Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Shop, horror, as A & R crosses border

Report from The Age:

There's a certain amount of angst in publishing circles now that the ACCC has approved Angus & Robertson Whitcoulls' purchase of Borders' 22 Australian bookshops - for a reported $130 million - to add to the 180 that A&R owns. Stephanie Johnston, of Wakefield Press, says Borders stocks all Wakefield's titles at a national level and is concerned that "this buying pattern and broad range philosophy might change under the new ownership". But as she worries about greater discounting pushing up prices to maintain margins, she is also "looking forward to being paid earlier by accounting offices on the ground here in Australia".

Another publisher said despite initial concern when Borders first opened in Australia, it had been "fantastic". He said it had an "impressively catholic" policy towards stock. "I'm worried that A&R's degree of aggression and incompetence will infiltrate Borders' management," he said. A&R had cut back its buying enormously, making initially tiny orders even on books that seemed a natural fit. "If you've got that repeated at Borders there will be a significant impact on small and big publishers."

But Peter Phillips, the departing sales and marketing director at Pan Macmillan (see below), said there was always going to be change in the industry and if you had good books you could always sell them. "I'm a pragmatist - if they don't do a good job, then someone else will pick up the market."

Festival has an Edge
As most of you will know, the Age Melbourne Writers' Festival will be at Federation Square this year. Director Rosemary Cameron took a group of publishing people around the venues this week and most were impressed. They liked the BMW Edge as the main auditorium and the ACMI cinema they saw (both cinemas will be used). The square's atrium will be an interesting space to deal with, given there will be non-festival goers floating around the space where Readings will set up its festival bookshop, authors will do their book signings and the festival ticket office will be located.
But then that's what Cameron wants, more exposure. "We'll be trying to sell them tickets," she said.

Although there are only three venues compared with four at the festival's home for almost 20 years, the Malthouse, the number of bums on seats will be much the same. The evening festival club and book launches will be in the ACMI function space. Cameron is looking for "more robust programming" there as all the events will be free.
"It's the first time I've felt excited about the Melbourne Writers Festival for a long time," said one of the publishing people seeing the new premises for the first time. The real verdict comes from August 22 when the 23rd festival begins.

Torquay talkies
Pan Macmillan descended on Torquay en masse last week for its annual sales conference. Of course there was a lot of serious business done but also some serious socialising. (Macmillan is one of the most gregarious of publishing companies.)
And it had a couple of significant events. The first was the impending retirement after 35 years with the company - officially next Friday - of Peter Phillips, the man who must have the best moustache in Australian publishing. Phillips, one of the friendliest men in the industry and a real gent to boot, is stepping down from the board but is still going to do consultancy work for the company. But first thing is building a garden at his new country home north of Melbourne.
And PanMac had to mark publicity director Jeannine Fowler's 20 years with the company. Her team decided to pay their own tribute to "Neen" by dressing up as her - blonde hair and red lipstick. It took Fowler a moment to realise what was going on but when she twigged her comment was that they all looked "fantastic" and perhaps there was scope for a uniform in the future.
They also read out gushing testimonials from some of the authors with whom Fowler has worked, including PanMac blockbuster-meisters Jeffrey Archer, Ken Follett and Wilbur Smith, John Marsden - who must have started working with her almost as she started at the company - and John Banville. "I don't believe them," Fowler said, "you must have made them up."

Oprah-tunity knocks
Good news for Cate Kennedy whose collection of stories Dark Roots has been getting some enthusiastic US reviews. She has been picked as a "new voice of the month" in Oprah Magazine. "If stories could be called watchful, that might begin to describe Cate Kennedy's debut collection, Dark Roots . . . Her characters live with the metallic taste of dread and regret . . . Kennedy's tales are full of such provocative messages, tantalisingly revealed."
Next book perhaps will be an Oprah Bookclub pick. Now that would boost sales.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can I say that the independent booksellers of New Zealand would be delighted if the Whitcoulls A&R culture spread into Borders stores.