We launched our Independent Bookstore, but what happened next?

Reading time: 2m50s

To be dramatic, Sunday 31st January was A Novel Afternoon's Independence Day. We callously cut our ties with our support network, the evil yet extremely helpful and efficient e-commerce platform Amazon. 

Amazon had been my marketplace for over five years and a place where I'd sold hundreds of books. So it was with a conscious click of my mouse that I unlisted everything and put my faith in people enjoying my curation and their willingness to support independent bookstores.

With wine in hand, I posted to Instagram that I had, at last, launched an Independent bookstore.

Founder, A Novel Afternoon
Simon Gist, Founder of A Novel Afternoon


The initial reaction was positive; we had likes, we had follows, my website didn't know what had hit it, it was confused as to who all these people were. For over a year, it'd been lying dormant, knowing it only had to contain with me changing the size of the logo.

Anyway, then the sales started landing. I was blown away as that night we sold nearly £800 worth of books. 

It was fascinating, to me, seeing which books sold straight away and which proved popular generally.

The morning after, I took stock and soon identified a few potential issues. The first was literally our stock levels. It is a good problem to have, no doubt, but I'd sold out all of my hero pieces. This was a double-edged sword as clearly I was pleased that the curation had traction, but we'd sold all the great stuff, we'd sold the essence of the store, it was now a strawman of a bookshop.

Books sold on launch date | A Novel Afternoon
Top picks of the books we sold on launch

It's "fine", I said to my girlfriend; I'll pump the cash into new stock and then drop a load of books in one go as soon as we can. Maybe we'll even wait until March and call it the A NOVEL AFTERNOON x SPRING COLLECTION.

In the three weeks since launch, I've worked hard to create our new curation and hopefully you like the latest books in the store, which should be on there by the time you read this. 

The other major issue was the packaging. I didn't have enough, and I'd never made multi-sales before. Some people were buying three or four books in one fantastic go, and I was chuffed to bits with these people in particular, but it turns out that it's really hard to send four awkward sized books totalling over 4 kilos at once. I had to crawl back to those Amazon bastards and order a load of large boxes and bubble wrap, and they even had the audacity to deliver it the very next day.

We're working on some eco-friendly packaging, reducing plastic. I feel diabolical with the amount we've used so far, but we just weren't prepared, as I say. We have eco tape now, and we are looking into using this recycled cardboard lattice thing instead of bubble wrap. Underneath that though you'll always get our beautiful books with bows on.

This is a good moment to mention that nothing will quite prepare you for the death stares you'll receive at an East London Post Office whilst you hold up the queue trying to post thirty books, including filling out customs forms for the international orders. Thank you so much for the orders that went all the way to New York, this was so unexpected, and I love you. Unfortunately, you'll be the last customers for who I provide free international shipping. I learnt the hard way on that one. (International Shipping costs now based on weight, UK Shipping still Free).

Honourable mentions regarding the Instagram business account. I had no idea that when you create a business account, they strip you of your access to actual music? I only have access to a pitiful library of rights protected tunes. Similarly, did you know that Instagram only allow the 'Swipe up' feature if you've got ten thousand followers? I did not. Anyway, not the end of the world, is it?

We also didn't have comp slips, which we now do:

Thank you so much if you're following us, if you've liked our content, if you're reading this, or if you've bought a book. We are tiny operation with big dreams, and your support means the world to us.


if you have the desire to follow our journey... @anovelafternoon

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