Wednesday 7 November 2012

Vacancy (or, teach me how to sell books)

Those who buy CBe books (Stendhal’s ‘happy few’?) know that they’re not buying from Random House. For good or ill, these words apply: niche, reticent (the brown card covers), amateurish (all the numbers are written down in a big red book, I’ve never made a spreadsheet in my life). A reason that CBe has survived for five years is that it is not a business: editing, design, typesetting and general running around are done on a voluntary basis, i.e. not costed against income. (On the other hand, the authors do get advances: pocket money, not enough to keep wolves from the door, but some recognition of an author’s dignity. I mention this only because the practice of not paying any advance at all seems to be spreading.) Another reason for survival is that a number of the books have had a good press. But you’d never guess that from the sales figures.

Sales, marketing and publicity are fields in which I’ve had zero experience. So, given that next year CBe will be publishing more titles than in any previous year, and I owe it to the authors, I’m intending to apply for funding to pay a part-time freelance Person in the coming year – a Person, ideally, who has kept track of the musical chairs of lit eds and knows without checking who is currently sitting in which seat; who knows how to bend their ears, and the ears of festival managers too; who can knock down the price for a decent reading venue, and then pull in enough people to fill it; who has a proven knack of getting books to new readers and persuading them they can’t not buy. A Person, in other words, who is not just enthusiastic about this form of publishing but who has experience (yet doesn’t mind operating out of kitchens and cafés, not an office). A Person who can set up contact networks and procedures that a less experienced other person may then be able to follow up and develop at a cost more sustainable by CBe itself.

If anyone happening to read this knows of such a Person, or has a friend of a friend who may know, give them the CBe email: Inquiries from retired bankers with literary interests and a willingness to fund parties will also be welcome.

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