Friday, 13 March 2009

Guest Blogger: Steve Potter- The Book Depository

Today's Guest Blogger is Steve Potter. Steve is the Commercial Trading Manager for TBD, and also a panel member for the project.

A week is a long time in publishing – as the Sunnyside saga has aptly demonstrated. Whether it is a victory for the independent bookseller or a clever marketing strategy by one of the giants of the publishing industry will depend on which side of the fence you sit... perhaps it was both. What is for sure is that restricting the sale of any title (indeed any product) in the current climate seems churlish to say the least.

The concept of exclusivity in the trade is by no means a new one, but historically this has been about exclusive editions and bindings, rather than a restricted period of sale. You only have to look at the shelves of any bookseller at the airports (is there more than one airport bookseller now?) to see that exclusive editions have been around for some time. I doubt that there would have been any furore had there been two different bindings made available on pub date.

The polarity between the chains and the independent bookseller has perhaps never been greater, and while the independents have some very vocal and knowledgeable booksellers in their ranks I’m sure they sometimes feel like a lone voice. Sunnyside has shown the power of a united front and the importance for independents to formalise alliances, agreements and structures that enable them to take advantage of the best available deals and support.

Independents will always have an edge because of the diversity and extent of range they are able to offer, and by taking a punt on titles that fall outside of the mainstream radar. It is this diversity that underpins the Exclusively Independent programme, allowing booksellers to take advantage of extra discounts on a selection of titles that in all likelihood won’t be found front of store in the chains.

The selection process has been rigorous and some strong opinions have been shared – though surprisingly the final selections have been pretty much unanimously agreed. My main concern – and this may well be the airport bookseller in me – has been that titles may be too eclectic to sell. Yes, we want different and interesting writing, but ultimately the titles selected need to sell and have customers coming back for the next month’s selection. That being said, with upwards of 40 submissions each month, there is certainly something for everyone. The titles selected allow independent booksellers to do what they do best – talking to their customers about books they can be passionate about – and to create a point of difference from the same old titles on display in the chains.

As far as the day job is concerned – I am really proud of what we have achieved at We have just re-launched the site, thanks to some extremely gifted techie people, and have received really positive feedback from customers, publisher s and indeed other booksellers. We are always looking for ways in which we can work more closely with publishers and anyone in the trade, so please feel free to contact me if you feel we can work together going forward.

In a week in which I have met with Rotovision , McGraw Hill and I.B.Tauris , I am constantly reminded of the sheer vibrancy and breadth of the publishing on offer in the UK and know that the independents will always have something different to offer. Sunnyside certainly inflamed opinion, but it is soon forgotten - as new, different and exciting books appear to arouse those bookselling passions.


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