Dulwich Books has been bought by Susie Nicklin, executive chair and co-founder of The Marsh Agency, for an undisclosed sum.
The deal came about Dulwich Books’ former owner Sheila O’Reilly told The Bookseller that she was looking for a business partner to help expand the company in multiple directions.
However, Nicklin made an offer O’Reilly “couldn’t refuse” and has now bought Dulwich Books – winner of the 2014 Bookseller Industry Awards independent bookshops of the year title - outright.
O’Reilly and her team shop manager Chloe Mavrommatis and booksellers Philip Maltman and Annie Horwood will stay on working for the company and O’Reilly will focus on continuing the shop’s growth, building publisher relations and developing the store’s event strands with the aim of becoming “the leading programmer for literary events in South London.”
The shop’s opening hours will extend following the acquisition and the shop’s book clubs will grow to include translated fiction and crime.
Nicklin, whose agency is based in London's Mayfair, said she wanted to buy the shop as she believes the industry is entering an era of entrepreneurialism in which people with experience in the industry are undertaking multiple functions, from agenting and bookselling 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.”
She added: “It’s exciting to be part of this neo-literary entrepreneurialism in which retail plays such a crucial role in the cross fertilization of expertise. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work again in partnership with the authors and organisations industry-wide in developing and progressing platforms and outlets that enrich the experience of book lovers everywhere.”
Dulwich Books, Nicklin said, has been her preferred bookseller for many years, she is a huge admirer of how O’Reilly has “transformed” the shop with her passion, knowledge, acumen and drive.
“The events are always sold out thanks to a loyal and well-informed customer base that it is a pleasure to serve,” Nicklin said.
O’Reilly said that the development was “perfect” for Dulwich Books. “Since winning the Best Bookshop of UK & Ireland 2014 I have felt that an alliance with another company similarly embedded in the book industry could create an organisation with the customer and author at its centre,” she said. “So when Susie Nicklin of The Marsh Agency responded to the Bookseller article I immediately knew that this was the right direction for Dulwich Books and I am incredibly excited about the coming years and what we can achieve together.”
Nicklin has also launched a literary festival - A Way of Being in the World – which will feature a host of the Marsh Agency’s prize-winning writers, including Robert Macfarlane, Helen Macdonald, Paul Kingsnorth, Jay Griffiths, and Fred Pearce.
Nicklin has also been the Literature Director at the British Council where she brokered global partnerships with Edinburgh International Book Festival, Hay Festival and The London Book Fair.
Other examples of literary agencies and bookshops working in partnership together include agents Sarah Lutyens and Felicity Rubinstein who opened an independent bookshop in Notting Hill in 2009 called Lutyens & Rubinstein and Goldsboro Books' owner David Headley also operates the D H H Literary agency from his Cecil Court London bookshop.
Photo credit to Sarah Hickson