Indie-focused retailer Bookshop.org and the Booksellers Association (BA) have launched New Futures, a programme to help entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities across the UK launch their own stores.
Organisers said that the scheme is in response to an increased focus on diversity in publishing, with moves for more representation in publishing itself, as well as the acquisition of new titles from authors whose voices have been historically underrepresented. They added: “Taking inspiration from these seismic changes, the New Futures initiative has been launched to encourage and inspire the opening of new bookshops to serve underrepresented communities, creating new routes for books to reach the hands of more diverse readers.”
New Futures is aimed at applicants from underrepresented communities, including individuals who identify as Black and other marginalised ethnicities, LGBTQIA+, working class, physically disabled, neurodiverse, those with mental health issues and those with learning disabilities among others, who feel they have the potential to build viable bookselling businesses.
Through a shortlisting, mentoring and judging process, the selected winner or winners will receive hands-on support from industry partners in retail, technology and the book trade – including the BA, Gardners, The Bookseller and Midas – through a concentrated programme of education and support towards building their business plan for a bookshop.
“Successful applicants will be given all the tools they need to launch a bookshop that creates new and sustainable routes for diverse books to get into the hands of more readers and contribute to increased vibrancy and resilience in British communities,” organisers said.
Aspiring businesses that apply to the New Futures scheme will be judged by author Nikesh Shukla, founder of Dialogue Books Sharmaine Lovegrove, HarperCollins’s talent and audience development manager Nancy Adimora (pictured) and The Bookseller editor Philip Jones, along with Fleur Sinclair, owner and bookseller at Sevenoaks Bookshop, and Sharmadean Reid, founder and c.e.o. of marketplace app Beautystack and media platform The Stack World.
Adimora said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be a part of this project and I’m looking forward to identifying and supporting new entrepreneurs in this area."
Nicole Vanderbilt, m.d. of Bookshop.org, said: “The New Futures initiative is much more than a search for a new bookseller from an underrepresented background. It’s a practical statement from Bookshop.org and The Booksellers Association of our core mission: to support the publishing and book world by helping independent booksellers thrive. We believe in a world where independent bookshops are an essential part of literary culture and we are launching this exciting new programme to do our bit in ensuring diverse books meet the diverse audiences they deserve.”
Meryl Halls, m.d. at the BA, said: “As we welcome the recent progress in the diversification of the range of published authors, we are keen to promote the opening of new bookshops that will match this richness of voices, where books can reach the hands of more diverse readers. The BA is committed to offering a breadth of opportunities to help its members grow and we are incredibly excited to be offering mentoring and support to a new member to our family.”
The deadline for entries is 23.59pm on 12th November, with a shortlist announced on 21st January 2022.