Alis Hawkins

Crime Cymru founder member and current chair, Alis Hawkins, talks about her upcoming publicity venture #IndyBookTourCymru2019.

If you’re going to make a success of a historical crime series set in a very specific geographical area, it makes sense to make sure that the people in that area know about it. So, having launched None So Blind, the first in the Teifi Valley Coroner series in St Dogmaels in 2017, it seemed like a good idea to try and organise a book tour of west Wales to launch the second book in the series, In Two Minds, in the summer of 2019.

But, as I started to plan, a bigger idea presented itself. Why not do a book tour of the whole of Wales? As far as the internet could tell me, nobody’d ever tried to visit every single independent bookshop in Wales* in one go before.

And so #IndyBookTourCymru2019 was born.

In consultation with my publishers, The Dome Press, I decided that the tour should take place in May, both because that’s the month when In Two Minds is being published and because it’s National Crime Reading Month. (As Michael Caine would say ‘Not a lot of people know that…’ so it needs promoting.)

The Dome Press have been incredibly supportive of the tour. They sent a copy of None So Blind to each of the bookshops to accompany a letter from me inviting them to take part in the tour and they’re also supporting me with publicity materials. That initial letter from me was quite clear – I wanted to visit every indie bookshop in Wales, whether or not they were keen for me to put on an event. ‘I’d like to put my head round the door of every shop’, my letter said, ‘at least to say hi, take a selfie with you and put it up on social media’. The tour is intended to be a win-win for me and the bookshops – at the very least we all get a bit of publicity on social media.

A few days after the packages had gone out, even as the dismal, penniless days of late January depressed us, responses began to filter in from the early adopters of the bookselling fraternity. Yes, they’d like to see me. Yes, they would like me to do events in their shops, thanks very much for offering.

Interestingly, those first to respond have nearly all been off the usual author event trail: in Machynlleth, Llanidloes, St Davids, Cardigan, Narberth, the Mumbles… It seemed that the bookshops of West and mid Wales were keen to give their readers the kind of chance to talk books with an author that’s taken for granted by people who live in what you might call ‘Greater Cardiff’.

By this stage, with a month to go before the first event on May 1st, things have begun to take shape. The tour will kick off in mid Wales, in Machynlleth to be precise, with a meet the author over coffee and cakes event at the Pen’rallt Bookshop and Gallery, then… well, probably best if you head on over to the ‘Events’ page on my website to see where you can catch up with me if you’d like to come in for a chat.

In planning this tour, it’s been wonderful to see that bookshops throughout Wales are keen to bring readers and authors together and I hope to play a small part in encouraging that trend where Crime Cymru authors are concerned. At every bookshop I’ll be talking about Crime Cymru and leaving a stack of bookmarks publicising our collective.

Incidentally, while I’m here, I should mention that I’ve been asked to do events at three out of the four Welsh finalists for Bookshop of the Year: Cover to Cover in Mumbles, Chepstow Books and Book-ish at Crickhowell (the overall winner) and I’ve just appeared at an event run by the fourth, Griffin Books in Penarth with Kath Stansfield, also of Crime Cymru, and Mick Finlay, talking about Victorian crime fiction.

Many congratulations to all four shops on being recognised for the fantastic work they do in promoting books, reading and author engagement in their communities.

* Just to be clear, I’m visiting every independent bookshop in Wales that sells at least some English books – kind of necessary since my book is in English!

5th April 2019

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