Saturday, 17 September 2011

Waterstones at a Watershed

In the past few weeks we have seen a number of announcements coming from James Daunt and the new management team at Waterstones and all of this has been looked at in isolaton. Looking at the bigger picture we begin to see what can be interpreted as Waterstones new strategy or part of it anyway. How much more has to be unveiled will be interesting but what is becoming clear is a distinct repositioning of the UK's leading book chain. Scrapping the 3 for 2 offer is widely seen as long overdue and to be honest it was a promotion which largely ignored smaller publishers. It appears James Daunt is keen to allow store managers a little more autonomy in promoting strong selling titles within their stores. This is great news for smaller publishers who often have titles which sell 100's of copies in stores but have not been able to capitalise on that success of find a way of sharing that with the store through a more organised system of ordering. James Daunt also wants to introduce tiered or banded pricing for titles, making their most popular books more competitive with stores selling at large discounts. It appears we are being drip fed the strategy by Mr Daunt and this is a wise move, allowing the industry to come to terms with this new direction. Daunt knows the importance played by the large publishing houses but clearly recognises that for too long they have been driving publishing and publishing retailing in the direction they wish to go. The emergence of digital has dictated that book retailers can no longer allow themselves to be herded in the direction these publishers wish to drive them. The announcement (long overdue) of Waterstones dedicated eReader is much welcomed and hopefully will allow publishers to work closely with them to develop ways to encourage a greater interaction between paper and digital books. Publishers need to work with book stores to support them with their digital content sales. Integration of devices, eBooks and physical stores is long overdue. Finding a way for this to work more seamless is a challenge for publishing and the likes Mr Daunt. Publishers can start to look at new promotions such as linked sales tying eBooks with physical books as well as making content available to buy in-store. Waterstones are in the perfect position to exploit and begin this dialogue.


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Anonymous said...

Well said. I am a small publisher and cannot understand why I am effectively forced into a loss making business arrangement with the wholesalers. I cannot build a business at all through wholesale sales - only local store signings where I supply the books and invoice direct. A 9% discount required by the store allows me to build profit and build a viable business, but the 60% discount demanded by the wholesalers is killing my business, in fact has not allowed it to even get off the ground at the moment. It's an expensive hobby, unless we do a store signing...
The carbon footprint annoys me too. Just recently I had a large order for one of the wholesalers. I paid £16 for the courier to have the books sent 300 miles away, only for me to find they have come all the way back again and are on the shelf of a local store! I could have put them in a trolley case, hopped on an hour's bus journey for £1.90 and taken them in myself! And made more 91% on the sales as opposed to an exploitative 40%.
There has to come a point where we small and new publishers have to raise our voices and find ways to bypass the wholesalers altogether. It's not a case of us wanting to make more profit, it's a case of being able to make any profit. I'm making a loss every time I sell to them - I can't even break even!
Yes the timescale is another thing - I can get the book to a customer overnight, but for some reason it takes 10 days to reach them through wholesalers. Customers and my authors think I am not sending the books when in reality the wholesalers are not sending them quickly enough.
It has to change, it really does. Please for goodness sake Waterstones, help independent up and coming publishers get off the ground by allowing us to supply you direct if we can. Or we'll die off altogether, and the only ones surviving will be those who can print literally tens of thousands of books. Or those who established themselves under the old direct supply system.
Our collective symbol of action should be a trolley case lol! x