Thursday, December 04, 2008

Salting the Ground

For any Facebook user interested in contemporary literary publishing -- especially writers who hope to be published -- Chris Hamilton-Emery's notes should be essential reading. They are a blog in the strictest sense, a log of daily ups and downs that gives a fascinating insight into the struggle of juggling family life and the heavy demands of running one of the most vibrant literary presses in the UK. Chris's openness about those demands and the precarious economics of the enterprise is impressive. Take this, from yesterday's note:

I thought I'd write a note on sales here, too. Each Salt title represents about £2,000 investment that's cost of sales and a share of the overhead. It means that every title has to do a lot of work to break even. Discounts vary from 20% to 60% dependent on the route to market (or sales channel) and the sales of individual volumes can vary hugely. Average first year sales are 200 copies. Some sell 1,000 copies, many sell around 150. Too many sell less than 50 copies. A few sell less than 5 copies. We need to sell around 310 copies to break even in the UK, 800 in Australia and 600 in the USA. That's before we make any money to pay for the next lot of books and to continue the publishing programme, never mind any capital we need for IT or new ventures. Making those sales is the toughest thing Jen and I have ever done.

Hard truth, isn't it? But it's best that we writers not be under any illusions about how hard everyone -- especially us -- has to work to make our books a success. And maybe it makes us think hard about what we define as success.

More impressive still is the quality and variety of the Salt poetry and fiction lists. Yes, yes, I would say that, but you don't have to take my word for it: check out the many links here to reviews of Salt titles in the broadsheets and elsewhere or the prizes for which Salt authors have been shortlisted and have won. Check out too what David Morley, for example, has to say here about Jane Holland's new collection Camper Van Blues and Isobel Dixon’s A Fold in the Map. An embarrassment of riches, I'm sure you'll agree, and a truly international one at that.

Most importantly of all, get yourself down to the Salt online shop (here for customers in the USA) and avail yourself of that fantastic pre-Christmas offer: 33% off all books. You all know how essential Salt is in a cold and icy winter like this one.

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