“Meike, you are great at throwing parties. But I can’t live on love and air alone.”
Peirene woke me up this morning at 7am. She hadn’t even knocked on my bedroom door. I opened my eyes with difficulty. After all we held the 10th Peirene Salon the previous evening and I didn’t go to bed until 2am.
“I appreciate that you have built a lovely community which lavishes adoration on me,” she stated. “Our guests last night really enjoyed themselves. But are you aware, we only sold three books?!”
I finally managed to open my eyes. The Nymph was fully dressed, even wearing her hat and coat.
“Where are you going?” I mumbled sleepily. “It’s seven o’clock on a Sunday morning.” I then noticed the suitcase in her hands. I sat up with a start.
“Peirene, what is the matter?”
“I’m going back to where I came from.” She replied calmly.
“I think we should have a chat.” I slipped on slacks and a T-Shirt and stumbled downstairs to the kitchen. Empty glasses and bottles and dirty plates everywhere. It surely had been a good party. I boiled the kettle and poured us a cup of coffee. The Nymph sat at the edge of the sofa, I sat down at the other end.
“And the previous event we only sold three too,” she continued. “And the last couple of times at the Roaming Store we only sold four or five. Everybody says how inspiring I am, how interesting the books, how beautiful my looks. But no one puts their heart where their words are. Sooner or later you will send me home anyway because you won’t be able to sustain me. So I might as well go now of my own free will.” Tears were pouring down her cheeks. I moved closer and put my arm around her shoulders.
“My poor Peirene. I think you are absolutely exhausted from last night. This is not the moment to make decisions. Why don’t you take the day off. I’ll clear up. We’ll continue our chat tomorrow.” She shed a few more tears and then agreed to my plan.
The Nymph is right though. She has a growing number of admirers, but the majority adore her from afar. In many ways that is simply a reflection of what’s happening in the booktrade in general. For many publishers sales are down from last year. In addition, booksellers are asking for ever increasing discounts. However, there are small publishers, very similar to the Nymph, who have obviously found a way to survive – Persephone and Slightly Foxed to mention two. Why? Because they sell primarily via subscription. So they avoid high discounts and enjoy guaranteed sales.
We have a subscription option too on our website but we haven’t advertised it much. I was confident that admirers would join Peirene’s club without overt encouragement. In the next few months Peirene, Maddy and I will need to be at our persuasive best.