A student at the University of Leeds has opened the UK’s first LGBTQ+ bookshop today, in order to improve LGBTQ+ representation in the bookselling industry.
The website, which is entitled ‘Books for Queers’, is the first in the UK to specialise in selling a vast resource of LGBTQ+ literature. Selling books of all genres from the realms of fiction, non-fiction and even graphic novels, readers can expect to find more contemporary books such as the 2018 Pulitzer Prize winning Less by Andrew Sean Greer, as well as classics like Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall.
Created by Mark Thorley, a mature student in his second year of studying History of Art at the University of Leeds, Books for Queers has been under construction for over three months. Having previously worked for one of the biggest online T-shirt and band merch stores in the UK, Mark was driven towards combining an LGBTQ+ catalogue with the ease and accessibility of an online sales platform.
Speaking to The Gryphon, Mark touched upon his inspiration for the venture further:
“My main inspiration for setting up the company comes from a long-held love of literature. My entire family grew up surrounded by books, but it wasn’t until I was in my late teens that I realised that, while I was also trying to understand and negotiate my own sexuality, not one of the books that I had read – acknowledging that this was where much of my conception of the world and how it works came from – had a single LGBTQ+ character. I didn’t even know where I could find any!
“LGBTQ+ inclusive education in schools is a hot topic at the moment, and that the website is launching at this crucial juncture is not only a lovely coincidence, but incredibly important as a widely accessible resource.”
The Books for Queers website is designed to be simple and familiar. While making use of the same genre categories as any other bookshop (fiction/non-fiction/historical/young adult), the website also includes categories of representation (gay/lesbian/trans/asexual) to make it easier for readers and members of the LGBTQ+ community to find characters they can identify with. “Think Rough Trade for queer literature”, as founder Mark puts it.
Books for Queers accepts standard credit/debit card or Paypal payment options, and all their delivery packaging and emails are discreet and outwardly brand-free, “in order to protect the privacy of those who may want or need it.”
With these strong business foundations, Mark is confident that Books for Queers will grow from strength to strength:
“Our aim over the next year is to build the most comprehensive resource for LGBTQ+ literature in the UK. We want to get to the point where we can bring distribution in-house, which would provide opportunities for us to expand the product range to include small LGBTQ+ publishers elsewhere in the world as well as developing the website itself to include much more detail about the books and representation in each of them.
“We will also be adding e-books and audiobooks to the site as soon as the opportunity presents itself and developing an app to improve the shopping experience.”
You can check out the recently opened website for yourself, here: www.booksforqueers.com
You can follow Book for Queers on social media here: