Booksellers’ Mentoring Programme

Booksellers Association Launches BA Mentoring


BA to Continue Work of Unwin Charitable Trust, as Mentoring Scheme is Taken In-House as part of BA Learning


London. 16 June 2023. The Booksellers Association (BA) has announced the launch of BA Mentoring, continuing the legacy of its work with the Unwin Charitable Trust (UCT)

The BA and UCT have worked in partnership since 2017 to provide a free mentoring programme for independent BA members. Over the years, many booksellers from across the UK and Ireland have benefited from the services of a dedicated mentor, allowing them to discuss their business plans, queries and concerns in complete confidence and without requiring time away from their shops. The mentors are all highly experienced and award-winning booksellers.

From 1 July 2023 the coordination of the mentoring scheme will be handled in-house by the BA, under the new name BA Mentoring.

BA Mentoring will come under the umbrella of BA Learning, the BA’s learning and development platform for booksellers, managed by Kate Gunning, Head of Membership Development. The mentoring service will remain available and free to all independent members of the BA and all of the existing mentors will be retained.

The Booksellers Association has paid tribute to the Unwin Charitable Trust for its unflagging support of this invaluable initiative over the years. The Trust’s continuing generosity means that booksellers will be able to benefit from the mentoring service in the years to come.

Tom Rowley, owner of Backstory in Balham, London, and a recent participant in the mentoring project, commented: “I would recommend the mentorship programme to anyone opening their own bookshop. As a newbie bookseller, it was a dream to be able to bounce ideas off my mentor, an established manager and bookshop owner who really has seen it all. It continued seamlessly from the BA’s one-day Introduction to Bookselling course and offered me insights tailored to the needs of the bookshop and business I wanted to build. I am so grateful to my mentor and to the BA for giving Backstory the very best start.”

Merlin Unwin, Chair of Trustees of the Unwin Charitable Trust, said: “The UCT bookseller mentoring scheme has been running for many years under the management of Margaret Wilson, and has successfully provided independent booksellers with practical, financial, marketing, presentational and employment advice. The success of the scheme has now outgrown what the UCT is able to offer and we are delighted to be able to hand over the management of it to the BA, with whom we have greatly enjoyed working from the beginning. With the BA’s greater access to the industry and with the continued support from the original mentors, the BA will build the scheme and will be adding more contact and more ideas to the programme. To facilitate the transition the UCT has provided funding for the next five years and we look forward to the bookshop mentoring scheme going from strength to strength.”

Meryl Halls, Managing Director at The Booksellers Association, said: “We are thrilled by the commitment of UCT on the generous ongoing provision of bookseller mentoring for independent booksellers. It’s been such a pleasure to work with the UCT team over the years, and to see the positive impact the mentoring has had on booksellers – especially through the pandemic, and into the cost-of-living crisis. UCT have been far-sighted and compassionate partners for many years, and we look forward to being able to carry on their great work for bookshops into the future.

For more information about mentoring and BA Learning in general, please contact Kate Gunning:

Launched in September 2017, our Booksellers’ Mentoring Programme assists small, independent high-street bookshops by funding free professional advice from highly experienced booksellers. With the support and approval of the Booksellers Association, this initiative was introduced at the annual BA Conference held at Aston University in 2017 and is an ongoing project for which we accept applications throughout the year.

As many booksellers operate in relative isolation and have limited opportunities to discuss their business plans, we hope that our mentoring programme will provide an opportunity for you, the bookseller, to do just that. In complete confidence, you will be able to discuss plans and develop ideas for your business without requiring time away from your shop, or sending staff on costly courses.

Whether you are thinking of developing your bookshop, planning a major project, perhaps adding a café or even moving premises, the opportunity to seek suggestions and receive clear personalised advice is available to you free of charge and at a time and place that suits you. If you are looking to stabilise your existing business, are seeking merchandising strategies to help you boost sales and cash flow or need some practical ideas to turn your business around, then you can talk things through with one of our insightful and discreet mentors and seek their advice. An initial phone call will enable you to briefly explain your query and you can then proceed as you prefer, with video calls, regular phone calls, or you can even arrange for our mentor to visit your bookshop. You will have plenty of time for discussion in total confidence and, if you wish, our mentor will prepare a bespoke report with recommendations for improving profitability and success.

For those new to the business of bookselling, we would like to offer you up to four visits over the course of your first two years of trading. Whether to help you through opening the bookshop of your dreams or reviewing your business plan once you have been open a while, our mentor can guide and advise.

You can complete the application form here on this website or on the Booksellers Association website to arrange a visit or phone call. If you have any queries, please contact Margaret Wilson at

We hope that this opportunity to discuss your bookshop will leave you enthused and inspired with plans and solutions that are specific to your business.