Sometimes I feel like I’ve Fallen out of Love With the Book Industry
12 Apr 2016 at 11:14
Shall I tell you a secret? Sometimes I feel like I’ve fallen out of love with the book industry.
I mean, across the board it’s generally full of pleasant enough people who mean well but, it seems to me, are often damagingly risk-averse, hidebound by outmoded business practices (returns anyone?) and – whisper it – a general lack of ambition.
I travel a lot, so I spend a lot of time in bookshops, doing the kind of thing Managing Directors of publishing companies should do – like emailing my sales team and demanding to know why book x is not included in promotion y, and so on.
When I look at the new releases section, I’m afraid it leaves me cold. Old ideas continuously repackaged, once-winning formulas repeated to death, backlists mined until they’ve worn thin and a general nostalgia for a ‘better’ age; a pre-Amazon time of four-hour lunches, industry-sponsored jollies to foreign climes and ‘poet’s’ day (Piss Off Early Today) every Thursday and Friday. It’s all just so ‘meh’ – it bores me silly.
I read the trade press and all I seem to see are nicely-turned-out young men and women disguising a lack of imagination behind a barrage of buzzwords, setting out a vision of future publishing in the kind of language they think people working in proper industries might use. I’m afraid it makes me want to grab them, shake them and say, ‘It’s not just about the future, it’s about now. And above all, it’s about the books!’
And that’s what dispels my gloom. The books. When I look at our forward list, lovingly laid out in the Biteback catalogue you are now no doubt downloading HERE , the clouds break and I fall in love all over again. Alastair Campbell’s astonishing new diaries, David Laws’s insider account of the coalition government, political giant Sir Malcolm Rifkind’s extraordinary, epoch-spanning memoirs, and many, many more; these are the bulwarks I set against my disenchantment. These are what I got into publishing for in the first place.
Another thing I can never understand is the time it takes our competitors to publish a book. At Biteback, a part of our success lies in our ability to pick up a book and get it to the consumer in the shortest time possible. The clue is in the category name: surely it’s called current affairs for a reason? Now obviously this brings its own challenges but we are fortunate in that our partners in an increasingly reactive book trade know that we will deliver the support, in the form of publicity, to make our books highly visible.
Finally, there are no books without the people. The authors, of course, but also the team who produce the books. At Biteback, we are a finely-honed (well, sometimes) outfit of publishing guerrilla fighters. Every now and then, one of the big boys will come and poach a team member, and in every case that individual will go on to improve their new company. Really, I’m surprised my competitors never drop me a line and thank me!
DOWNLOAD THE BITEBACK SPRING/SUMMER CATALOGUE HERE