On Friday I met up with a sales director form a large publishing company who had been invited to hear what Watertsones had to say about 2009. It was mission statement stuff and once they'd exhausted all the management speak, the gist was, that they were going to become ' more front of store led.' This is bookselling speak for selling front list titles only. New titles heavily discounted. They are going to give the customer even more value for money. Great sentiments but what they're really trying to do is compete with the supermarkets by stacking high and selling cheap. Any bookseller knows that it's the backlist that provides the profit. All publishers know that without backlist sales they will perish. You cannot invest in new books and new writers without the solid base of backlist sales. Period. It would be like Tesco's deciding not to sell milk, bread, cheese and concentrating on Avocados, Yakult and Ostrich meat because they're new and sexy. It won't work. It's become Bling Bookselling. But once you've sold all the new stuff the cupboard will be bare. Of course you can sell both. You need new books to bring customers in and drive footfall but you also need decent stock to keep the customer interested and browsing so that they will pick up another book and perhaps, heaven forefend buy more than one book. Waterstones is a tremendous brand and customers are very loyal but if they continue down this route they may end up looking like a Turkish bazarr with customers haggling over prices at their 'counters of discount.' They will become discounters of all books and that path leads to TOP TEN ONLY. Agents will only sign and promote authors they think will sell more than 500,000 copies, which is what every author wants, but if this means you can only write in one genre, then It's Celebrity Historical Forensic Crime by Dan Brown Patterson O'Grady for the nest few years. Editors will only buy books that are from confirmed celebrity nail ons with TV backed marketing and voice overs called. 'How a turned my Life From Lard to Laughter.'
It all makes sense, the mists have cleared and now I'll go and make a snowman.