The four booksellers behind the "At Home with Four Indies" initiative have been named as FutureBook’s Team of the Year. The booksellers Helen Stanton from Forum Books (Corbridge, Northumberland), Carrie Morris from Booka Bookshop (Oswestry, Shropshire), Emma Corfield-Walters from Book-ish (Crickhowell, Wales), Sue Porter from Linghams Booksellers (Wirral, Merseyside) came together in the spring to set up a series of online author events during the lockdown, and have since gone on to interview authors such as Richard Osman, Ann Cleeves, Ruth Jones and Sebastian Barry.
The award, sponsored by Midas PR, recognises innovation, vision, determination and execution. Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller and awards judge, said: "It was an absolute delight to watch these booksellers quickly pivot into the online events business, building an audience for authors, and providing a continuing service for their customers and readers. They built the platform incredibly quickly, but with the future in mind and now they have a brand that can span both the online and offline worlds. I'm delighted that Sue, Helen, Carrie and Emma are our inaugural winners of this award."
Since April the booksellers have hosted over 100 online events; initially free on FaceBook Live, and then on Zoom, which enabled them to sell tickets and books. The platform has now become a key component of high-profile marketing campaigns for debuts and more established names, including Osman, Cleeves, Jones, Barry, Jojo Moyes, Joe Wicks, Jack Monroe, Caroline Criado Perez, Bernardine Evaristo and Baroness Floella Benjamin.
Porter from Linghams Booksellers said: "Winning this award means a huge amount. We have all poured 110% into 'four indies' to get it off the ground and keep it running. Sometimes with up to five events a week we keep the smiles coming. Personally, working with these incredible women is an absolute honour."
Morris, of Booka Bookshop, added: "Thrilled to share this award with our three fab 'Bookshop Besties'. It is a tribute to how we (and indeed all other indie bookshops) have responded to the challenging circumstances we have had to navigate this year. We've learnt so much from the experience and working collaboratively has helped us succeed and build a digital platform and brand to be proud of."
Forum's Stanton said: "This is genuinely lovely and I’m just so thrilled for all of us! It's a fabulous collaboration I’m proud and just darn happy to be part of it. I couldn’t be without the other three—and not just for the events we have and continue to do—but for the mutual support and the inevitable giggles. This year has been such free-falling roller-coaster—but the shared responsibility plus combined positivity and creativity has brought out the best in us."
Jason Bartholomew, m.d. of sponsor Midas PR, added: “I couldn’t think of a better winner for the Team of the Year Award than ‘At Home with Four Indies’. In the midst of the first lockdown when all businesses were scrambling for answers, Sue not only had a fantastic idea but managed to turn her vision into a vital new venture. This team-based award proves that despite the normal competition that exists within the industry—whether through a competitive auction for a hot book, or driving customers to your specific store—it is crucial that we find ways of working together on behalf of the industry itself. So big congrats to Sue, Helen, Carrie, and Emma for collaborating on the idea, adjusting your business models in order to suit a rapidly changing market, and for proving that teamwork is vital."
The four booksellers learned of their award during a pre-record of their FutureBook Conference session, "How to make online events work" chaired by Alex Fane, founder of Fane Productions. The session will be broadcast at 10.20 a.m. on Friday 20th November. To view the programme or book tickets visit: www.thebookseller.com/futurebook-conference.
Read our interview with Sue Porter about launching "At Home with Four Indies" here.