Ebooks lead the way

icon refbook28 May ~ 2012 was a record year for book sales. Total spending rose four per cent to £3.3 billion and sales of ebooks rose 66 per cent. But – at odds with other media in which the electronic is killing the traditional – sales of paper books dipped by only one per cent. A few explanations, linked to big sellers like the Shades of Gray trilogy, were offered. However, most are agreed on the main point. Falling production costs and downloads have made books cheaper, driving up niche market sales. Within this picture, football is playing its part.

Large publishers are chancing items like Jeff Connor’s Pointless (2006), a year-long immersion in the ongoing calamity of East Stirlingshire FC, teasing out why anyone would bother to support, play for, manage or own the club. From 2007 to 2012 I wrote annual Blueseason titles, chronicling Carlisle United’s seasons. The first Blueseason found a “proper” local publisher, the rest went via print-on-demand, the last one improbably topping a Kindle chart (no big deal, Amazon has charts for everything and positions change rapidly).

These days larger clubs, including Arsenal, regularly give away free books with season tickets (a very cost-effective measure as you can guarantee sales and be specific about the size of a print run), and clubs well outside the big money end of the game were generating significant publications. Consider Guisborough Town FC and Mark Cowan, author of Far From the Massive Crowds (2011). Cowan casts STL Northern League Division Two in a social context, examining the towns and villages that host Northern League games and their history, giving the reader a real insight. A great idea, and one unlikely to have found a commercial publisher. If there are common denominators among Kindle football authors and those now using print-on-demand it’s often a fierce belief in their own talent and a closeness to their audience that gives their work a fighting chance.

You don’t do these things for money, but there is money to be made, and the small sums on offer are expanding. It’s open season for anyone with knowledge, skills and the time to craft a book. The Chairman’s Daughter, by WSC regular Ian Plenderleith, is a Kindle-only delight published in 2012 imagining a lowly factory team, their millionaire owner (rich on the back of a device for scooping dog shit), a 4,000-seat stadium and a 29-year-old former England international on the comeback trail. He signs with one condition: he must avoid the chairman’s daughter. It looks workable, until she shows up.  The book has held its sales to the point it frequently appears in the offers at the bottom of an Amazon page for another book.

The Chairman’s Daughter is gloriously old school, built on description, action and crowd pleasing plot-twists, and it’s selling in a market in which anyone can load and publish their own Kindle item. If you’ve read this far, maybe you’re football’s next Kindle cult hero author. Neil Nixon

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