Friday, June 05, 2009

Short notes from the book industry conference

An edited version of the address by Ian Hudson, outgoing President of the Publishers Association, to the Book Industry Conference has been posted on Book Brunch, which can be read here.

WH Smith's Rachel Russell gave an interesting talk on day two regarding the life of the book. She began by asking the audience what they thought the life cycle of a bestseller actually was. Apparently only 50 percent of titles that hit the top 100 each month were still selling in 'sufficient quantities' 12 months later. This Rachel said, "proves there is a vibrant back list". But what exactly is back list?

Back list is an industry concept used to describe books that sell in slow but steady numbers long after their initial launch, perhaps for years - my own book, which has been in print for three years now, could be described as back list. It is also though, according to Rachel, something that restricts retail offers, since these books do not sell in sufficient numbers to be considered for promotional offers - three for two's and so on (something that should in my opinion be applauded and not derided, as this way everyone makes more money, which I thought we were all in business for).

These days it seems that it is about the consumer, and what he or she wants, or rather what they believe consumers want. Yes, top 100 paperbacks do sell by the cartload, but the bread and butter of book selling is and always has been the back list, start discounting that when the industry is already facing challenges from the Internet and digitisation, and well, the slippery slope will become a whole lot more slippery. You might as well empty a bottle of olive oil all over the board room floor, although goodness knows what Popeye would say ...

Several suggestions were made to help drive sales - promotions featuring the top ten authors of the 2000's (or other decades) - across both children's and adults, targeting authors with large back lists. As Rachel though said "It needs to be credible. Not who pays the most to feature in the concept." The second suggestion was an adaptation of the Now That's What I Call Music series - featuring say 10 influential novels (why it is never non fiction) with mass appeal.

An interesting idea that may work if the price was right ...

Longer notes from the conference can be found at the usual sites ...

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