Adrian White, writer and former bookseller is next in line for questioning for our Trade Day Interviews. Adrian will be discussing the bookseller/ Publisher relationship on a panel with Alyson Wilson of Waterstones and Bob Johnston of The Gutter Bookshop. The panel will be chaired by Eoin McHugh of Transworld Ireland. We asked Adrian some questions on publishing from the writer’s perspective.
As a writer, what are the biggest misconceptions about Publishing?
That once you have a publishing deal you have it made. Not only the misconception about the amount of time and work still required to bring the book to publication but – much more to the point – the belief that being taken on by a publisher guarantees your book is going to sell. Everybody in the publishing house could do everything right, from editorial to design, to sales and marketing, to publicity, and still your book might not sell.
The other misconception is more of a misperception or a breakdown in communication. Publishers are desperate to see new writing and to break new authors but the view from the outside is that it’s a closed shop with agents as the only route to entry. I appreciate publishers don’t have the resources to plough through the dross of awful manuscripts in search of that single gem but it still comes across as disinterest to the unpublished writer.
What is the biggest source of tension between book buyers and booksellers in your opinion?
Price – and it’s a tension created by the booksellers themselves. In every other trade, premium product is sold at a premium price and accepted as such by the customer. In the book trade, we discount the premium product and so create a false picture of our product’s worth. I always measure a book’s value to the price of Guinness: is this worth more than two, three or four pints? Of course it is – and it’s not that I don’t love my Guinness!
Did your experience as a bookseller change the way you viewed the buying and selling of your own works?
Absolutely and irrevocably! I know too much about buying, distribution and merchandising to be unaware of how my books are being treated by a bookseller. The trick is to use that knowledge to understand the process and to realise your book is one amongst thousands challenging for limited shelf space in store. But this awareness doesn’t still your heart in the slightest: when my first book was published, I paced up and down Shop St in Galway for about an hour, building up the nerve to enter a shop I’d worked in for five years – just because I knew my book was going to be on sale inside. Happily, Irish booksellers have always been very supportive of my books and I’m blessed with some great friends in key bookselling roles.
What are some of the difficulties in having your work published?
If you mean ‘difficulties’ once a book has been accepted by a publisher, I can honestly say I’ve never thought of the process in that way. Perhaps I’ve been lucky but the two teams I’ve worked with, first at Penguin Ireland and more recently with Black & White, have just been so professional and encouraging. All my books have been improved beyond measure by the publishers – most obviously in terms of editorial but also in pushing me to make my work as good as it can be. I can’t overemphasize just how rewarding it is to have a team of people work on something that has come out of your head.
If, on the other hand, you mean ‘difficulties’ in getting published, then there was nothing exceptional in my years of waiting. Where I was blessed again was in having access to key people in the trade who were prepared to help me bring my work to publication – and for this I shall always be grateful.
The bookseller/publisher relationship discussion panel will take place at 11:45am at the Trade Day next Friday, November 11th. Make sure you to book your tickets! Reaching Readers