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The IOBA Standard is the journal of the Independent Online Booksellers Association and covers the book world, with a special focus on the online used, out-of-print, and collectible bookselling markets.


For Love or Money?

Over three years ago my wife, Mary, came up with the idea for a writers mural within our bookshop. The right artist was commissioned (an Oscar nominated animator, no less) and the research and designs began.

That the mural would be a wonderful addition to the shop was not in doubt, but my job was to see if it could be justified commercially. The area was large (40′ x 18′), needing special fade-resistant acrylic paints, so cost was going to be considerable – the scaffolding alone cost a four-figure sum and the total cost was in five figures.

Would it sell more books? Enough books to pay for it? We hoped so!

The mural was finished just over a year ago, after two years work by Mary on research and, of course, a huge amount of work by Peter, the painter, assisted by his father, John..

Research? Read for yourself within the link below the care that went into the selection of each writer and the research that went into the grouping, so that there is a genuine connection (e.g., Stevenson actually met [and liked] Twain when travelling in America.). Then there were the reference photographs needed for each writer, dozens of them, so that Peter could get the likeness just right. He even had the bookshop staff (including management!) dressing up in appropriate clothes, acting as models for the mural.

If truth be told, it was done for love, but always with an eye on the commercial angle – and we have been delighted with the results. The mural has attracted major regional newspaper coverage and two television spots so far. This has led to a 14% increase in turnover over the last year. There are other factors, but the mural is the major difference within the bookshop over the past year, so I believe that it can claim most of the commercial credits.

So, if you have a gleam in your eye and have something wonderful you want to do within your bookshop, but are worried about the cost, I hope our example will inspire you to take the plunge.

It has taken a further year to get the mural website ready, but here is a preview.

The instructions for use are not quite finished, so I will give them separately:

1. Click onto the following link.

3. Sweep your mouse over the mural and each panel changes to colour. Click onto any panel and the panel comes up close, along with a description of the writers within that panel.

4. Click onto any writer (or dog, or cat, or other animal) for a final enlargement.

In addition, you can click onto the link below the mural for a history and the explanation of the ‘Not the Writers’ name. (Yes, we probably missed out YOUR favourite author too!)

Finally, there is another link at the very bottom for a full colour high-resolution sweep of the whole mural.

Stuart and Mary Manley

EDITOR’S NOTE: Here’s a peek at the mural. You’ll get a much better view by going to Barter Books’ site, and much more information about it. But wanted you to get an idea of what a tremendous thing it is.




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