Being a long way from London often means that we at the bookshop are invited to things that we simply can’t manage to attend. Last week was something of an exception and I found myself hurtling towards that very city for an autumnal independent booksellers outing to Harpercollins UK HQ. Seduced by the promise of a tote bag, meeting some other booksellers and a nice view from the top floor of News Building, I arrived to see the shiny neighbourhood of the Shard. All of this is, needless to say, very different to downtown Grasmere.

Badge firmly attached and security passed, I joined the steady flow of eager booksellers making their way to the windows to look out at the staggering view. I was lucky to meet Sheila O’Reilly, founder and former owner of Dulwich Books who in turn introduced me to the lovely Sam Missingham, head of audience development at Harpercollins. Given that our portal to the bookworld here in the Lakes is primarily twitter, meeting Sam was doubly exciting as she brightens up our twitter feed. Although in hindsight perhaps “we read what you post on twitter” could sound more sinister than it was intended. It is reaffirming to meet publishing people and booksellers from across the UK and realise that a good deal of our conversation with readers we meet in Cumbria is of a kind. Granted those readers we meet from day to day are also likely to be readers from America, Europe and the wider world. But we see the same passions and interests from these readers who are just as eager to discover something new.

Totes of our times (one of an occasional series)

This is where Harpercollins ‘Indie Thinking’ evening was most helpful. The core of the event was a rundown of the imprints in the Harpercollins family and their lead titles for the coming months. Seeing each imprint team present their favourite titles was also a welcome insight into the world of ‘the pitch’. And how many imprints?! If it wasn’t too meta, I would suggest a new I-Spy Harpercollins that booksellers could use at these events. Suggestions are warmly received for the prospective points scheme. On a related note, the evening ensured I was able to take to the very top the concerns of some of our summer customers regarding the alleged over-awarding of points for the bittern in I-Spy Birds. Suffice to say the issue is now closed (let’s please never bring this up again and certainly not at this kind of event). Also on a related note the enthusiasm for life-sized birds displayed by William Collins publishing director Myles Archibald was impressive.

Having heard a few media rumblings in advance, it was great to see the bright blue-mic image of the ‘Bookgig’ project unveiled. Heading up a website attempting to become a digest of nationwide book events, the design and ease of use are sleek. Lana Beckwith guided us through what should become a great way to join up the events supported by us geographically diverse booksellers.

The context given for each new book can’t help but feed into what we do back in the bookshop. Getting a chance to speak to some real-life authors should also do the same. Miranda Emmerson’s enthusiasm for her new novel Miss Treadway & the Field of Stars was infectious and is one that has since been pressed on our illustrious leader Elaine. Jon McGregor kindly signed an advance proof of his new novel Reservoir 13 and the plans surrounding its release next year sound innovative. I was so eager to read Reservoir 13 that I have since practically inhaled it and can affirm that it is good stuff. I should be more eloquent than that, but that will suffice for now. My happily acquired tote went away laden with competing new books to read and I’m sure people are always taking tube journeys with similarly laden blue children’s Imaginary Fred backpacks.

Our thanks to Harpercollins ‘Indie Thinking’ team for inviting us and to Mick Fawcett, our Harpercollins rep, for ensuring I was well-looked after in the bright lights of London.

— Will Smith

Collins Life-Sized Birds is already published (

Miss Treadway & the Field of Stars is out in January 2017

Reservoir 13 is out in spring 2017