Solva Woollen Mill is a small independently run mill that weaves woollen rugs and floor coverings. Hidden away in a wooded valley beside a stream where otters sometimes pass and dragonflies colour the air in summer the mill looks peaceful. Make no mistake, this impression is the one a swan gives when it glides across water. Inside is a hive of activity.
Rugs are woven and shipped not only all around Wales and the UK but overseas to Japan, USA, Australia, even to remote places like the Arctic. Prince Charles visited a few years ago when rugs were made for one of his Welsh homes using traditional patterns from Pembrokeshire. The spools below were all ready to weave a rug for Vanessa Arbuthnott, for her interior design company and they carry a range of her textiles. ( Beautiful, elegant textiles)
So, in Independent Booksellers week, why do a blogpost about a woollen mill. Well, I have worked with Anna Grime over the last few years selling books both locally but also to an international market.
The mill is about 2 miles from where I live. This and the fact that Anna plies me with cake and coffee when I go down, plus the fact that she stocks my books in a way that very few bookshops would or could, means that I visit often to sign stock for her. ( The photo below is the stock of Little Evie ordered in ready for the booklaunch August 10th) As a result Anna sold more copies of East of the Sun, West of the Moon than Amazon did, both through hand selling at the mill and via the website. Not only this but she sold all of them at full cover price, and the business provided to the local post office in Solva was most welcome. ( In winter Solva is almost empty of people, which puts great pressure on the post office in these days of target performance, so buying from Solva Woollen Mill may have helped to keep the post office in business for another year).
At one time the orders were coming in so thick and fast that the website crumbled. Well, more than once. And people who bought the new book also bought other books and rugs and blankets and visited the mill. Anna even got fan mail for her packing.
I couldn’t have met the demand East attracted without Anna’s organisational skills ( as it was Tom was rumbling away in the background about looms being silent and not enough rugs being woven as all staff were wrapping and posting books and handling orders).
Anna and Tom also host book launches which are really popular with local people and draw in people from away who stay in b&b accommodation, visit local restaurants and other tourist destinations. At one book launch we even had a visiting ginger cat!
I’ve seen articles trending on facebook and twitter telling authors off for linking from their websites as Amazon partners. I always thought this was a bit of a no brainer. When you have lovingly crafted a book that you send out into the world why direct people to a seller who discounts immediately, demands massive discounts from your publisher and thus undercuts your royalty, and also has offers of second hand copies in mint condition for 2p on some pages? It makes no sense. For goodness sake, let Amazon get on doing what it does well, but make a partnership with a local indie bookshop, who are prepared to stock your books in sufficient quantities to be able to meet supply. Work with them to promote their business, not just your books.
( But do remember, a bookshop is not obliged to carry your books. You love your books and are proud of them, they may not, or may not think they have the right market. A good bookseller knows his or her customers and a bookseller is under no obligation to sell your book, so be kind to them if they say no. They only have so much space on the shelves.)
Signed copies of all my books in print are available from Solva Woollen Mill. Yes, they ship world wide. No they don’t do discounts. Yes, they do pay tax and they also provide employment for lots of people. And the mill smells beautifully of wool and has resident cats who always come out to help me sign books whenever I visit.