This is another post from the heart. Forgive me. If you are not a fan of honesty stop reading now. If you - like me - believe in occasional reality checks, read on and let me know your thoughts.
I run a small, independent press in Scotland, as you know. 8d Press prides itself on being small but focussed and big in vision. We/I also pride ourselves on publishing unknown writers or just-starting-out writers who - in this unkind world - would never get a look-in at any literary agency or big publishing house anywhere in the UK - through no fault of their own. They are talented but their genre is not in trend, or they don't have the social media presence - any manner of excuses for rejection letters. 8d Press doesn't care about any of that. We want to publish amazing stories. We care not who you are, what your background is or how many followers you have on Twitter. We're also self-funded (by choice not by desire - if I may offer a riddle), and invest money in finding and publishing Scottish writers.
But we are choosy. We only publish quality and we only want to work with ego-free writers who understand the nature of life and don't expect the world to bow to their talent.
The amount of times I get approached and get asked for my creative knowledge for FREE is just stunning. I am happy to talk to authors and offer a little bit of advice, but this question always comes to my mind: when was the last time you bought a book by a Scottish author? How much money do you spend on books each month. I kind of know the answer. I haven't and nothing.
So, this also raises the question; if you are an author and you want to be bought and read, go out and buy and read other Scottish authors. It's quite simple really. No small press can survive without financial investment in the form of book sales and 8d Press is no exception. Instead of hours of FREE professional giving, we need book sales. And so I move on to the next culprit; independent bookshops in the UK.
I am now waiting on payment of a few hundred pounds from a few independent bookshops for the sale of LUCENT, An Ode to Nan Shepherd's The Living Mountain, and I continue to wait. LUCENT has sold well and continues to sell well. BUT....the majority of independent bookshops have not paid me for sales. YET.
In any other business this type of practice would be unheard of. Imagine a local shoe shop scenario. If wholesalers weren't paid for the shoes they sent to the shop to sell, the shop would have no shoes to sell and the shop would go out of business. Most wholesalers - new to wholesaling - would have to pay upfront for the stock they are going to sell in their shoe shops. The independent bookshops I deal with take 50% of the price of the book and yet they are taking months and months and months to pay me.
Independent bookshops don't buy books. They sell books on a SALE OR RETURN basis, which means they have ZERO connection with the publisher in terms of investment. Books supplied to them by me and other publishers gather dust on their shelves, get fingered and marked until they are returned to the publisher. We can't sell these copies and so they will either be given away for free or trashed. Independent bookshops are not investing in Scottish authors, rather they are simply putting a book on their shelves and hoping it will sell and that they can make their 50%.
If small publishers like me don't get paid, we will no longer supply to them, and talented writers will get ignored and rendered invisible. So while independent bookshops complain about Amazon, maybe they should think about paying the small publishing houses who supply them on time. Supporting small publishing houses would benefit them too.
My 'don't supply' list of independent bookshops is growing, which means I will no longer supply them with new paperbacks when my next books are produced and are up for sale. I will sell them ONLY on my website. This is sad, very sad. There is so much kudos in being stocked in a physical bookshop and it also means you are reaching audiences who might not know about your website, but if these shops don't pay me what they owe me, I simply cannot afford to continue with them.
Bookselling is hard, really, really hard. Most people expect you to give them your books for free. Friends, relations, associates etc think that they are doing you are favour by offering to take your book of you for no money. Let's think about this for a minute.
In Scotland, right now, there are hundreds of thousands of talented creatives who are constantly having their talent blanked out by this cultural snobbery and society's view that culture - art, writing, sculpture, anything artisan is so low down on the scale of all that is important that it is not worthy time or money.
This is a nonsense. Art, culture, writing, poetry, sculpture and anything artisan are the vitamins that the body of the world needs to survive. We DO NOT NEED most of the crap we buy - that ends up in landfill, but we CANNOT do without books, or paintings or music. We would all die, if culture was removed from our lives. Yet writing, painting, designing and creating is patronisingly viewed as something we don't need to do, but we chose to do in the manner of a hobby.
As a publisher and writer I've seen it all. Scotland needs to have its stories published and that's something I am trying to do. But I cannot do this if everyone demands a freebie from me, in terms of my time and my publishing output.
Larger businesses could also do much more to support Scotland's creatives. I am about to do a call out to local businesses to sponsor 8d Press, because without sponsorship, 8d Press will become a fast-receding hobby press.
I put a call out on LinkedIn for sponsors and received no replies. I now want to start a campaign to encourage businesses to sponsor publishing and to want to do this.
Scotland is a small country - population-wise - and it's a country that is swimming with talented writers. Businesses in Scotland - while suffering from rises in energy prices and from Covid - could still palm off a tiny percentage of their income to support the voices of Scotland that need to be heard and published, for now and future generations.
I would appreciate your thoughts.