Setting Out Tangent's Stall
This entry was posted on November 11, 2015.
I enjoy selling books at local markets, but I haven't done so much of it this year. Since the demise of the monthly Bristol Book Market a couple of years ago, I decided to concentrate on the two most successful events – the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair in April/May and the Broadmead Christmas Market for 20 days in December.
But then some local traders started a Sunday market on the Wells Road just round the corner from my house. I didn't have any great expectations for it, but it's an easy one to do and I wanted to support a community event. To my astonishment, the Wells Road Market has been one of the most successful markets I've attended.
It also reminded me that setting up a market stall isn't just about selling books. It's about meeting people and talking to them about books and writing. For example, at the last Wells Road market a woman was showing particular interest in the Recollections Of Jazz In Bristol book I sell on behalf of Roy Gallop at Fiducia Press. I was giving her the usual spiel about what a great book it is and how it had been written by Bristol jazz drummer Dave Hibberd and published in 2000, then re-published in 2009 with a tribute to Dave who was in ill health and passed away in 2010.
But it wasn't so much the content that my potential customer was interested in, but the cover. It features a Beryl Cook painting of the Dave Collett Trio at the White Horse pub in Bedminster with Dave Hibberd on drums. Turns out that my customer is Beryl Cook's grand daughter and although she had seen the painting before, she'd not seen the book and was really pleased that her grandmother's work was still being appreciated by her many friends in the Bristol jazz community.
Next a couple of elderly women came along for a chat. One of them had bought the Bedminster Tobacco Women book at the previous market, but this month she and her companion were interested in Glastonbury Festival Myths & Legends.
'Have you ever been,' I asked.
'Oh, yes we went to the first one,' they replied. 'When we were girls we lived in Whitchurch and saw all these people walking down the Wells Road. They were going to the Festival, so we went with them.'
'You walked from Bristol to the first Glastonbury Festival?' I ask, amazed.
'Oh no, we caught the bus.'
For the record, 1500 people attended the first festival in 1970, admission was £1 (including free milk) and Marc Bolan headlined.
I'm really hoping the ladies come back in December. I'll let you know if they do.
Anyway, there's a serious point here. The way in which people buy books is changing and the speed of change is getting ever greater, but it's not as simple as everything moving to Amazon.
I did a major sales breakdown recently and I was surprised at the results.
High Street (Waterstones, Foyles, Blackwell) 26%
Online (Amazon, Tangent website) 27%
Independent Shops 47%
Admittedly, the figures are exaggerated by the huge success of North Street Shops, Shopping and Shoppers which sells very few copies online and on the High Street but sells in large numbers through independent shops. But should I be surprised at the figures? Tangent prides itself on being an independent publisher and is being well supported by independent retailers and shoppers.
The challenge is to increase the sales via the website and to reach those people outside Bristol who have an interest in Bristol books and to persuade them to buy from www.tangentbook.co.uk
We've got a new website which should make it easier to market the books, but our main advocates are you – the existing customers. That's why we offer you a 20 per cent discount when you use the code supporter on the website. Share it, tell your friends about the discount.
And don't worry, my new friends at the Wells Road market get a discount too.
Richard Jones, Publisher, Tangent Books