Kids’ bookshop Tales on Moon Lane will next year launch a week of events devoted to independently published authors—including a new book prize.
At the beginning of August 2017, the shop’s owner Tamara Macfarlane will organise talks and readings from writers whose books are stocked on Can’t Put It Down, her online marketplace for independent authors and publishers. Macfarlane said she wanted to bring indie writers “from the website into the shop” and give them a chance to participate in events. “It’s hard for indie authors and publishers to get into this area and it’s a chance to for us to see authors in action, so we know which ones to recommend for schools and festival events.”
She set up Can’t Put It Down earlier this year as a “sort of Etsy for children’s books”, and has a “growing” number of authors who are selling their books through the website. Macfarlane is particularly looking for titles from niche publishers and publishers of diverse books, although anyone from self-published to large independents such as Walker Books are welcome to use the site.
To reward indie writers, she is also planning on running a book prize, which will be held during Can’t Put it Down week. The prize will give awards to the best independently published children’s book in the following categories: board book, picture book, early reader, confident reader, YA and non-fiction, and the winners will receive a bespoke shop-window display in Tales on Moon Lane, which is based in Herne Hill, south London, as well as five guaranteed events in local schools and in the shop.
The planning of the prize is still in the “embryonic” stage, meaning decisions about how to apply and how it will be judged are yet to be decided. But Macfarlane said she would like to work with a sponsor or partner who is keen to support new voices.
Tales on Moon Lane is also rolling out her scheme of working with schools: the Teens on Moon Lane Pop-Up Bookshop Enterprise Days, launched two years ago, involve working with schools so that pupils can set up their own “bookshops”. The children involved are split into teams that create a pitch about how it would run a bookshop, including plans for branding, marketing, budgeting and buying. The winning team then gets to run a pop-up bookshop at the school, and keep the profits from any books sold. One pitch saw students convince US author John Green and UK author Matthew Crow—both have written novels about teens with cancer—to take part in a Skype debate. Some groups set up websites, others invited authors to speak at their school, and one printed a special set of tote bags.
Macfarlane came up with the business idea when her daughter started secondary school and she “became aware of the resources we had around us that other kids didn’t have. We are desperate for new and diverse voices in publishing and at the moment there is a gap between getting students to consider it as a career choice. And to kids who are not necessarily academic, we want to say that they have skills that are very important in business.”
She will start marketing the enterprise days beyond south London, and is aware that the perceived monoculture of the publishing business is a country-wide problem. “We’re very London-based, but we need voices from all different areas and communities. I would love to roll it out across the country.”
Macfarlane will also continue to run the South London Schools Reading Festival, despite the initiative losing government funding. “We have decided to self-fund the festival as we feel it plays a vital role in engaging new readers,” she said. “Festivals often preach to the converted and we wanted to get new people reading.”