Today in the second of my independent bookshop features, Jane Isaac, author of “An Unfamiliar Murder” amongst others visits The Bookshop Kibworth to tell us all about it and have a chat with the staff. Thanks Jane!
The Personal Touch at The Bookshop, Kibworth
My first visit to The Bookshop, Kibworth was one of those memorable afternoons that lingers with you long after the event. And, much like any special experience in life, puts a smile on my face every time it’s mentioned. It was 2014, my second book had just been released and I was invited to attend as part of the Leicester Book Festival.
Even though it’s located less than 15 miles from my home, I’d never been to Kibworth, a large village located in South Leicestershire, close to the Northants border. The bookshop is unmissable, a quaint cottage style frontage on the main road, with a beautifully decorated window luring you inside with new books and information about their latest events.
The owner, Debbie James, took the unusual decision to give up her job in the music industry in 2009 and open a bookshop, and you only have step one foot in store to see that her passion for books really shows. Every nook and cranny is stocked with beautiful reads, all lovingly picked with her customers in mind. Her warmth of character shines through: she’s friendly without being intrusive. If you want a recommendation, she’ll make you a coffee and talk books. If you want a peaceful browse, she’ll leave you to your own devices. In 2012 Kibworth won Independent Bookshop of the Year (Midland and Wales) and last year they won Vintage Independent Bookshop of the Year.
For many of us book lovers, this would be the perfect job. So, last Wednesday, I dropped by for a coffee and a catch up and asked Debbie how it really feels to live the dream.
What inspired you to open a bookshop?
I have always loved books and from a young age it has been a daydream of mine to be surrounded by them all the time. When the opportunity arose in 2009 to run my own store, I stole the courage and decided to go for it.
What’s the most rewarding thing about your job?
There are so many things! Because we have such wonderfully loyal customers, every day I’m unpacking new books, learning about new titles, receiving proofs, and invitations to events. The support of publishers and The Booksellers Association really makes me feel a part of the industry as a whole.
With so many to choose from, how do you select the right books for your store?
When I see a new title that appeals, I can imagine a handful of customers who will want to read that book, even if they don’t know it already. Every month I go through Buyer’s Notes, a catalogue outlining upcoming titles, and select new items to stock. It’s all about knowing your customers thoroughly – many of my customers and I have the same taste which helps!
You’ve set up seven book clubs during your time at Kibworth. How do you think your work has contributed to the local community?
I think, without blowing own trumpet, immeasurably. A customer summed it up well a few months ago: There is a lamp in the bookshop window which is lit all year round, apart from a few days at Christmas. When it was switched off last December one of my customers said, ‘It was like Kibworth had lost its soul.’
Another huge difference is that a bookshop in an area like Kibworth also functions as a gift shop. People will call in for recommendations for presents for children’s parties and such like, so lots of the local children receive books as presents instead of toys or other gifts.
We often hear about bookstores struggling, especially with the rise of eBooks. What do you think is the secret of your success here?
I’m aware that many of my customers do have eReaders. However, they love physical books too. The bookshop is part of the local community here which means that people are committed to investing that extra few pounds in a special title. Also, customers can order any book in print and we can get it delivered to us the next day at no extra charge. Coupled with the book clubs, it really brings the reading community together.
Thanks so much to Debbie for her wonderful insight into the work of a local independent bookshop. While I was instore interviewing her, one of her customers came in to collect an order and this is what she had to say about what The Bookshop means to her:
‘Debbie’s bookshop is like my second home. Sometimes I just come in for a coffee, a browse and we talk books. She always has great suggestions, whether it’s for me or for presents. Occasionally I have a good suggestion for her too!’ Clare Langan, Kibworth Resident & Customer.
Visit The Bookshop Kibworth on their website HERE
You can follow them on Twitter HERE
Jane Isaac lives writes detective novels with a psychological edge. She lives with her husband and daughter in rural Northamptonshire, UK where she can often be found trudging over the fields with her Labrador, Bollo. On 1st March 2016 she re-released her first novel, An Unfamiliar Murder, originally published in the US in 2012, which was nominated as best mystery in the ‘eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook awards 2013.’ Later in the year her fourth book, Beneath the Ashes, will be published by Legend Press.
Visit Jane at her website HERE
Look out for another Independent Bookshop feature soon – where shall we visit next?
Happy Reading Folks!