I often receive calls from customers saying their local bookseller can't or won't order our books. I am always happy to supply direct however I dislike having to explain to a potential customer why they should experience any difficulty with a bookseller. Our books are printed by one of the largest printers in the country. We pay a huge percentage to a distributor to carry our books from printer to book shop. Why should a customer encounter any difficulty?
It all gets down to accounting.
There are two main book distributors in the UK and several small ones. Many book shops have agreements with only one. If it is not the company I use, then they won't order the title. I have written to book shops offering to supply them direct - offering them a generous percentage (more than they would receive from their distributor), and 90 days to sell or return the books. So often, I am greeted with silence or a polite 'No, thanks, it's too much trouble.'
Too much trouble to receive an invoice and write a cheque for books sold - minus their commission!
Who is this industry aiming to please? Is it the reader keen to obtain a particular title?
Book shops are having a tough time right now and are asking the public for more support. But perhaps they have to think about how they assist customers seeking titles from small publishers - instead of telling them, 'The computer says "no".'
The Booksellers Association president Patrick Neale called yesterday for the supply chain to be updated. He may have had the relationship between the big boys and book shops in mind. However, from the point of view of a small publisher - he is absolutely right.