I wrote earlier about plans for Calder Wood Press for the next year. I’ve been mulling it over since, and it has (a) reinforced my decision not to take on new work in 2014 and (b) given me several ideas for promoting and selling CWP titles. Promotion and marketing are two of the major publishing activities which cause problems for the singleton (or One Man Band) type of publisher. We can’t give sufficient time to these essential tasks while at the same time we’re working on new titles. I enjoy working with authors – editing, sequencing, designing, typesetting, organising launches and readings – but they take time, and producing six new titles, as I have done in 2013, is a considerable effort. And that results in a lesser effort being expended in working with the titles produced in previous years.
This has a knock-on effect on sales of these earlier titles, and in my case it has resulted in problems of cashflow and overstocking. I need to increase the first and reduce the second, and I’d like to do this in ways which are creative and practical. All publishers face these problems, but the OMB publisher has to tackle them on his or her own. Some publishers get round the problem by seeking subsidy from the authors or from funding bodies. I’ve never done this, and I never will – it’s just not in my make-up. Publishers take risks by publishing authors, and that’s in the nature of the business. The books we produce have to succeed or fail on their own merits. The good publisher tries to make them succeed, but at the end of the day we depend on the taste and judgement of the buying public. It’s how I can influence that taste that I’m turning my attention to very shortly. Meanwhile, I’ve got the no small matter of my Hawthornden Fellowship residency coming up, during which I’ll be writing a new book of my own.