In Business, is a weekly programme of thirty minutes duration, on BBC Radio 4, produced by Kent DePinto and presented by Peter Day. This weeks programme was broadcast on Thursday 17 April 2014, with a repeat tomorrow, Sunday 20 April 2014 at 21:30 hrs. The topic for this week: Has the book a future?
The scene was the London Book Fair where Peter Day asked the question:
Can books survive, and if so, how?
The group of people proving answers were:
- Philip Jones, Editor, The Bookseller
- Tom Weldon, Chief Executive, Penguin Random House UK
- Jon Fine, Director of Author and Publisher Relations at Amazon.
- Jonny Geller, Joint CEO, Curtis Brown Literary and Talent Agency
- C. J. Daugherty, Author, The Night School series
- Nigel Newton, Co-founder and Chief Executive, Bloomsbury Publishing
- James Daunt, Managing Director, Waterstones
- Dan Kieran, Co-founder and CEO, Unbound
I found this weeks topic very interesting for several reasons.
To begin with, I want to divert you on a short tangent.
Over the years of my blogging life, I have written some blog posts in story form, normally picturing just one commenter sitting in front of me, and typing my tale as if speaking just to them. Somehow it works. The comments have been kind, some suggesting I join a writer’s group, others saying I should write a book. All very flattering. To me they may be stories, some might prefer to call them micro blog posts, while others will see them as drivel. Such is life.
800 words is not a book!
Some weeks back, I tried an experiment: A story that began life with an actual event. I was involved very much in the peripheral background, but actually only met two of the minor players, all I knew about the main participants was second hand and short in detail. Over a glass of wine one evening, I decided it was the kernel of an idea for a story, so I let my imagination take over and thus began:- The End is never the End
- Part one contained 1,668 words – Not a book.
- Part Two dried up after 800 words.
- Parts 3&4 and the as yet unpublished Part 5 are back on par with the first attempt.
- Total word count so far: 7,007. Still not a book. At this rate it might take until my dying day to finish it.
Back to the programme and I will mention just a couple of points.
Every week on Amazon, of the top 100 digital books, twenty one are self published. In the USA it is 30 and in India, it is 20%.
James Daunt, Managing Director, Waterstones said that pricing was important, depending on where you are. In a mass market shopping mall selling ordinary fiction of the John Grisham genre, they needed a really good offer, because the supermarkets are fighting for the same customers at greatly reduced prices.
C. J. Daugherty, Author of The Night School series, spoke of earning €17 per book in Germany, €18 in France and between £2.99- £5.99 in the UK. £2.99 for a book that she spent six months writing and four months editing? There would not be many parsnips buttered with that!
Now for the shocker: Huge amounts of the piled up best sellers are sent back to the publishers for pulping. Two and a half years ago, in January, Waterstones sent back £120 million worth of books not sold – FOR PULPING! This year it was down to £7 million. They are working on bringing that figure down to between 10 and 5%.
With the modern digital means of printing, it is possible to publish on a Monday and sell one million books to someone in Africa on Tuesday – if, and it is a big IF, you get your marketing right.
So, I’ll stick with my hobby and not worry about all that stress for a couple of pennies.