We actually put out a book I had written, The Unofficial Football World Championships, to test the water in terms of sales and distribution, and subsequent titles have benefitted from that. We've had some success, getting our books stocked by the UK's largest wholesaler, becoming a Waterstone's 'approved retailer', and also being stocked, at least regionally, by Asda, Blackwell's, Bookworld, Borders, Fenwick, HMV, and in independent stores. But we've also come up against a fair few brick walls, most notably at one of the country's biggest bookseller, WHSmith. We've had three laughable encounters with that chain's local book buyers which left us (and, to be fair, WHSmith head office) extremely frustrated. The full details of the encounters are probably best left for another time, but the crux of the problem was that none of the local book buyers knew how to use Smith's ordering system, even though it had been in use for some months. So unfortunately our books aren't currently stocked by WHSmith, although we live in hope. I imagine if we coughed up the £50,000 Smiths are demanding from publishers to place books on their Christmas recommended list we'd have had more luck. Unfortunately, that seems to be indicative of the incentive-based road that many retailers are heading down.
Of course our books can be ordered from Smiths, or any 'bricks and mortar' store, but we'd much rather see them on the shelves. Online sales are much easier to navigate. Amazon in particular is a level playing field for publishers - they don't really care if you're HarperCollins or Tonto Press as long as your book sells.
What all of this is leading up to is that we've just sent our new Autumn / Winter catalogue out to just about every major bookshop in the country. You can see a PDF of it here. As a folded leaflet it doesn't quite compare to an Argos catalogue, but we think it looks pretty good thanks to the use of Garen Ewing's Burglar's Dog artwork. Let us know what you think.