It's a funny old game

It's tough out there for bookshops, which means it's also tough for publishers and for authors. News has just arrived that British Bookshops/Sussex Stationers are closing some of their shops, which includes my nearest one in Portsmouth. One can't help wondering if the publishing and bookselling world has shot itself in the foot by allowing such deep discounting over recent years, squeezing profit margins from a low value product in the first place. When you see how Sussex Stationers slash cover prices for books, and when they're based in key shopping areas with high rents, then it's probably no wonder they can't make a profit. Yes, it's great as a consumer to be able to buy cheap books, but books are (generally speaking) slow moving consumer goods (not every book sells in great volumes like Harry Potter). So with a low value good and a slow moving product booksellers, especially bricks and mortar ones, will continue to struggle to make profits.

BRITISH BOOKSHOPS/SUSSEX Stationers blames the competition from supermarkets and the Internet, as well as the difficult economic climate for announcing its closure of seven shops: Romford, Enfield, Harrow, Windsor, Southampton, Portsmouth and Dover. For an author the Internet has been a boom, because at least your books can now have national and international exposure. And the Internet allows both authors and readers to connect and share thoughts, videos and discussions

But no author wants to see any bookshop close because only the top selling authors get their books onto the supermarket shelves. And for some authors it is also extremely difficult to get their books stocked in Waterstone's and Borders, and as for WHSmiths...?

Then there's the crazy world of publishing with the Harper Collins and Rooney story. "My Story So Far" was the first book in a five-book deal that Harper Collins UK signed with Rooney in early 2006. HC described the deal as "record-breaking" at the time, and it was rumoured to be for between £4 and £5m. Nice work if you can get it! No wonder Rooney can afford such an expensive stag night! Jealous, moi? Never. But with HC having to foot the bill for the libel case - a substantial six-figure bill - after David Moyes, Manager of Everton, accepted libel damages over claims made in the hardback of Wayne Rooney's book (HC acknowledged that their libel proof-reading of the passage complained of did not meet their usual standards) then I wonder how many "ordinary" authors will have their books rejected or their contracts not renewed as a result? If I was a HC author I might be a little bit jittery.

Oh well, it's a funny old game! Now who was it who said that?


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