Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Sold out...?

I was in the local Waterstones the other day, doing a spot of research on Manx books for Nemesis. As I scanned the shelves of local books, I realised that they weren't stocking any copies of The Manx Giant or The Manx Connection. The latter wasn't a surprise - it was published three years ago and, while it's still selling in dribs and drabs, it's a bit long in the tooth. The Giant, though, is still relatively new, particularly in terms of the local market.

My first reaction to there being no copies of Giant was, 'great, at least it's still selling'. Once that fleeting moment of pride had passed, my mind changed tack; if the distributor isn't on the ball and ensuring that shelves are remaining stocked, I'm losing potential sales. That same night, as coincidence would have it, I heard from other sources (honest - I'm not in the habit of stalking bookshops counting copies of my books; at least not yet) that the Giant was out of stock in WH Smith and St Paul's Bookshop in Ramsey. I dropped the publisher of the Giant a line to let them know, and hopefully it will be sorted one way or another.

What the last few days has brought to light, with my Nemesis Publishing hat on, is the need to ensure that we don't fall into the same trap, either as a publisher or in dealing with distributors. As an author, you deliver the final draft of the manuscript to your publisher and then you're often out of the equation, other than the launch, signings and talks; in terms of the nuts and bolts of ensuring the books get into the right places, it's all down to the publisher and distributor. As the mere writer of a book, you can feel a little out in the cold. For that reason publishers have a duty to look after the interests of their writers. As we continue to look into distribution, it's an issue about which we're becoming increasingly aware.

Leaving all that to one side, I'll be packing up the life-size cut-out of the Giant and heading to the Tynwald Day celebrations on July 5 (that's the Manx national day, for those non-Manxies reading this), where the kind folk at the World Manx Association have put aside a table in their Homecomers' Marquee for me to sell my wares, including The Manx Connection. If you've been hunting high and low in vain for a copy of either book, I'll happily scribble in a copy for you. Assuming you hand over some cash, of course.


Ady Hall said...

Well done on selling out in three major stores, matey! Now hopefully feng shui will get some shelf room (with your slack publisher dropping the ball :)

behlerblog said...

Hiya, Quackie. With respect to distribution, it's a natural reaction for authors to check bookstores for their book - and get upset when/if they don't see any in stock.

What authors need to be aware of is that there is so much going on in the background. Here in the US, stores are strapped for cash and will only order based on demand - or when the publisher pays for co-op marketing.

Co-op marketing is dicey because the publisher pays a handsome fee to get them stocked on the store shelves, but it's not a guarantee they'll actually sell. I've seen plenty publishers pay this fee and still get a boatload of books returned. The big houses can absorb this fee. The indie press can be put out of business within a couple years.

Bookstores order more books if they run out and the demand has remains consistent. They won't if demand drops because they need to make room for the new flood of books.

And this is what authors don't realize, and that's why it's important to keep your face in the public eye - as it appears you are! So go sell a million, matey!

John Quirk said...

Hey Ady, we must catch up soon. Too much to talk about to leave it much longer...

Lynn, thanks for dropping by - hope you're enjoying a cool July 4th. You're right re authors' reaction to seeing stores without their books in them. And, yes, there is an incredible amount going on in the background, which is why it's enlightening to be involved with this as a publisher, rather than from just the writer's pov.

Much of what you say about ensuring a book remains in demand, and thus being ordered by stores, is linked with the old author platform, which is more important than ever - but it seems to be a term which many still don't seem to (want to?) understand.