Friday, February 20, 2009

What does Waterstone's exclusive outlet deal mean for other shops?
Hodder's shock decision to sell the new Glen David Gold only through one high-street chain could have devastating implications for independents

Story from The Guardian Book Blog.

An uneven playing field? Waterstone's shopfront. Photograph: Roger Bamber/Guardian

The good news first. Glen David Gold, the absolutely brilliant author of Carter Beats the Devil, one of my favourite books of the last 10 years, has finally produced a new novel, Sunnyside. And it sounds great.

Now the bad news. In what could be an unprecedented move for such a long-awaited novel, the book's UK publisher has decided to sell the hardback exclusively through Waterstone's for the first few months it is on sale: this means you won't be able to buy it from Amazon, from independents, from Borders - from anywhere except Waterstone's.

The Bookseller reports that Hodder decided to work with Waterstone's "because it got so behind Carter - all the booksellers took it to their heart - and had the lion's share of the sales".

Unsurprisingly, the rest of the book trade isn't happy, with some independent booksellers threatening a boycott of the paperback once they're allowed to sell it in the autumn. Check out the Bookseller's website if you want to see a series of enraged comments from indies, who've called the decision "appalling", "sickening" and "disappointing".

While Hodder reasons that the momentum built by the exclusive Waterstone's deal will make Sunnyside "a bestseller for all" – hmmm – the novel is the kind of literary fiction which has been bread and butter to independents looking to differentiate themselves from the mass market booksellers. And if the strategy works for Hodder – it can be hard to make much of a mark with literary fiction, so the trade will be watching the sales figures closely – other publishers might be tempted to follow suit, hammering another nail into the coffin of independents, who are struggling to survive as it is.


Anonymous said...

CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL was a big one for NZ independent booksellers - wonder how Sunnyside distribution will pan out here?

Sceptre UK has decided that this clever exclusive for Waterstones will enhance them, the author, Sunnyside etc. But when it comes to literary fiction, exclusives-to-chains seem to be only destructive to trade (and customer!) relationships.

Lucy Fishwife said...

It's downright misleading of Hodder to attribute "Carter"'s success to Waterstones alone - it was a book that people loved and recommended and indeed sold (!)regardless of where they worked. Also would love to know whether the indie-friendly Glen David Gold is aware of quite how mainstream and bland a distribution channel his publishers have chosen for him...
Sorry, will have another coffee and calm down. Yes, I do work in an independent bookshop...