Thursday, March 29, 2007

Penguin and The Bookseller going downmarket

Also in today's blog
Supporting new authors
New sex memoirs section
Penguin should be ashamed of themselves

Last night, after supper, I settled down on the sofa with a glass of wine and a dish of walnuts to read The Bookseller's Paperback Preview for July.

This monthly feature is written by Sarah Broadhurst. Here's what has to say about her.

"Sarah Broadhurst spent her early working life in the book trade in both retail and wholesale until the arrival of children forced her to look for freelance work she could do from home.

Her position of paperback buyer in Hatchards and then director of a book wholesale company gave her a wide knowledge of all sectors of the trade. She felt the trade lacked unbiased opinion, every publisher had the “best thing since sliced bread” and she knew the trade would benefit from an independent overview of the books published each month. She sold her idea to the trade journal The Bookseller and has, for the last 25 years, been writing a monthly article (from home!) on the new paperbacks on offer.

Over the years her opinion has become highly valued in the trade and she has become an expert in her field,'contributing to many radio and television shows and reviewing in a wide range of newspapers and magazines from The Daily Express to Good Housekeeping.

Supporting new authors

Her speciality is supporting new authors. Writers who have a tough time getting recognised. She has backed unknown first novels from the likes of Terry Pratchett, Joanna Trollope and Minette Walters and joins us now in introducing some of the unknown stars of the future to you."

[In passing, don't you hate the expression "the likes of" which is suddenly cropping up everywhere?]

July is not a good month for discriminating bookworms because most publishers aim their July list at holidaymakers, many of whom don't read much for the rest of the year and don't want their brains stretched too much while they're lying on sunbeds working up tans.

In my January 1st blog last year, I wrote, "The Bookseller's December 23/30 issue arrived yesterday morning and I see that the Paperback Preview for April by Sarah Broadhurst now includes a section headed Misery with four titles, including one in which "A 25-year-old looks back on her life of neglect and abuse, her severe depression and her eventual recovery."

I used to look forward to the Paperback Previews as a source of titles for my To Buy or Borrow list. But as time goes on I find fewer and fewer titles worth noting. Not Sarah Broadhurst's fault. She can only reflect what is happening in the UK publishing industry which, even by middlebrow standards, is moving relentlessly downmarket."

Sex memoirs

This week, Mrs Broadhurst has introduced a new and even further downmarket section : Sex Memoirs.

She has selected three, of which the nastiest-sounding is Kinky Confessions of a Working Girl by Miss S which is a Penguin original at £7.99

Penguin should be ashamed of themselves

Mrs Broadhurst's comment is - "The diary of a student's first year working in a London brothel. She is now 28 and running her own business."

A search at Penguin's website failed to produce any info, but Amazon UK describes the book thus –

"Miss S is smart, sassy, sexually frustrated and broke. With the rent money due, she spots an ad for a student job with a difference - in the massage parlour at the bottom of her road. Suddenly she can earn money doing something she is good at and get all the sex she needs. Offered a job on the spot by Mrs B, an ex-madam herself, Miss S quickly gets to grips with the rest of the girls. They include: Bella, the house 'Domme; Carrie, the resident shrink; Tina, the house snitch; and Suzie, the amateur porn star. That's not to mention the cast of clients: Mr 'Suck it Bitch', Mr Gay, Mr Pacemaker, Mr Councillor and the Willy Wacker ..."Kinky Confessions of a Working Girl" is the true, intimate diary of Miss S's extraordinary first year in a brothel and reveals what a Gemini half-hour really involves ... "

Would you want to read this book? Would you want your teenage daughter to read it?

OK, a long time ago an elderly judge, or maybe it was the defending counsel [I'll check it out for tomorrow's blog] made a fool of himself by asking a jury if they would want their wives or servants to read Lady Chatterley's Lover.

But that was then, and this is now when porn - not that I regard LCL as porn - is easily accessible. Supposedly respectable publishers shouldn't be jumping on the "prostitution is fun and profitable" bandwagon.

I doubt very much that Sarah Broadhurst has read Kinky Confessions, or that she would have given it to one of the team of readers who nowadays help her to evaluate the flood of books sent to her.

It may be that she has been pressed to include the new category by the management team at The Bookseller.

Coming tomorrow

A review of the new Dirk Bogarde memorial site
My comments on reader comments on yesterday's blog


At 27 July, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Supposedly respectable publishers shouldn't be jumping on the "prostitution is fun and profitable" bandwagon.

I don't really understand what you consider the issue with this book - the blurb says it is a true recount of her experiences, therefore is a factual, although I suspect not entirely serious book.

This is the kind of book people pick up to read to be informed and entertained at the same time - it doesn't seem to me like it is promoting prostitution.

In my opinion, kudos to Penguin - a well-known publisher pushing the boundaries of reading material rather than publishing boring run-of-the-mill thrillers.

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