However, the day after a successful book launch at the Gardeners Rest in Neepsend, I found myself very nervous as I headed out with my books. Though I hail from Sheffield, I haven’t lived there for twenty years and it suddenly felt like a vast metropolis dwarfing me and my box of books. It was a long way from the safe confines of Hebden Bridge. Almost no-one knew who I was here and I was starting from the bottom rung of the bookselling world again.
My first stop was CCC (now part of the GoOutdoors empire), who had almost stocked my first book five years ago despite it not covering the local area. But times had changed; the company had been taken over again and local staff now had no say in any of the stock they were given. I glanced over the books on the rather forlorn shelf and was universally uninspired. Everything was the sort of inane catalogue gloss that no-one with any interest in walking locally would ever give any time to.
I continued out on Abbeydale Road and passed one of the few independent bookshops left in Sheffield; The Rude Shipyard. I was so nervous as I entered that I was shaking – what if they said no, what if they all said no? I am not normally wracked by these doubts, but two years work was in my hands and at the whim of these handful of booksellers. I needn’t have worried. The welcoming owner Ben immediately pointed towards the prominent local authors’ bookshelf and said they only take 20% commission. As I eagerly signed his form, I ate some lovely vegan blueberry cake to calm down. I decided Sheffield wasn’t that scary after all.
I didn’t have a lot of time that afternoon but I hit a few more joints on Abbeydale Road and to my surprise every single one of them stocked my book. In Foothills, a young assistant marvelled at the detail on moors he thought he knew back to front. In Jameson’s Fine Things, it seemed unlikely I would find traction amid all the scented cushions and twee gifts, but mine became the only book in store. In Frankly My Deer, Karla emerged from the cellar to enthusiastically endorse it as a perfect Valentine’s gift for men. And, in Red Haus Books, mine quickly sat proudly among the radical and revolutionary titles on the shelf. I return buoyed by the city’s refreshing openness to my work and I vowed not to even bother with asking in any of the chain stores whose policies are intentionally closed off to small sellers. In places like Sheffield that are full of vibrant independent shops there are plenty of alternatives.
I returned to Sheffield the following week with a suitcase full of books – about 50 piled high in as big a wheelie suitcase as I could find. This is because there is nowhere free to park in the centre of the city for more than 20 minutes. So I left the van opposite the Wellington at Shalesmoor and pulled the books a mile up the steep hill to the city, which felt far higher than I ever remembered it before. Unfortunately every shop I visited said that the manager was off today; many loved the book, but I couldn’t lighten my load other than leaving a few sample copies. A couple of hours later I hurtled uncontrollably back down the hill and finally got rid of some books at the Kelham Island Museum just a few yards from where I’d parked.
Over the next few days I learned a lot about the art of loading (or at least appearing to load). Many of the areas with the most galleries, gift shops, bookshops, etc – the city centre, Sharrow Vale, Ecclesall Road, Broomhill – have no free parking for visitors, but if you have a panel van you can apparently load just about anywhere. Double yellow lines that say ‘No loading 7-9.30’ basically mean load away for the rest of the day. Don’t park in the marked bays or you have to pay, but park on the double yellow with your hazards on, while you go into a shop and try to sell them your wares. Though this is not technically loading, when you have a van full of boxes no-one is going to query it.
So, thank you Sheffield, not for your bewildering new city centre traffic flow systems (we always have to try to outdo Leeds don’t we?), but for your wonderful world of independent shops and support for the small guy.
The South Yorkshire Moors is currently stocked in the following independent outlets in and around Sheffield:
Jameson’s Fine Things, Abbeydale Road
Frankly My Deer, Abbeydale Road
Red Haus Books, Abbeydale Road
Foothills, Edgedale Road
Sheffield Scene, city centre
Sheffield Cathedral Shop, city centre
Handpicked Books (in Bird's Yard), city centre
Forgotten Fiction (in All Good Stuff), city centre
The Porter Bookshop, Sharrow Vale Road
Front Runner, Sharrow Vale Road
Rhyme & Reason, Hunters Bar
Spirals, Ecclesall Road
Broomhill Post Office
Space 205, Crookes
Beeches of Walkley
Curo Gallery, Hillsborough
Kelham Island Museum & Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet
The Foundry Climbing Shop, Kelham Island
Seasons Gallery, Totley Rise
Low Bradfield Post Office
Countess Tea Rooms, Wortley
The Art House Café, Penistone