It started with three strangers standing on a corner with suitcases loaded with books and no umbrellas as the heavens opened. The Manchester Book Market met us with a traditional British morning.
A quick look around the quaint St Ann’s Square led us to The Orangery and the vivacious host of the independent book sellers event we had come to attend. It was with relief that we found our places inside a nice conservatory, complete with bar, music, and various adjoining tents selling food, jewellery and gifts. We set up our table, had a little meander around the other book sellers, and the market began to fill with the beginnings of friendly chatter. Despite the persistent drizzle outside, the atmosphere was warm and inviting.
As people began to wander in, perhaps just to avoid the rain, many stopped to admire the lovely covers of our Linen Press books, while others were fascinated by the company ethos and wanted to chat about the importance of publishing women writers. Conversation was easy as people ambled past, perusing our titles. We were soon selling books and later a combination of special offers and the promise of meeting one of our authors seemed to loosen purse strings and inspire interest.
When Hema Macherla joined me after lunch, she brought with her the sun, more books, an easy smile and her wonderful husband who bought us both lunch and tea as we attempted to sell our wares and not expire from the trapped sun and the body heat of an impressive throng of customers. Those who had earlier shown an interest in Hema’s two novels, Breeze from the River Manjeera and Blue Eyes, returned to meet her in person. From the start, she was hard at it, signing books, making deals, and engaging in conversation about the issues in her novels.
It was a long day, but gratifying and rewarding when people scurried away with a Linen Press book and a company card tucked safely in their bags. We sold at least one copy of every book published and Hema, unsurprisingly, sold all the copies I’d brought and many more from her own suitcase. There was great camaraderie with the other stall holders and we left having made new friends in the world of independent publishing whose collective advice and experiences would be stored up for the future. My suitcase was considerably lighter as I trundled it through the streets of Manchester to the train station, clutching a Kit Kat donated by Hema and the dregs of my tea, hoping I would not get lost or miss my train home. I spent most of the journey enthusiastically scribbling ideas and thoughts in my bright orange notepad.
It was exhausting and relentless, but it was worth every minute, and not just for the books we sold. Hugging Hema, we promised each other this was just the first of many such events and we vowed solemnly to sell double the number of books next time the Linen Press dream team was reunited.
– Rhona Scullion