Monday, August 13, 2007

Gee, Some People Are Tough!

The arrogance of some people in this biz scares the beejeezers out of me and I don't know how to respond - whether to be shocked, or just plain pissed (honestly, if I ever act in that way do me a favor and prick my bubble. Please!) I'm just a little writer telling stories to entertain people, and didn't realize I was supposed to grovel to anyone willing to read my words. Not gonna happen -- sorry folks. I mean, at the end of the day we are all people and even the queen doesn't seem so regal caught on the can with her drawers down, right?

Take the recent debacle with the A and R Whitcoulls Group, a.k.a. the Angus and Robertson bookstore chain. That's kinda relevant to me since I recently went into our local branch to see if they had the Cup of Comfort books in stock and was told, yes, they could get them in, but they didn't stock them on the shelves. Hmm -- how many do you think we're gonna sell there, even if the press does a release? My guess would be none if readers can't see the books to fall in love with them, esp if they have to wait 6-9 weeks for an order to come in. Today's reader waits for no man. Or woman. I also noticed Eden Bradley and Gemma Halliday's books were not on their shelves, either. When I asked, I was told they too could be ordered in the same waiting deal as the Cup of Comfort stuff. Sigh. As Australia’s largest bookseller, with 180 bookstores and about 20% of the retail market, what's the story with A and R's limited range? It seems to be shrinking daily, or is that just my impression?

Anyhu, then I came across the article over at Making Light
and my brows about hit the roof.

A and R's commercial manager, Charlie Rimmer, recently sent a startling letter to Australian small publishers and distributors, demanding a substantial payment from each by August 17 (reportedly ranging from AU$2,500 to AU$20,000) if they want A and R to keep selling their books!!! They concluded that they have far too many suppliers and "over 40% of our supplier agreements fall below our requirements in terms of profit earned... Accordingly, we will be rationalizing our supplier numbers and setting a minimum earnings ratio of income to trade purchases that we expect to achieve from our suppliers."

Now I would have thought that having multiple suppliers—that is, a broad range of publishers and books to choose from— was a good thing. More choices, greater reader selection, more sales and so on. Everyone would benefit. But what would I know?

A and R's solution? They've "invited" said small suppliers to pay an attached invoice by Aug 17th 2007 to cover the gap for their business, and move them from an unacceptable level of profitability, to "above minimum threshold." If they fail to receive payment, they "will have no option but to remove ... from their list of authorised suppliers", and said businesses will "be unable to complete any further transactions with (A and R) until such time as the payment is made."

Yikes! It's a blackmail note! Even the remaining braincell not beat out of me at conference can see that! (Hmm, can I use this in an upcoming suspense novel? I'm really struggling to find something funny about it though.)

According to Michael Rakusin-Director of Tower Books Pty Ltd
"that’s a death threat. (no kiding!) They can’t afford to pay the mordida now, they can’t afford to give A and R a bigger discount, and they can’t afford to lose that large a percentage of their retail sales."

Interpretation- either way, they're screwed!

And if not for small press, where will those odd, offbeat different voices we've all come to know and love find a home? Used to be we jostled to be published, then to be seen as published because of the pecking order in WHERE we were published. But being published is no longer enough. Now we have to pay randsom to even get shelf space for published books. Scary stuff, no?


Kristen Painter said...

You've got it right, it's basically blackmail.

What a load of crap! These small houses should band together and have this guy's kneecaps busted.

Shari said...

That's just nuts.

And we writers wonder why we have to struggle so much...