November 11, 2021
New scheme aims to support budding booksellers from underrepresented communities
by Nikki Griffiths
The Booksellers Association (BA) and Bookshop.org launched New Futures this autumn, a programme offering individuals from underrepresented communities across the UK the chance to develop their own bookshop business alongside industry experts.
Book publishing has been held to account in recent years for its lack of diversity. Earlier this year, the UK’s Publishers Association shared the results of a survey polling the UK workforce, which found that representation of people from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups remains at the same levels as 2017 (around 13%).
Last year, in the wake of George Floyd’s death and BLM protests, the Guardian reported booksellers saying interest in black authors had increased. And last year, Bernardine Evaristo and Reni Eddo-Lodge became the first black British women to top the UK’s fiction and nonfiction paperback charts … ever. Carolynn Bain, founder of Afrori Books, an online shop stocking books of black origin, told the Guardian:
“In the long term, my aim and my hope is that we will stop being a bookshop that stocks black authors and just be a bookshop, because we won’t need to be highlighting this stuff, but we’re a long, long way from that… what we’re doing is actually changing the world, because if you read a book by a black author, it changes the way you see things, it changes the way you see black people.”
Hopefully contributing towards that change, New Futures encourages applicants from underrepresented communities to apply for help in setting up and supporting their own bookshops. Meryl Halls, managing director at the BA, said on launch of the programme, as reported by The Bookseller:
“As we welcome the recent progress in the diversification of the range of published authors, we are keen to promote the opening of new bookshops that will match this richness of voices, where books can reach the hands of more diverse readers. The BA is committed to offering a breadth of opportunities to help its members grow and we are incredibly excited to be offering mentoring and support to a new member to our family.”
Finalists will receive a “a concentrated programme of education and support toward building their business plan for a multichannel bookshop,” which will include support from The Booksellers Association, Gardners Books, The Bookseller and Midas PR. All applications will be judged by industry experts, including author Nikesh Shukla, founder of Dialogue Books Sharmaine Lovegrove, The Bookseller editor Philip Jones, founder and CEO of Beautystack and The Stack World Sharmadean Reid, HarperCollins talent and audience development manager Nancy Adimora, and indie booksellers Fleur Sinclair at Sevenoaks Bookshop, and Mairi Oliver at Edinburgh’s Radical Bookshop.
Nicole Vanderbilt, managing director. of Bookshop.org, said:
“The New Futures initiative is much more than a search for a new bookseller from an underrepresented background. It’s a practical statement from Bookshop.org and The Booksellers Association of our core mission: to support the publishing and book world by helping independent booksellers thrive. We believe in a world where independent bookshops are an essential part of literary culture and we are launching this exciting new programme to do our bit in ensuring diverse books meet the diverse audiences they deserve.”
Applicants are encouraged to apply from black and other marginalised ethnicities, those from working class backgrounds, sufferers of mental health issues and/or learning disabilities, the neurodiverse, the disabled, those from the LGBTQIA+ community—anyone who has a passion and plan for a sustainable business.
Applications close next week on 15th November and can be made online here. The shortlist will be announced on 22nd January 2022.
Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.