Retailers are gearing up for a bumper Super Thursday ahead of this Saturday's Bookshop Day 2019 when events will be taking place up and down the country.
Today (Thursday 3rd October) will see 426 hardbacks hit the shelves, among which are Philip Pullman’s sequel to the Book of Dust, The Secret Commonwealth (David Fickling Books/PRH UK) and Bill Bryson’s "head-to-toe tour" of the human body, The Body (Transworld), plus new titles from strong names in commercial fiction including JoJo Moyes (Penguin) and Peter James (Macmillan).
Although this Super Thursday's offering is slighter than last year's – 118 fewer titles will publish, with a Mini Super Thursday following on 17th October – indie booksellers' enthusiasm remains undiminished, with many declaring 2019 a stellar year for publishing.
Hungerford Books owner Alex Milne-White said he was optimistic for booksellers in the run up to the festive period, enthusing he couldn't remember there being as many highly anticipated titles this time last year. “I can’t actually remember a single book [last year] that had quite so much enthusiasm for it; I think this is a good year for that,” he said.
Hazel Broadfoot of Village Books in Dulwich Village, South East London agreed, pointing to fresh October titles from Pullman and Bryson and to new books from Robert Harris and Tracy Chevalier published last month. “I can’t speak for the high street as a whole – I think the political situation is so dire that it’s very difficult to know what’s going to happen with anything – but I feel quite optimistic for my bookshop because there are loads of really good books out there. It’s a really exciting season, there are stacks of good things.”
With boxes of books ready to go on shelves, Richard Drake of Drake the Bookshop in Stockton said he was very excited for Super Thursday, especially given seemingly large numbers of signed copies available. “What is really exciting is the number of signed copies that are around, meaning the indies have a slightly different offer to give to our loyal (and new) customers,” he said.
Commenting on whether he thought this year’s super Super Thursday offering would translate into hard sales for indies, Milne-White said he was encouraged by the large number of customers who had turned out to buy Margaret Atwood's smash hit The Testaments (Vintage) from his shop, given heavy chain discounting of the title but a short distance away.
“The Testaments is still number one in our fiction chart. It just shows that people, when they think of a book like that, they think of a bookshop rather than WH Smith or wherever else.
“I’m pretty optimistic for bookshops on the high street. Bookshops are bucking the trend anyway and our high street is looking reasonably healthy at the moment.”
Blackwell's head of marketing and publicity Zool Verjee said Super Thursday is a "great opportunity" for the academic retailer, "falling as it does in the middle of a strong Back to University campaign, and as the excitement builds towards a very promising Christmas."
Blackwell's trade buying manager Katharine Fry and sales and marketing director Phil Henderson added: "The publishing activity looks enticing, with particular anticipation for Philip Pullman's The Secret Commonwealth (of course!), as well as Nigel Slater's Greenfeast and John Humphrys' A Day Like Today, not to mention the special indie edition of Oi Puppies! In particular, our selection of signed copies is proving more seductive than ever, especially online where we've had really pleasing results with pre-order campaigns for Bill Bryson, Emma Donoghue and Philip Pullman. This follows hard on the heels of an excellent September signed copies offer which included Margaret Atwood, David Cameron and Paul Theroux."
Julie Danskin, manager at Golden Hare Books in Edinburgh, said of Saturday’s Bookshop Day taking place on the heels of Super Thursday that were she not running a bookshop, she would definitely be doing a bookshop crawl given how much is going on.
As well as stocking Books Are My Bag totes, Golden Hare Books will be giving away cakes free of charge. Hungerford Bookshop is celebrating the unleashing of its Christmas titles with wine, a 10% discount on all stock and visits from authors Katherine Webb and local writer Max Hastings. And Drake the Bookshop will be jointly seeing in its 4th year in business, celebrating with competitions, books, tote bags and cake. To top the day off, Not The Booker-shortlisted and local authors Amy Lord and Daniel James will be joining for a talk and book signing.
"Indie bookshops all do their own thing so it's nice when there is a national campaign like this. We each put our own spin on it and chat throughout the day,” said Danksin.
"It's always really successful for us. This is a busy time for us anyway but anything like this that helps is welcome. It could be a slightly awkward time between Edinburgh Festival and Christmas, so it's a real boost. We are really grateful to all of the organisers.”
Bookshop Day on Saturday 5th October will see authors and bookshops across the country celebrate the vital role of high street bookshops with Philip Pullman, Cressida Cowell and MP Jess Phillips among the authors lined up for events with #BookshopDay being used online to mark the day. On top of events, special Books Are My Bag tote bags will be on sale and Bookshop Day and National Poetry Day will also join forces for the second year in a row in 2019, with poetry readings and workshops taking place in bookshops across the UK.