Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Raman's Dire Prognostications

In his Silverfish newsletter Raman makes some predictions about coming shake-outs in the book trade in the light of the current economic situation, particularly with regards to the situation locally. It would be very interesting to get some feedback to this piece from others in book retail ...


Anonymous said...

Harpers is big fish. Their titles are a sure thing. Borders would hardly hesitate.
What then is the fate of edgier titles from independent publishers? Put in the money equation and it all becomes about money and nothing about choice for book lovers out there. Who's to say chain buyers won't become arbiters of what we should read based on what they believe would sell?

BP said...

Raman's a real bundle of joy.

It's a shame though, to have the remaining books pulped (I shudder at the notion). Perhaps publishers should have open days where books that would be pulped can be sold instead?

I never knew why some got so angsty over hypermarts pushing Potter. This puts things in some perspective.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, chain buyers already ARE arbiters of what you should read, based on what they believe will sell. It's current reality, not future possibility. And that's exactly why you should try your best to support the few independent booksellers left.

-- Preeta

bibliobibuli said...

BP - shops like Bookxcess and Big Bookshop here do exactly that - sell remaindered copies cheaply.

But i am just gobsmacked that books seem to be in this category only a few weeks after they come out!

the other bookshops have their warehouse sales.

my friends in Bookxcess tell me that the cheap sale of remaindered books is written into an author's contract and they do get a share of the cheaper sale - Raman is accusing these shops of doing something illegal ... or at least very shady.

i must say i haven't a clue how things will turn out but i would hate for there to be fewer bookshops or less choice.

Yusuf Martin said...

Preeta is absolutely right. For a long time now publishers, just like art galleries, have told us what is good and what isn't - based upon saleability.

But the crunch is coming - digital books.

Maybe with digital books writers will finally get what they are worth with the middleman cut out.

Publishers make far too much money out of other people's creativity anyway.

BorneoExpatWriter said...

I know of authors - one of whom emailed me what happened to them so this is not a rumor but a fact -
who've had their novel published by a major US publisher, and after three months, since the book didn't take off, the books were returned, remaindered, and the author dropped. They were now back to less than square one. They weren't just without a publisher; they had this horrible track record which will make it even harder for them to publish another novel. And a first novel is much easier to sell and market than a second novel if the first novel tanked -- because of that track record. That's why some authors in this situation use a different name with a different publisher so they can market their work as a first novel. Now it has a chance because the author no longer has a past, unsuccessful first novel hanging around their neck.

Not too long ago, authors were given the time to build an audience over several books. Now that luxury rarely seems to happen; if they don't see your book taking off, most major publishers seem to be passing and if it doesn't take off, you'll either be increasingly dropped, or given a much smaller advance second time around.

Still, obscure writers with obscure but well written books, do break out and that's what the rest of us focus on. Yes, times for book publishers as Raman and others have pointed out are gloomy, but there is that hope that one of us will be the exception or be exceptionally lucky. Depite being talented, you got to be bull-headed and say, I don't give a damn about what everyone is saying, I will still write or rewrite my novel and send it out. Life is often about persistence and perseverance, which explained why I wrote the 19th draft of my novel The Lonely Affair of Jonathan Brady and stayed up to 2:30 am two days ago to enter it into the Amazon contest that Sharon recently highlighted, and I'm so glad she did. The odds are totally against me, but at least I'm in the competition, and being in it, I have a fighting chance and I've happy.

Yes, beware of the gloom in the world and the tanking world economies, but focus on the possibilities. For example, my wife lost her job the week before Christmas like 1,500 employees at Western Digital here in Kuching. Then on Monday, with no interviews forthcoming and hearing of other massive layoffs in the works in Malaysia, she gets a call from a friend and says, can you come to an interview at 9:30am tomorrow (she didn't even apply for that job!). She did and my 4 that same day, she was offered a job and will start on Monday. So within 24hours, with zero prospects, no interviews on the horizon, she has a job. It happens. That same evening I told her, I'm not going to bed until this novel gets sent out -- after spending 80 hours over the last 12 days rewriting it for the 19th time! Do the work, get it done, and take your chance. You are all winners I announced at my MPH workshop last Saturday, by writing a short story and entering it into the MPH-Alliance Bank contest, because the mere act of writing it has enriched your life.

BorneoExpatWriter said...

I should clarify, in case someone makes an issue of it, since I brought it up, yes my wife got lucky. But she also spend five weeks preparing for this interview. She attended workshops on resumes, interviewing, regularly went over her notes and stuff I gave her on anticipating questions and answering them, how to prepare for interviews, the do's and don't (including several hours the night before), so when this opportunity came, she was ready for it and beat out all the other candidates who had been interviewed over a two day period.

As writers we are presented opportunities, too. But are we ready for them? Do we prepare ourselves for them? Do we seize them with gusto?

I know several writers in Malaysia who've had their books remaindered and they were not told and they were not paid, myself included with my first collection. Several had told me, if I had known, I would have bought the remaining stocks at the author's rate or at the remaindered price. So Raman knows what he's talking about. He did not say that all those who deal in this trade do that. And contracts frequently add this in so the authors gets their share, but do they? Some yes, many probably not, and who's keeping score?

And publishers don't make all that much money off books, considering what it costs to produce and ship books and paying author royalities. At the end of the day, they probabaly make less than the distributors and the book sellers.

Still Yusuf is right, the typical author gets 10%. Others divvy up the other 90%. Plus a large percentage of royalties that are due authors are often withheld to cover anticipated returns. Then publishers take a long time to pay authors, several months after the accounting period has ended.

And we're still dying to get our books published and be paid this way! Are we crazy? Of course we are! We all want to walk into book stores and see our books on the shelves!