at the wrong time. With publishing figures, there’s absolutely no reason that we’re not going to have a very good time.”

Marie Moser of the Edinburgh Bookshop said, come rain or shine, books have been “flying” off the shelves this Christmas period, with the shop currently tracking a 10% gain on last year. Obama’s memoir has been a particular hit for the indie alongside Man Booker winner Anna Burns’ Milkman, Stephen Hawking and local author Ian Rankin, plus festive staples such as the Private Eye annual.

“We went past last year’s total last Wednesday; we are flying!” said Moser. “It hasn’t stopped and we can’t complain. Generally I hear Scottish booksellers are having a great Christmas. We live in Scotland and there are always going to be bouts of bad weather; the only thing we’re noticing is that publishers are running stock tighter … I wonder if they’re just being really cautious because of the Brexit nonsense.”