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On The Table Read Magazine, “the best book magazine in the UK“, author Dale Bradford talks about the work that went into his new book, Sex Shops To Supermarkets: How Adult Toys Became A Multi-Billion-Pound Industry.
Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed Dale Bradford about his life and career, what inspired him to write his new book, Sex Shops To Supermarkets: How Adult Toys Became A Multi-Billion-Pound Industry, and the research behind it.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I live in south Wales and I’m told I spend far too much of my precious free time playing video games. I started (my working) life as a retailer and ended up as a journalist writing about retail, which has a certain symmetry to it. I have been editing trade (B2B) magazines since 1995, spending eight years on a video games title before moving into the pleasure products area in 2003, where I stayed until 2022.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
They say no one forces you to write a book, which is true, but some people feel compelled to do so, and I suppose I was one of them. I had an idea for a book and while I resisted it at first, it kept looming over me. Ideas would come to me in the middle of the night, and I’d feel forced to scrawl notes on a pad by the side of my bed. Some of them even made sense in the morning. I also started suffering pangs of guilt while playing video games, thinking ‘I really should be writing my book now’. Eventually I gave in. Once it was finished, I could at least enjoy video games guilt-free.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I started writing my first book – a ‘cosy’ murder mystery called ‘The Honey Peach Affair’ – in 2005. Unfortunately, after wading through words all day, I rarely felt sufficiently motivated enough to fire up Word when I came home so it had a pretty lengthy gestation period.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
Rather embarrassingly, a whole decade. I would take weeks off to work on the manuscript but I left such gaps between them that I would spend the first day reading through what I’d previously written, then the next two days rewriting it, leaving just three or four days to actually make any progress. I eventually took a month off to finish it and published it in 2015.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
The second book – ‘From Sex Shops to Supermarkets’ – took around six months from start to finish as I was no longer working full-time while writing it. It is non-fiction, so it was simply a case of making a plan for each chapter and then just getting on with it.
Focusing on your latest release, what made you want to write Sex Shops To Supermarkets?
Most people know what adult toys are now, either from exposure to Ann Summers stores and home parties, seeing Lovehoney advertising on TV, or noticing that there are some creative shapes in the wellbeing sections of major supermarkets. Some might also know of certain celebs who have endorsed adult toys. Over the last 20 years the sector has become a huge global business, but no one has explained how this has happened. As editor of the only UK B2B magazine devoted to this sector, I was in a unique position to chronicle its growth over the last two decades, and I hope I’ve managed to do so in an informative and entertaining way.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Sex Shops To Supermarkets?
The biggest one was what to leave out. It’s a fascinating story and I could have easily filled several books with it. However, I was conscious that the casual reader would not be interested in the internal machinations and minutiae of the industry, so I tried to stick to the ‘greatest hits’ and I’m told the result is pleasingly easy to read.
What was your research process for Sex Shops To Supermarkets?
The first step was to go through every issue of the magazine I was editor of and pick out the most significant milestones that contributed to the book’s title. As I lived through the events recorded in the book, it was just a case of checking my archive to ensure I got the dates right and spelled everyone’s names correctly.
How did you plan the structure of Sex Shops To Supermarkets?
I considered the question, ‘How has the adult toy sector become a multi-billion-pound business in the 21st century?’ and wrote down every contributing factor I could think of. Online retail was obviously a major one, but so was PR (public relations) as so many conventional advertising platforms refused to accept ads for sexual products in the noughties. And who can forget the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ phenomenon? More recently, television producers discovered that telling the stories of the people who work in the sex toy sector can be quite lucrative, particularly for international syndication, and social media has broadened the conversation. In all, I arrived at 14 ‘reasons’ why the industry has grown so spectacularly this century and devoted a chapter to each one.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Sex Shops To Supermarkets need?
Every writer needs someone to, if not edit then at least give their ‘final’ document a detailed read-through. I gave mine to three people I trust, and they took great delight in pointing out sections they thought could be improved.
What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?
If you want to, you can, because it’s never been easier to write and self-publish a book. It does require a big commitment in time but what else would you be doing – playing video games?
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
I have completed a third book, which I just need to polish a little before I send it out into the world. I’d rather not jinx it at this stage but ‘The Table Read’ will be the first to know when it is available.
And, finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I am very proud of the book, and the compliments it has received, so it was very much worth the effort.
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