Wednesday, February 19, 2020

The Bankruptcy People

Steven Beattie reporting last December on the near-disaster which befell Galley Beggar Press. - the original publisher of Lucy Ellman’s gargantuan experiment in 21st century modernism, Ducks, Newburyport—  after it entered into a book printing deal with the online and popup British retailer The Book People:

“The announcement on Tuesday that U.K. online and pop-up retailer The Book People has been forced into receivership is having ripple effects throughout the U.K. book retail and publishing industries, including a potentially disastrous financial impact on the small independent publisher Galley Beggar Press. 
The seven-year-old press is owed £40,000 by The Book People as a result of a special run on Galley Beggar’s marquee fall title, the Booker Prize nominee Ducks, Newburyport
On Wednesday, the publisher launched a GoFundMe campaign in an attempt to raise some money to cover the shortfall, which co-director Eloise Millar writes poses an existential threat. In her appeal, Millar states that the publisher entered into an agreement to print 8,000 copies of a special edition of Lucy Ellmann’s 1,000-page novel when it landed on the Booker Prize shortlist.”
It is still somewhat unclear to me whether this deal was a mandatory requirement of being listed for the Booker; as people with more than passing interest in books know, the standard business model in book retailing is for bookstores to distribute books but not buy them outright. That is, unsold books remain the publisher’s problem, not the book store’s.  Is this model different in the U.K.? And if not, by what leverage could the Book People have insisted on an 8,000 copy run? Was the retailer itself acting as an agent of the Booker Prize organization?
There is, finally, a Canadian angle to this as Ducks was also published by a Biblioasis. If there was financial fallout for the latter house, it would be interesting to know. It’s worth recalling that many years ago Steven reported on Biblioasis gambling on a large print run when one of its own original titles — as I recall, Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod — was shortlisted for a Giller Prize. Did the gamble pay off in this case? Do other publishing houses take similar risks and suffer losses? These questions matter because the reality of these presumptive print runs strongly affects future choices publishers might make.

Finally, as Mark Medley once observed, anglophone CanLit is particularly fond of prizes — the rationale being that they ipso facto assist sales. Is the reality more complicated than this?

No comments:

Post a Comment