The Crime Writers’ Association

Bookshop of the Month – April 2022: Reading Matters

In conversation with William Shaw

Reading Matters

48 Market St, Chapel-en-le-Frith, High Peak, Derbyshire, SK23 0HY

Tel: 01926 499939

This year will mark ten years since Lyndsay Noden and Sue Taylor decided to open a bookshop in Chapel-en-le-Frith, high in the Peak District of Derbyshire. Reading Matters is a little gem that has quickly become a local fixture and is well supported by the local community – and by local writers such as Stephen Booth, author of the Derbyshire-set Cooper and Fry series.

Curiously, this is a bookshop that was inspired by a book. Sue and Lyndsay conceived of the idea while reading The Education of Harriet Hatfield by May Sarton while on holiday in Malta. It’s a book about two women who had been in a long relationship. When one dies, the other recovers by opening a bookshop in Boston. By the time the holiday was over they had decided to open a bookshop themselves.

Did people think you were mad?

Oh yeah. Totally. Open a bookshop in a double dip recession? There are lots of beauticians on the road and this shop was destined to be that kind of shop. It was white tiles everywhere. But there were no bookshops in this area – none doing what we planned, at least, which was new books and children’s books. I said to Sue, ‘We can do this!’ And we changed it completely. Sue’s daughter had some friends who were studying CAD design so they designed all the shelves. It was a case of Sue painting them when they were built and once they dried I filled them with books. We had the idea at the beginning of October and we were open December first!

Did you have a good first Christmas?

I think we were surprised how good – but the books we were selling were the ones you couldn’t get from Morrisons up the road.

When did you realise it was really working?

About eighteen months in, when we noticed our business had grown so much. Looking at the figures, it was just increasing year on year and that’s when we realised we had got it right. We were getting new customers from the shop, from the website, from word of mouth and then from events. Pretty much within the first eighteen months we realised that the only way this was going to work successfully was to involve the local community and we started working with the schools and some of the local scout groups.

You do author events and run book groups…

Talks are really interesting. I’ve got better at them. I was a complete novice so that was a learning curve, which was fun as most authors are very forgiving. Crime is always good. Stephen Booth is a local author who lives up the road and he was our first event. We started a thing called Crime and Dine, which worked really well. The continued support of people like Will DeanOlivia Kiernan and CJ Tudor has been great. Those we,rah Ward came to visit. Cath Staincliffe lives nearby. We’re diversifying into romantic comedy too this year.

The book groups are an important part of it. We do something called Crime Waves in Chapel, and there’s a local history group.

And when I visited I was so impressed with the work you did with local schools.

My one dream is to get all the children of local schools reading. We’ve really worked on that. We would give raffle prizes away. Anybody who came in and asked, could you give us such-and-such … we would do our best.

You’re in quite a remote location. Presumably that can be a bit of a challenge.

We do have some serious winters. A lot of snow. It can be cold as well. During lockdown people stayed in and read, which was great but we were out delivering books to them when the shop was shut. My Mini wasn’t always happy about the snowy lanes, but Sue has a 4×4 and that doesn’t mind playing in the snow. It’s an out of the way spot but it means that there aren’t many other bookshops anywhere around that do events like we do, so we are quite lucky in that respect.

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to open a shop?

Learn your market. Learn the demographics of the area. Find out what will sell. Above all, get the support of your community, because if you can’t win that, you won’t have customers.

You can explore the bookshop on their website here. Read more about William and his novels here.

Join the CWA

Become part of a thriving community of successful crime writers with invaluable support, expertise and marketing opportunities for all our members.

Advertise with us