Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Authors' money

Last week I suggested that the supermarkets, among other market forces, would gradually bring about a reduction in the overall remuneration of writers -- however that remuneration was calculated, whether on a royalty basis or as a percentage of net receipts.

Well, some writers, pointing to their scars and bruises, would ruefully argue that such reductions have already been made, and I would not disagree. What I would say is that there is probably more to come.

Joel Rickett's latest missive on the current news from the publishing world (in the Guardian, via booktrade.info), reports that Tesco is running an ad campaign boasting about how it has driven book prices steadily downwards. (Tesco is, I think, the biggest UK supermarket chain and certainly makes massive profits.)

Tesco will runs ads in women's magazines saying the following: 'Books. Once upon a time they seemed pricey. So we decided to sell them cheaply. Er - the end.'

Lovely, isn't it? So short. So to the point. So, no doubt, effective.

The remaining small independent booksellers will not be pleased. In the UK (unlike the USA, I believe), publishers can give different discount deals to different customers. Thus the supermarkets are able to negotiate massive discounts on the retail price in return for massive purchases. Small bookshops, which buy perhaps six copies, can't get anything like as good a deal.

What this means is that it is sometimes cheaper (and quicker) for a small bookseller to buy stock from the local supermarket than it is for him to go through the usual trade channels.

Isn't the book trade fun? Who would want to work anywhere else?

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Isn't that how every retail industry works?

Andrew said...

Since the sixties I've always been one to thumb through the books in the supermarket and purchase some, although not at much of a discount.

I'm not sure the books are any better or worse today, but I guess there's a certain air about tossing the latest best-seller in with your case of toilet tissue and cat litter. In the end, they go to the same trash can.

Lee said...

I did a round the world trip a few years back and so I ended up shopping for books in quite a few different countries and I have to say that the UK does pretty well price-wise. Books are far from expensive here, especially compared to overseas.

I would worry that this is depriving authors of income, but as the supermarkets tend to only stock bestsellers, I doubt the amount is missed and is possibly made up for by the increased publicity and sales.

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