Neil Gaiman brought to an interesting article on the Making Light blog to my attention. I was aware, during the week, of the issue, since the SMH published another article on it, which doesn’t contain the detail of the first.
Basically, A&R – who’s owners are looking to have it publicly listed – is trying to blackmail small publishing houses into paying for A&R’s ineptitude at ordering books that people want and then being unsuccessful in selling what they have on stock. Making Light analyses the letter from A&R to Tower Books in some depth, and shows the arrogance and sheer effrontery of A&R.
Here’s a couple of excerpts:
I am writing to you because TOWER BOOKS falls into this category of unacceptable profitability.
As a consequence we would invite you to pay the attached invoice by Aug 17th 2007. The payment represents the gap for your business, and moves it from an unacceptable level of profitability, to above our minimum threshold.
If you would like to discuss this with me in more detail, I am delighted to confirm an appointment with you at 1:00pm on Friday 17th August for 10 minutes at my offices at 379 Collins St, Melbourne.
Along with the invoice, A&R expects publishers to write out a contract in which they agree to do all but hand over their first-borne children in order to keep A&R at a certain level of profit. Note that the letter doesn’t say that A&R is losing money, just that there is an “unacceptable level of profitibility!
Note too, the 10 minute window (that the A&R bloke is “delighted” to offer). Tower is a publishing house in NSW, and it’s a bit rich to try and force someone to fly interstate for a 10 minute meeting. How much can you discuss in that time anyway?
Now that this has been publicly aired, I expect furious back-pedalling from A&R, but my suggestion is not to trust the bastards and to but from more ethical retailers.