As a former bookseller, my heart was gladdened by attending the announcement of the Books are My Bag campaign, which for me was the most exciting single event held at the London Book Fair this year. The campaign has been devised by M & C Saatchi and is entirely based on a single, simple, very effective message: that the passion for books and bookshops is a precious part of our national heritage and something that we should cherish, celebrate and promote. It is a campaign of perfect solidarity: all booksellers (whether they belong to chains or independents) and publishers are uniting with one voice to celebrate the pleasures and cultural importance of the high street bookshop.
Tim Godfray, CEO of The Booksellers Association and Richard Mollet, CEO of the Publishers Association, both spoke at the event. They were joined by some industry legends, including Patrick Neale, currently President of the Booksellers Association and joint owner of the marvellous Jaffé Bookshop in Oxfordshire (in a previous life he was the inspiration behind the equally wonderful Waterstone’s Sauchiehall Street bookshop in Glasgow) and Gail Rebuck, Chair and CEO of Random House (who, like Dame Marjorie Scardino, has proved that women can get to the top of large corporate publishing houses and stay there).
Patrick’s message was strong and direct. He made the point perfectly that there is far more to the experience of buying a book than receiving a brown cardboard parcel through the post: “We all know that there are many ways to buy and sell books, but what Books are My Bag captures and celebrates is the physical; the simple truth that bookshops do more physically to let people enjoy their passion for books.” Gail Rebuck said: “In these challenging times for the UK High Street, it is terrific that a world-renowned advertising company – M & C Saatchi – has devised such a positive campaign for all booksellers.”
In keeping with its message about the physical presence of bookshops, the campaign will feature strong branding and a very distinctive prop: a cloth bag with the words BOOKS ARE MY BAG printed on it in capitals in neon orange. These bags will be given to customers by bookshops across the country when the campaign is launched on 14th September. I wasn’t sure about the colour when I first saw it – and I was hugely impressed that Tim Godfray was prepared to spend the whole day wearing a matching T-shirt emblazoned with the orange slogan. However, throughout the Book Fair, I spotted people carrying these bags (the BA gave them out daily) and I concluded that they are very effective indeed. As Patrick put it, “This is the first time anyone has needed sun-glasses when inside the London Book Fair.” I have acquired two of them, one from the BA stand and one from the event, and I shall carry them with pride throughout the summer.
Anyone reading this blog who is interested in knowing more about this, here is your link Books are My Bag to its dedicated website.
I love bookshops!
I cannot miss the opportunity to comment in today’s post on the social networking session yesterday morning at the London Book Fair. First, may I thank the very many people who attended and made the event very special indeed; you were a lovely, attentive audience and we all valued your interest and contributions.
Secondly, I should like to thank Elaine Aldred (@EMAldred, Strange Alliances blog), who very generously agreed some time ago to chair this session and, with her characteristic attention to detail, introduced the panel and provided a succinct summary of the key points arising, as well as modestly managing us and our timekeeping!
I was very pleased to meet and honoured to join my much more experienced social networking fellow panellists, Katy Evans-Bush @KatyEvansBush) and Elizabeth Baines (@ElizabethBaines), and to be able to listen to the social networking supremo, Chris Hamilton-Emery, Director of Salt Publishing (@saltpublishing), all of whom provided different perspectives from my own. However, though we may have addressed in various ways the topic of how to make the most of the best of social networking, I felt that we were unanimous about the terrific value of what Chris called ‘the confluence’ of such media as Twitter, Facebook and personal blogs in creating author presence and profile. I believe that we also affirmed the essential need to be ourselves (however uncomfortable it may initially feel to present our private side, as Elizabeth very pertinently explained) and to interact with the people we ‘meet’ in a genuine way. We shared the view that ramming our books down the throats of our online audience in a ‘hard sell’, as some people do, is counter-productive; it is much better for us to engage with others in discussion of the things which matter to us, such as the business of writing, literature, topical issues and so on. Katy pinpointed the effectiveness of social networking in creating a global family of friends and followers, something we also all felt.
All in all, the session emphasised that participation, helping others, reciprocating generosity and showing real interest in people whom we come to know online are crucial to creating a lasting author presence. It is really important that authors recognise that they need to have such a profile; with it, books certainly do sell and, as Chris put it, without it they don’t.
Finally, we all accepted the inevitable consequence of managing all of the personal interactions online: it is extremely time-consuming and we have to find our own ways of handling that; if we succeed, the benefits are very clear to see.
My thanks again to all concerned in what was for me a very memorable occasion.