scottish design exchange books

30th September 2020


The end part is selling books.

When I speak to writers I sometimes ask them if they can summarise their book in 2 to 3 seconds.

The reason for this, I tell them, is that a publisher has to sell their book, and so a quick pitch is a bonus.

It's not even as simple as that. There is a chain of selling that I think witers are not aware of.

I ask for the pitch because:

  • The publisher needs to sell the book to a distributor, and
  • The distributor needs to sell the book to the media, and
  • Others involved need to sell the book to social media, and
  • These distributors and publicists need to sell the book to a bookshop or book buyer, and
  • That bookshop or buyer needs to sell the book to readers, and
  • Social media needs quick and basic information that can be gulped-at in a split second, and
  • Readers want to know quickly what a book is . . . and what it is 'about'.


It's disastrous for some writers that writing a book is not enough. This industry usually demands they be salespeople too. The quick pitch isn't too reduce a writer's work to a few words . . . it's there to help, because people for beter or worse, like things to be understood,in categories they recognise. 

Always a lot to say about that.




In the office of Leamington Books, I am working alone, as writers are generally alone.

Locke says this is bad company!

"Be not solitary; be not idle." 

The idleness would be troublesome to me, but I cannot see so much regret in the solitude.

I used to be a part of a business called The Scottish Design Exchange, which was for years based in Ocean Terminal, in Leith.

I used that business to sell books, and although very few books were sold in the shop, customers loved looking at them.

That's my experience: shoppers browsed, but didn't buy. These were all Scottish books, from smaller publishers, such as I now represent. As I ceded my half of that business to my then business partner, two years ago now, I lost control of this selling, although I left it in the loving and capable hands of a staff member there. 

Still, however, the books didn't sell. As their punishment for not selling, the books are now returned to me, the entire stock. I am pleased to have experienced just about every aspect of the book production and selling chain. I've written books, published books, sold them in a bookshop, and experimented with distribution.

I've taken receipt of all the remaining stock from that book shop, and they are now here, alone with me in the office.

The others who live with me, the other members of the family, visitors, they are used to seeing piles of books, nothing new there. Boxes of piles of books, piles of boxes of books.

That is publishing. Its procedings are quite rectangular. The rectangles are everywhere within this office now.

Working in that business, the business of owning and running a shop, that at the same time that enlivened my ethical studies on the human mind beyond any amount of courses and books. 

Smart people use kindness, even as a form of manipulation, if you want to put it like that. The less smart behave more bluntly. They roll their eyes, that kind of thing . . .  they shout at people, but why do people put up with that sort of thing at work? I know some people operate like this, but it was not my attitude. It is a kind of primitive and bullying way to view the world, and it isn't actually anything that you generally encounter in the peaceful industry of book-writing, or even book-publishing. 

To thread one's way through an immense and ever-moving world of business, is a peculiar and salutory experience. I can quite understand how people become damaged, because managers and business owners have certain imperatives running in their minds, imperatives that overlook many hundreds of observations they should have made. 

I understand everybody now, and I have met them all, and the only bad thing I can point a finger at is bullying behaviour. Everything else is forgiveable, from error to idiocy. It is really and truly a misfortune to have such behaviour as bullying accepted, and for it to be so poorly understood.