The Pan Bookshop to close - sad news

I have just received an e news flash from the Bookseller Magazine to say that the Pan Bookshop in London is too close after thirty two years of trading. How sad. Not that I used it being down here in Hampshire and they in London, but it's another book institution gone and reflects the changing nature of book selling today.

Books are a low cost item (generally) and not a fast moving consumer good (FMCG) so I don't expect the high rents in Chelsea were helping the shop to trade profitably. Selling books whether you are a bookseller, author or publisher is b***** hard work. For the author it's a matter of getting his or her name out there and building readership, but that all takes time and by then the bookshop could have 'returned' your book, and the publisher could have dropped you because you just aren't selling enough.

Publishers don't have the time, resources or money to commit to marketing an unknown author but instead concentrate on their BIG names, their 'cash cows!' But how about developing the 'stars' or the 'question marks'? For those of you who aren't marketing savvy this means the authors that they think might earn them money in the future (stars). And I am sure that many publishers are doing just that. And lucky author if you are a 'star' but that doesn't mean you should rest on your laurels and leave it all to your publisher. Oh no, you need to help the process by marketing yourself. And what about the 'question marks'? These are authors who are much more difficult to identify, and are usually left to their own devices. The book is published and that's it.

Therefore, authors need to market themselves and turn their 'question mark' into a 'star' and a 'star' ultimately (hopefully) into a 'cash cow.' This is where the Internet is such a boom, making it far easier for authors, at low cost, to get their name out there. In addition, I believe that more and more books are going to be sold over the Internet in the years ahead, which again, I think is good news for authors because we can build and spread word of mouth over the net.

Anyway, back to book selling. Looking into my crystal ball here are my predictions. The supermarkets will continue to concentrate on the BIG names, and the chains will find it tough, probably sticking to the tried and tested, though there are some hints that Borders might become more innovative now.

And independent bookshops like the Pan Bookshop?
Well some independent bookshops will survive, these will be the ones offering a truly friendly and personal service, who are an essential part of the community. The ones who offer that little extra, or as they say in the jargon ‘value added’ and you don’t get more ‘value added’ than the Hayling Island Bookshop who not only organise tons of events in our local and wider community especially for children and in schools, but hand deliver books to the elderly and sick and end up putting up clocks, mending shelves, buying milk and bread and delivering the post. Now that’s what I call real personal service. Well done Colin and Marie Telford. Long may you and others like you survive and thrive.


Leigh Russell said…
Sad, isn't it? My local independent bookshop closed last year. The site now houses a much needed Starbucks. The only other coffee shops along the High Street were Cafe Nero and a mere half a dozen others.... in between the restaurants that offer morning coffee and afternoon tea... It's just as well Starbucks arrived or we might have had to visit one coffee shop twice in a week - or even put the kettle on at home! Having to travel several miles to a book shop is a small price to pay. (And if you still think I'm being serious, you're not hte blogger I took you for!)

Thank you for visiting my blog. I've replied to your comment there, where I could see what you wrote.
Pauline Rowson said…
Ah, but can you get filter coffee! Please, I just want a plain ordinary cup of coffee that doesn't take all day to make or a machine the size of a combine harvester to produce not to mention the roar of a jet aeroplane!!!!!!!! Then just to sit quietly in a corner and read the book that I have travelled four hundred miles to buy because my computer has crashed and the local supermarket only sell Martina Cole, without the staff throwing crockery into the dishwasher with such vengeance that I can only think they are imagining it is their boss's head. Oh, and a smile would be nice from the staff too - but now I'm just being ridiculous.
crimeficreader said…

I echo your thoughts on the sad demise of the Pan Bookshop. I lived in London for some time and used to drop in, when they were open, after a visit to a physio just down the road. I always felt better when leaving the physio's place, more so after scouring the latest books at Pan and buying one or two. Pan was/is (?) in a prime site on the Fulham Road and I've no idea what's there these days, but I'm sure the rent will have proved to be a hurdle in continued trade.

I agree with you that books are not FMCG, but the trend with the supermarkets is to make them so. A book to them is like the next pack of Andrex or butter; volumes count, otherwise they'd not wish to stock them. The booksellers feel they have to match that to survive, it seems.

To create a frenzy in the world of publishing these days, it helps if the author already has a profile of sorts. Hence the emergence of the celeb author. Personally, I find that sad, especially when it's roped into a ghost writer who had little or no credit. Have a ghost writer and a mass of silicon on your chest wall? Have an awful past that you've previously vented in an (auto)biography and seen many tabloid tribulations about the state of your life now? Been on "It's a Celebrity - Get me out of Here"? Tick one or more boxes and you have it made. Want to write children's stories? Forget it when it comes to publishing, unless you've been a Spice Girl. You can spice up the life of the little ones as much as you like with your stories, but if you don't have a profile - forget it. Try being female and having a very shortlived affair with a confirmed male gay aristocrat first - then the publishers might see a marketing opportunity...

But celebrity will die too. It is so shallow as to be shortlived; if you don't get that book out quickly, you'll have lost the impact of your appearance on "I'm a celebrity, get me out of here" or similar.

"Celebrity" reigns at the moment, but for how long? It's puddle depth; not even toddlers' paddling pool depth. It's already been losing its edge, even given what the publishers try to peddle...

As for authors, I found myself today in a conversation about their need to have a profile and to get "public", even if years gone by have allowed them to remain cossetted in secrecy. An author will sell on the net and elsewhere if they have a sort of public profile.

The author can no longer afford to remain hidden and secret. The author needs to engage with readers and quickly. The net is a source to this, but it is not "face to face". All opportunities need to be welcomed and made.

Lastly, I think that the indies (independent booksellers) will survive if they (1) have a location that defies rental upgrades; (2) know their customer; (3) service that customer and (4) make sure they know how to invite the customer into the store.

I was horrified recently to visit Bath, knowing that "Mr B's Emporium" existed there, arriving with no absolute location, only to find that no one could direct me there. It was worse than that too. No one had heard of the book shop. How long can an indie survive when hidden in the wings like a real author?
Pauline Rowson said…
Your comments are spot on.The author certainly needs to build readership and quickly, and it is that 'quickly' that creates the problem because it takes a while for readers to 'find you'. Indeed, they might not find you until book three, four, or five and then eagerly read everything you have previously published, and begin to spread the word. But if an author is dropped after book two then they have no chance. So I urge all authors, no matter what deal they have with their publisher, to market themselves as actively as possible from day one. The Internet can help spread viral word of mouth but like traditional word of mouth this is not instant, it takes time to ripple out. As I always used to say to my marketing clients, it is not instant, you start pushing your message/profile out there and twelve/eighteen months down the line you start to see results, which you then need to build on. Persistence and consistency is the key.

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