Saturday, 18 June 2011

Supermarket Fiction...

No I don't mean unbelievable claims that Supermarket X has the best deals this week- they all say that. I'm talking about supermarkets selling fiction.

My nearest place, the green A, many years ago started out selling a few new release paperbacks by the checkout. They were usually crime fiction by authors that were guaranteed to sell. There was a selection of Mills and Boon too and a few seasonal books at relevant times of the year.

Then my local store got extended and along with the electronic goods, stationery and home wares, they started stacking the shelves with books- just like the book charts are displayed in WH Smith's; attractive,  enticing, and cheaper, so you will pick them up, browse and then decide to put them in your trolley.

Of course they were only following the moves made successfully by the big T.

Nor has it stopped there, Argos started selling children's books...

Now, publishers seem to be cosying up with the supermarkets- with the announcement that Avon ( a division of HarperCollins) has signed an exclusive three-book deal with Sainsbury's.

I find it a little disturbing to have an Avon associate publisher saying  “It's been wonderful to support the Sainsbury's team in further developing their own brand publishing initiative with a move into fiction.”
(Bookseller article)

Call me old-fashioned but I still associate supermarkets with food selling. Yes I admit I've bought electrical goods and stationery at the supermarket, but I just can't bring myself to go there to buy a book.
If I'm going to buy a book in a shop then it should be a bookshop, not a bright noisy Muzak playing supermarket.

I know writers should be glad of any deal that is going to bring thousands of sales of their latest book, but at what price?
Selling in a popular supermarket doesn't necessarily mean you'll get future readers and sales from it, but are you going to worry if those sales push your latest book up the sales chart, and guaranteeing the publisher wanting your next book?
If you're offered the opportunity, of course you will take it; in the current publishing climate a writer would be very foolish (and brave) to turn it down on principle.

When it was cheaper for the owner of a small bookshop to go to his local supermarket and buy copies of the latest Harry Potter at vastly reduced prices, because he wasn't going to be able to sell stock from his normal supply chain at such a reduced price, then you have to wonder if selling to supermarkets is good.

Read 'Publishing's supermarket sweep' in the Guardian's Book Blogs and see if you agree with its writer on the subject.

"these issues fade into insignificance against the single biggest (but rarely acknowledged) problem in publishing today: most of the biggest firms are dominated by cynics and fools."

He goes on to claim they are risk-averse to originality and new writers. (Now that sounds plausible.)

Sadly all such moves can do is speed up the loss of remaining local independent booksellers, leaving the book buyer to choose from online, or something in their nearest book chain.

Otherwise it's see what the local supermarket has negotiated deals on...


Celia said...

I agree, Carol, I like to buy books from the bookshops too. But Waterstones (I get to a big town about twice a year) is hideously expensive and Smiths ain't that cheap and the little booksellers... what chance do they stand cos they're more expensive still. Don't know what the answer is - how on earth does a new writer ever break in ...
Doom and Gloom. Back to the library cos that really is the reader's best option!

Carolb said...

You're right Celia, the big chain bookshops are generally expensive. At least with the library you can borrow books and the writer might get PLR from it.