saving Salt publishing

This is kind of a chain letter but still worth reading:

Saving Salt Publishing: Just One Book

A note from Chris Emery, publishser of Salt in Britain:

As many of you will know, Jen and I have been struggling to keep Salt moving since June last year when the economic downturn began to affect our press. Our three year funding ends this year: we’ve £4,000 due from Arts Council England in a final payment, but cannot apply through Grants for the Arts for further funding for Salt’s operations. Spring sales were down nearly 80% on the previous year, and despite April’s much improved trading, the past twelve months has left us with a budget deficit of over £55,000. It’s proving to be a very big hole and we’re having to take some drastic measures to save our business. Here’s how you can help us to save Salt and all our work with hundreds
of authors around the world.  JUST ONE BOOK:

1. Please buy just one book, right now. We don’t mind from where, you can buy it from us or from Amazon, your local shop or megastore, online or offline. If you buy just one book now, you’ll help to save Salt.
Timing is absolutely everything here. We need cash now to stay afloat. If you love literature, help keep it alive. All it takes is just one book sale. Go to our online store and help us keep going.

2. Share this note on your profile. Tell your friends. If we can spread the word about our cash crisis, we can hopefully find more sales and save our literary publishing. Remember it’s just one book, that’s all it takes to save us. Please do it now.

With my best wishes to everyone
Chris Emery
Director, Salt Publishing

Here’s the internet site:


UPDATE: A day later:

Salt campaigns for survival

22.05.09 Catherine Neilan <> in the UK

Poetry press Salt has launched a viral marketing campaign in a bid to
stave off closure, in the wake of the publisher’s “financial
difficulties”. The publisher has asked for customers to “buy just one
Salt book”. Director Chris Hamilton-Emery said the first day of his
company’s ‘Just One Book’ campaign had “swept the web”, leading to
more than 400 orders within 24 hours.

He said: “The response has been astonishing and heart-warming. Since
June last year our family business has faced severe financial
difficulties – the recession hit us hard. We’re almost at the end, it’s
terrifically sad. Nine years of our lives has gone into developing this
literary business.”

Salt’s campaign began on Facebook and has now extended to include a
“cheeky” video based on the WWF’s ‘Adopt a Polar Bear’ advertisements
seen frequently on children’s television. “We knew there was terrific
support for Salt and our authors, but it’s all been amazing,” said
Hamilton-Emery. “These new customers, hundreds of them around the world
from Canada to Australia, Japan to the UK, are saving our business one
book at a time.”

The publisher, which was set up after Oxford University Press closed
its poetry list 10 years ago, had been funded by the Arts Council
England until the last financial year. During the last year of ACE
support, the company had increased turnover by 70%.

But, in the wake of the recession, Salt experienced “a shortfall of
£55,000″. Hamilton-Emery said: “It’s a very big hole, and the Arts
Council, who have been terrifically supportive, can no longer help us.
They’ve done everything they can. We’re on our own now.”

Salt Publishing Chris Hamilton-Emery Catherine Neilan

Jeff Sparrow

Jeff Sparrow is a Walkley Award-winning writer, broadcaster and former editor of Overland.

More by Jeff Sparrow ›

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Related articles & Essays

Contribute to the conversation

  1. Oh it is just so tempting, Jeff. It’s a form of begging, really, isn’t it? There is a huge market for poetry. Bloodaxe Books sold 150,000 copies of their last poetry anthology but they publish poetry people actually enjoy reading. Salt have been at the forefront of the uppermiddleclass intellectuals takeover of poetry, consistently promoting a kind of pretentious obscurantism and a preciousness that has alienated the vast majority of the potential audience for poetry. You reap what you sow. Personally I would much rather buy a self-published book by a poet I know so that all money goes to the poet and none of it gets sucked by the parasitic middlemen. Support your local poet, support poetry, buy DIY.

  2. Very occasionally a poetry book can sell well (that Bloodaxe Title was an anthology, I thought). But I don’t think it’s fair to blame Salt’s financial problems on pretentiousness. I mean, almost anyone publishing poetry in the Western worlds struggles. Isn’t that why so many poets publish themselves?
    And I don’t think poetry publishers are parasitic middlemen, either. Leaving aside that many of them are women, no-one goes into publishing poetry to make money.

  3. Middlepeople? Your negativity is so depressing, Jeff. You keep telling us there is no money in literature, we can’t expect to make a living as a poets, this is just the way the world is and we all have to learn to live with it. You don’t acknowledge that there is a huge explosion of interest in poetry all over the world largely as a result of the work of people like me and others on the internet. You don’t offer any positive suggestions about changing the way the business of literature could be conducted because that would involve acknowledging that there is a problem with the way it is conducted at the moment. It is possible to make money publishing poetry, I do, not much, but I make a profit. And I’m an argumentative bastard who has self published one book, but you have to write poetry which people want to read, not poetry that makes them feel like idiots because they can’t understand it. Poetry is alive and thriving all over the planet, the fact that your magazine and Salt are failing to make a living for your writers doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Talk your industry up.

  4. Am I negative? After I posted the appeal from Salt, you accused them of begging!
    I don’t mean to defend the industry as it stands; rather, I’m suggesting we need to understand the industry as it stands rather than simply pretending it were otherwise.
    It’s great that you can make a profit out of your writing. But, of course, all the current poetry publishers also make a profit (otherwise they’d go out of business). It’s just that the profit isn’t large enough to do any of the things that most poets want them to do (like organise publicity, pay advances, etc). From your description, it seems like you’re in the same situation.
    Should also say that the prescription you offer about ‘writing poetry people want to read’ (something which you measure by sales) seems very much like that of a commercial publisher.

  5. I might be wrong, but I think in ‘poetry people want to read,’ Paul is talking about accessibility rather than mass appeal. They are not necessarily the same thing. For example, I consider the majority of my work ‘accessible’. Because of where it stands politically though, it will probably never have mass appeal, at least in this country.

    I guess the central issue is: will the rising number of poets who have been marginalised by ‘academic’ poetry publishers, now bail them out. Are we all one? Is any poetry better than no poetry at all, even if that means maintaining what many perceive to be an elite, conservative closed guard.

    So-called ‘non-academic’ poetry is often mistaken dumbed-down or ‘non-literary’ poetry. Sometimes it is simply poetry which respects every prospective reader or listener as much as showcasing the writer. That, to my mind, is extremely academic.

    An old woman once cried at one of my readings. She just happened to be sitting in the bar when my set came on. She said could barely read, but didn’t tell that to many people. She said I made her want to learn. This has been the greatest honour I’ve had as a poet so far.

    I wouldn’t trade it for a Salt print run.

  6. Would seem to me that there’s room for both. In all honesty, I don’t know much about the poetry scene. But for journals generally, the success of one can only be good news for others. The more people who subscribe to Heat or Meanjin, the more people likely to subscribe to Overland.

  7. Obviously, I meant ‘mistaken FOR dumbed down poetry…’ Damn the inability to edit comments 🙁

  8. That’s a great link. Thanks. One of the old criticisms of self-publishing was that the quality was unpredictable because of the lack of editors acting as gatekeepers. Now that most poets run blogs and do performance, it’s easy to follow their blog, make the judgement about whether you’ll enjoy their book on that basis. As noted in that article, the stigma associated with it is rapidly fading (as logic takes over) and the ease and the zero cost associated mean that it is going to have a huge impact in the future.

    One major factor is that the writer earns a lot more per book than in traditional publishing, and since in traditional publishing one is expected to do most of the marketing oneself anyway, I can envision a time when most writers (especially poets) choose self-publishing over the time-consuming, ego-sapping process of trying to find a publisher. Personally I couldn’t see any major benefit in finding a small press to publish my book over self-publishing, apart from avoiding the irrational stigma. There is a still a role for traditional publishers, they can buy successfully self-published books and become marketers rather than publishers (see Matthew Reilly’s career).

    P.S. Case Study – If Maxine was to do up a quick pdf file on her favourite 20 or 30 poems, she could upload to Lulu and have a beautifully presented book which I and many others would buy straightaway. The cost to Maxine would be zero dollars and all the profit from the sales through here, through her wonderful blog and her performance work, would be hers. If a traditional publisher came along later and saw how successful that had been, why wouldn’t they sign her up? Or a traditional publisher could see how many copies of my book I have sold, the incredible response it gets from the people who read it and sign me up, haha, dream on, Squires.)

    I would be fascinated to hear any objections to self-publishing. (And I promise to be polite in laying them to rest.)

  9. Self-publishing is certainly an option, and I don’t have any objection to it at all.
    But it works in certain circumstances and not others. The biggest difficulty remains publicity. Some people know their own potential readership and just need a physical object to give them. In such cases, self-publishing is ideal.
    But for most people it’s still hard to attract readers. There’s an argument that the web changes the equation but it’s worth reading the interesting critique that appears in the New Statesman at the moment. The article’s looking at the so-called ‘long tail theory’ that’s the centrepiece of so much web marketing and concludes:
    “Many people were so keen to believe that Web 2.0 would make the world fairer that they rejected any evidence to the contrary. It was only last year, with an exhaustive study of online music sales by the economist Will Page and an experienced digital retailer, Andrew Bud, that a more useful picture of digital markets begin to emerge.

    Page and Bud found that most of the songs available for purchase had never been downloaded, and that the concentration of hits was more pronounced than ever before.”

    So the problem of publicity, which has always been the difficulty with self-publishing, remains.
    As I say, though, if you already know your audience, then that doesn’t apply.

  10. Good to see such healthy discussion here. The self-publishing debate is really what has grabbed me as I plan to release my new collection under my own steam. Why? Well as I think we all agree, if you know your market and all you need is the collection to put in their hands, then it is simple mathematics that there is more to go back into your pocket at the end of the day… not that money means everything, but it does make the next collection possible. Finding that audience is becoming easier with new technology and the growing number of performance opportunities but the work still has to stand up and earn its readership. I have always found the self-publishing stigma fades quickly when the quality of the work shines.

  11. Yes, but the question is knowing the market. In some respects, what we really should be talking about is not alternative methods of publication but alternative methods of publicity and perhaps distributions, because they've always been the biggest problems.

  12. I'm currently working on a style site with some friends for local writers and artists to sell POD books using DIY imprints. As Jeff says, the technology exists, any number of printers are setting up virtual bookshelves for self publishers, but what I hope this site will provide is the infrastructure for individuals and small press to sell POD books locally, in one centralised 2.0-style site – thus build the community and peer-to-peer reading models. Unlike Lulu it will focus on literary and arts publishing (in the broadest sense).

  13. Thanks for your plug, Paul – I might just go with that one. Want to put in your order? 🙂

    This might be a mean-spirited spanner-in-the-works comment. but…Paul can get great sales and feedback from The Puzzle Box, and I can shift 200 copies of a poetry chapbook in six months just by holding it up after readings and no other promos…is there perhaps a chance that these self-publishers who can't shift what they publish and have given it a really decent whirl might be dealing with a failure of product, rather than of marketing? After all, how much marketing do traditional publishers give anyway? And what is the quality of that publicity, it's effectiveness? (Yes, that's the ex-Advertising Executive talking in me. Even after all these yeares, she will only be silenced by crack cocaine).

    If it is the case, at least most of the time: that what is 'good' will sell, no matter how it is published, then fold up your tents Overland & Co…oh, hang on, what's that they say about cutting off your nose…

  14. Am currently thinking about all these things since I'm heading off to RMIT today to talk to the yewf about writing and publishing. Shall report back on how it goes but my sense is that the expectations people have about what writing books in Australia actually means are massively unrealistic, and these expectations are tacitly encouraged by a creative writing industry that, even when it talks frankly about the state of the industry, needs also to focus on unrepresentative success stories to drive enrollments.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *