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An Interview with Jenna Warren of Book Corner

16th December 2017
(Blog Posting)

Hi Indisciples,

This week, for your erudition and awareness, we have an interview with independent bookseller Jenna Warren. Jenna is the proprietor of Book Corner an independent bookshop in Saltburn on the beautiful windswept coast of the Northeast of England.

Hi Jenna, when and why did you decide to open an independent bookshop?

Jenna Warren, Book CornerHello! I decided to open a bookshop after I was made redundant in 2013. I wanted to set up my own shop, and as I’m passionate about books, a bookshop was really the only sort of shop I wanted to run!

I’ve always been surprised that my hometown of Saltburn didn’t have its own independent bookshop selling new books (although we did have a second hand bookshop for many years), so I also thought it would fill a niche in the town. I opened my shop in May 2014.

Book Corner recently moved into bigger premises. How have you found that?

Great! My existing customers have been very supportive and I’ve gained new customers, too. It has also given me more room to hold my events, including book launches, poetry readings and children’s story time sessions.

When it comes to the customer experience, how do you think you differ from the large bookshop chains?

I carefully select my range of books to appeal to the local community and visitors. I stock a different range of books from supermarkets and large bookshop chains, often choosing more unusual titles. I also offer a lot of personal recommendations, and give advice to customers.

How do you involve the local community in your bookshop?

I host poetry readings and book signings with local writers, and occasional children’s story time sessions. 

I also try to support the local community by contributing raffle prizes to events, sponsoring a planter for Saltburn in Bloom, and taking part in community events. Last week I decorated a Book Corner Christmas Tree for the Women’s Institute’s Christmas tree exhibition, for example.

Do you support independently-published writers?

Yes. I stock quite a few books by independent authors. I also host book signings quite regularly, and many of my visiting authors have been independently-published.

I tend to limit myself to local and North East authors, however, as I feel I can promote their books
more easily.

How do you think that the work of independent writers stands up against that of those working with the big publishing houses?

I think that’s a tricky question to answer, because it’s a hard thing to quantify.

Speaking from a bookseller’s point of view, I’m unlikely to come across the work of independent authors unless they approach me, simply because they’re not listed in the catalogues I receive from my wholesalers and the big publishing houses. So I think indie authors need to be proactive at promoting their own books.

On the plus side, indie authors have much more creative control over the publication process, right down to the cover design, and I’ve met several authors who seem to really enjoy this.

I also think it’s a way of getting more niche titles out there in front of their intended audience, especially in the case of local history books and memoirs.

What advice would you give to aspiring independent writers?

Join a writers’ group! I’ve always found being a member of a writers’ group really fun and supportive.

When you’ve finished your book, get someone else to proofread it for you. We’re so close to our own work that it’s easy to miss errors, however careful we are.

If you intend to publish in paperback, I’d also recommend that you look carefully at the covers produced by traditional publishing houses. This doesn’t mean your cover can’t be unique, but it will give you some idea of what books in particular genres tend to look like.

What do you find are your biggest challenges as an independent retailer?

Competing with the supermarkets, and sometimes even the big bookshop chains, who discount highly commercial books by well-known authors. I think the key to dealing with this is to offer a different range of books, and also to hold events so there are other reasons for people to visit an independent bookshop.

What is your favourite aspect of running your bookshop?

Talking to customers about books! I love giving recommendations and getting other recommendations back.

I love choosing the stock, too.

What’s this we hear about you directing a play?

I directed my own adaptation of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ for the Saltburn ’53 Drama Group, my local amateur dramatic society. We staged it in the local theatre back in October. The cast and team were terrific, and I loved every minute!

In three words describe what it’s like to own and run an independent bookshop.

Fun, varied, and creative.

Jenna’s shop can be found at the following location
Book Corner
24 Milton Street
Saltburn-by- the-Sea
TS12 1DG

Or, online at www.bookcornershop.co.uk


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