Scott Pack, Head Buyer at Waterstone’s and therefore the man that gets to decide which titles appear on the bookseller’s shelves, appears to be keeping up with literary blogs. Ian Hocking, Spike contributor and burgeoning novelist, recently wrote about getting an email from Mr Pack who agreed to read Ian’s novel Deja Vu – and, true to his word, sent a follow-up email evaluating the book. I have to admit when I first read about that on Ian’s blog I thought it so extraordinary that it had to be a wind-up. But evidently not.
Crockatt And Powell, one of my current favourite blogs about a second hand bookshop that’s just opened in South East London, has also just received an email from Mr Pack too. Clearly he’s monitoring mentions of his name using Technorati or similar.
There’s a lot of authorial fear and loathing engendered by Pack’s job – check this profile piece about Pack by Tim Adams from The Observer last September – but I think it’s heartening that someone who does wield such undoubted influence is taking an interest in the literary blogs and making direct contact in cases such as Ian’s. It sets an interesting precedent for a possible new level of directness between booksellers and writers. It wouild be good if Scott Pack talked about his own web browsing habits in an interview and whether he’s sees many books out there in the wild – like Ian’s, for example, self published and self promoted – that he thinks Waterstone’s would take on and actively promote.
It strikes me that the real issue is not getting your book published – it’s getting it promoted. And someone like Waterstone’s getting behind it would make a big difference. Conversely, someone like Waterstone’s agreeing to stock your book but merely putting it on the shelf would probably result in it selling very few copies. The idea that once a bookstore agrees to stock your book then sales will automatically roll in is – obviously – misguided. There’s potential here though for Waterstone’s to start talking to authors directly, providing distribution for their books directly rather than through a traditional publisher. Which means bigger profits for both author and bookshop.