Radical New Bookshop in the Midst
By Emma Regan
The Alternative Publishing team have extensively discussed how crowdfunded publishing works, but what about crowdfunding for an entire bookshop?
Everybody knows how critical independent bookshops are for the publishing and book-loving community and how vital it is to support them, even more so than chain bookshops. Yet Dead Ink Books are taking independent bookshops to another level with its bookshop in the making.
Dead Ink Books is an independent publisher based in Liverpool, supported by Arts Council England. It focuses on uplifting and developing the careers of new authors whilst holding events and workshops to help them. The company describes itself as “ambitious and experimental,” which is certainly appropriate for the bookshop idea it has in mind.
The publisher recently announced its aim to open an independent bookshop in Liverpool specialising in selling titles released by fellow indie authors and publishers and creating a visible space for its publishing operation at the back of the shop. Publishing has a reputation for happening behind closed doors; thus, the company wanted to change that by opening its operations for everyone to see. The shop will serve tea and coffee for its customers, programme book clubs and launches, and host monthly coffee mornings for its editors and publishers.
In order to run this operation, the company needed ample space to have both the room for the bookshop and the space to publish books. It wasn’t hard to find the perfect spot for this; however, the company ran into a problem. The building it wanted to lease needed two guarantors for the tenancy.
Naturally, Dead Ink Books turned to crowdfunding for the solution.
Dead Ink’s director, Nathan Connolly, created a GoFundMe page in hopes the community would be able to show its support for the company’s radical idea. It aimed to reach £14,400, the year’s rent the tenants have asked for upfront.
“The Dead Ink Bookshop will be a small shop focused on independent publishers. We'll be championing books from small businesses across the UK and making space for the non-commercial.” – Nathan Connolly, Director of Dead Ink Books
Nathan noted the company was aware of how much it was asking for; however, he stated on the GoFundMe page that Dead Ink has crowdfunded projects in the past and wants to try again. Five days later, the company had already reached its target.
The director received an email from someone who had heard about the campaign via Twitter and wanted to support the publisher’s plans. Following a Zoom call, the person transferred £7,000 to the GoFundMe page, making the campaign reach its target. The donator remained anonymous but is one of 300 people who have donated to the GoFundMe page.
Yet, this isn’t the only time a community has backed an independent bookshop. At the end of last year, New Beacon Books in London, the UK’s oldest standing black book shop, was threatened by the effects of COVID-19 and could no longer keep its store open; rather, it would have to move its shop online. In order to prevent this from happening, a GoFundMe page was set up in hopes of raising £35,000 by 24 February 2022. After one day, the target was already reached, with £40,000 donated. After nine days, the page had reached over £84,000 and had received donations from over 2500 people, including novelist David Nicholls.
Across the pond, Lucy Yu organised a GoFundMe page in 2021 in hopes of opening a bookshop in Chinatown, Manhattan, after the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes during the global pandemic. Lucy wanted to create a space where Asian-American immigrants and people of colour could visit and buy books they could relate to. In total, Lucy raised $20,000 through the GoFundMe page to rent a store, while a neighbourhood grant gave her $2,000 for shelves and books.
Yu and Me Books opened on 11 December 2021, as the first female Asian-American New York based bookstore. Since then, it has hosted a range of book launches and events, along with many celebrity authors visiting the store, such as Simu Liu, John Cho, and many more Asian authors such as Chloe Gong, Jean Chen Ho, and Ocean Vuong.
Crowdfunding has become more prevalent in recent years and is becoming more widely accepted as the primary source of funds in the publishing industry. GoFundMe is one of many crowdfunding sites that have helped people worldwide. People created these projects in hopes of keeping a dream alive and being able to execute the vision for book lovers to benefit. It is highly likely crowdfunded projects will become popular in the near future.