The independent Petersfield Bookshop exists in a small town about 40 miles south-west of London, U.K.
On Tuesday this week it had a particularly rough day, selling a grand total of zero books — something that had never happened in the store’s 100-year history, according to owner John Westwood.
After discussing the dismal day with his boss, staff member Robert Samson tapped out a tweet lamenting the lack of sales.
“Tumbleweed … Not a single book sold today … £0.00,” Samson wrote in the tweet.
Not a single book sold today…
We think think this maybe the first time ever…
We know its miserable out but if you’d like to help us out please find our Abebooks offering below, all at 25% off at the moment…. pic.twitter.com/Cn5uhYWw88
— Petersfield Bookshop (@The_PBS) January 14, 2020
And then everything changed.
Thanks partly to a retweet of the bookstore’s message by science-fiction author Neil Gaiman to his 2.8 followers, orders started pouring in from around the world. And, despite the appalling weather outside, customers started showing up at the door, too.
Chap in shop today: “I’ve lived in Petersfield all my life and never been in your shop. Last night my friend who lives in San Francisco told me I had to come in today.”
— Petersfield Bookshop (@The_PBS) January 15, 2020
The bookstore followed up later with another tweet saying the team was working into the night “to try and service all the orders received.” Another message included the hashtag FairyTaleTuesday.
Westwood told the Guardian the response from people near and far had been “really touching,” adding, “People have been so kind. This will really make a difference. There are slow days, but it was a really unusual day for us to have not sold any books.”
The bookseller continued: “It blows me away. I don’t understand social media because I’m old-fashioned, but when Rob called me and told me the figures, I was gobsmacked.”
After finding out what had happened, Gaiman followed up with another tweet saying how pleased he felt.
In these dark days it’s wonderful to see Twitter doing something good! https://t.co/g0YNPkRsG2
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) January 16, 2020
Now Westwood is hoping his bookstore’s 15 minutes of fame will help to keep the orders rolling in for many years to come.