Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Waterstones

Here’s an email I sent to a local branch of Waterstones today, a branch where I have signed many times, and have always been welcomed with (metaphorical) open arms. I have given the store coverage in the local paper, and got on well with the staff who have been helpful and friendly. My visits have given their sales a welcome boost as they are not a central store that can attract big names.
Thank you for your email. No one has been in touch with me, so this is the first I have heard of this event being cancelled. You clearly only contacted me in response to my phone call. Unfortunately it is now too late for me to arrange to sign at a different store in two weeks' time. It would have been courteous of you to have contacted me earlier, and I do hope you will treat other authors with more consideration in future.
I am really sorry that our long and friendly working relationship has come to so abrupt an end, and wish you well for the future.
It’s hard to understand why a bookshop would be forced to behave in this way. Their email says they are sorry to cancel my visit but: “Our hands are tied”





12 comments:

Derek said...

Sorry for your troubles.

Easy to say from the sidelines, but I'd want to know who gave them that instruction. It could be a wider issue that the Society of Authors need to take an interest in.

Leigh Russell said...

Waterstones new policy comes from their head office. None of the stores are happy about it - it makes no sense for a shop to deliberately cut sales. The Society of Authors have offered their guidance, but Waterstones head office are of course free to issue what directives they like. This is a fairly insignificant move compared to their decision to sell kindles in the Autumn. That will affect their book sales more than anything else. By this time next year... who knows? A kindle app store?

Guillaume said...

That really sucks. It seems that the head office of Waterstones is unable to see the big picture.

Leigh Russell said...

The big picture seems to be that they will be selling kindles in the Autumn and they hope people will go to the stores to download e-books. I'm clearly missing something because that really doesn't make sense, for a bookshop.

Derek said...

Maybe head office would appreciate a little feedback. I'm struggling to see how having a booksigning is bad for business?!

Charles Gramlich said...

hum, doesn't particularly bode well for the store itself. Sorry you had this unpleasant experience.

Leigh Russell said...

They have had plenty of feedback, Derek, since they changed their policy. They're entitled to make this change, but it is going to damage sales in the smaller stores, and is very misguided. Head office doesn't want to recognise that the bookshops are, essentially, just that. Shops.

Leigh Russell said...

The stores will be selling kindle e-readers from next month, Charles, so sales of print books are under threat anyway. As for the unpleasant experience, I'm still shocked that a bookshop would treat an author so shabbily. It says a lot about Waterstones and their new direction. It's all very sad but I'm loisng the will to keep complaining about it!

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

You certainly did everything in your power to help them. They acted in a short sighted manner, which makes me think they had made a decision long ago on the Kindle move. It would seem sensible that having authors stop in even when they have become a different literature entity would improve sales. For instance, an autograph, and the author's uploaded book on the Kindle. The Kindle Fire comes with a free Amazon Prime account for a few months, which lets the buyer download numerous books for free. It could be an inexpensive marketing deal for the store, and the author still gets royalties.

Leigh Russell said...

Yes, Bernard, it was an excellent arrangement. It worked really well, so it's typical that someone would come along and change the rules! That's life. Waterstones is definitely more interested in sales of kindles than print books. I can't understand why, but there it is.

Lauren said...

Wow! That's horrible! It's sad when corporate gets so removed from everyday operations that they forget how the real world works. Just look at Borders...

Leigh Russell said...

Yes, Borders went very suddenly. Unfortunately, Waterstones are only surviving thanks to the sponsorship of a Russian patron who put 56 million pounds into the chain to keep it going. They can't survive on book sales, with so many people on kindles. It's a changing world.