Monday, October 29, 2007

Fooled 'em again?

The latest Private Eye gives the sales figures for the Booker shortlist, prior to the announcement of the winner. Anne Enright's The Gathering had shifted 3,687. None of the shortlist had sold over 6,000 except Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach, which had achieved 122,631. Such is the power of publicity.

The announcement of the winner came on the evening of Tuesday 16 October. This left plenty of time for eager readers to rush out a buy a copy of The Gathering before the close of business on Saturday 20 October. But did they?

On 27 October the Times published (as usual) a list of the top 50 bestsellers in the UK for the week ended 20 October. Enright is nowhere on it. But she does appear on the much smaller list of the 10 best sellers for small independent bookshops. So presumably the Booker prize did not result in Enright selling as many as 6,404 copies, which is what book no. 50 on the main Times list managed to do.

No wonder Enright came out with some controversial statement or other. I forget now what it was. Oh yes. Google reminds me. She had a go at the McCanns. (See the Daily Mail of 18 October.) Well, that's a nasty cheap shot if ever I saw one; the mark of true desperation. Perhaps it backfired.

Private Eye reckons that the Booker's sponsor must be feeling pretty cheesed off, and I wouldn't be surprised. More to the point, perhaps, I have a feeling that this may be the year in which the penny finally dropped for the great British book-reading public. You can only fool people so often, you know. For a good many years now the public has been told that the Booker prize-winning novel is the best book of the year. And they've been going out and buying it, or borrowing it. And guess what? They've found that, er, well, actually the bloody thing was pretty damn boring.

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Various sources, e.g. booktrade.info, have carried a short report about a big-time success for a self-published author. Google the name of the author, Brunonia Barry, and you get more detailed reports of a self-published author with at least a 2-million-dollar deal; some suggest higher figures.

Now this is interesting, of course, and is going to convince a lot of other people that they can do the same. It was ever thus. But while I was not exactly suspicious, I was inclined to think that there was more to this story than simply author self-publishes, gets good reviews, gets agent, gets big-time deal.

How, for instance, would a novice self-published author get a starred review in Publishers Weekly? And please don't tell me that she just sent it in and its outstanding merit made it leap out of the dustbin, because I would find that impossible to believe.

A little more detective work, for instance on the book's own web site, leads to the information (not remotely surprising) that Brunonia has been around a while, has worked in theatre and movies (including promotional campaigns), and has been closely associated with Robert McKee; she has also written novels in the Beacon Street Girls series.

In other words, what we have here is a person with absolutely the right sort of experience to produce a highly commercial novel; and, having produced it, she knew how to sell it.

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Do you think your book deserves to be made into a movie? Does it pass the wicked witch's test (24 October)?

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There are supposed to be some clever men and women working in universities. So how come that, week after week, the powers that be at the University of Michigan still manage to look like a pathetic bunch of wankers? Don't they employ a p.r. person?

Galleycat has the story, plus a link to Inside Higher Education. The U manages to make more or less the right decision, but only very eventually. And gracelessly.

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Speaking of web sites, I came across a three-year-old recently who points out the spiders' web sites in the garden.

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I suppose, he says with a sigh, that this is the time of year when people begin to look for Christmas presents. And if you have an elderly aunt or uncle, of a bookish disposition, then you could do far worse than visit Old House Books, where some interesting items from the past are reprinted.

Is Grandad keen on railways? Buy him a map of the London rail network of 1897. Does Grandma speak fondly of old-fashioned cures for warts? Buy her The Lady's Dressing Room.

And so forth.

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Last Thursday afternoon Mrs GOB and I called in at Arundel for tea. As one does. And there we found (not for the first time) Kim's Bookshop. This is a very well organised shop, dealing in some valuable antiquarian and first-edition stock, but also with a pleasant intermingling of good to middling secondhand books. They also have a branch in Chichester.

It's a shame that the Webmaster can't spell category, but then who can spell these days? Ask Grandma.

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Oops. Forgot to add this. Just seen a report on the Bookseller site about CSS firing some agents at PFD.

There is a technical term for this kind of thing, I believe. Something about excrement being freely distributed through collision with a piece of ventilation equipment. M'learned friends must be chuckling and rubbing their hands. Sitting there watching the phone....

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank heavens you are back, Mr. GOB. Afternoon espresso is simply not the same without you. . .

Anonymous said...

Have you ever heard of the vigoro hitting the mixmaster. Afraid it is a bit of an American thing, though. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Totally out of topic, sorry, but have a look here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madame_Arcati

The end of a myth, as it were.

Anonymous said...

Brunonia Barry also had the foresight to hire the excellent independent publicity agency, Kelley & Hall (www.kelleyandhall.com), to help get her book into the right hands and win her those rave reviews. Kelley & Hall worked with her for months securing reviews, helping with cover design and offering invaluable guidance along the way. For more info, contact kelleyandhall@comcast.net or call 617-680-1976

Anonymous said...

To be fair to Anne Enright, the article on the McCanns came out in the London Review Of Books well before her Booker win (http://www.lrb.co.uk/v29/n19/enri01_.html). The Mail just picked it up after she was news. Still, I agree that the book sounds like unnecessarily heavy going. It's unfortunate that the formula for a Booker-winning book seems to be a lot like the one for an Oscar-winning film.

Andy O'Hara said...

Kelley and Hall's website was a bit frustrating, immediately standing out for a link encouraging readers to be on the watch for two books coming up in 2005 and the other in 2006 and at least one link that doesn’t work. A web site’s a lot of detail to keep up with, but keep up one must if claiming to be an “energetic professional.”

I have to agree that Brunonia was a safe ride with her industry connections and those "rave" reviews. Indeed, it's nice to know that a self published author can afford such help.

Or, worse, was she so bad that she needed "months" to get it reviewable? Aiee.

Gladys Hobson said...

Love the spider web site! Clever kid there.
I guess there are web sites to catch the unwary 'fly' too.

Nicholas Clee said...

Anne Enright didn't have a go at the McCanns, Grumpy. Sam Leith comments on what she really wrote here.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2007/10/22/do2203.xml

Jen Erik said...

Every time I heard Enright's book described, the word 'bleak' was used.
I know it's shallow, but there's nothing in me that wants to spend time reading something bleak. Especially at this time of year.

Mark said...

We just sold our first copy The Gathering today - yippee!

Now we just have to decide whether or not to get it back in. Mmm.

Watch Pacquiao Vs De La Hoya Video Live Online said...

yeah!!!

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