Aaron Shepard is a smart cookie. Mentioned here as the author of Aiming at Amazon, and other books, he has also developed a software tool for checking your sales position on Amazon. What's more, he has got himself featured in the New York Times. And, as you would expect from a smart cookie, he has a pile of Aiming at Amazon books right where the camera will see them. Oh yes.
The NYT story is mostly cobblers, with its claim that 'many' writers can't get on with writing because they're obsessively checking their ranking -- but hey, this is a newspaper story, right? What the hell do you expect?
One of my books is listed with a sales rank of 4,457,051. I didn't think Amazon listed as many books as that. And it's got a five-star review, too. No, I didn't. That would be naughty.
If you care about writing for the theatre (and there is life outside books, you know), you should keep an eye on Michael Coveney's blog. Coveney is a former theatre critic of the Daily Mail. He was recommended to me by Madame Arcati, who knows everyone, of course. Coveney writes about the UK theatre scene, but it's also relevant in you live in the US (I guess), as London seems to provide quite a lot of Broadway product.
If you care about the Booker -- and I must confess that I don't -- then you should know that details of the 2007 long list have been published. Articles in most papers, but here's the Guardian.
When reading some of the publicity details of these books, I am struck, not for the first time, by the wonder of it all. Most of the long-listed books are published by 'major' companies, whose primary objective, naturally, is to make profits. But, if you set aside the remote chance of one of these books winning the Booker, then publication begins to look like an act of charity rather than a rational commercial decision.
Who, for instance, would ever bother to read The Gathering, by Irish author Anne Enright? It's described by the Observer as 'a gruelling portrait of a dysfunctional Dublin family', and is praised for its 'exhilarating bleakness of tone'. Bleakness of tone? Exhilarating? Personally I would have to be paid a substantial fee even to contemplate it.
What saves the publishers' bacon, of course, is the bizarre illusion, fostered on a thousand and one Eng. Lit. courses, that literary fiction is somehow superior to any other kind, and that to be seen reading such is to increase one's standing with one's fellow men. Public endorsement by the Booker judges somehow enhances this effect, leading people to expend money which could much better be spent on a round of drinks for a few friends.
Truth is, of course, that, for some of us, the sight of someone reading a Booker nominee merely generates a politely suppressed snigger. We nudge our friends. 'Look,' we say. 'Another sucker.'