Snowbooks: idealism in a changing publishing world?

I love blogging because it leads you to strange and wonderful places. I commented yesterday over on Richard Charkin’s blog and have been tracking the conversation there. One commenter, Emma Barnes, added the following:

One branch of our non-fiction is a crucial contributor to the overall profitability of our business because by pure luck we have chanced upon a category (martial arts) which, on the whole, is poorly published (in terms of editorial focus and production values). As a publisher I like non-fiction because it tends to sell through off shelf rather than on promotion. These books tend to have a higher list price than our riskier paperback fiction. All in all we have a higher price, a lower discount and a more focused series brand to build.

It takes a long time to bring these books to market – 500 photos, heavy editing and time-consuming design and typesetting – but the quality resonates with enthusiastic readers. As ever, it’s all about ensuring you publish high quality books in a market that is eager for them.

Now I am sorry to rob the whole comment but the reason is that I followed the commenter’s link back to their website Snowbooks and was intrigued by what I found there.

In perhaps the most wonderfully beguiling and intimate About Pagse entitled:

A Longwinded and at Times Overwrought Description of Snowbooks’ Uncommon Views on Recruiting and Employment

In Which Various Other Matters Are Touched Upon

It is quite a treasure trove of ideas, concepts and opinion, not to mention strategy and ideals. Amongst the gems are the following:

Perhaps it’s only in our imaginations, but it seems as though corners of this industry exist solely for the purpose of recreating some bygone (and probably imaginary) golden age, a little bubble of 1950s gentility, safe from the cold, modern world.

That’s not our position, though. Firstly, we’re much more about steering than brakes: the Snowbooks we have in mind is definitely up ahead, in the future, so applying the brakes does us no favours. Secondly, though we’re equally wary of the unbridled profit motive, we’re very clear on the distinction between holding onto cherished values and holding onto traditional methods. Values, much like a soul, must come along for the ride; methods, much like stepping stones, are only useful so long as they get you where you want to go; you shouldn’t make them your permanent travelling companions.


So, relatively speaking, accommodating the big book retailers can be far less of a burden (or a sin) for small publishers than many make out. But even that understates the case: Snowbooks is set up for dealing with major retailers so we’re not disappointed by the terms they offer us, we’re delighted. By taking the standard terms of the moment as our baseline, we regard a deal where at the going rate as a total success. Only if we measured every deal against how things were done in the aforementioned imaginary golden age would we be disappointed with the status quo. And that in turn means we can court the major chains’ business enthusiastically, even looking for ways to make their lives easier, imagining extra concessions we can offer them in order to sweeten the deal. We get what we want, they get what they want, everyone’s happy and we have the success and the income we need to indulge our fuzzy-headed ideals.

Overall as a statement of aims and vision this is by far the most exciting and novel I have heard in some time. I don’t quite know if I fully agree with everything but what I do agree with makes the disagreement trifling.

Go! Read! Enjoy!

4 thoughts on “Snowbooks: idealism in a changing publishing world?

  1. They also won “Small Publisher of the Year! A great site a publisher to watch.
    Emma also contacts you within a reasonable time on correspondence, something that can’t be said for a lot of her peers.

  2. Thanks Steve,
    I forgot to mention that, though I did notice it. It is funny you mention that about her responsiveness. Funny because Micahel Hyatt, one of my idols of blogging posted this sometime ago and is a philosophy I have recently tried to adopt and use every day:

    I’m not sure I could boil it down to one thing. Life isn’t usually that simple. But if I really, really had to boil it down to one thing, I would say this: responsiveness.

    So many people I meet are unresponsive. They don’t return their phone calls promptly. They don’t answer their emails quickly. They don’t complete their assignments on time. They promise to do something and never follow through. They have to be reminded, prodded, and nagged. This behavior creates work for everyone else and eats into their own productivity. Sadly, they seem oblivious to it.

    You can read the whole post here.

  3. How very true. It’s one of my pet peeves. I ran a commercial real estate company and it always bothered me that people thought it didn’t matter, well it does and it’s good business! Publishers and agents have mastered this to an art form and it’s so refreshing to find someone with manners and a sound business sense.

  4. Blimey – you are nice. I do have awful weeks where my inbox goes crazy so I do apologise if anyone reads these comments and curses me. But you’re right, Steve: it’s things like niceness and manners and being kind that sound small but make dealing with people enjoyable rather than soul-destroying. And since as ex-consultants we’ve done more than our fair share of destroying stuff (if you’ve ever brushed up against the industry you’ll know what I mean) we really do try to be nice humans. It astonishes me how easy it is to run a business if you just decide on a couple of values to live by – you never have to make a decision again! You just think ‘will this course of action make me happy?’ or ‘am I proud of what I’m doing?’ and it all just works out. So far. Hey, friend, why not go buy two of each of all our books, right now?!

    (Thanks again for this lovely post x)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.