Dulwich Books sale is 'trailblazer' for indie bookshops

Dulwich Books sale is 'trailblazer' for indie bookshops

Fellow indies have described the sale of Dulwich Books to The Marsh Agency’s Susie Nicklin (pictured) as a “trailblazer” for independent bookshops.

Sheila O’Reilly, founder of Dulwich Books, said her email inbox was “hopping” with goodwill messages when the sale was announced on The Bookseller‘s website, with indie bookshops among those to congratulate the winner of The Bookseller Industry Awards’ Independent Bookshop of the Year 2014.

O’Reilly said: “My inbox has been absolutely hopping. I have had lots of really positive emails from lots of independent bookshops calling the sale ‘inspirational’ and a ‘fantastic strategic move’ and a ‘trailblazer for independent bookshops’. I think independents have responded to it particularly well because it shows there is somebody in the industry who really believes in bricks and mortar shops. The move also makes the bookshop part of the bigger picture.”

Nicklin, chief executive and co-founder of The Marsh Agency, bought Dulwich Books for an undisclosed sum last week. O’Reilly had appealed for a business partner to invest in the bookshop, however Nicklin made an offer to buy the shop outright that O’Reilly said she “couldn’t refuse”.

O’Reilly and her team—shop manager Chloe Mavrommatis and booksellers Philip Maltman and Annie Horwood—will continue working for the company, with O’Reilly focusing on continuing the shop’s growth, building publisher relations and developing the shop’s event strands, with the aim of becoming “the leading programmer for literary events in south London”.

In a note to publishers, O’Reilly said: “We want to do more, bigger and better, and stretch out to fill the area void of bookshops from Dulwich over into Balham. I will also remain as the shop’s representative at The Booksellers Association and the [Independent Booksellers Forum] and will continue to be contacting you to find ways of working together to bring your authors to meet our customers— that’s a promise! ”The shop’s opening hours will extend following the acquisition and its book clubs will grow to include translated fiction and crime fiction.

Nicklin, whose agency is based in London’s Mayfair, said she wanted to buy the shop as she believes the industry is entering an entrepreneurial era in which people with experience in the industry are undertaking multiple functions, from agenting and book selling to hosting literary festivals.

Nicklin said: “I have always been fascinated by the days of the first John Murray, when Fleet Street was teeming with entrepreneurs engaged in every aspect of literary activity from bookselling to printing, publishing and distribution. We are entering a similar era now, as people with extensive experience of the book industry create companies that undertake multiple functions, from agenting, bookselling and ‘e’, ‘p’ and magazine publishing, to events and festivals, classes, prizes and lively salons.”

Nicklin said she would view the agency and bookshop as “one group and one team from the point of view of sharing information”. She added: “It is two very different professions (being an agent and a bookseller) and we have experts in both.

There will be a lot of conversations between the two teams: for example, do we think we can do an event with this author? Obviously we would love to hear of any exciting new writers who come into the shop who are not represented by agents. Often publishers recommend agents to writers to represent them and bookshops can play the same role.”

Nicklin said she was “relatively confident” that the industry was going to see “a lot more entrepreneurialism” in the coming years, as a consequence of the impact online retailing has had on bricks and mortar bookselling.


Photo credit: Sarah Hickson