Bookshop Lottery

Following on from my recent adventures at The London Book Fair, I’ve taken to the streets of London to do some research. My quest: to reassess the retail price of The Hapless Rehearsal. A couple people at LBF were surprised that The Hapless Rehearsal sells for £10 (and not more!), so I thought it would be worth looking into this. I had set the £10 retail price back in 2011, when this book was originally printed, but wondered even at the time if it was a little low. The book is, after all, beautifully printed with luxurious touches of gold foil. Not your average hardback.

Now for the quest…

I thought it would be useful to wander around some London bookshops to see how The Hapless Rehearsal compares with current hardback illustrated book prices. Gosh! Comics – one of my favourite London bookshops – seemed the natural place to begin. If you love beautiful books and have not been to Gosh! yet, you really must go and have a look. They have a stunning collection of graphic novels and it is almost impossible not to get overexcited and purchase loads of lovely things you never knew you wanted or needed. Dangerous. But the good kind of danger – the sort we want and need in our lives. ☺

Gosh! Comics - lovely books & Moomin mugs

Gosh! Comics is also, by the way, the first shop I plan to contact on my imminent quest for lovely UK stockists of The Hapless Rehearsal. They are home to an excellent range of Edward Gorey’s wonderful hardbacks, and I think THR would go beautifully on a shelf next to them. Ahem…

Getting back to my story…

So, I was wandering around Gosh! yesterday afternoon, scouring the shop for books with similar production values that could be comparably priced to The Hapless Rehearsal. I didn’t particularly wish to draw attention to myself and had no intention of speaking with the shopkeeper. I am already aware that soliciting bookshops in person about selling your book is not the thing to do. There is a proper way of going about this and, if you want to be taken seriously, it’s a more formal and deliberate process, which I will detail in a future blog post.

I was therefore wary of approaching the shopkeeper to ask for advice about the retail price of my book. I wanted to be cautious. So, I browsed and gauged the atmosphere. The man at the till had a very friendly manner and was clearly knowledgeable about graphic novels. Lots of people came up to him to ask various questions and he handled them all with patience and goodwill. I meandered from one part of the room to the other, looking at books, then increasingly observing the man at the till. There was a lull… it was now or never. [gulp] Here goes…

But before I could make my approach, another woman started speaking with him. To my complete astonishment, I overheard her ask whether they stock illustrated verse. Illustrated verse?! “Um, oddly enough I have exactly what you’re looking for in my handbag… and it’s called The Hapless Rehearsal!" is what I wanted to say. I resisted. The man at the till said something like there isn’t a specific section for illustrated verse, but he directed her to some books on display.

I then took my opportunity to speak with him. I mentioned I had self-published an illustrated book a couple years ago and was recently told at The London Book Fair that the price seemed a bit low, so was wondering if I could show him my book to see what he thought… I wanted to make it very clear that although I love Gosh! and would love it if they stocked my book, I intend to go through the proper channels and have not come to flog my products in person. He was happy to help and said a lot of author/publishers come in to ask about pricing their books. He pointed out, and rightly so, that finding the right price for your book very much depends on the cost price of your books and whether or not you are scraping by or actually making a profit. He has a small press too, so has some first-hand experience with this, and he thought my profit margins very good, and the retail price of £10 an excellent deal without being suspiciously low.
Food for thought.

The retail price might seem good, but I’m not altogether convinced that sufficient cost profit margin is built into the wholesale price. We’ll see… I’ll do some further research before officially approaching stockists.

Hey... what about that illustrated verse woman?

Okay, okay... I'm getting to that. So, as I was finishing my chat with the man at the till, the woman who had been searching for illustrated poetry came up and asked if she could have a look at The Hapless Rehearsal

A moment later she asked if she could buy a copy! We got talking and it turns out she’s a writer/poet and is searching for illustrated poetry for inspiration – to give her possible ideas of what she could do with her own works. What a coincidence! I was doing the very same thing several years ago and that’s when I came across Edward Gorey. The size and format of his lovely hardback books greatly influenced the format of The Hapless Rehearsal – the combination of illustration and verse, creating a font from my own handwriting, even using Tien Wah Press to print my book (they printed a number of Gorey’s books too).

Crazy, eh? And to cap it all off, I sold my book in a bookshop without it actually being stocked there. I feel a little sheepish about this, but… even more delighted!

Life is truly stranger than fiction.