Good for Tim, better for indies

<p>It's not often news is broken to me via text on my way into the office at 8.30. But so it was today when <i>The Bookseller's</i> news editor sent me a message with the revelation that Hachette had pulled out of the exclusive <i>Sunnyside</i> deal with Waterstone's. My first thought was that she'd misheard (afterall it was only on Tuesday that Hachette promised booksellers five free copies of the trade paperback), but when I phoned a contact, it became evident that it was true. Remarkable.</p>
<p>No one seems able to remember if such an exclusive arrangement has been agreed to before: but sure as hell no one will be able to recall the c.e.o. of the largest trade publisher in the UK making what even he described on the radio as an &quot;historic climbdown&quot;.<br />
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It is, of course, a triumph for indies: &quot;Publisher backs down in face of indie protest&quot; is one of the more obvious headlines. As <i>The Bookseller's</i>, now out of date, Leader column stated this week, what indies have achieved over this &quot;speaks volumes for a sector of the market that can all too often get marginalised&quot;. It also means that the precedent James Daunt and others were worried such a deal could represent has been nipped in the bud. Woe betide any other publisher trying something similar now.<br />
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Tim Hely Hutchinson's appearance on Radio 4 was full of candour, and the u-turn was delivered with some grace. Good for Tim, said one of my colleagues. That's not to say we ever agreed with Hachette's position, as<i> Bookseller</i> editor Neill Denny said last week, it looked like a mistake for Sceptre from the outset. But Hely Hutchinson has fessed up, and more importantly he has taken the correct decision. He also made some important comments about better supporting independent bookshops (see transcript below) that now need to be followed up, perhaps by The Booksellers Association.</p>
<p>Now is the time to move on. As one indie bookseller told me: &quot;I am now looking forward to promoting the book strongly as I had always hoped to do.&quot;</p>
<p><img width="207" height="6" src="/documents/UserContributed/image/dottedline2(1).jpg" alt="" /></p>
<p>For those not quite ready yet to turn the page, <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_7914000/7914345.stm">you can listen to the climbdown in full here</a>. Or I've written out in full Tim's quotes (apologies for the typos) just for the record:<br />
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&quot;Excluisve deals are not uncommon, particularly if a publisher feels that one bookseller, in this case Waterstone'ss, will do a fantastic job with the book, and other booksellers won't mind too much: and that it exactly why my entrepreneurial colleagues at Hodder &amp; Stoughton set this deal up. However, what we underestimated, was the degree of excitment about Glen Gold's Sunnyside, because although the hardback of his previous book did not do very well, the paperback did and has been a solid seller for both Waterstone's and independents over the last couple of year. We got this wrong, and so I can tell you exclusively this morning that we are are cancelling the exclusivity with the very kind permission of Waterstone's.&quot;<br />
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&quot;I have to say in retrospect it was a mistake anyway, and if choosing between confusion and conspiracy it was definitely in the confusion camp. I am very sympathetic to what James Daunt is saying. What is much more commonly done is that certain editions are exclusive so sometimes one bookseller has the paperback, while another has the hardback, or or vice versa.&quot;<br />
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&quot;I think with the best intentions, and my entrepreneurial colleagues were really trying to do their best, I think they got this a bit wrong, and we are correcting that now.&quot;<br />
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&quot;Waterstone's has behaved impeccably, they have been great supporters of the author and have been very kind about this.&quot;<br />
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&quot;Not all special promotions are focused on one bookseller, we have to be even-handed as best as we can be with all booksellers. As far as independent booksellers are concerned there is a danger that publishers like me pay lip-service to supporting independent booksellers and use various band-aids to make things better, but are not doing much to stop the general economic thing of the big guys gradually crushing the small people, and actually I do think we need to go further in finding more meaninful economic solutions to this issue. We certainly do want independent booksellers to thrive.&quot;</p>