AN INDEPENDENT online bookseller who serves literature lovers across Swindon and Wiltshire has been shortlisted for an industry award.

Alex Call of Bert's Books is in the running for the Romantic Bookseller of the Year category for the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s annual awards.

Alex Call has been a bookseller in various guises since leaving school, first with some on-the-ground bookselling and then as a marketing manager for a nationwide chain.

He started Bert’s Books in 2019 to prove that an online bookshop can still offer a personal service. Plans for a physical bookshop remain high on the agenda, but the website continues to grow in the meantime.

He saw a surge in sales when the first lockdown began and is thrilled to have been recognised by the awards body.

Alex said: “I’m equal parts surprised and proud [to be shortlisted]. One of my goals with Bert’s Books was to try and break down some walls around the types of books people think are for them – and those that aren’t – so to have been recognised by the RNA feels like a huge vindication that I’m working in the right direction.

“The pandemic proved to be a really strong sales period for me. Bert’s was a relatively small business when lockdown hit and then sales quadrupled overnight and was really the making of the business. A rare success story despite the challenges of lockdown.”

The awards include four new categories for this year and celebrate the hard work and talent of any person, group or organisation who has championed the broad genre of romantic fiction in a positive way.

The awards have been held for the past seven years. The shortlisted booksellers are nominated by the full and associate membership of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

RNA Industry Awards organiser Laura James said: "Despite the lockdowns, the isolations and difficult times we've endured over the last eighteen months, romantic fiction has continued to entertain, bring comfort, and provide an escape for our readers, and a substantial part of that is due to the dedication and calibre of the nominees in the Industry Awards categories.”

The winners of the 10 awards will be announced during the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Winter Party and Industry Awards ceremony, which is being held at the Leonardo Royal Hotel in London on October 28.