Too many books? What ‘Super Thursday’ tells us about publishing

7 October 2015

From The Telegraph:

In his new book Power of Reading, the sociologist Frank Furedi talks about “the Gutenberg Parenthesis”. This is the idea that the age of the book was, in fact, a 500-year blip; that, thanks to the internet, we’re moving from a written culture back towards an oral one.

It’s the academic version of an argument you often hear. No one buys books. No one reads books – in print, anyway. No one makes books – at least, not the good kind, the kind they used to make before publishing became commercial and commoditised.

But is any of that actually true? I came across the Gutenberg idea because I decided to engage in an experiment: to take the temperature of the book market by looking at every single book published on a particular day. And not just any day, but this coming Thursday, October 8. This is “Super Thursday”, the busiest and most important date in the publishing calendar, when the big firms and big names launch their assault on the Christmas market, accompanied by a three-day promotional blitz under the banner “Books Are My Bag”.

. . . .

And if you look at the data, what do you find? For starters, you find the book market in rather better shape than most people expected. The number of books is up – The Bookseller’s Tom Tivnan estimates that there are 20 per cent more top-tier titles than last year. And so are publishers’ profits: after years of fretting about the impact of the internet, sales of print books have risen this year for the first time since 2007. Partly, says Tivnan, this is because of the resurgence of Waterstones, but it’s also because publishers have become savvier about what works online, and what reads best in print.

. . . .

A-list celebrities, says Tivnan, “bring in revenue, but they’re a gamble – if you pay high six figures or even low seven figures, you have to sell a lot of books to earn that back”. Over the past couple of years, there were as many misses as hits, including such seemingly safe bets as Stephen Fry and John Cleese.

The celebrity market now is smaller and safer: lower advances, less risk.

. . . .

In fact, the picture that emerges from the full list is not one of commercial conformity, but bewildering variety. Of the adult titles published on Super Thursday, roughly 50 are academic, from critical portraits of Kierkegaard to a study of Adolf Hitler’s domestic interiors. Another 50 are educational or vocational. That leaves just over 200 “general” books for adults, of which fewer than a 10th are memoirs of any kind.

Yes, there are 11 books categorised as “humour”, and 10 books about football (Liverpool are top of the table, which isn’t a sentence you often hear, but Tivnan explains that they and Manchester United are the only guaranteed sellers). But taking a random set of titles yields a smorgasbord of topics: “Dogs as pets”, “Human geography”, “Dictionaries; crosswords”, “Poetry anthologies (various poets)”, “Historical maps and atlases”, “Formula One and Grand Prix”.

There is something else that leaps out from the list. These are not, in fact, books for the nation – they are books for its dads and grandads. There’s no chick-lit, for example, and the handful of novels tend to surge with testosterone: Martina Cole on crime, Harris on Rome, Bernard Cornwell on the Vikings, Melvyn Bragg rewriting the Peasants’ Revolt as a saga of blood, sex and pox.

. . . .

There’s a parallel here with television. For years, people fretted that online competition and shorter attention spans would see TV become a cultural wasteland. Instead, the big worry now is that we have reached “Peak TV”, with just too much good stuff competing for our attention. The same is true of publishing.

Yes, in the era of “Peak Book”, some worthy titles that hope to make a splash will struggle to muster a ripple.

Link to the rest at The Telegraph and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Stephenie Meyer Swaps Genders in New ‘Twilight’

7 October 2015

From The Wall Street Journal:

Twi-hards, settle into your reading chairs and brace yourselves for the news: there’s a new book out.

In honor of “Twilight”’s 10th Anniversary, author Stephenie Meyer appeared on “Good Morning America” today to announce a new addition to the vampire romance canon, which has sold over 150 million copies worldwide. Behold “Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined,” a, well, reimagining of the same story updated with a female vampire and human teenage love interest. Clocking in at 442 pages, the novel challenges the common interpretation of Bella Swan as a “damsel in distress,” Meyer said. “That’s always bothered me a little bit… I thought, what if we switched it around a little bit and see how a boy does?” Answer? “It’s about the same.”

Readers, bid Bella Swan and all her lovelorn neuroticism adieu, and meet Beaufort (“Beau”) Swan, a warm-blooded teen with less of a “chip on his shoulder.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)
Twilight Tenth Anniversary/Life and Death was #1 in all books when PG put up this post.

Ransom Rigg’s Book Trailer

17 September 2015

Created in 2011 for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.  Movie to be released in 2016.


Nora Robert Interview

16 September 2015



William Boyd: my advice for budding authors

16 September 2015

From The Guardian

With 17 novels, a James Bond reboot, short stories and multiple screenplays under his writerly belt, is it an odd question to ask why William Boyd writes? He answers quickly and wryly: “It is a good question and a hard one. Basically, I can’t imagine doing anything else.”


At a Guardian Live event for his latest book Sweet Caress he spoke to critic Alex Clark about his career, peppering his reflections with advice for would-be writers.


1. Can you write?

So far, so obvious. “You have to be able to write well,” Boyd said. “Not stylishly. You have to be able to express your thoughts in a manner other people can understand. You could write simply – something like James Joyce’s Dubliners, with a very limpid prose – or you could write a Finnegan’s Wake. But you have to be able to write: if you can’t, stop.”


4. Do you have the stamina?

“There are rare examples of authors nailing it on novel one, but a whole creative career is a long haul. It takes so long to write a novel, so if you don’t have the stamina, don’t do it,” Boyd said. “I know a lot of poets who think about becoming novelists, but then say: ‘But I can write a poem in an afternoon.’ You can’t do that with novels.”


But I write with confidence – I never wonder what will happen next. Iris Murdoch said there is a period of invention and a period of composition – I have borrowed that for myself.”

Read the rest here.

From Guest Blogger Randall

Lee Child interview by Stacey Cochran

15 September 2015


by your guest poster Barbara Morgenroth

Barnes and Noble results and the latest news from Perseus

15 September 2015

From Mike Shatzkin

The most recent Barnes & Noble financial results — which appear to have discouraged Wall Street investors — aren’t good news for the book business. They show that the sale of books through their stores is flat at best, as is the shelf space assigned to books. And it would take a particularly optimistic view of their NOOK results to see anything but an accelerating slide to oblivion for what was, for a time a few years ago, the surging challenger to Kindle.


The real failure we see at B&N, which almost certainly affected the NOOK business as well as the stores, was that the customer knowledge within the dot com and NOOK operations apparently has never been used on behalf of the store business. This might be blamed on organizational silos that ran these three components as separate businesses. The failure is otherwise hard to explain. How hard can it be, really, to dig up email addresses of people who bought a book by a particular author to let them know s/he’ll be autographing books near where they live sometime soon?

Or, putting that in terms Barnes & Noble should relate to, might you not be able to charge the publishers a promotional fee for doing that? (AND you’d drive more traffic and sell more books!)


The people who own and run B&N are plenty smart. Before the game changed and was complicated by the online option, they had organized their supply chain to give them real competitive advantage over Borders and all other book retailers. But they were tripped up by a combination of Amazon’s longer-term view as an upstart in the 1990s and early 2000s when B&N was an established and profitable company. This was a classic “innovator’s dilemma”, failing to employ a new technology to maximum advantage because a legacy position was being defended.

Amazon was willing to lose money for many years to build its customer base. That was how they could build their stock price. B&N was a profitable company at the top of their category. Profits were how they grew their stock price. This not only discouraged deep investment in the early years of online bookselling, it discouraged the kind of discounting from their online store that Amazon did. Both of them knew that discounted books online put competitive pressure on the brick-and-mortar business. That was fine with Amazon. It was not appealing to Barnes & Noble.


When B&N decided to go after the ebook market with the NOOK, organizationally they did it with a dedicated and largely independent effort, not an integrated one. That might have been necessary. But it also might have been B&N’s last chance to build on its one distinctive advantage: having a strong store base and a real dot com business. (Borders never had the latter and Amazon, of course, doesn’t have the former.)


But the time B&N has to change the reality that they can’t seem to grow their market share continues to shorten. The one big advantage they are likely to retain over their competitors in Seattle — who are certainly growing theirs! — will be a cooperative attitude from the publishers, who live in fear of Amazon’s growing power. But even that advantage has its limits.

Link to the rest here.

As a long time reader of Mikes blog I have to say this is one of his better posts. Some of this will no doubt be read by many here as information they already had, but the break-down is spot-on.

As for the changing landscape of B&N and its effect on the Big Five Randall views it as self-fulfilling. The dwindling shelf space at B&N will eventually lead to only the bestsellers being available. This will reduce the mid-list titles to an even smaller portion and effectively lock the Big Five into the blockbuster model for the remainder of their existence.

However, if you find yourself in sudden need of a birthday card, stuffed animal, calendar, scented candle and cup of coffee, B&N is your place for one-stop shopping. 

E-book readers’ guilty pleasures revealed

1 September 2015

From The Telegraph:

It is a familiar sight on the beach or daily commute: readers brandishing a hardback copy of the latest acclaimed literary fiction.

However, the books they choose to download to the privacy of their e-readers are a different story.

A newly published list of’s biggest selling e-books of the year features psychological thrillers, misery memoirs, Mills and Boon and a book by the Tory MP Nadine Dorries, whose first work was memorably described by a Telegraph reviewer as “the worst novel I’ve read in 10 years”.

Notably, 18 of the top 20 authors were women, including thriller writers Angela Marsons, Fiona Neill and Rachel Abbott.

. . . .

However, a parallel list of physical books compiled by Waterstones to cover the same period is significantly more highbrow and features four times as many male authors.

They include Richard Flanagan, author of the Man Booker Prize-winningThe Narrow Road to the Deep North, and Anthony Doerr, with his Pulitzer Prize-winner All The Light We Cannot See. There are also books by Colm Toibin, Ian McEwan and Victoria Hislop.

Link to the rest at The Telegraph and thanks to Dave for the tip.

NYT Bestseller Lists

20 August 2015

In case you missed a comment from Smart Debut Author to an earlier post:

The NYT “Best Seller” Lists are a work of serial fiction, published weekly.

New York Times Changes Children’s Bestseller Lists

20 August 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

Starting August 21, the New York Times will tweak its children’s bestseller lists, separating hardcover middle grade and young adult titles from paperback and e-book bestsellers. The hardcover lists will appear in print, and the paperback and e-book lists will be available online. Pamela Paul, editor of the New York Times Book Review, told PW that the changes were meant to be more useful for readers, authors, and publishers in helping discoverability of titles.

Paul said that when she started as children’s books editor of the Book Review in 2011, middle grade and YA were reported together under the category “chapter books,” with paperbacks a separate category. “It was such a wildly mixed group,” she said, “that I thought it was very confusing to readers. If you’re a parent, and you’re looking at that list for your child, The Hunger Games is very different from Rebecca Stead. I thought it made sense to break the two categories apart,” and separate middle grade and YA lists were created.

Adding paperbacks to the newly created middle grade and YA sections allowed more titles to be included on the list. What happened, however, “was that given the relative unit sales of paperbacks, they would overtake the lists,” she said. “New authors would find it hard to break into the list, and it was difficult for readers to discover new writers from those lists. So it made sense to return to the model we use in adult.” Paul sees a slight trade-off in moving paperback and e-book figures online, as opposed to their appearing in print, but said, “Given how large our Internet readership is, I didn’t feel we were losing anything. Our Internet audience is growing enormously, and paperback and e-book sales are not trending the way we expected four years ago, and as a result the lists are not reflecting the breadth of what’s being published.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Heather for the tip.

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