Independent author Piers Alexander has secured a deal to distribute his self-published début novel through W H Smith Travel (WHST) stores.
The Bitter Trade, a historical novel set in England in 1688 on the brink of The Glorious Revolution, will go on sale through WHST airport stores next Thursday (23rd October), with a B-format paperback distributed to all other WHST stores from spring 2015.
The deal came about after Alexander met WHST fiction buyer Matthew Bates at a Historical Novel Society conference, and Bates took a copy of his book to read.
Bates said: “I’m enjoying it immensely: the characters are totally convincing, funny and human. The cover, production and finish of the book are excellent, and I could see a place for it in W H Smith Travel outlets.”
The move marks a departure for W H Smith, which usually only stocks titles from traditional publishers. However, earlier this summer it began stocking titles by Amazon Publishing’s Thomas & Mercer imprint—whose authors include Mel Sherratt, Mark Edwards and Helen Smith. The Bookseller recently reported on Alliance of Independent Authors founder Orna Ross’ claim that “the tide was turning” in terms of the traditional industry’s attitude towards self-published authors.
Alexander, who is represented by agent Meg Davis of the Ki Agency, said he had been close to securing a trade publishing deal for a while, but “felt strongly” that he “didn’t want to wait” for a traditional deal to be signed. He said: “I decided to invest in industry standard print rather than following a conventional self-publishing route.”
Alexander added: “I spent most of my pocket money in W H Smith, so it feels like Matthew has made a lifelong dream come true—even more so if this helps us land a rights deal.”
The Bitter Trade follows protagonist Calumny Spinks, who is forced to flee Essex when his father’s violent past resurfaces. In order to save them both from a blackmailer, he becomes one of the country’s first coffee racketeers and a conspirator against the Crown.
The book was edited by freelance literary editor Sally O-J and The Literary Consultancy; distribution will be handled by Gardners.