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Small Press is Exciting!

First published on http://sherrylclark.blogspot.com/.

Last Friday I went along to the SPUNC conference. Now the first thing I need to tell you is that SPUNC is no more – the organisation has renamed itself Small Press Network. Too many years of having to explain the acronym and dodge smirks, someone said. Besides, Small Press Network does say exactly what it is. For now, all is business as usual at theold website but they promise a new updated site very soon.

First of all, membership of the network is now over 100, and members range from larger presses such as Black Inc and Spinifix Press to very small publishers such as Kill Your Darlings and the History Teachers’ Association of Victoria. The conference, as you would expect, had a large focus on digital publishing and how this might and does affect small presses, given the variety of platforms currently out there.

I’m not going to go through each session (you had to be there) but there were a number of key points that either informed, interested or astonished me that I’ll share:

* consumers still prefer to buy from the aggregators (a new term I learned – it means the “middle man”, e.g. Amazon, iBooks, bookshops, online booksellers). People still want someone or something to offer choice, and they will use an aggregator rather than buy direct from a publisher (and I guess that also means an author).

* publishers in Australia have been forced to lower book prices in the past 5 years to compete with online booksellers, but they are still profiting from imported titles due to the strength of the Australian dollar.

* if you are self-publishing or you are a small press, good meta data is absolutely essential to help people find your book/s. It can include subject lists, reviews, excerpts, links and author bios. Make it work for you!

* market analysis has shown that $9.99 is still the top favoured price people will pay for an ebook. Past $14.99 and sales drop drastically.

* discounting big-time is not a good strategy – people will pay for quality (if you are offering quality!) and discounting just takes money out of your pocket.

* when it comes to selling books or ebooks, discoverability is the top essential, and quality comes after that.

* the main reason why the government is struggling with PLR and ELR payments on ebooks is to do with all the different ways libraries are currently buying ebooks – it can be outright purchase, number of borrowing days, limited use copies, etc. Hard to track the physical holdings of ebooks when they can disappear from the library’s inventory.

I also learned quite a bit about bookselling, both in the actual shop and online. I had never heard of high and low stock turn before, but the advice to talk to your bookseller before publishing (to get their coalface experience and suggestions) was a good one.And these days, if you are trying to sell on consignment to a bookseller (i.e. just a few copies at a time) you are at the bottom of the food chain!

There were also talks by Nerida Fearnley from Lightning Source (very interesting) and Gary Pengelly from Thorpe-Bowker (where you get ISBNs). Thorpe-Bowker has a new site called My Identifiers which will cover all sorts of tools for book publishers. All food for thought! With more and more books on our backlists going out of print, republishing is a real option, both with short runs on print books and ebooks. I have already republishedFarm Kid as a print book and am now looking at it as an ebook. I’m sure other authors are doing the same.

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