Selling books in Greece - a guest post by Nikos Argyris of Ikaros Publishing
Posted by Nikos Argyris on Jun 15, 2012
Nikos’ daughter, Aphrodite, with the Greek edition of Playbook Farm
Having spent four years in the UK studying, I became somewhat familiar with business practices in the publishing industry, long before I ever actually worked there. Upon my return to Athens, Greece, in order to start working for my family business – Ikaros Publishing – I quickly realized the vast differences in practices and culture as well.
The publishing industry in Greece is a very big network of very small businesses and self-employed people. There are no big conglomerates, and most publishers are family businesses, privately held. There is only one publisher listed in the Athens Stock Exchange, out of the nearly 300 (!) registered as active in a recent survey. Most publishers outsource their production, from pre-press to proofreading to printing and binding.
Selling is also done in a very different way, compared to the practices established in Western Europe or the USA. Again, the market is fragmented into many different small– or medium–sized distributors, who work more like an order-receiving centre, than an active seller. Most publishers have their own salespeople who travel from bookstore to bookstore, sampling books and taking orders, in order to collect payment on the next trip. This effectively means that books are distributed from more than one channel, with multiple distributors stocking the same publishers while at the same time the publisher handles some accounts directly, like big chain bookstores. At the moment, there are three big bookstore brands with multiple shops around Greece. In 2010, the French retailer Fnac decided to close or sell all outlets and left the Greek market in fear of the financial crisis that was looming.
Smaller bookstores have not been unaffected by the spread of big chain outlets, and many have been forced out of business. However, the Greek book prices are regulated by a law similar to that of France: prices are set by the publisher, and retailers cannot sell with more than 10% discount for the first two years. As always, Greek publishers have found a loophole in the law, that allows them to treat reprints as new editions that cannot be sold at discount.
eBooks are quite a new thing in Greece, and many publishers have chosen to ignore them for now. We at Ikaros have been publishing eBooks since December 2010 and always produce a digital edition of our new titles. We also have two iOS apps on the Apple appstore. It is perhaps worth mentioning that it is only now that big booksellers are considering adding eBooks to their catalogues and online shops.
In 2011, having just become a parent, I found myself spending more time looking at children’s books than anything else. Ikaros, established in 1943 by my grandfather, had never published children’s books and specialized in Greek literature. It was my drive to find quality, educational children’s books that led me to Nosy Crow and our subsequent collaboration. With seven titles in our launch list, and seven more coming later this year, we have already received flattering comments from our readers and encouraging messages from our retail partners.
Greece is going through some hard times at the moment, with the financial crisis and political instability having a profound effect on the market. Book sales are down as everything else, while children’s books are showing some better resistance. It seems that parents are willing to sacrifice other expenses, in order to provide for their little ones. It is my belief that Greece will soon emerge stronger from this crisis, benefiting those who have invested in long-term quality, over fast profits.
Ikaros are the brilliant publishing house who are releasing Greek editions of a number of Nosy Crow titles over the coming months, including Pip and Posy, Goldilocks and Just the One Bear, Bizzy Bear, Just Right, The Baby That Roared, and Playbook Farm. You can watch their trailer (made by Nikos!) for the Greek edition of Playbook Farm below: