Publishing is a seasonal business, based around tourists and kids in the spring, holiday reading in the summer and (hopefully!) gift purchases in Autumn and Winter. 2008 was an exception to the rule that the Christmas gift market is where it’s at for general book publishers like us, and Christmas starts this week (for the Sales department: for editorial much of Christmas is over, and the rest of it in frenzied development)!
For a period of about ten days, we meet, greet and show our autumn wares to all the major retailers, wholesalers and chains in Ireland and do our best to ensure that our pitch — enthusiasm, belief, marketing plans etc — will convince them that ours are the must-have titles for the season. Naturally, every other publisher is pitching their books at the same time, and the retail buyers must get punch-drunk from the whole thing.
So what happens? Well, we show them advance information (AI: not to be confused with Artificial Insemination!) sheets and talk about forthcoming titles and the feedback is collated and fed back into our system and we make a call on which comments to take seriously and which ones to leave aside.
Many books fit into boxes (In The Blood is the next Grand National, Alice to the Rescue is Judi Curtin’s next sure-fire winner, …) but where it gets really interesting is where there is something that just doesn’t fit: is Blood Upon the Rose a kid’s book or a general book? Is it a graphic novel or a history book?
So who is right and who is wrong? We can’t know until the readers have had their say: we use our years of experience to make the best guesses we can on what it is that people want to buy, read and enjoy: and to make those books as readable and attractive as they can be: and ensure that they are all on the tables at the front of the shops, of course … Place your bets!