Last weekend's Sunday Times included, as usual, various bestsellers lists, and I was interested to see that the number-one paperback was by an author I'd never heard of. What is more, number two struck only the faintest of chords. So I went in search of information.
Victoria Hislop's The Island has sold (in the UK market) 148,975, with 33,720 copies being shifted in the previous week. It's her first novel, and -- as I should have guessed -- it's yet another Richard and Judy choice. After the book had been featured on the programme, its sales leapt by 67%. The publisher is Headline Review.
The lady herself read English at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, and is a freelance writer and journalist. She is the mother of two children and writes regularly on education for the Daily Telegraph; she also has a column in the BBC's Parenting magazine. And so forth.
Catherine Alliott is at number two on the list. Not That Kind of Girl sold 29,955 in the preceding week, with a total of 44,375. Catherine has her own web site, but for some odd reason it hasn't been updated to include this latest book, even though the site appears to be hosted by her publisher, Hodder Headline. Go figure. Anyway, the site does reveal that she's written several other books, most of which seem to have been big sellers.
I dare say that both these ladies have had oodles of publicity if you look in the right place -- the right place being, I suspect, women's magazines. But neither seems likely to be shortlisted for the Booker.
Meanwhile, also keeping a nice low profile but selling like nobody's business, is Marina Lewycka's A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian. This sold 17,150 copies last week, with a total of 356,615. These are massive figures in the UK market, and the book has been selling at that rate for months.
How has this happened? Answer, after a slow start, the book has sold on word of mouth. What is happening now is that about 15,000 people a week buy it, read it, and proceed to tell all their friends that it's a lovely book. Which it is. And so the process continues.
Not even Richard and Judy can get you that kind of publicity. It's the best there is. And here at the GOB we like to think that we played a modest part in getting the ball rolling: on 1 July last year.