Getting up to speed
When I read the predictions for 2018 in the Bookseller magazine in early January, I couldn’t help but get excited. Corporate structures are going to get de-siloed. Publishers are going to understand consumer needs with advances in AI. Everyone is going to publish fewer books, better. Ok – that last one I might have heard before. Anyway, we can all look forward to some seismic shifts in the tectonic plates of our industry in the coming months.
I suspect that there will be very little focus on some of the more prosaic changes that seem to us to be evolving with each passing year: like the speed with which you can successfully take a self-published book to market.
Back in August 2017, we were approached by the ex-CEO of Saks Fifth Avenue, Andrew Jennings, to see if we could help him publish his memoir on success and failure in retail, Almost Is Not Good Enough. All proceeds from the book would go toward the Prince’s Trust. The book was really good – there was just one downside. Andrew had already booked the launch party for the middle of November.
He knew no mainstream publisher would be able to accommodate that kind of schedule, to go from the unedited manuscript stage, through typesetting and design, to a printed and distributed book. But whitefox could.
No one is suggesting that it is easy to replicate the sales, marketing and distribution machines of the major international publishers, or the value in their global network of rights relationships. But if you have a plan, a network of connections and access to tried and trusted freelancers, you can move more quickly than has become the received wisdom of publishing selling cycles.
As I write at the end of January, Andrew’s book has been reprinted three times – and is on sale online, in high street retailers, at airports and in some of the most prestigious department stores in the country. In the coming months, he’s targeting sales and PR opportunities for the book in the US, Canada and South Africa. This book is not just the summation of a lifetime of expertise in running retailers. It is a physical manifestation of the collaborative process, of creative publishing around a timetable set by a writer.
Sometimes changes and developments come not from enormous lurches but are being explored and understood by individuals and businesses operating in the cracks, in this case between publishers, agents and writers. Maybe not quite so headline-grabbing, but interesting none the less.