FLASH midweek TripFiction GIVEAWAY
Talking to “The Bookman” – a subscription service for book lovers
25th November 2021
We talk to Sam Draper, the powerhouse behind “The Bookman” – a subscription service for book lovers.
TF: We first heard about your wonderful venture in a fabulous Reader’s Digest article, titled “The Bookman: is this the best job in the world?”. That certainly piqued our interest. Tell us a bit more about what you do.
SD: It’s very simple really – I pick books for people. I’m a book match maker who absolutely loves finding a really good book to give joy to a reader. It’s a monthly book subscription that is unique to each reader – no Bookman Bundle is the same.
In more detail, that means that people buy a Bookman Bundle for themselves or a friend or family member as a gift. They receive a lovely Bookman voucher or direct contact from me to arrange a Bookman Consultation.
The Bookman Consultation is a fancy way of saying we have a chat about book likes and dislikes, without snobbery or judgement. It’s just a chance to chat and answer some questions that help me curate the perfect book selection for you. The Consultation can be a phone or video call, or for the busy introvert, an email questionnaire. Either way, it helps me find out the best books for you that you might not find for yourself.
Once I’ve had a chat with the lucky reader, my job becomes a monthly task. Each month I spend my time in lots of lovely independent bookshops browsing and buying books for my wonderful subscribers. Then they are wrapped with love, surrounded in purple tissue paper, string, and cardboard, and I spend a few back-breaking trips to the Post Office to send the Bookman Bundles across the UK and the world.
It’s a joy to choose books for friends and family, and The Bookman has allowed me to extend my friends and family to include 100s of new and interesting readers.
TF: When you first meet someone and you are pondering what titles to choose for them, what is your source and inspiration as there are so many titles available? Do you, for example, have lists? Or do you keep everything pretty much in your head?
SD: I have my secret methods, but mainly I keep a record of each readers’ profile – based on the Bookman Consultation and subsequent feedback from them. It’s an open dialogue, and each month, a Bookman reader can tell me anything about the choices I’ve made, or just sit back and enjoy the surprise.
The main source of inspiration is the reader themselves – what they’ve read before, what they didn’t enjoy, what they would like to read more about. These questions form part of the Bookman process. Getting to know the reader means I can get to know a little bit about what books they might like. It’s a strange form of empathy that allows me to match book to reader and vice versa. It does involve personally reading outside my favourite genres and embracing lots of different styles of books, but that is part of the pleasure and challenge for me as an individual. Each reader is a lovely challenge that I need to meet and curate books for.
TF: I guess it’s quite hard to be au fait with all genres. Which are your personal preferred genres?
SD: The Bookman is not about my personal tastes, because I’m not simply recommending what I like. I’m recommending the best book for that individual reader. Most of my readers want the surprise and joy of a different author, or book they hadn’t spotted. I send to kids, adults, and bookclubs who don’t want to argue any more about their monthly choice.
My personal favourite genres are fantasy, dystopian, gothic, and quite a lot of the classics. My tastes vary between the fantasy obsessed pre-teen reader I used to be and the literary English teacher I was for 17 years. I love a well-written book in any genre – as it’s a long conversation, but a lot of the best books don’t fit neatly into categories on Goodreads. And I’m also a sucker for a good short story collection.
TF: We all have our preferred sourced for finding new reads, like friend recommendations, Social Media, etc. I wonder if being more objective about the choices you offer to individuals, you have a fresh eye and therefore can suggest a whole new avenue of reading experience?
SD: That is a nice way of putting it. Most readers will know what section they tend to gravitate towards in a bookshop. The online bookshops use their algorithms to show you things you will definitely enjoy. Buying a 3-month Bookman Bundle means at the very least, I am introducing you to 3 authors you will not have read before and opening up a very choices that are left and right of what you might normally choose.
The Bookman doesn’t replace personal choice or your own favourite comfort reads, but I do hope that I introduce you to a few more lovely authors that bring joy and pleasure. A well chosen book is a special gift to give someone you care about.
TF: How do you keep up with the publishing world and keep track of all the new books being published, so you can offer them on to your readers?
SD: The Publishing world is vast and numerous, but luckily for me, I can exist on the edges. Most readers can find the top 10 books in their local Waterstones, and Amazon promotes and markets the bestsellers. The Bookman is all about personalisation, so I delve a little deeper and further away from The Booker Prize winners that we can all see on television and radio. My focus is on the individual and finding them new authors or new styles of books that they might not find for themselves. It’s part of my job to keep reading and researching, but its also to know when and where I can trust readers to find familiar books for themselves.
TF: How much time do you spend per week involved in this project?
SD: Ask anyone who runs a small business – either part-time or full-time – I’m working on this on a daily basis. If walk past a bookshop, I go in and research. I have daily orders and emails to respond to which keeps my phone pinging. And each month I have a very focused Wrapping Week where everything is made ready to pop in the post. None of that includes my social media engagement and marketing plans. On Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, I’m running competitions and chatting books on a regular basis. So in short, I am The Bookman every day!
TF: What are you yourself currently reading and which titles are you looking forward to picking up over the coming months?
SD: Awards such as the Booker Prize and The Booksaremybag Awards are definitely a source for most people’s current buying. And as Christmas looms, lots of biographies and big old hardbacks will start being bought.
I’m currently reading ‘You Let Me In’ by Camilla Bruce – a creepy little fairy tale slash crime book. And then I’ll be moving onto Ness by Robert MacFarlane and Stanley Donwood – another short one (less than 200 pages), but it caught my eye in my local bookshop.
TF: Books like Shantaram and Memoirs of a Geisha inspired us to set up TripFiction. I have recently really enjoyed A Town Called Solace and All My Mothers. Based on those titles, do you have a book or two you would recommend?
SD: Putting me on the spot, and I’d want to know more about a reader than just four books, but I suggest The Bastard of Istanbul (or any other title) by Elif Shafak, a wondrous Turkish author. For those wanting a mixture of cultural and historical fiction, The Bridge on the Drina by Ivo Andric is wondrous and epic.
Thank you so much to Sam Draper. If you are looking for a book themed present (after all, the festive season is on the horizon!) why not get in touch with him and buy a book bundle? Or give him a call direct to find out more: 07912874766 UK
Join Team TripFiction on Social Media: