Silkworm Experience3: New Year Greetings from the Boss
Dear Authors, Editors, Colleagues, and Friends of Silkworm,
Though life in 2009 has been stressful, it is my pleasure to send you annual greetings once again. Without you, there would be no Silkworm. Without you, I wouldn’t have continued what I have been doing since 1991. A heartfelt thank you for always supporting us.
I am afraid there isn’t much good news to report from 2009. The Hamburger Crisis topped off the political division in Thailand and worsened the market. Though our books are for a niche market, we had side effects from the downturn.
Our business with Kinokuniya in Bangkok is growing. Its Paragon and Emporium branches stock all of our English titles. So, for those of you who cannot find our titles at Asia Books, please go to Kinokuniya. We will also open an account with Kinokuniya in Singapore. At the least, their library supply department will order from us directly. As for the retail department, once we can work out the logistic details, I hope it will order directly from us as well. Once the Kinokuniya Singapore account is established, I hope we can use the same business model with branches in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.
Besides this, in the near future, Suriwong Book Center (now under new ownership) will open a few branches in Bangkok. This is aimed at the Thai readership; nevertheless, its manager (who happens to be my younger brother) promises to include all our titles in all branches.
Our sales in Cambodia dropped 35% in both volume and revenue. In Laos sales dropped 40% in volume but 10% in revenue. (That’s because some titles are more expensive than others.) The sale of books depends on whether there is a lead title that provokes the public interest or not. We have not succeeding in establishing an account in Vietnam due to the state’s restriction on imports. We have not been able to build a strong list on Vietnam either.
In January, we opened a small outlet at the Siam Society. We were hoping to use it as a showroom as well as a point of contact. It went well until November 20. Many of you probably know about the fire at the Siam Society. Our shop turned to ashes. Everything is gone. We didn’t have insurance but the Siam Society’s insurance is supposed to cover us. After the fire, many wrote me to express their support and sympathy. Many offered help. Please accept my sincere appreciation. Yes, you all can help us by buying one extra copy of a Silkworm publication this year … (นายตูใส่ smiley ยิ้มแฉ่งตรงนี้ด้วยอะ...)
The fire forced us to revise our publication and marketing plans. We can afford to release only eight titles in 2010 and have to postpone the rest of our committed manuscripts to 2011. I of course will write a separate apology letter to the authors whose mss are being postponed. As for marketing, we have been trying to set up a computer-generated information sheet for our books. It is part of the database system that we have been developing on and off for the past two years. We are paying more attention to our website and trying to update it in real time. We visit our booksellers more often. Meanwhile the Siam Society has promised to spare us space for displaying and selling our books. It won’t be a proper bookshop but at least we will have a base.
I think it is necessary to inform all of my colleagues what I am doing and how I am running the business. The concern of a writer or an editor is whether his/her book will be read. A publisher shares this but also cares about who will buy the book (whether the buyer will read it or not is another story). A publisher has to think of logistics: mainly warehousing and delivery. How long will it take to get a book from warehouse to customer? Transportation costs are a burden in the book trade. Building up a good relationship with booksellers is a must.
I am very pleased to say that even though business was not good, our office has been very busy and productive. The editorial department is working together more as a team. Our record keeps improving. Our scheduling and budgeting estimates have been very close, if not accurate. The only problem our office cannot get rid of is the bottleneck that is me. I understand that most people think that connections are the most important factor in Thailand and everything is top down, especially with a small firm like ours. Well, that doesn’t apply well to Silkworm any more. I am the bottleneck. People who write me hoping for a quick answer will be disappointed. I have been doing my best to distribute jobs and responsibilities to my staff.
People are talking about the eBook and its threat to the printed book. I cannot give you any insightful response as to whether books will disappear or continue on in parallel with eBooks. Personally, I think the printed book is not easily replaced.
I can’t promise that we will have a better business year in 2011. That’s beyond my control. However, I can say that we’ll do our best to keep up with your expectations and our readers’. We will continue to problem solve and find ways to provide better service.
I wish you a very Happy New Year in 2010.
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