Independent publisher Salt has raised more than £7,500 after appealing to its supporters to purchase "just one book" to help save the struggling business.
Director of the Norfolk-based press, Chris Hamilton-Emery, told The Bookseller that the firm was in a "very precarious position" after total sales plummeted by 41% in the financial year to April 2018.
Hamilton-Emery said the challenging year had resulted from the business' plan to focus on fewer, bigger titles – publishing 19 books a year, down from 80 – which, coupled with dwindling review space, meant that getting attention for books had been "significantly harder", and no title had been able to break through to capture the public's attention. The company's slow start to the calendar year in 2017 also fed into poor cash flow, Hamilton-Emery said.
"It's been very, very tough", he said. "We ate through £25,000 of reserves in a few months and have spent 18 months trying to climb out of debt. Those debts aren't huge, around £10,000 all in, but the challenges of finding that money and the cash for advances and contributor fees for our new commitments left us in a very precarious position. Yesterday, it all became clear that we were in trouble. We knew we had to ask for help from our deeply loyal fan base."
The press first launched the #JustOneBook campaign in 2009 when it was experiencing "more serious financial difficulties". At the time it had been funded by Arts Council England for three years, but when that ended the press was left with an extensive commitments list and large printing bills.
"We didn't know whether we could survive and I was talking to my colleagues and said, ‘You know, it would all work if people just bought one book from us.’ And we mentioned this on Facebook. Within hours it had gone viral and we did over £30,000 of business, rescuing us", said Hamilton-Emery.
The publisher decided to renew the call on Tuesday (29th May) after its recent woes and has since received 445 orders raising more than £7,500.
The campaign has received a swell of support from readers and trade figures alike. Fellow indie publisher Saraband tweeted: "Support our friends @saltpublishing today! #Justonebook (or better yet, buy two!)", while Galley Beggar Press said: "Our friends @saltpublishing have been at the forefront of independent publishing for the past 20 years. They are truly exceptional – please buy a book, RT, and do whatever you can to help."
Author Sarah Perry and The Big Green Bookshop in London's Wood Green have also voiced their support.
Hamilton-Emery has described the response as "quite extraordinary".
"All independents struggle from time to time (perhaps even most of the time), and we've used the #JustOneBook idea to help us on several occasions in putting forward a simple economic model", he said. "But this response is perhaps even bigger than 2009. We can't believe it. It's been wonderful. Humbling. Very emotional. It shows you that the years you put in to serving writers and readers truly does build a community."
He added: "When you're in a business, heads down, struggling to get the message across about wonderful books, you can lose sight of the impact. We can simply be too immersed in getting a text right, talking to booksellers and agents, designers, printers... then this happens and you realise that there's a large world of readers out there who, I guess, respect what you do and admire the aims, the goal of the business – we just want to publish great books for great readers."
Salt was founded in 1999 by Hamilton-Emery and his wife Jen. Books can be purchased directly from Salt's website.
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