Photos by  Alex Shaw and Amelia Kyazze, words by Chris Russell, cartoon by Ollie Randall 

Byte The Book live events made a triumphant return on 21st February with a spirited discussion on how to be a successful author in the twenty-first century. The four-strong panel comprised best-selling author Nicola May, publishing consultant Janey Burton, literary agent James Wills (Watson Little) and publisher Jamie Hodder Williams (Bedford Square).

Sponsor Bookswarm's Simon Appleby chatting to panelist Jamie Hodder Williams

Byte founder Justine Solomons launched the discussion with the million-dollar question
— which authors publish well, and why are they successful? “People who write because
they love the process”, responded Jamie, adding that the most successful authors all have
a deep understanding of their genre. Janey agreed, stressing the importance of first
identifying your core audience and then devising a strategy for reaching them. Nicola,
whose breakthrough novel hit the number one spot on Amazon and remained there for
twelve weeks, is a poster child for persistence and dogged determination. “There hasn’t
been one day since I started when I haven’t been on social media talking to fans, or going
to panels, or approaching radio stations and papers”. As a primarily self-published author,
she praised Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform as a core ingredient in her
success. “It’s incredible… it’s the main reason I’ve done well. They even have a KDP
‘University’ to help you out with marketing. I don’t use anything else”.

Justine Solomons (centre in red) introducing the panel, from left to right, James Wills, Nicola May, Janey Burton and Jamie Hodder-Williams

Next, the panel discussed whether authors need a public platform to be successful and the conversation turned to publishing phenomenon and TV personality Richard Osman. “It’s tempting to think that Richard’s success is purely down to his celebrity,” began James, “but I saw him presenting an award at the Harrogate Crime Festival way before anyone knew he was writing a book and he was talking to everyone. He did the hard yards. Success relies on a combination of factors”. Janey (pictured left) urged authors against getting “hung up on social media”, and Jamie agreed. “A platform can really help,” he said, “but it doesn’t matter to me if writers don’t have one. I’ve taken on authors who’ve been successful without it”.

Bestselling author Nicola May on the mike

The self-publishing landscape has evolved dramatically over the past decade, so how
viable an option is it for authors in 2023? “It’s not for everyone,” observed Janey, “because
you have to do the job of the publisher yourself. Self-publishing looks cheap and easy but
it’s not something you can just knock out on a wet Wednesday. You need a strategy”.
James picked up on this point, commenting that to stand out above the noise, self-
published authors need “incredible drive”, and as an agent, he’d almost rather his clients
were channeling every ounce of that energy into writing. Nicola, unsurprisingly, is an
evangelist for the DIY approach, although of course her enormous success is the
exception, not the rule. “I published with Hodder for a while because they made me an
offer I couldn’t refuse, but I soon returned to doing it myself. Seeing your book in
Waterstones is amazing (I cried!) but I’m far happier just being an eBook author”.

Hamza Jahanzeb asks the concluding question from the floor

To close the discussion, Justine asked each panel member for a nugget of advice for authors in the audience. “The mistake I see most often,” said Janey, “is people coming to me before they’re ready. Authors get so excited about landing an agent and selling the book that they sometimes skip the less glamorous stages before that… the drudgery of actually writing the thing. You can’t sell a book until it’s finished”. Jamie picked up on this, advising aspiring writers to hand their manuscript over to a trusted reader — before approaching agents — for honest feedback, and Nicola counselled authors against jumping at their first offer. “Keep your options open. If someone wants it, then you know the book is good enough”.

Jamie and Janey networking with attendees after the talk

Finally, James concluded that success in publishing is in the eye of the beholder. “Every writer is looking for something different,” he said, “so whether it’s becoming a number one bestseller or simply completing your manuscript, you can define what success means to you”.


Membership of Byte The Book starts at £30 a month. You can find out about membership here.

Congratulations to Byte the Book member Zoe Cunningham who has just produced her first science fiction feature film, Breaking Infinity. Breaking Infinity follows research scientist Liam who, unstuck in time, travels from the distant past to an apocalyptic future – an implosion he may himself have caused.

We have two tickets to give away to the UK Premiere of Breaking Infinity (at Curzon Soho in London) on 24th March. To claim them, email First come, first served! You can also book tickets here:

This year's annual presentation on the UK Book Consumer will take place on Wednesday 22nd March at 10:30 GMT. You can join Nielsen BookData's Steve Bohme as he presents live from the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden, or you can join via Zoom. The audience will be given a tour of the consumer landscape in 2022. Who are buying books and how has this changed over time? How are different formats fairing in this post-lockdown market and which genres are reigning supreme? Where are consumers buying books? All attendees will gain a thorough understanding of the UK’s appetite for books. One member of Byte The Book can claim a free ticket to this event -- email For more information visit:



1. Why do we need ISBNs?
Most of our telephone conversations at the UK & Ireland ISBN Agency start with “I’ve written
this book… now what do I do?” My first question to them is “Do you have an ISBN” to which
the answer is usually “What’s an ISBN? Why do I need one?”

There are three important questions a new publisher or self-publishing author should
consider when deciding whether they need an ISBN:
Do you want your books to be discovered online and in bookshops?
Do you want to sell books as the ordering and distribution of books is generally
executed by the ISBN?
Do you want to analyse those sales?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you need an ISBN.

The ISBN is a unique internationally recognised identifier for monographic publications;
assigning a number replaces the handling of long bibliographic descriptive records, thereby
saving time and staff costs and reducing copying errors.

As a self-published author, by obtaining an ISBN you will be able to take the necessary
steps to ensure that your book is widely known and maximise its sales potential. Correct use of the ISBN allows different product forms and editions of a book, whether printed or digital, to be clearly differentiated, ensuring that customers receive the version that they require.

The ISBN facilitates compilation and updating of book-trade directories and bibliographic
databases, such as catalogues of books-in-print. Information on available books can be
found easily.

Ordering and distribution of books is generally executed by the ISBN; this is a fast and
efficient method. The ISBN is machine-readable in the form of a 13-digit EAN-13 bar code. This is fast and avoids mistakes. The ISBN is required for the running of electronic point-of-sale systems in bookshops. The majority of publisher’s and supply chain systems are based on the ISBN.

The accumulation of sales data is done by the ISBN. This enables the varying successes of
different product forms and editions of publications to be monitored, as well as enabling
comparisons between different subject areas and even different publishing houses.

The national lending right in some countries is based on the ISBN. Such schemes enable
authors and illustrators to receive payments proportionate to the number of times that their
books are lent out by public libraries.

2. Who came up with the ISBN and why?
In 1967, the Whitaker company generated the first SBN. The SBN or Standard Book Number was born two years earlier, in 1965, when WHSmith challenged a Professor of Statistics at the London School of Economics to come up with an algorithm to help them track books. The ISBN has been integral to the book trade ever since. It became the International Standard Book Number in 1970.

Whitaker, which subsequently became Nielsen BookData, has had the privilege of running
the UK and Ireland ISBN Agency since 1967. Today the UK & Ireland Agency assigns ISBNs
to publishers based anywhere in the British Isles and Ireland and is one of the largest
Agencies in terms of ISBN prefixes allocated.

Each country has a National ISBN Agency and is only permitted to supply ISBNs to those
publishing within their territories, we are therefore only allowed to supply ISBNs to publishers
based in, and publishing from the UK & Ireland and 14 British Overseas Territories, including
such exotic places as Tristan da Cunha, Montserrat, Pitcairn and Turks and Caicos.

3. How do they differ from barcodes in other retailing environments?
The barcode on a book is simply an electronic, scannable version of the ISBN. All it
contains is the ISBN, no other data such as price. When you register your book with Nielsen
BookData, you supply information such as title, format, price, author etc. Nielsen BookData
will then send this information to the trade – booksellers, libraries, distributors and their
international data customers. When you subsequently go into a bookshop and the barcode is
scanned, that is when all the necessary data will appear. If the book isn’t registered, booksellers won’t know it exists and the scanned barcode will not bring up any information.

The ISBN is a derivation of the EAN, which is used by pretty much all retailers, regardless of
environment, however an ISBN barcode is specifically derived from the ISBN. If you look at
a barcode on a book you will see the ISBN sitting on top of the barcode graphic and the
resulting EAN sitting below the barcode graphic. You will see that the number is exactly the
same except maybe for the spacing of the numbers. For more specific information about EANs, visit GS1UK who are the regulatory trade body
for EANs in the UK.

4. What are the constituent parts of an ISBN?
ISBNs are calculated using a specific mathematical formula and include a check digit to
validate the number. ISBNs don’t expire, however once used, they cannot be reused simply because a previous title is no longer in print. That ISBN identifies a single title and format of a book for life! The ISBN is broken into five elements.

  • Bookland Prefix: this shows that the identifier being used is for a book – it is “from”
  • Registration Group: identifies a country, area or language area where the publisher is
    based and the ISBN is assigned
  • Registrant (Publisher) identifier: identifies a particular publisher and usually indicates
    the exact identity of the publishing house and its address
  • Title Identifier: identifies a specific edition of a publication of a specific publisher
  • Check Digit: validates the full number


Take the Writers and Artists Yearbook 2020 as an example.
Published by an imprint or subsidiary of Bloomsbury, called Bloomsbury Information. An
imprint is defined as a wholly owned subsidiary of a publisher. Imprints are generally used to
publish different genres. When asked for your ‘Imprint name’, generally what they really
mean is what is your ‘Publisher’ name.
The ISBN itself: 978-1-4729-4751-2 
This ISBN comes from an allocation assigned to Bloomsbury back in 2012 and contains
10,000 ISBNs, and this prefix has been shared with other Bloomsbury imprints, so they can
utilise the allocation as well.
978 identifies that the product is a book
1 – Is the Area Code if you like for an Anglophone area, meaning that it belongs to a
publisher based in either the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, or the USA.
In this case it is an allocation assigned to the UK by the International ISBN Agency, who
assigns all allocations to all Agencies around the world.
4729 - The next four digits is the Publisher number for Bloomsbury - together with the 1, this
makes up the publisher prefix.
4751 - The next four digits are the Title number – this is where the ISBN used comes in the
allocation of ISBNs assigned to Bloomsbury. This is the only sequential part of the ISBN.
2 - And the final digit is completely random and seemingly makes no sense, but this is the
Check Digit, the result of the algorithm. This validates the whole number

We also supply single ISBNs, while they identify a title and format of a book, they are not
unique to the publisher as a larger allocation would be. We are only able to supply single
ISBNs because we have used a much larger allocation of 10,000, meaning that we can offer
customers who only really need one number the option of the single rather than having to
purchase a larger allocation.

5. Are they the same in every book market globally? 
ISBNs are geo-specific. Irrespective of your nationality, citizenship, what language the book
is written in, where the book is printed or for sale, it is only the country in which you are
based and are publishing from that determines where you acquire an ISBN.  Even if, for
example, you are English but based in and publishing from Spain, then the ISBN should be
acquired from the Spanish ISBN Agency. If you move to another country, you will need to
acquire ISBNs from that country’s Agency, you cannot use the ISBNs acquired from the UK
& Ireland Agency in another country of publication.

Each country has a National ISBN Agency and is only permitted to supply ISBNs to those
publishing within their territories. For further information please visit the International ISBN
Agency website

An ISBN is recognised internationally, which means that you can sell your book in whichever
country you wish. If you are a non-UK-based publisher, you can supply the title information
to Nielsen BookData regardless of the place of publication, however, it must be identified
with an ISBN from your National ISBN Agency.

6. What is the process of allocating an ISBN to a new book?
First you need to acquire your ISBNs! If you are based in the UK or Ireland or any of the
territories we cover and want to publish your book you should contact the UK & Ireland ISBN
Agency. Our Online Store ( allows you to purchase ISBNs immediately
24/7. It’s the fastest and most popular way to purchase either a single ISBN or larger
allocations, up to a block of 1,000, and includes details about other Nielsen BookData

We also offer a manual application, found on our Nielsen BookData website. There are
many reasons customers have to use this form, such as different payment preferences, an
aversion to online forms in general or they need allocations larger than 1,000. The largest of
which is 100,000.

Once you have purchased ISBNs you can then register with Nielsen BookData’s free online
service Title Editor. Title Editor is a way to send new title information and keep existing titles
up-to-date. You can register to use the service here

If you have any problems registering your books you can contact the Publisher Help
Desk:, or telephone 01483 712450. Nielsen BookData adds basic details for titles free of charge, if you would like to add more enriched information such as descriptions, table of contents, author biographies, etc please email:

You should send a copy of each title you publish to the Legal Deposit Office at the British
Library.  Further details are at

Once a record is added to the database the details are sent to data customers including
Waterstones,, and numerous other websites, booksellers and distributors.
Please allow 3-5 days for your title to be fully listed on Nielsen BookData’s database and

7. Do you have any ISBN stories or anecdotes?
We interact with many, many different people from all walks of life, Dukes, Military
Regiments, Museums, Her Majesty’s various Government Ministries, an Engineer of the
Harrier Jump Jet, Rugby Internationals, captured World War II Tommies, Psychics who
‘channel’ their books, a wonderful gentleman from Alnwick whose lifelong quest was to save
the Red Squirrel – all walks of life. In one lively case a journalist and BBC broadcaster who
had interviewed people such as Noel Coward, Albert Finney, Harold Pinter, Peter Hall and
many more! He was an amazing, fascinating man and at 80 something he was also still
game to go zip-lining in Costa Rica! We interact with lots of lovely, interesting people, there
is no one kind of author, that’s for sure.

Eleanor Pigg is the Manager of the UK & Ireland ISBN Agency, advising publishers of all
sizes about the use of ISBNs and best practice. She also manages the SAN Agency
allocating SAN identifiers to the book industry. You can follow the ISBN Agency on
Instagram @ukisbnagency for tips and advice.

Byte The Book loves bringing people from all areas of the publishing world together so that they can learn from each other and collaborate, and we want to highlight some wonderful collaborations that have come about via Byte The Book. Here is Rebecca Rennie, who co-authored a book with Paul Robinson, on how they met their agent, Justin Nash.

How did you meet Justin?

I submitted Nina Simone’s Travelling Circus - A Drummer’s Tale to Byte the Book Agent’s Table last year. I had been interviewing Paul Robinson, Nina Simone’s drummer, for four years and we co-authored the 80,000 word memoir.

What was it like for you and Paul to work with Justin?

Paul and I both enjoyed the entire experience speaking with Justin (on zoom). He had considered our submission and the first 10,000 words in surprising detail. It was clear just how much he enjoyed the book and how passionately he would champion our project were he to represent the book. We even added a brand new chapter after our initial conversation with him, because the questions he posed covered areas neither of us had considered including at the end of the book.

We sent the new chapter to Justin quick smart and, once again, his feedback was insightful and encouraging. In our next zoom meeting he expressed a couple of concerns, ones which we had considered ourselves, and together we discussed ways of overcoming those issues. It felt already, like true teamwork.

On our third meeting, I felt comfortable enough to ask some very real questions. It was easy to speak openly and honestly. The communication between the three of us simply flowed.

Can you tell us about the result? 

It was during this third meeting that we all decided to go ahead and sign an agreement.

Justin Nash is Managing Director at Kate Nash Literary Agency. 
Rebecca Rennie is an editor, writer, songwriter and musician. 
Paul Robinson is a musician. 

Congratulations to long-time member of Byte the Book, Kate Fridriks, whose bestselling debut, Real Gone Kid, has just been published by Steel Thistle Press Ltd. Set in 1984, her adult, coming-of-age novel tells the story of a 16-year-old girl who secretly takes up boxing (at a time when women didn't box), in order to defend herself and her vulnerable younger sister, on the mean streets of a sectarian steel town in Scotland. Now available to order in all good book stores, and on Amazon here:




Elizabeth Fippouli adapted Alexander The Great: Between Dreams and Imagination for the British Library. Alexander is hungry for knowledge as he travels ever onwards to new  places, even to ‘the end of the earth’. In his world, wisdom and  greatness are acquired from other cultures and through initiative and  bravery. The performance is framed around the dreams of the philosopher  Aristotle, who pushes his pupil Alexander, and the audience, in and out  of fantasy worlds that challenge his thinking as a leader. A not-to-miss adaptation  that pulls from history, philosophy, myth and the contemporary world to propose a new idea around greatness. Byte The Book members can claim one of five free tickets on a first come, first served basis. Performances are on 2, 3 and 4 February. Email for details.

Our favourite author mindset and marketing coach, Kelly Weekes, is hosting a four-week course called The Visible Author. It is designed to help authors understand and move past fears and worries and step confidently into creating and sharing content to promote themselves and their books. Space is limited:

Members can claim a 15% discount on the Infinite Blue Writing Retreat, taking place in Paleros Bay, Greece, 20-27 May. Byte The Book member Elizabeth Fipplouli will be on hand, offering guidance on non-fiction work, as will experts on writing fiction. Details are online here.

When I pick up a new book, the first page I read is the acknowledgements at the back. What
is the reason for this strange, back-to-front reading habit? It all stems from my search for a
literary agent.

Rewind to when I started writing my first novel. I needed help, so I enrolled on an evening
class at City University led by Martin Ouvry. A year after the course finished I won a short
story prize which paid for a further novel-writing course at the Faber Academy. I learned
about structure, plot, and dialogue, and also how to write a covering letter and pitch my
manuscript to agents. The difficulty I had in condensing my pitch to something snappy and
compelling might have told me that my novel lacked a unique selling point. Nevertheless, I
ploughed on. As my manuscript neared completion I set up a spreadsheet of likely agents and
followed them on Twitter. I read all the advice I could find, took part in workshops, had my
work critiqued, and wrote what felt like hundreds of personalised covering letters. Despite
three requests for the full manuscript, after two years of rejections I had to conclude that
sadly, Novel 1 wasn’t going anywhere.

‘Write the book that only you can write,’ said my Faber Academy tutor, Richard Skinner. I
reflected on these words as I immersed myself in my second novel, Wildwood. Wildwood
draws on my British and Filipino heritage and is partly inspired by my mother’s tumultuous
childhood. Unlike my first book, which was set in an Essex town I had never visited, the
story of Wildwood felt unique and personal to me. When I neared the end of the first draft, I
took a sabbatical from my job to undertake an MA in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths. Once
more, I prepared to submit my manuscript to agents. Writing a pitch was much easier this
time. While I had some positive feedback from my initial round of submissions, it became
clear that I needed to do more work on the manuscript. I was in the middle of a gruelling
rewrite when I received an email from Byte the Book informing me that I had won one of the debut
author bursary packages sponsored by Hachette UK. This gave me the boost I needed to finish the next draft.

I decided to take part in a Twitter event where writers could pitch their manuscripts to agents.
A few years before I would have been terrified of the idea, but I had realised that, in
publishing, every opportunity must be seized. I duly posted my 44-word pitch and was thrilled to receive several ‘likes’ from agents. One read my full manuscript and quickly
offered me representation! Things moved fast after that. I contacted other agents to let them
know I had received an offer, and within weeks I had three further offers. I chose the
wonderful Catherine Cho because we had a shared vision for the development of Wildwood
and I was excited to be part of the new agency, Paper Literary, that she had established.

The first novel I wrote didn’t last, but the friendships I made on the writing courses certainly
did. I would wholeheartedly recommend joining a writers’ group if you can. I still meet
regularly with friends from both courses, where we read and give feedback on each other’s
work (and drink prosecco). The support from other writers continues to be invaluable as I
develop Wildwood and start thinking about my next project.

Additional advice? Get feedback on your opening chapters and covering letter so they stand
out as much as possible. While preparing my submission package, I found initiatives such as
Byte the Book’s Agent Tables helpful. It’s rare to get any kind of feedback when you submit
to an agent, so the chance to discuss your draft cover letter and opening chapters with an
agent is not to be missed.

It’s crucial to do your research and target agents who are looking for new clients and who
represent the type of book you have written. Yes, this is the reason for my obsession with the
acknowledgements at the back of a book. Even now, I still scan the text until I find the
phrase, “I would like to thank my agent …” Aha.

Finally, don’t be afraid to pitch your book on Twitter or elsewhere – you never know where it
might lead.

Angelita Lapuz Bradney is a recipient of the Byte the Book/Hachette-UK debut author
bursary and is represented by Catherine Cho at Paper Literary.

Huub van de Pol, right, is founder of Audiyence.

FutureBook award winners were announced on 18 November, and three Byte The Book members were recognized. Audiyence and Prismatext were shortlisted in the Startup category, and Storymix won. Congratulations to all!






From CIA to CEO was named a Harper's Bazaar 'Best Business Book' of 2022. The non-fiction book is by author Rupal Patel, who met her agent during a Byte The Book Agent Tables event.

From CIA to CEO is an ops manual and one-of-a-kind tradecraft toolkit for leaders and entrepreneurs that reveals how the rarefied techniques of the CIA can help anyone find their voice, discover their potential, and thrive in the world of business.



On 1 December, author Guy Ware will discuss The Peckham Experiment and his eponymous novel with Jack Czauderna, Chair of the Pioneer Health Foundation. The Peckham Experiment is the story of Charlie and JJ - identical twins and working class children of the 1930s utopian health initiative, the Peckham Experiment - who come of age after the war committed to building the New Jerusalem. Tickets to the event are available here.

Blockchain technology is essentially an update on how the web can function. A simple way to think of blockchain is as a digital ledger that many people can have access to, yet no single entity owns. When anyone adds information or makes a transaction, the ledger is updated automatically for everyone to see. This digital ledger is supported across multiple computers rather than one, making it incredibly secure. In addition, it’s only possible to add new signatures to the ledger, not to change or delete previous ones, which makes it incredibly transparent.

An NFT (or Non-Fungible Token) is a token that denotes ownership of a certain digital asset within this blockchain ecosystem. NFTs can be bought and sold as part of blockchain transactions, and because of blockchain’s transparency it allows for users to irrefutably own a digital item or product, something previously impossible.

How do these two concepts relate to books, and why should publishers, authors and book buyers be interested?

NFTs present the opportunity for digital first editions of books to be created (or “minted” in blockchain jargon). This would allow readers to actually own the digital books that they buy, whereas previously on sites like Amazon it has only been possible to rent (if Amazon blocked you or went down, you would lose your Kindle books). Blockchain books can never be lost, hacked or suppressed.

On top of this, authors should also be interested in NFTs for the secondary sales market, as it allows them to continue to make royalties on their work if it is sold on. Blockchain technology can allow for automatic royalty splits through smart contracts, so if a reader chooses to sell their copy of an NFT on the secondary market, then the author can get a portion of that sale in perpetuity.

NFT editions can include bonus content that could take on a variety of forms, including new content, audio or video, artwork, author introductions or fan messages, exclusive covers, and the opportunity to be a part of a unique community of fans, often including direct access to the author. NFT books allow fans and collectors of works to access a new and exclusive product, bringing readers closer and giving them an experience that extends beyond simply the purchase of the mass created e-book.

How can publishers and authors use them to create and sell books?

Publishers and authors can now mint digital books as NFTs to produce exclusive, trackable editions with a range of bonus content. These NFT books can be released in drops where only a certain number of copies are minted for purchase (this could be 1,000, 100 or even just 1 copy!), or it could be an unlimited supply based on a click and pay model. Only those who buy an NFT copy will ever be able to view it (if you tried to send the NFT book to a friend without making a sale on the blockchain, they would not be able to view the content). Publishers and authors can set their price, and this can even be in pounds and dollars rather than cryptocurrency.

This might sound similar to e-books (and in many ways they are!), but NFTs operate on a decentralised system, meaning that they cannot be taken down or deleted from an owner’s wallet (in which every blockchain user stores their assets), and so readers own NFT books in a way that they do not own e-books.

What would you say to anyone who is sceptical of NFTs?

I think the scepticism surrounding NFTs derives a lot from misinformation connecting them to the volatility of crypto markets, although in reality they operate in very different ways. It’s true that a lot of NFTs and cryptocurrencies can be bought for purely speculative reasons, but an NFT book has genuine value as a product for readers and fans, so in many ways it is immune from this kind of market turbulence (i.e. the fans will set the price, not the crypto market). Environmentally the technology has massively improved on carbon efficiency, and the cost to mint an NFT has also reduced significantly, making it more accessible to the mainstream.

Finally, I would say that the potential to tap into a new market in the very early stages should outweigh any weariness. NFT books are targeting a new and exciting readership that will only grow the publishing industry overall – just as audiobooks tapped into podcasters. NFT books can tap into blockchain enthusiasts along with more traditional fans, all at no conflict to the existing print, e-book or audio formats.

About BookVolts

BookVolts provides publishers and authors with the expertise and market platform to publish their books as NFT editions, assisting them directly with the whole process from start to finish. Authors earn 85% of initial sales of their work through BookVolts, as well as royalties of up to 10% on all secondary sales.

We have made it simple for readers to buy and access their NFT books by building the BookVolts reader app (available across mobile and desktop). This looks and feels very much like any other e-book reader, but it comes with the tools to access a range of bonus content across different formats too. We also remove any complications for blockchain newbies by setting up their wallet for them and handling the royalty payments behind the scenes if required.

James Faktor is Publishing Director at Lume Books, Founder of USound and Co-Founder of Book Volts, which utilises blockchain technology and publishes Digital First Edition books in NFT format. Learn more at


On 31 October, Byte The Book and Stationers’ Company members gathered at Stationers’ Hall in London to hear from a panel of experts on the future of bookselling. Bookselling in 2022: New Routes to Market, was chaired by Byte The Book founder Justine Solomons, and discussion centered on the role of the pandemic and online merchandising on the book market, including audio and e-books, bricks-and-mortar shopping trends and events.

In recent years the publishing industry has been in rude health, with the Publishers Association reporting UK consumer book sales in 2021 up 4% to £2.2 billion. While digital formats such as e-books and audiobooks have attracted consumers and column inches, the print book format has been remarkably resilient compared to other forms of physical media. But the way that readers find and purchase those books is changing, with the advent of new independent online retailers, subscription boxes, and direct to consumer sales by media outlets and publishers. 

The discussion began with an acknowledgement of changed purchasing habits in the wake of the pandemic and lockdown measures that forced people to abandon in-person shopping for many months. The panelists also noted that this change in behavior also made shoppers realise the importance of their communities and of supporting businesses they care about. According to Nicole Vanderbilt, UK Managing Director for, that included independent book shops. is an online book shopping platform that sells books from independent book shops around the country. It also has a US platform.

Left to right: Sara Montgomery, Darin Brockman, Justine Solomons, James Albrecht, Nicole Vanderbilt.

When businesses began to reopen, James Albrecht, Director of Fane Productions and LoveMyRead noted that “people are hungry for in-person events” but that Fane maintains a “discretionary accessibility” to continuing catering for those who prefer or require online participation.

When it comes to e-books and audiobooks, Darin Brockman, CEO and founder of Firsty Group and D2C platform Glassboxx pointed out that “there’s been a huge mistrust with the big retailers.” Instead, it’s now possible to purchase directly from the publisher, and Firsty has sold books in 140 countries.

“We were the winners of COVID,” said Sara Montgomery, founder and director of Monwell Ltd. While it’s hard running a small business when you’re competing with Amazon, she said “our sales more than doubled. We saw so many people much more comfortable buying online, and also reading the news and coming to us to buy what was recommended.”

All of the panelists noted that online shopping can go well beyond what Amazon offers. “We help bookshops expand their reach,” said Vanderbilt. But also has an advantage over brick-and-mortar shops: she noted that Sunday night is the most active time on their website. While it’s not possible to copy the experience of going into a bookshop, there are user-curated lists on Monwell offers a phone service, allowing people to call and chat with a bookseller to place their order.

Albrecht recognises the value of curated lists, as well. The personal touch they deliver is appealing to buyers shopping online. Stanley Tucci’s guest curated box on LoveMyRead was very popular. At the same time, 82% of Fane’s live events occur outside of London, leaving great potential for reaching audiences online. Already one of the company’s YouTube shorts has had 3.6 million views. 

Those kinds of discovery practices have evolved but are largely rooted in the same habits. Montgomery notes that people still go to their trusted newspaper and reviewers for reading suggestions. “It’s not so much how people discover books, but how they access content in the first place,” she said. The ability to link directly to a book for sale from a newspaper review has streamlined this process.

Book to screen, such as Sally Rooney’s Normal People and Bridgerton, has also bridged sales, according to Brockman. Similarly, audio offers a different kind of access to a book and add to the experience. Book subscription boxes are appealing to readers, but have proven tricky to produce in an efficient manner – something the panelists are still investigating. 

While Amazon alternatives like and Monwell can’t always compete on price, they offer something different. “We are an ethical alternative to Amazon,” said Vanderbilt. “We offer carbon neutral deliveries and certify as a B Corporation. We aren’t competing with Amazon on price. You come to us and know that your money is going to indy bookshops.”

“We can’t compete on price all the time,” said Montgomery. “But in some instances we can [be price-competitive] for really high-brow books that won’t be discounted on Amazon.”

In the same vein as ethics, the panel discussed the value of the print industry. While it’s never worthwhile to print more books than are needed, the panelists agreed that print is still alive and kicking. The circular economy is giving books a new life.

The Stationers Hall is home to The Stationers' Company who are the livery hall for the publishing industry and all communications industries in the City of London. The building has recently undergone a major restoration and is truly magnificent. They have a rich history dating back to 1557 and the birth of copyright in the UK. They have in their vaults, amongst other important historic artifacts, the copyrights on Shakespeare's plays.

If you enjoyed this report and want to keep up with the latest happenings in publishing as well as network with publishers and authors alike keep yourself posted by visiting our events page You can join us from £20 a month here.

Photo: The Bookseller

Simon Appleby, Byte The Book member and founder of Bookswarm, recently ran the London Marathon, raising funds for Macmillan Cancer Support. This was Simon's first marathon, which he ran in memory of his late sister-in-law, Nicky, who died from breast cancer back in the year 2000. During her battle with that horrible disease, Nicky received compassionate help and support from Macmillan nurses - which is still one of the many services they provide for people living with cancer. There are around 3 million people living with cancer in the UK today, and over 360,000 more are diagnosed every year. You can still support Simon's fundraiser here, and read about others' in the trade at the marathon from The Bookseller


Inkspot Publishing, founded in 2022 by authors Catherine Evans and Jurcell Virginia,  are planning to launch seven books in their first year; six fictional titles and one non-fiction. Already released is The Wrong’un, by Catherine Evans, a novel about a dysfunctional Northern family, originally published by Unbound in 2018, and The One About The Sheep and Other Stories, a collection of the Chipping Norton Literary Festival Short Story Competition winners from 2016 to 2022. A perfect Christmas present for any literature lover, all profits will go towards the festival, which promotes literacy amongst children and disadvantaged teens. Forthcoming titles include: The Neglected Samurai  by Jurcell Virginia; Fireweed by Richard Vaughan Davies; The Funeral by Sarah Hutchinson Jarman; and Afiya by Lela Burbridge.

Big congratulations to members Prismatext and Storymix for making the Future Book Awards shortlist! We were early champions of Prismatext's amazing project and we're so glad to see them gaining recognition. Winners will be announced 18th November. These companies are two of six to make the Start-Up shortlist. As they say, Prismatext makes learning a language as easy as reading a book. Learn more and download their app here. Storymix describes itself as a movie producer but for books; learn more about them here.