Friday, 16 January 2015
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
Wednesday, 27 August 2014
Tuesday, 1 July 2014
Monday, 2 June 2014
The Frustrations of Being an Independent Publisher or Why Amazon is Actually Saving Independent Publishing
Many authors and independent publishers have no issue with this, having suffered at the hands of traditional routes to market via high st retail outlets for longer than they care to remember. Everyday is a battle trying to convince book buyers to have a look at their titles. Knowing that it is pretty much a futile effort on their behalf. A cursory glance if we're lucky followed by a quick dismissal as buyers return to the 'sanctity' and 'safety' of the lager publishers. So, what are buyers afraid of risking by investing in small businesses in Britain - by this I mean small independent publishers. The answer is pretty much nothing. Let me explain.
All books 'bought' (and I use that term very loosely) by buyers are actually 'bought' on sale or return. Meaning that if after a designated period the books have not sold, they are returned to the publisher and any monies exchanged are promptly returned to the retailer in exchange for the books. So, no risk for the retail outlet. Now let's look at why they prefer dealing with larger publishers - yes, they have larger marketing budgets so there is more likelihood that there will have been some exposure to the title from the consumers point of view...possibly. But here's the kicker - they run extraordinarily large runs of books. On the sale or return method (or no risk of exposure to the retailer method as I like to call it) the retailer can 'buy' thousands of copies of a single title and flood the stores with them - it's great for turnover for two reason.
1: The publisher is likely to pay for prime locations in the store to actually enhance selling more copies (Don't believe the charts or the hype. It's all about how deep a publisher's pockets are)
2: The retailer can return every unsold copy sometimes within weeks of publication to the publisher and claw back every single penny - sometimes they don't even have to display the books - let's face it, who can check every single store, right?. The large publisher gets a little cash boots to quickly invest and earn some interest off before the books are returned to them. i.e you scratch my back...
With buyer's reducing range of indie books in store it is becoming increasingly difficult and frustrating for independent publishers to get vital book events to promote books even at a local level. A certain high street store invariably hides behind an array of excuses when trying to decline a book signing or launch event in store. Managers up and down the country seem at odds as to what excuse they can use not to engage with independent publishers. Usually this terminates with a veiled response ending at the MD's door.
Here is a couple of corkers I have been told over the past year:
"Oh, you need to guarantee 80 sales on the day to make it worthwhile" To which I challenged them to name any single book which had sold 80 copies in a day in the past 6 months. Silence pursued.
"In line with our new stricter author event guidelines, I must consider whether her books are suitable for our market and will actively sell off the shelf, and unfortunately our sales don't reflect this." To which I responded, If your buyers aren't buying the book and placing them in-store how can they sell? Silence pursued.
There is much wrong with publishing and book retail in general - don't get me started on publishers selling off their over large runs at ridiculously cheap prices to supermarkets and remainder stores. These are usually the remainders sent back from the high street stores - but when there is an absolute stranglehold on buyers by the big five publishers it is difficult for independent publishers who scrape a living through Amazon to have much sympathy for their plight when they complain about an uneven playing ground. If you want an uneven playing ground try wearing the shoes of an independent publisher for a day.
Saturday, 22 February 2014
Friday, 11 October 2013
We are all guilty of it. Terms such as hotly tipped literary sensation, bidding war bonanza and the next JK Rowling (Substitute any authors name you care for here, it depends on the genre – Stieg Larsson, Stephen King, EL James etc). These are no more than PR devices meant to engrain in the mind of the casual reader some element of worthiness to their next ‘must-have’ purchase. The same can be said to books which win awards. The reality is that even the Man Booker is no more than a bun fight in a tea shop. Awards are supposed to be a recognition of achievement but often real achievement and worthiness is overlooked in the fog of PR and deep pockets. Deep pockets to fund the PR machine and to pay the fees needed to get a book shortlisted. No, I am not suggesting any impropriety; the Man Booker is open to all publishers as long as they can fund the prize money. By which I mean coughing up £5k if you are shortlisted and a further £5k if you win. So clearly this award does discriminate on a basis of cash flow and circumstance.
So, how do we learn to discriminate between the fluff, puff and hyperbole? Discretion and curiosity remain two key tools in our armoury and forgive me but this is where I am going to praise Amazon for what it is allowing to happen in the book buying marketplace. It is giving the consumer or the reader a little more democracy and choice. It does not discriminate anywhere near as heavily as ‘those who know better’ and make our choices for us. It allows the consumer the chance to find the good, the bad and the downright awful and this allows the cream to rise free from the restraints of PR.
This is not an attack against PR. It is one of the best and most powerful tools that can be used with discerning journalists and editors as long as there is an actual story, but when the story clearly is lacking and it is no more than the contents of a hot air balloon, it pays to pinch yourself every now and then and scratch beneath the surface a little deeper to find the truth and remember not everything you read is true.