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Tales from the Bookseller #1

I’ve come a long way in the three years I’ve been open. A very long way.

Despite only being able to realise my 35+ year dream of

running my own bookshop for three weeks before Boris put the kibosh on things, I am – in part – grateful that I got a full twenty-one days before lockdown.

It was during those initial twenty-one days (or what I like to call the glory days, or opening #1) that pretty much everything fell into place for me in terms of the direction my working life and career were going. I had finally gotten to where I had always intended and wanted to be. There was a moment that I had the ‘this is IT, this is what I was meant to do, and will always do’ feeling that I remember with such clarity.

Having a dream is amazing. Realising that dream is incredible. But when something inside you clicks and you know with absolute conviction that it was always meant to be … that was one of the most fulfilling moments of my life. Not so much heart-warming, more soul-warming.

Dial Lane Books is my baby. And I adore the space I have created with every fibre of my being. It’s what I work towards and strive for and I truly believe that this is as obvious to see as the colour of my beanie.

Books are life. And books are my life. And whilst I read a lot, it has always been about more than that. It’s about the beauty of books in their physical form for me: the aesthetics. How they look. How they feel. How they smell. It’s about understanding that some people want collections, classics, sometimes as many different editions of the same book as you can get for them.

It’s also about going the extra mile and giving customers something they cannot get in a generic chain store or on Amazon. And it’s about the books they don’t know they need until they see it on my shelves or my social media. Ultimately it’s about doing things differently. And it’s this, I believe, that sets me apart from other bookshops and booksellers.

Independent bookshop. The name says it all. So right from the off, my business model was fairly streamlined. I had two main objectives: to give the people of Ipswich a bookshop and to be independent. And that goes further than simply not being part of a chain or a global brand. It’s about the bookseller. It’s about me.

I do things my way, and I always have and always will.

I never read any ‘how to be a bookseller’ manuals, at times this may have been obvious, but finding my own way and carving out my own path have always been far more important to me than ticking off a checklist.

I’ve done things the Dial Lane Books way from day one and in doing so I have merged my personality (quirks and foibles too) into every part of the shop, everything I do and all that the shop stands for. And I absolutely love that.

I love the way I do things – that I am passionate and generous. I love the way I support local authors. I love that I work closely with schools and other organisations. I love that I spend a fortune on my shop which is always growing and evolving. I love that the interior has been created by a group of local, talented craftsmen and artists who are also my friends.

I love that I have created and become synonymous with a brand. I love that I will jump at any opportunity to be in the papers or on the radio or to do interviews. Anything to mention and promote my shop and keep the name in people's minds.

I love that people rushed to snap up 500 of my tote bags and others collect my bookmarks. I love that folk ask me for my orange beanies. I love that I have a huge social media following and that this includes people all over the world. I love the fact that my walls are lined with artwork that I have been given and gifted – many of these drawings, paintings and collages depict my shop.

I love that there is so much affection for Dial Lane Books. For something that I created from nothing.

I love what I do.

Andrew Marsh

The Dial Lane booksellers provide books for our audiences at SBL events.

More about the Ipswich shop here:


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