Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A dangerous precedent

That Dangerous Book for Boys really started something, didn't it? Scarcely a week seems to go past without some copy-cat appearing, making it the Eats, Shoots and Leaves of recent times. I note some hopeful US agent recently even posted a proposal for The Dangerous Book for Dogs on the Publishers Marketplace website. Perhaps someone could wake me when the danger's over.

A party plan

Publishing and parties go hand-in-hand. Indeed, the image of the smiling, rosy-cheeked publishing type holding their glass of passable red aloft is such an industry cliche that such images were actually banned for several years from the pages of this journal. While parties lubricate the publishing process, I've not heard of a publisher entirely financed by parties until now. The publisher concerned is avant garde publisher Is Not Magazine, which publishes its quarterly magazine as a giant poster, pasted up in public spaces in Melbourne and Sydney. With no advertising revenue, and no retail price, the publisher generates the vast majority of its income by running extravagant parties. The events are such a hit with the party-going set, editor Penny Modra told a Melbourne Writers Festival session recently, that 'many regular party-goers have absolutely no idea we publish anything at all.'

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sexy bookseller a conference drawcard

'I can't believe I get to sit next to Melbourne's Sexist Man!' whooped an excited female attendee of the New Zealand book industry awards in Auckland last month. I hear a couple of visiting male Melbourne publishers puffed out their chests on overhearing the lady's exclamation. Alas, she was referring not to them, but to a bookseller: namely, that charismatic young man, Mark Rubbo of Readings, who has had to wear that particular monicker since an article in the Age back in 2004. It seems Booksellers NZ just happened to drop this piece of information into its publicity material to help attract delegates to the conference. It must have worked: I hear the dinner was a sell-out.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The White Rose of Lindfield

Still on the unkillable wizard, I’m told that this seventh and final book was ‘good for the indies as well as the biggies.’ I take that to mean that one didn’t need the ‘market leverage’ of a national retail conglomerate to sell a decent number of books at a decent price and have a jolly good time while you’re at it. As evidence, I was provided with this lovely photo of ‘Professor Snape’ Scott Whitmont, ‘Professor Sprout’ Toni Whitmont and ‘Professor Dumbledore’ Max Oliver of Sydney’s Lindfield Children’s Bookshop—and if you’re wondering where Scott’s trademark designer spectacles are, he tells me ‘After the fourth customer asked why I was dressed as Nana Mouskouri, I decided they had to go!’

Timely training opportunity

The energetic Dee Read, training officer at the APA, puts together a pretty good program of professional development events. One that caught my eye was her September seminar, 'Conflict Resolution: Think Win/Win,' presented by Eleanor Shakiba. Interestingly, the Melbourne session booked out almost immediately. Perhaps Dee sent an invitation to a certain Melbourne-based retailer ...

Friday, August 10, 2007

All bets are off

I'm sure my bookselling colleagues enjoyed selling the 'last' Harry Potter book back in July. Perhaps some of you have now had a chance to finish the book for yourselves. If we should worry for the poor booksellers who didn't make any money out of it all (what were we thinking to stock such an unprofitable line?) , then perhaps we should spare a thought for the poor bookmakers too. London bookmaker William Hill took a number of bets on how Harry Potter's fate would be resolved at the end of the seven-volume saga. When the book was published, three William Hill staffers were quickly despatched to read the book and determine the outcome of the wager. Sadly, they couldn't agree on whether Potter died or not.

'It was a fairly ambiguous ending, open to various interpretations, and so whatever way we settled the bets would have annoyed some people,' Rupert Adams, a William Hill spokesman, is quoted as saying by Bloomberg. 'So we paid out on all the bets.' The bookmaker paid out some $216,000 on the wager, its first on a book ending. If you're an interested punter, William Hill is already taking bets on there being an eighth HP book.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

110% the solution to A&R's predicament

I notice both the Sydney Morning Herald and Crikey have now posted online ARW Group Commercial Manager Charlie Rimmer's fast-becoming-legendary letter to the book retailer's 'unprofitable' suppliers (among which are some of the nation's finest book publishers). The ever-alert Australian Society of Authors has even called for a boycott of Angus & Robertson company stores. Some sympathy, please: it's not easy being squeezed between the demands of private equity and the heavy discounting of the DDS. I’ve been trying to think of a solution to A&R’s predicament and I think I’ve finally come up with something that won’t eat into the publishers’ margins. We have to make every book worth 110% of RRP. An extra 10% would keep everyone happy. Not only would this give A&R the 5% they seem to want to take anyway, but you could give the other 5% to the author and keep the ASA happy too. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Tip of the iceberg

When I was young girl working in my first bookshop, it was not unknown for a satisfied customer to tip me a shilling if they felt I'd been particularly helpful. A shop assistant's pay was even worse then than it is now, so we were always glad of a little extra. You can imagine the enormous sense of nostalgia I felt, therefore, when I recently discovered one large book retailer is reviving the practice. The retailer is asking publishers to tip its floor-walkers $1.25 to recommend a nominated book to their customers. What a great way to earn a little extra pocket money.