Nowadays, bookstores are a far cry from the stuffy old cliché we've come to expect from films.

Some are lively and vibrant with regular events and signings whereas others anticipate continuous footfall from the moment they open until the second they close thanks to their dedicated communities. Dead Ink Books is all of those things and more.

You may have passed the blink-and-you'll-miss-it storefront while travelling through Smithdown Road but there are plenty of reasons to step inside.

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Although small, Dead Ink Books' walls are stacked with everything from fiction and non-fiction to poetry and children’s books. But the best part about the wide array of options on hand is that the vast majority come from independent publishers, with Dead Ink, the shop's core, acting as one itself since 2011.

The Smithdown Road bookstore is relatively new on the scene but Dead Ink's journey dates back to a time when it was entirely digital. Its founder, Wes Brown, built the brand from the ground up on the back of a grant courtesy of Arts Council England, highlighting the vast and varied work independent creatives are capable of but often struggle to find a home for.

After several internal transformations and what has been branded as a "new beginning" in 2015, Dead Ink jumped from a digital press to a full-fledged physical publisher with the continued support from Arts Council England and a new vision from the new owner, Nathan Connolly.

Michael Lacey, Dead Ink Books' bookshop and community manager, jumped at the chance to hop aboard
Michael Lacey, Dead Ink Books' bookshop and community manager, jumped at the chance to hop aboard

Michael Lacey, 38, is Dead Ink Books' bookshop and community manager, a core part of the team since 2016. He told the Echo: "The Dead Ink team have been friends for years. In 2016, I was asked to make a series of book covers for them. Last year I bumped into Nathan outside a pub when he was setting up the shop, and I insisted that he hire me to work in [the store]."

The bookstore has grown rapidly under Michael and is now almost a shadow of its former self when it first opened. Michael added: "We’re definitely a lot busier than we were a year ago - we have loads of regular customers and through word of mouth each month is a little better than the last. The team has grown over the last year and we’re hosting events and talks on an almost weekly basis. In the early days, I was probably able to get a bit more reading done behind the till."

The heart of Dead Ink is about bringing authors to a wider audience "that has been under-served for so long." Dead Ink Books stocks more than just a candy store selection, but stories, topics and alternative literature you won't find anywhere else.

Size is no issue for Dead Ink Books with events and author presentations a regular occurrence on-site. Michael said: "It really allows for a very focused discussion. Everyone gets to ask their questions and because it’s such a laid-back atmosphere, the answers often lead the conversation into fascinating, unpredictable territory. We’ve heard from authors that this can be really positive for their work, as writing is often such an isolated pursuit, and these conversations have also inspired many of our visitors to take up writing themselves."

"When we booked Alex Pheby [author of Mordew] in for an event a few months ago he turned up in a Dead Ink sweatshirt. It’s great to have a space where “deadheads” can meet up and discuss books when previously our community has mostly existed on the internet. We’re proud that our bestseller list rarely resembles any wider trends in the literature market, and it’s because our customers are so unpredictable and have very singular interests.

Michael Lacey at his shop Dead Ink Books
Michael Lacey at his shop Dead Ink Books

The local community has backed both Dead Ink and Dead Ink Books, giving back and supporting a business they know is there for them. Michael added: "We’re lucky to have so many readers on our doorsteps. Our event programme has been very popular because it offers an affordable, local, night out which doesn’t revolve around alcohol or food. And we have lots of returning customers who appreciate that we know our stock inside-out and are able to offer very targeted recommendations."

Not only is the store welcoming to those around it, travelling afar, and every type of author imaginable, but Michael has stressed the point of bringing your pets along for the ride. He added: "If you're reading this - please bring your dog to the shop for a visit."

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