Friday, 18 March 2011


My grizzly guru, Yogi Bear, once told his wee pal Boo Boo (I was eveasdropping):  "You can't fail if you never stop trying." I'll tell you why he's so spot-on right a little later on in this piece and you'll understand why this line came to mind when I started to type.

Yogi Bear
But gosh, is the BeWrite Books team tuckered out trying! It’s been hectic over the past few months, and these past weeks in particular when we saw a fifty-fold increase in website traffic. But it’s been worth every bead of sweat and raging headache, every sleepless night … and even the hastily gobbled desktop sandwiches that substituted for meals.

And Tony and I (working thirty-six and even up to forty-eight hours at a flat-out stretch to try to keep up) have been especially side-tracked by stuff that isn’t really our bailiwick – me as an editorial type, he with art, design and tech as his part of the act. We weren’t cut out as PR men and number-crushers.

There’s been, among many, many others, things like a major promo drive, increased admin, legal work and accountancy, complicated third-party retail dealing, the complexities of registering BeWrite Books in the USA to take full advantage of the ebook explosion we’ve been predicting since the last century. 

And the mad rush since that registration was finalised in October has been to immediately set up a worldwide ebook distribution system to beat that of Ingram – the biggest book distributor on the planet. But little BB did it. David scored another KO on Goliath. Yogi pulled one over on Ranger Smith again. We’ll continue with Ingram distribution on the print side, though. Not even we could beat that … at least not yet (but battle plans are in the pipeline. Picnic box-snatching is very much in mind).

Over ninety percent of our sales are now in ebooks, and print is becoming less and less of an item. This is a 360 degree turn-about from what we’d seen over the past ten years when paperback accounted for 90% or more of our sometimes miserably low sales. We will continue to produce paperbacks of all our titles, of course. But it’s mostly swank; prestige value to us and our authors. Ebook figures are anything but miserable.

They've even surprised us!

Here are a few official and newly released figures to chew over:

Sales of electronic books in January, 2011 more than doubled from the same month last year. Meanwhile, adult hardcover category fell 11.3%, adult paperback dropped by 19.7% and adult mass market declined by 30.9%.

And remember that those print figures take into account the still massive (but fast-shrinking)  hold of brick & mortar bookshop chains and supermarkets that rely on the Big Five publishing houses and blockbuster best-sellers.

In the massive and ever-growing online book retail field (BeWrite Books’ main outlet), ebooks vastly outsell hardback and paperback combined. Ebooks topped 50% of sales last summer even at Amazon, the biggest worldwide bookseller in history. Many major new retailers like Sony, Kobo and Apple won’t even touch print. New online sellers likewise cut print out of the picture. It ain’t worth their while. Online buyers don't like the cover price, shipping cost and postal delays print involves.

“Ebook sales have increased annually and significantly in all nine years of tracking the category. The increase of sales of e-books, which are more affordable than typical books, may point to the fact that those who actually read a lot of books have initiated transition to electronic books. It remains to be seen whether physical books share the fate of CDs and DVDs in the coming years.”

(You can imagine my guess, chums.)

The above info, incidentally, is from a new report by the Association of American Publishers, the national trade association of the publishing industry. Its 300 members include most of the major commercial, education and professional publishers as well as smaller and non-profit publishers, university presses and scholarly societies.

In a nutshell, what they mean is that the surge of e-book buying BB predicted would take place in January, following a round of holiday e-reader gift-giving, did materialise. My crystal ball seldom lets me down. No other trade segment posted a sales increase in the month. Sales of mass market paperbacks were terrible according to nineteen major reporting publishing houses.

But, of course, something had to give, even at BB. The result of the Beehive Busy ‘extramural’ workload has meant that we’re a slice behind with the actual BeWrite Books job  ... that of preparing and releasing new titles. Many, many are in process and our 2011 release schedule (and beyond) is filled to capacity with outstanding new novels and sole-authored poetry anthologies. You'll see them all, month by month, as always.

So after heavy team discussion this week that resulted in unanimous agreement, we’ve taken the step of suspending new submissions of fiction and poetry from March 20 until August 31 while we clear the decks a little of actual work in hand. We’ve never allowed a slush pile to develop at BB, and we don’t intend to.

This move – though almost unknown at BeWrite Books itself (last time was several years ago when two key staffers were hospitalised at the same time) – is actually quite common with independent publishers, who often do it annually or open for new submissions only for a month or two each year. And, of course, the bigger houses NEVER accept unsolicited and non-agented submissions.

So it’s no show of weakness on our part to suspend subs for a wee while, lads and lassies, just a clear sign of good house-keeping and never breaking promises.

And this is where Yogi Bear: comes into this blog post : "You can't fail, Boo Boo, if you never stop trying."

Yup, Yogi certainly was smarter than your average bear.

Established, pre-published BeWrite Books authors, naturally, are exempt from this five-month suspension period. Some have works in progress (WIPs) commissioned or at least encouraged by us that we look forward to seeing; and from others we can guarantee good work and  the sheer enjoyment of warm  and professional co-operation.

Lots more to tell you, folks – never a dull moment here – but this message is long enough as it is, so I’ll save it for another time.

Happy reading, happy weekend love, luck and very best wishes. Neil, Tony, BB team, Yogi and Boo Boo

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