Wednesday, 8 June 2011


Today, I have mostly been stirring things over at the Awfully Big Blog Adventure, on the subject of Sainsbury's being the UK's new Martina Cole General or Chain Bookseller of the Year.

Clearly, in my anecdotal exposition I have not given the whole picture. Not only have I not been aware of the no-doubt glittering and wonderful stats that informed the judges' choice, but I also haven't talked at all about the damage done to books and writers by slashing prices to below sustainable levels, which is my regular gripe. I am shocked, pure shocked, at my pathetic earnings from my books.

And I haven't mentioned that fact that, of course, if you go to Sainsbury's online, you'll find a huuuuuuge array of books, including Write to be Published at the cheapest I think I've seen it anywhere. Forgive me if I do not stop to work out my paltry income from that.

If, as is the case for many people, you feel you can't afford a full or at least almost full price for Write to be Published or any other author you wish to support, then there is a very good free choice which also helps me: your library.

Libraries, bookshops and authors - together we can do this inspiring reading thing. Sainsbury's, understand what it is you do. Please.

PS I will be drinking your fab pink Cava tonight at my book launch. Thank you. It's delish.


David John Griffin said...

I believe that the majority - if not all - of the books sold in supermarkets are what they call "loss leaders", not making much profit but getting people into the store, knowing some will go there to buy the cheapest copy of a book they can find and then: "Oh, I might as well do some grocery shopping while I'm here,' do you think?

It's a real disservice to the publishing industry, bad for authors in the way of paltry royalties as well as being a noticeable force against small, independent bookshops.

Is there a solution? I doubt it; they are never going to change their bookselling policies now, I reckon.

David John Griffin said...

Whoops, forgot to mention: hope it all goes swimmingly for your book launch, Nicola. :-)

Charlee said...

the books in supermarkets are so cheap it is quite shocking. If tey do, do this at a loss I can't see how the extra shopping will make up for it because surely the people in there buying books are shopping anyway?

JO said...

Enjoy the launch - and the Cava, of course.

Couldn't agree more about the criminal price of books in supermarkets. They also have no idea how to maximise the sheer pleasure in buying books - the lingering over first pages, the internal dialogue - this book? that book? both books?

Anonymous said...

It was bound to happen as soon as the Net Book Agreement was abandoned.

Supermarkets surely can't make much from the sales of such cheaply priced goods, yet they prevent other book sellers from making a decent living. Talk about dog in the manger!

Unless the law is changed, supermarkets will continue to use their power to promote loss leading products such as books (and of course milk) and thereby put other producers out of business.

Good luck with the book, Nicola. I've just finished reading it. Brilliant.

Kath McGurl said...

I don't think books are sold as loss leaders in supermarkets. Going to a supermarket for a book is not an obvious choice, and they stock such a small variety you'd be unlikely to find a particular book you are after.

I think there's a different reason they sell them - to appeal to time-poor shoppers. People who don't have time to browse in a bookshop, and just want to grab the latest bestseller and stuff it in their trolley before the toddler has a tantrum.

The time-poor are often money-rich, or at least well enough off that they don't need to worry about every last penny. So supermarkets could easily increase the price of the books they sell while keeping them competitive (eg same as Amazon prices), and would almost certainly still sell as many. Someone ought to point that out to them. Write a Guardian blog, Nicola?

Sally Zigmond said...

Nicola. I am confused. As a writer and a supporter of all writers, I fully understand that selling books too cheaply and restrictively is all wrong for all the reasons you state, especially if it drives dedicated booksellers out of business and deprives writers of a decent living.

But, as an insatiable reader, I have a problem. I live in the middle of nowhere. I have scant access to a decent independent bookshop but would be more than willing to pay full price if there were. I tend to buy from Amazon most often because what I want comes to my door. The price matters little. Similarly, when I make my two-monthly visit to Sainsbury's and (joy of joys)I spot a copy of a novel I was planning to buy anyway, then I'll buy it there and then. I can hardly say to the checkout girl."I wish to pay the full RRP," can I?

Then again, when I was in uber-civilized Henley-on-Thames a month ago, I found a delightful indie (The Bell Bookshop) and bought several novels at full price by authors I'd not come across before.

Henley also has a fab Oxfam bookshop where I bought 3 Virago classics. I am a confessed bookaholic and will buy books anywhere but I don't have the luxury of choice.

The libraries around here are not especially brilliant either. Besides I like to buy and keep books.

I had been planning to treat myself to a Kindle very soon and download some titles very cheaply. Should I or should I not?

As I said, I am confused.

Marion Gropen said...

I'm confused -- perhaps by yet another difference between the UK and the US.

Here, royalties on printed books are almost always based upon the list price of the book. If it is sold at an unusually deep discount rate, that royalty rate may be cut, but it's still often based upon list.

And, in fact, the publishers' receipts are usually based upon the list price less a fairly standard discount rate.

Or are you lamenting the fact that list prices are being driven down? That's not really happening here for printed books, although it is happening (maybe and sometimes) for ebooks.

Diane Fordham said...

Stating the obvious here, but the challenges for writers seems to me to be a never ending list. But we do what we do love to do and we keep on going! :-)

Unknown said...

I tend to buy my books online, or go to Waterstones. I very rarely buy books at the supermarket, but I think I probably would if the selection was better. When I go in, I always look at the books, and very rarely see anything that isn't either an autobiography, chick-lit, or something depressing about a person's traumatic childhood. Nothing against these genres, they're just not to my taste. If I do buy a book from my supermarket, it's usually something that came out a few years before (a recent example is "We Need to Talk About Kevin"), which is something I was interested in but just never got around to buying.

For me, it's about range. My supermarket has a bad range, so I don't shop for books there. When it comes to books, I don't always consider price, I tend to just buy it from whoever's website I find it on first.

catdownunder said...

I buy at the local indie or through Book Depository - the latter if I need something quickly or it is not available here. I have yet to see a book I would want to buy in the supermarket. I am also aware that one of our Australian general chain stores (Big W - branch of Woolworths) took advantage of the demise of Borders and another chain of bookstores. They deliberately set about undercutting one of the local indies. I will not buy a book from them - but many people will. (Thanks for your comment on my blog BTW Nicola - much appreciated.)

Nicola Morgan said...

Marion - yes, your confusion is based on the fact that in the UK, unlike the US, the author is paid the royalty on nett receipts, not cover/list price. *screams*

So, a price-slashed book produces a slashed royalty for the author. And the author has no control, of course.

Sally - don't worry. I've blogged about my concept of Fair Reading before and will do so again. No one should ever feel bad working with whatever choices one is presented with. But given choice, in my view the supermarket is the least beneficial (for the author and book health in general), with Amazon being preferred over supermarkets. But, as i've said elsewhere, a book sale is a book sale.

You won't find my books in supermarkets, and I'm not unhappy about that. But you'll find them on Amazon because you'll find any book on Amazon - Amazon is committed to providing the fullest possible range. Amazon also has other advantages in terms of feddback and recommendations.

Anyway, I'll blog about it again later.

Dan Holloway said...

Sally, I used to work in Henley *ahem* several years ago. Do you know if Jonkers is still there? I was always semi-afraid to go in but it was such a magical store.
And yes, if you can afford the initial outlay, buy a Kindle. I can't, but I do have the app (free and 30 seconds to download) for my netbook. I don't have the advantage for my eyes of the Kindle's e-ink but it's opened up a wonderful world.