Alejo Cuervo: «My decision is based on pragmatism»
Editorial Gigamesh, a Spanish publishing house founded in Barcelona in 1999 by Alejo Cuervo and specializing in fantasy and science fiction, will only sell in its store, online, and book fairs.
Alejo Cuervo, the publisher of Gigamesh, the publishing house that has published the entire saga of the famous TV series Game of Thrones, wrote some time ago on his Facebook wall that he was «starting to receive angry complaints from outraged booksellers because they are not being served all the copies they had ordered». The book chain is complicated, as not only the publisher and the bookseller come into play, but also the distributor, the dealers, etc.
We spoke to Alejo Cuervo on the phone and he confirmed the horde of complaints from many booksellers that he has been receiving for months, but he partly understands the situation they face every day, in this frenetic book chain in which only new releases are currently the priority.
The decision that he will only sell in his store, online, and book fairs, and that he will use the savings on intermediaries to reduce the price of his titles by between 30% and 40%, has been taken out of pure pragmatism. For years, its books have ceased to be competitive in the market due to the price of its editions and inflation in the book sector, given that the increase in new titles is «enormous».
The publishing house, famous for its George R. R. Martin books and the first book of essays by Ursula K. Le Guin is breaking away from the traditional publishing tradition. Le Guin is breaking with the rules of the book chain because, he says, «intermediation no longer works in a niche like the one his publisher occupies». What the publisher has experienced during these months is the exclusive effect and the effect of buying books at a discount, making this a solution to his problems, creating new models with more maneuverability.
«I put myself in the hands of the market» says Alejo, who already enjoys using the catchphrase that «his books are not available on Amazon». According to the publisher and bookseller, the statistics of the book sector during the pandemic ─wherever they come from─ are falsified. «There has not been an increase in the book as a whole or its breadth of genres, but it has been the children’s book that has had a very noticeable upturn, because children could not go to school, without forgetting manga», as we already commented from Publishnews a few weeks ago.
In the Facebook post, Alejo continues: «last year we already had to deal with the consequences of our policy of working below demand, and when a bookseller came to me indignant saying that it was enough of not being able to replenish our titles I said: «Hey, how did you sell the Harry Potter novels? He would squint his eyes to reminisce and, at once, his pupils would dilate: he would suddenly realize that he was selling much better than Martin. Why? Well, because our publishing house does not put a premium on sales volume, but on track record and the percentage of each client’s bottom line. We can be accused of many things, but never of giving favored treatment to the market giants».
In recent years, many bookstores have tried to energize their business beyond the traditional book presentations. They have added activities to encourage reading, such as storytelling, concerts, poetry recitals, contests, etc., in an attempt to increase sales so that the book market can continue to function as it has until now, with all its players. For the publisher Gigamesh, this is no longer possible, since for a minimum of approximately six years it has not amortized any new translations. Therefore, with this new strategy of leaving or breaking with the book chain, it will convert its new releases into exclusive releases, changing designs and layouts, which for now, it says, is working very well.
The strategy chosen by the publisher is clear: to sell only in its points of sale, this receiving most of the profits to be able to invest in the exclusive reissues of its catalog. In this way, it skips all the intermediaries, reaching the customer more easily to meet their needs, adapting to the times. Every customer eventually disappears due to generational changes but in this way, at the click of a button, the most loyal and traditional customers who consume science fiction (and those who will come) will be able to get their hands on books from the catalog that have not yet covered the production costs with an exclusive model and in their sales channel.