Bookseller Briefing 20/19 – week ending 17 May

Export ban on judge’s copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover

In a rare move, the Government is appealing for a buyer to pay £56,250 for the obscenity trial judge’s copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover to stop it leaving the country.

The 1960 edition of D H Lawrence’s novel was sold at auction for the huge sum to an anonymous online bidder in October, well above the £15,000 asking price and a record for a Penguin paperback.

It was originally owned by Sir Laurence Byrne, the judge who presided over the landmark 1960 trial and contains his wife Dorothy’s annotations and two pages of notes with a list of page numbers and content summaries. She also sewed a blue-grey fabric bag for her husband to carry the book back and forth from court.

Now a temporary export bar has been imposed by Arts Minister Michael Ellis in the hope someone can match the selling price and keep it in the UK. It followed a recommendation from the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest (RCEWA), which advises the Government on cultural property.

The minister said: “The trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover captured the public attention in 1960. It was a watershed moment in cultural history, when Victorian ideals were overtaken by a more modern attitude. I hope that a buyer can be found to keep this important part of our nation’s history in the UK.”

Before being put up for sale at Sotheby’s last year, the book was owned by art collector Stanley J Seeger, who died in 2011.

Chairman of the RCEWA Sir Hayden Phillips said: “Judge Byrne’s copy of the novel, annotated by him and his wife, may be the last surviving contemporary ‘witness’ who took part in the proceedings.

He added: “It would be more than sad, it would be a misfortune, if this last surviving ‘witness’ left our shores.”

The decision on the export licence application for the book will be deferred until 9th August this year. This may be extended until 9th October if a serious intention to raise funds to buy the item is made at the recommended price of £56,250.

Organisations or individuals interested in purchasing the book should contact the RCEWA on 0845 300 6200.

Treasure hunt launches for one-off gold edition of Thomas Harris thriller

A nationwide treasure hunt has launched on social media to find a “priceless” golden edition of the long-awaited new book by Hannibal Lecter creator Thomas Harris.

A series of clues posted on social media this week, starting at 9.30am Wednesday (15th May) will culminate in one fan finding an exclusive ‘Gold Bullion’ edition of Cari Mora (Cornerstone), the first book from Harris in 13 years. The thriller follows a battle for $25million in cartel gold bullion hidden in the Miami Beach mansion of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar. It will be published by William Heinemann in hardback, e-book and audio on Thursday (16th May) and in Arrow paperback in 2020.

The publisher revealed it would be a “priceless” version of the new book, signed by the “elusive” The Silence of the Lambs author, also including a rare illustration by him and containing pure gold. Penguin Random House has created the special version of Cari Mora which features one ounce of ethically-sourced 24 carat gold in its exclusive design.

“The edition, which is the only one of its kind produced and is taken from the first impression of the first printing, is signed by Harris and includes a rare signature illustration of an owl by the author – who has not given an interview since 1976,” PRH said.

The book will be found through a series of clues to its whereabouts, posted daily on the PRH website and social media. The book has been created by Penguin with London-based publisher Visual Editions and graphic design studio Atelier Dyakova. The hunt was launched on Tuesday night (14th May) at specialist London bookshop Goldsboro Books in central London.

Rebecca Ikin, marketing director of Penguin Random House, said: “A new novel from Thomas Harris is already really precious. Then you have the fact that Cari Mora opens so vividly with the premise of $25 million in cartel gold buried in Miami. We were captivated by the idea of echoing that hunt for fans and readers in the real world. The Gold Bullion edition that’s out there is the only one in existence, whoever finds it will truly have something to treasure for ever.”

David Headley, owner of Goldsboro Books and rare book collector, said: “A new book from the man who created Hannibal Lecter is a huge event in itself, particularly as this introduces an all-new baddy. Creating a national treasure hunt for, literally, a global one-off gold edition of Cari Mora is huge in the publishing world. As a rare book expert I’d say this edition is truly priceless – it’s one of a kind and has an incalculable value.  We often say a book is worth its weight in gold, and this one truly is.”

To follow the hunt, fans are instructed to follow Penguin social media channels on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook follow the clues in the treasure hunt which will take them both online and offline – all of which will lead to the location of the prize. There will be several clues to be deciphered before the end of the week. The clues will be shared by @DeadGoodBooks, @penguinukbooks and @arrowpublishing using the hashtag #CariMora.

Talks underway for indies to grab slice of pre-order market

The Booksellers Association is exploring the opportunities for indies to maximise sales on pre-orders, with BA m.d. Meryl Halls describing the market as a huge opportunity for them despite the long dominance of Amazon and bookselling chains.

The move follows intense discussion at the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute in Albuquerque, where the ABA’s Joy Dallanegra-Sanger said pre-orders can account for 3-30% of book’s total sales.

Halls said: “When we went to the US with a group of UK booksellers in January, we were all fascinated by the topic that ended up dominating all others: the potential for indie bookstores to get a piece of the action with pre-orders. There was palpable shock at the proportion of pre-order sales which were bypassing ABA member bookstores (3-30%) and going online.  We were really interested in the ABA project which alerted bookstores to this phenomenon and set out to help bookstores inform customers that they could pre-order at their local bookshop.”

Halls thinks the UK indie sector is less active in the pre-order market partly because bookshops are not necessarily aware of the commercial opportunity it represents, partly because they don’t have the resources to embark on it, and partly “due to a lack of consumer awareness they could pre-order at their local high street bookshop.” She said: “In recent conversations with publishers, we’ve been mulling over the opportunities for high street bookshops to grab back some of this pre-order market and publishers have been really open to the ideas.”

She added: “Publishers are obviously in the best position to create information and resources for bookshops to promote the pre-order in-store and online—and I think we are all intrigued by the possibilities for bookshops, and pleased that the conversation has started. Booksellers will relish any means by which they are able to market forthcoming titles by great bookshop authors to their customers.”

Indies need to work with publishers and authors to generate higher pre-order sales, says Nic Bottomley, BA president and owner of Mr B’s Emporium in Bath, with posters, point of sale marketing, release details and other advertising assets just part of the push to drum up pre-order sales.

Bottomley said: “Amazon have a big dominance of pre-orders and Waterstones has done a good job of chipping away at that but what about the rest of us? Are we as organised and strategic as we could be? I don’t think we are. It’s not rocket science. It’s working with publishing partners to get the information quickly to shops and assets to shops early, posters for windows, covers. It’s a way of drawing people into these shops. We are talking to publishers about it and I think they had not necessarily thought about it in these terms either. It’s an open goal for publishers.”

Ben Hurd, trade marketing director at Harper Collins, said the publisher is working on various pre-order materials for indies following a meeting with the BA. He said: “We’re always keen to work with Indies to help them promote and sell our titles, and this new BA focus on pre-orders is something we are fully supportive of. Following a meeting at LBF with BA president Nic Bottomley and Fleur Sinclair from Sevenoaks Bookshop, we’ve been working on various pre-order materials and offers for independent booksellers which we will send out through our reps and our Independent Thinking programme. Our focus for now is on lead titles likely to be supported by the majority of independent bookshops—but booksellers can also contact us via Independent Thinking to request material for a specific title that they would like to actively pre-order at their shop.”

With some publishers releasing bibliographic detail on Nielsen further in advance than others, there are some limits on how far in advance a customer can order certain titles with pre-orders affecting Amazon’s chart with strong pre-orders helping boost chart positions on publication day. Waterstones, which centrally organises its pre-order campaigns for the biggest titles, showcases upcoming titles online and in store with customers able to pre-order months in advance with social media playing a large part in the company’s pre-order strategy as well as working with publishers for POS for shops and online, targeted customer emails and window displays.

James Daunt, Nic Bottomley, Meryl Halls

Waterstones m.d. James Daunt said there are more ways publishers can help booksellers with pre-orders as he acknowledged Amazon’s dominance of the issue: “The reality is Amazon is an efficient way to place a pre-order. You can do it at four in the morning or on a train but when a book is recommended and talked about often the publisher hasn’t delivered to shops and then people come into shops and shops don’t have it so customers pre-order from Amazon,” said Daunt. “I think there are ways they [publishers] can help booksellers.”

Bottomley added booksellers must have the mechanism in place to take pre-orders and crucially deliver the stock to customers on publication day. “There seems to be a consumer trend toward pre-ordering books and if you look at the music industry, it has been really good at that. You go in and you know what the new releases are and what’s coming. You don’t get that in a bookshop and historically we have a funny system with embargoes. They are overused and for books without them there can be a mismatch on when parts of the trade receive the book. Sometimes the wholesaler will be quickest—there’s some structural issues. If you’ve going to get involved you need to not just take the order, but you need to get the books to customers on publication date.”

As well as speaking to publishers to improve logistics, Bottomley said booksellers must put the groundwork in with authors too. “Where a bookshop supports an author, if they have a second book there’s a real opportunity to work in tandem with the author. For example Tim Clare’s The Ice House is published by Canongate, it’s his second book. When it was announced, because of his relationship with us he decided he wanted to push most pre-orders through us. He said if Mr B’s gets 100 pre-orders then he was going to produce extra content for our customers and he also signed all of them.”

With Amazon links for pre-orders commonplace on authors’ social media book announcements, Bottomley said: “I don’t think anyone on the BA side, speaking in both of indie and chair members would be naive enough to remove Amazon links but there should be a link alongside to find your local bookshop or if an author has a fantastic local bookshop, then add that in too. There needs to be multiple options and booksellers need to be on it in taking pre-orders.”

Pre-order discounts are commonplace online and Bottomley added the decision will come down to each individual bookseller. “Ultimately whether a discount is offered will be down to each individual bookseller and the negotiation between publisher and bookseller—so it won’t be something for the BA to address,” said Bottomley. “BA member bookshops are well-practised at delivering offers, incentives and services to their customers that aren’t based solely around price-point and so we don’t see it as a barrier to competing effectively in the realm of pre-orders.”

A BA session on best practice is in the pipeline with a Twitter tutorial, hosted by the Unwin Charitable Trust, on how to increase pre-orders scheduled took place on Tuesday 14th May under the hashtag #UCTmentor with tips on encouraging customers to reserve copies of the biggest titles of the year in return for benefits including limited edition extras and discounts.

Crowdfunder launched to keep historic copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in UK

Crowdfunder launched to keep historic copy of Lady Chatterley's Lover in UK

English PEN has set up a crowdfunding campaign to keep an historic copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover in the UK.

In a rare move, the Government is appealing for a buyer to pay £56,250 for the obscenity trial judge Sir Laurence Byrne’s copy of Lady Chatterley’s Lover to stop it leaving the country. Arts minister Michael Ellis has ruled the hand-annotated copy should not be sold overseas.

The 1960 edition of D H Lawrence’s novel was sold at auction for £56,250 to an anonymous online bidder in October, well above the £15,000 asking price and a record for a Penguin paperback.

The new owner planned to take the copy abroad but under the temporary export ban, potential purchasers have until 9th August to declare their intentions to buy the book and up to three months to find the funds.

Launching the GoFundMe campaign, the free speech charity said the book “belongs” in the UK and said it aims to work with relevant organisations including the British Library and Arts Council England to identify an organisation who can house the artefact and guarantee its preservation.

Philippe Sands QC, president of English PEN, said: “D H Lawrence was an active member of English PEN and unique in the annals of English literary history. Lady Chatterley’s Lover was at the heart of the struggle for freedom of expression, in the courts and beyond. This rare copy of the book, used and marked up by the judge, must remain in the UK, accessible to the British public to help understand what is lost without freedom of expression. This unique text belongs here, a symbol of the continuing struggle to protect the rights of writers and readers at home and abroad.”

The landmark trial in 1960 saw the jury take just three hours to decide the novel was not obscene in a case highlighting the difference between the establishment and modern society.

Sir Laurence’s copy of the book contains his wife Dorothy’s annotations and two pages of notes with a list of page numbers and content summaries. She also sewed a blue-grey fabric bag for her husband to carry the book back and forth from court.