Clé Conference: The Burning Issues

A very interesting Clé Conference at the weekend (Clé is the Irish Publishing trade body): lots of very worried publishers (and booksellers: we went mad and all sat in the same room this year!) were throwing around the ideas we all need to consider for the survival of the industry in the Current Economic Environment. The change has been incredibly rapid and, unfortunately, started at the beginning of what should have been our peak selling season last year: returns of unsold Christmas stock risk crippling lots of publishers. The major loss of market share by Irish “euro publishers” (ie not the Irish arms of multinationals) has slipped dramatically, particularly at the bestseller end of the market. I’ll stop moaning now 🙂

We were very lucky to have Will Atkinson, Sales and Marketing Director for Faber, and Robin Wood, head honcho from Anova, present to talk about selling outside the conventional book trade, and developing special products for existing and new customers. Some of the creative ideas were just brilliant, but I do wish we had a country of 50 million people instead of 5, so that you can do a clever “nichy” thing and still make a few bob. Naturally, the subject of websites came up quite a lot!

booksellerwinnerdavidA quick change to posh gear, and off to the Bookseller Association Dinner Dance: about half the size of the previous occasion, it was still a good party. For me, the highlight is getting my wee speech out of the way and gauging the reaction to the winner of the O’Brien Bookseller of the Year Award: David O’Callaghan’s victory (he buys kid’s books for Eason) was met with smiles all round and lots of cheering. Resplendent in his trademark t-shirt, his first thought was to thank Judi, Stephenie and Dora (and it took some time for people to realise he meant Curtin, Meyer and The Explorer). He seemed pretty shocked, but by the time he’d downed a couple of glasses of rosé, he seemed happy enough! David is a big champion of kid’s books and drives the authors he likes hard to get great sales through the mass market: he has certainly contributed hugely to the success of Judi Curtin’s books. He is also a huge film fan, and the victory made clear that the book world has to embrace and engage with every medium possible, rather than treating TV, games and movies as ‘The Enemy’!