Well the books are here, 400 plump pages in each one, fresh from the printers in Cornwall, boxed and shrink-wrapped and fork-lifted into the storage space, ready to be sent out again as feverish demand mounts. I wish, but we did ship out six boxes straight away to waiting customers and that number should grow over the next few weeks in the run up to Christmas, and with the various planned ‘launches’ and events. I earned more through direct sales last year than any other route to market, which is interesting but unsustainable, and I’m constantly looking for ways to increase sales through the regular bookshops beyond the reach of Hills of Workington, the Cumbria-based distributor that takes most of my stock.
The other big distributors, Gardners and Bertrams, keep small publishers like me at something of a distance. We’ll have to pay them a big discount for the privilege of having them store my books ready for despatch. As it stands, they email us whenever they get an order and we send it off, one or two at a time, which is so wasteful and inefficient. With sales relatively low we’re just too small to be taken much notice of.
These distribution issues, and the cost of storage, make the ‘ebook only’ alternative sometimes seem very attractive, but I still can’t bring myself to take that road and abandon the ‘book in hand’ altogether. I love books: ebooks are OK for travelling, but I love the feel of a book, the smell of it, the touch of a page under your fingers, the sight of the spine on the shelf or by the bed. So for the time I’ll carry on playing the real book publisher game and enjoy it, rather than berating myself for making less profitable choices. If you’re proud of what you’ve done, back yourself.