In the bag this morning: apocalypse, me nearly losing my rag and why, and the greatness of small businesses. First, the end of the world. There's an interesting post on the Guardian blog about apocalypse fiction. You might have noticed that we at Snowbooks are fans of end of the world stuff: zombies, horsemen (oh yes - I can't wait to introduce you to Mike McBride's new book, The Fall, which we are publishing in October), vampires. Any authors who are thinking about submitting that manner of book - yes please! (Or climate change, if you are a professor who doesn't work for Exxon.)
Next, me getting cross about things. I don't know. Maybe I was a bit tired - but I refrained from posting about this late last night and after a good night's sleep I'm still riled about it. I went to the otherwise amazing Meet the Buyers event run by the IPG last night. It's astonishing that for under £20 we got to sit in a room with buyers from many of our most crucial customers whilst they presented their strategies and wants to us. You wouldn't catch retailers like B&Q doing that, unless it was to soften people up ahead of announcing a strategic project of cost reduction. Oh, those heady days. The buyers then circulated around each of ten tables where the membership sat, answering questions posed to them and generally being as open and accessible as they could possibly manage.
Which was why I was so bloody cross at a man on our table whose attitude, frankly, sucked. Far from realising that he was in a position to not only talk to people who could transform his business, but who had given up their evenings to do it, he asked questions fairly aggressively because his starting point, I assume, was 'bloody retailers, they never buy my books, it's not fair, nothing I say will get them to buy books from me.'
Er, hello? How about taking a look at your list, in the first place. How about seeing whether the books you publish, oblivious to your customers, are the sort of books that people want to buy in bookstores? The retailers aren't there to do your bidding or provide you with some sort of service; they only ever have the reader in mind. If readers don't want your books, don't expect the retailers to magically stock them.
Anyway, I kept my temper whilst he was being annoying, because it's his loss if he doesn't get it. But towards the end of the evening I just had to have a pop at him, because of this final straw. A retailer was talking about the importance of getting timely, accurate bibliographic data to them, so that they knew about his books and thus could buy them. Not, you see, rocket science. This chap got all puffed up and said 'well I don't set publication dates for my books, and I don't have a jacket for the books until four weeks before publication'. And then glared at the retailer as if to say 'so that's your problem, not mine. What are you going to do about it?'
And that was the point, dear reader, at which I pretty much lost my rag.
The funny thing is that I have no fear of retribution and emails of complaint if the person in question reads this blog, because earlier in the evening mention had been made of blogging. Quite a few people around the table had no idea what the word meant, and, I kid you not, one woman said 'what is this blogging of which you speak'? Those actual words! Classic. The chap I've been talking about said 'I'm too old for this blogging thing!' and looked all pleased with himself. Yes. Well done. You must be very proud.
Ah, that's better. Nothing like a cathartic rant to clear the cobwebs. On to something about small businesses and why they are great. They are great because they are too small to have hierarchies (proper, multi-person hierarchies) and an absence of hierarchies means a presence of humanity. I was chatting away to some much nicer, indeed quite wonderful small publishers last night. We were discussing a certain thing, and I was able to say, on the spot 'oh, I can help you with that. Email me tomorrow and I'll send you advice and info on how to do it'. I won't bore you with what it was; suffice to say that I didn't have to get sign-off, I didn't have to follow a Company line on whether it was acceptable to share priviledged information with another company who, in theory, is a competitor. I could just briefly consult my conscience, which said 'yes, that would be a very friendly and helpful thing to do', and make a decision which will hopefully help someone else. It's a small, but rather fundamental point: when people do business with people, it all seems to be nice and friendly and mutually lovely. When businesses do business with businesses, it can get a lot more murky.
So! Those are the things I wanted to say. And now I will do some work. Maybe have a coffee. Ooh, yes, coffee. Have a lovely day.