Belgravia Books

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Belgravia Books's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Belgravia Books is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett, MP
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles, MP

Based in the heart of
Belgravia, London
Belgravia Books Collective are a publisher with a niche
market. Alongside their shop in central London, which sells
books of all kinds, they publish and sell translated French
fiction across the UK under the name Gallic Books – all with the
slogan “The Best of French in English” and with a portfolio that
spans everything from classics to graphic novels. There is a vast
body of French literature which does not have an easy route
into the English-speaking world, which is why the company was
founded. Managing Director Jane Aitken tells
The Parliamentary
more about this enterprise and the conditions under
which they operate.
Put simply, we make books and we sell books. Our publishing arm is Gallic Books,
and the bookselling arm is called Belgravia Books. Together, they make the
Belgravia Books Collective, which is the bookshop housed around the corner from
Victoria station, behind which we also have our publishing offices. We also sell
books direct from our website.
The publishing house – Gallic Books
Gallic Books publishes French fiction in translation. With the slogan “The Best of
French in English”, our aim is to introduce an Anglophone audience to the best
of what French readers enjoy reading. We had noticed that almost everything
published in English is translated into French and welcomed by a French readership.
Clearly, reading tastes on both sides of the Channel are similar, but when we
started out in 2006, little was being translated from French.
»Managing Director: JaneAitken
»Founded in 2006
»Located in London, near
Victoria station
»Services: Bookshop and book
»No. of employees: 6
Belgravia Books
Highlighting best practice
We now have 75 French translated
titles, including the bestselling
Elegance of the Hedgehog
by Muriel
Barbery (a recent feature on BBC Radio
A Good Read
), the only novel
written by Napoleon Bonaparte and
a graphic novel of Marcel Proust’s
In Search of Lost Time
. Favourites
on our list are Antoine Laurain’s
President’s Hat
, a fable about President
Mitterrand’s famous homburg, and
The Red Notebook
, which is the story
of what happens when a bookseller
finds an unidentified handbag on a
Parisian street.
Paris is a frequent character in our
books, featuring in Jean-François
Parot’s historical crime series set in the
18th century, and in Claude Izner’s
fin-de-siècle series based around a
bookseller sleuth. We also publish
French noir and classic authors like
André Gide. We do much of the
translation in-house, although we also
work with freelance translators.
Although we have a small team of
employees, we sell our books all over
the world through our sales team,
Ingram Publisher Services. We always
print our books in the UK. Half the
print run goes to our warehouse in
Grantham, which fulfils orders from
the UK and Europe, and half goes to
our warehouse in Jackson, Tennessee,
for orders from North America and
the rest of the world. Since our first
books were published in 2007, we
have sold 820,000 physical books,
to the value of over £3 million, and
170,000 digital-download copies. Our
books are available on Amazon, Apple,
Kobo, Google and anywhere that
In 2015, we expanded our publishing
programme beyond French, aiming for
an eclectic selection of the best writing
from around the world, mainly fiction
written in English. We have exciting
authors from Australia, New Zealand,
South Africa, America and the UK.
We continue to focus on stories with
a sense of place, but that place is no
longer only France.
The bookshop – Belgravia
We opened Belgravia Books in 2011
because we wanted to supplement our
publishing with a physical bookshop
and to have an event space for our
authors. Our sales have grown steadily
We opened our
bookshop in 2011
We now have
75 French
since we opened. We sell our own
published titles, of course, and we
also highlight the books of other
independent publishers, such as
Pushkin Press, Fitzcarraldo Editions and
Faber & Faber, but our stock of 4,000
titles includes a great range of fiction,
children’s books, history, biography,
cookery and classics.
We offer our customers a carefully
curated selection of currently published
titles, and a very personal service.
Every customer is given the time and
help they need to choose a book. We
also host launch parties for our own
and other publishers’ authors, and we
work with schools and hotels nearby
to provide books for their libraries.
We are trialling a tie-up with NearSt,
which connects products in local shops
directly to Google, enabling people to
buy local wherever they are.
Publishing and bookselling are in a
vibrant state, with new independent
publishers and bookshops opening
every year. In 2018, a record net
2,481 stores disappeared from Great
Britain’s top 500 high streets (3,372
shops opened, but 5,833 closed),
but bookshops bucked that trend,
taking second spot in the list of the
biggest growth categories, after
gyms. Nevertheless, the figures are
small – 42 bookshops opened and
24 closed, giving a net increase of
18. This indicates that book retailing
is a challenge. Margins are small.
The average retail price of a book is
£10, and that has to be split between
bookshop and publisher.
So, if book retailing is hard to make
money from, so is publishing. From the
average £5 a book that is earned by a
publisher, the author, translator, editor
and cover designer have to be paid,
and every book has to be warehoused
and transported. Gross margins are
low, and financial success can only
come from selling thousands of copies
of each title. While it is wonderful to
be part of a vibrant trade, that also
means the market is overcrowded,
and it is not possible to sell thousands
of copies of each title. The market
polarises into a few bestselling titles
and all the rest.
It is therefore a challenge to select the
right books to publish and to produce
them to a high and enticing standard.
But it is the challenge and creativity
that makes publishing and bookselling
so much fun.
It is a
challenge to
select the
right books to
publish and to
produce them
to a high and
We publish books as
Gallic Books, and sell
them as Belgravia Books
, by Edward Carey

This article was sponsored by Belgravia Books. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster