• West Cork Literary Festival 8-15 July 2022

Bookselling Outside the Box by Chris Mills

Writing.ie | Magazine | The Big Idea
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By Chris Mills

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Previously on Writing.ie, I’ve talked about Liberties Press’s push to encourage retail sales from the publishing office by setting up its shop Liberties Upstairs. In a further development, ‘Upstairs’ has just played host to a new titles preview evening. We intended the evening to be for a trade audience, highlighting our upcoming books to shop floor staff and buyers. After drafting an invitation for our bookshop mailing list, we decided to open the event to the public. ‘Killing two birds with one stone’ potentially gives an odd impression of the evening’s activities, but you see what I mean.

I adapted the trade version of the invitation for our general mailing list, transforming a ‘networking’ evening into a ‘book chat’ evening (naturally, I mentioned the wine in both editions). We liked the idea of mixing up readers and booksellers, while keeping in mind that the main thrust of the event was to show new titles to the trade. With this aspect at the back of our minds, we planned the evening to centre on a power point presentation of the autumn 2014 and early 2015 catalogue. The evening received a welcome boost due to the publicity from an Irish Times arts feature by Eimear McKeith which was conveniently timed for that day.

The presentation was illustration based, using the book artwork or some dummy covers. We didn’t want anyone getting bored with too many bullet points. We have a talented designer in Karen Vaughan, so I had great material. I tried to vary the slides by using some shots of merchandised books and a launch picture to accompany the cover art. I began the show by displaying slides of this year’s highlights, such as Jan Carson’s Malcolm Orange Disappears. The focal point of the presentation was the promotional video that we had commissioned from Alex Bradley for Sister Caravaggio (edited by Peter Cunningham), ahead of the official launch at the Royal Irish Academy on 3 September.

Apart from the inevitable technical hitch, (someone had turned off the projector by mistake) the presentation went smoothly. Liberties Press editors Sam, Zoe and Hannah were on hand to talk about autumn titles such as the cookery book Clifford & Son, the boxing memoir Best of Enemies and true crime investigation Missing, Presumed. We were pleased to welcome representatives from Dublin bookshops, such as Bob Johnston from The Gutter, but we particularly appreciated that Elizabeth from Sheelagh Na Gigg Books in Tipperary travelled the distance to see us. Into the mix, we had local book lovers who were curious to see what we did upstairs.

So what is next on the agenda for Liberties Press/Liberties Upstairs? We had some good feedback from this event so we will probably look to putting on a spring new titles event along similar lines. Next up will be another readers’ evening at the beginning of November, before we head into the run-up for Christmas. Mince pie anyone…

(c) Chris Mills

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