It Is Just You, Everything's Not Shit by Steve Stack was published as a £9.99 gift hardback (a toilet book to you and me) back in September 2007. Intended as a mildly amusing response to the hugely successful Is it Just Me or is Everything Shit? series, it is, essentially, an A to Z of nice things. Entries include cracking the ice in a puddle, bacon sandwiches, David Attenborough and waking up thinking it's Friday and discovering that it is actually Saturday.
We knew it would probably only have one Christmas in it but thought it was worth a shot. It was promoted in Asda, Waterstone's and Borders and sold pretty well. I can't remember it's peak position but it certainly cracked the Top 100 at some point.
To our surprise it actually went on to do OK the following Christmas as well but sales have understandably dropped off in the years since. In terms of actual sales through tills this is how it stacks up:
2007 12,498 copies
2008 1,640 copies
2009 467 copies
2010 135 copies so far
Very pleased with that overall, but clearly a book that has had its time. Joke over. Move on.
Nonetheless, when we produced our first ebooks at the beginning of 2009 we decided to include this, and some other titles, at a low price, just to see if we could flog any really. It was published in the spring of that year at £2.99.
What happened was this: we sold some. Quite a lot, in fact. Here's how many.
2009 383 copies
2010 828 copies so far
That's just over 1,200 ebooks. Not bad at all. No one is going to be retiring on the proceeds, I grant you, but over a thousand books at three quid a pop is a tasty bit of revenue for us and a nice lump of royalties for the author, especially as he is on one of our profit share deals.
And these results are not a one-off. We have seen the same thing all across our list. We currently have the #1 and #19 titles at the iBooks store, two other titles in the Kindle charts and a couple more in the Waterstone's bestsellers as well.
Now, I am aware that some authors and agents get all twitchy and nervous when publishers start talking about low price ebooks, and understandably so. They are worried that their income will reduce as the market migrates to digital formats unless the RRP is kept in line with the printed book.
But I am not suggesting that all ebooks should be cheap and, at the moment, it doesn't appear that customers expect that either. The titles in the ebook charts range from under a pound to nearly fifteen quid. People are prepared to spend a bit more for the ebook of a new hardback just as they are prepared to take a punt on a cheaper title they aren't so familiar with.
If I were an agent, and there is little chance of that happening any time soon, I would be encouraging publishers to look at a bit of creative pricing on older books, especially those with sluggish print sales. Because if there is anything to be learned from all of the above it is that this new digital age offers splendid opportunities to reignite some older titles.
Look at it this way. This creative bit of pricing has helped an old book find over 1,200 new readers (and counting). It is a fair bet that some of those readers will enjoy the book and tell a few people about it, or perhaps buy the print edition as a gift.
And that's the other nice thing about this story. We are actually seeing the print version start to pick up in sales. Nothing spectacular but it has gone from selling 1 or 2 copies a week to double figures every now and again. No particular reason why it should do so but perhaps the increased readership is starting to have an impact. Albeit a tiny one.
Anyway, there you go, some stats. Make of them what you will.
Or you can go and buy the old fashioned print version. You'll probably find it in a museum somewhere. Or your local charity shop.