Monday, March 28, 2011

Pip is going to rehab, I hope you will too?

First of all, I want to apologise to my friend, Pip Lincoln for copying and pasting the photos and text from this blog post.

My heart and head are so overcome with emotion right now, that although I have 1 x dress sample, 1 x 'New York Groove' dress, 1 x 'Smitten' skirt to make by 4pm today (it is currently 11:28am) oh, and many emails to reply to, if I don't write this post now, I won't be able to focus I my work.

I personally know Pip, her boyfriend Cameron and their three children. Over the years I have watched this little family work really, really hard and to read that Pip feels that she is cheating you by selling *her* book in *her* shop at the RRP, makes me feel both cross and sad.

As with myself and other crafty people I know, there is a misconception that just because we have a small business and a strong online presence, we are rich, which sadly is'nt always the case (if I were rich, I would be writing this post from my purpose built studio, not in the spare bedroom of my house and Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue would be on his way over for peppermint tea).

Some of you may have no interest in craft, or books or Pip's shop, and I get that, but this post could be about any small business or sole creator. I ask myself everyday, "how long can I keep going like this?" (competing with both small run and mass produced clothing sold at a discounted price), and to be honest, I can't see myself having a clothing label in 10 years times as it is too hard to compete, but read the text from Pip's blog post and see what you think.

From Pip's blog today:

"I am heading into Rehab, starting today. I am going cold turkey. Yes. I am shutting the door on discounted books. What? I am not going to shop at the BIG DISCOUNT online booksellers anymore. Not at all. Ever. Gasp! Okay. Are you freaking out? Gulp. You might hate this post. I will understand if you do. Quick! Click away and come back tomorrow! NO hard feelings. I am still going to write it, though. It's important.

Reasons to hate this post
You love books
You don't live near a bookstore
You love cheap books
You are on a budget

Reasons to love this post
You love books
You support people who write books
You support independent booksellers
You don't support monopolies (unless it involves many board games)

I feel like I need to get this off my chest... I totally understand that you might not agree or care about this stuff. And I totally get that, I really do. But this is how it is for me...

SO. At the moment we are not selling our book in our shop. We were selling it, but to be honest I feel like a bit of a charlatan selling my book for the recommended retail, when I KNOW you can get it for nearly half that elsewhere. (Did I hear you scampering off to google 'Pip's book cheap quick'?) I like to share good tips and make sure that I am being fair and upfront. So I feel really really weird making you pay full whack for my book when you can buy it from one of the big discounters way cheaper. I feel like I am cheating you. What the heck? How can that be right?! How can an author selling their own book at the RRP be cheating. Well... it's not, of course, but it FEELS like that to me.... I am sensitive. I want you to be happy and get a good deal and have plenty of money to buy cake and things.

I spoke to another author about this the other day. He said that his book is LESS THAN WHOLESALE through some of the book discounting sites. This means that if he buys his own book direct from his publisher, he will pay MORE for that book than YOU would if you bought it online from the book discounters. And he WROTE the book (along with another rad gal). He says he too feels weird selling his book at the RRP via his own website. Even if it is signed. Still feels weird. Hmm.

Let's dig a bit deeper. For me it works like this (it may work differently for other authors) ::

ME :: I buy the book at wholesale through my publisher at half the cover price. And then I mark it up 100%. And then I sell it to you. Simple. In that case I get a royalty on the book from said publisher (a modest percentage of the cover price paid twice yearly) PLUS I get the margin I added to the wholesale price (through my store cash register!)

THEM :: The book discounters buy the book for half the cover price (or maybe a titch less, perhaps? volume discount?) and then they add as little as a dollar or two to the price and sell it to you. Simple. (Of course I still get my royalty on this book too.) They are happy with a tiny margin on top of the wholesale price... and then they will even ship it to you for free.. somehow... how can that even work? I don't know, but that is how they do it. And you probably like that a lot! I used to! Cheap books! Hurrah!

What is the problem? Well... I guess the book discounters have big plans for world domination and will have a monopoly before we know it.... Do you think? They are building a big powerful business. And the book discounters are relying on you to go and peek at all the books you want at your local bookstore and then hot foot it back to the computer to buy it for half price plus a dollar or two. (That is a bit uncool, if you do that. Please try not to do that.) They are pretty happy that they don't have to actually TALK to you or pay expensive shop rent or make a nice window display of lovely books or bother with author signings or any of that pesky stuff either.

How is this discounting sustainable? I do not know. I know that it is not sustainable for smaller booksellers. And what this means in the long term I do not know. (See how much I don't know! It's all very confusing!) Will the big discounters crush everyone and then push the price of books back up to regular old retail? Or will they be bought out by another giant company and make their money then... and prices of books will ultimately return to the RRP? I am not an expert on this stuff. All I know is that when authors feel like robbers selling their own books (because they can't compete with the big discounters and they don't want to 'dupe' their readers/customers into paying the RRP) than something is very wrong.... And when small stores are acting as unwitting showcases for big huge book discounters then something is very wrong.

Yes, I think there are lots of ways I can make it nicer to buy my book direct from me, even if it does cost you an extra $20 or so. I can sign your book. I can have a chat with you. I can tuck a little map of Fitzroy's best shops into the cover while we talk about crochet and you peep about the shop. Those are all good things to do. And maybe they will make you want to pay the RRP and buy from me. BUT I know that this economy means lots of people HAVE to cut back. I totally get that. I really do. A chat is probably not worth an extra $20, no matter how delightful. And my messy writing DEFINITELY is not worth $20! I really do understand that.

So. Bearing in mind the budget and the bank balance, all I would ask is that you think about what you buy book-wise and where to buy it. Think about the survival of small booksellers, (and also know that probably A LOT OF AUTHORS feel weird about selling their own books at the (very fair) RRP now.) And have a think about whether this matters to you, and who you want to support in this whole schmozzle.

So. My rehab starts today. I am not buying any more discounted books. (I have bought around 20 books from the book discounters previously.) I am going to buy fewer books (at the RRP) from independent booksellers. And I am going to hatch a plan to make the books I will sell in my store in the future more special : including some extra bits and pieces tucked into the cover which you can't get if you buy from the big guys.

Maybe you know a lot more about this than I do? Tell us what you know in the comments!
Maybe you have something to say about this important issue? Do do do tell!
Please note : this entire post is written from my own point of view. It's probably not very objective...!

xx Pip"

If you wish to buy Pip's books, they are available from here and here - and hopefully from Meet Me At Mikes in Fitzroy!
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