Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Bookshop v supermarket customers

Also in today's blog

Bestseller charts groaning with misery-lit
Will publishers neglect the bookshop buyer?
Salman Rushdie's knighthood

Every Saturday morning I go to the Guardian newspaper site to read Joel Rickett's column, JR being Deputy Editor of The Bookseller. As well as the column for Guardian Review, he writes a for Screen international, and contributes regularly to BBC Radio 4 and 5 Live.

Last weekend, forgetting that he is away for much of this month, I found myself reading the following – So bad it's good

"The bestseller charts are groaning with real-life accounts of neglect, violence and sexual abuse. The worse your childhood, it seems, the more people want to read about it. Have we turned into a nation of ghouls? Esther Addley investigates the remarkable rise of 'misery lit'"

"Reproducing like bacteria, a new literary genre has wholly infected the bestseller charts. As much as 30% of the non-fiction paperback chart on any given week is made up of accounts of similarly grinding childhood misery."

"Tonkinson [Carole Tonkinson, the publisher of Harper Non-Fiction] says that detailed research does not yet exist, but Harper Non-Fiction estimates that about 85% of misery-lit readers are women, with four-fifths of all sales going through supermarkets. "Supermarkets as a sales channel are very, very key to the rise of this genre," she says. "Nobody really seems to have picked up on the importance of this point. They say only one in six people ever goes into a bookshop. Through the traditional channels you are only ever reaching a tiny proportion of the populace. "

"These books are reaching a different reader, by and large. It's an additional market and I think that is what is really interesting for publishers - that, actually, we're growing the readership. It's a really exciting expansion."

Will publishers neglect the bookshop buyer?

What is worrying is that publishers may become so keen to appeal to the supermarket customers that they start to neglect the one-in-six buyer who would rather not read misery-lit.

With newspapers full of gloom and doom, I long for books to cheer me up and make me laugh.

Salman Rushie's knighthood

Scottish writer Richard Havers posted the following on his blog on Saturday –

"The Queen's birthday honours list has some very strange ones this year. It adds weight to the argument that these awards are being devalued, particularly when compared with some of the ordinary people who get them.

Joe Corre the founder of risque lingerie label Agent Provocateur and his partner Serena Rees have been made MBEs. Hairdresser to the stars Nicky Clarke becomes an OBE as does the singer Joe Cocker. Perhaps most bizarre of all is Salman Rushdie getting a knighthood."

The first comment is – "He is getting his knighthood to show that standing up to islamic fundamentalists is 'in'. He's seen as a lone fighter against al queda/the Taliban/ Saddam/Iran before the rest of us cottoned on to this 'axis of evil'."

Rushdie's book Midnight's Children has been on my library list for too long. I must get around to reading it. I confess to having reservations about men who marry glamorous women young enough to be their daughters. Rushdie is 60. His fourth wife Padma Laksmi is 37, almost a quarter of a century age-gap.


Is publishing out of touch with reality? A leading publisher thinks it is.


At 23 June, 2007, Blogger Richard Havers said...

Anne, I'm just back from holiday (a week on a boat off the west coast of Scotland - idyllic). On re-reading my post I feel I should have said ‘the [extra)ordinary people who get awards for doing what are really good and amazing things’. Having had time to reflect on the former Mr. Rushdie's award, and having read the comment on my blog about standing up against Islamic fundamentalists as being 'in', I'm even more upset by his knighthood. I've never read one of his books, never even been tempted, but that is not my beef with this ludicrous giving of such an honour.

If indeed it is a gesture, it is both futile and silly. It's the national equivalent of thumbing a nose against many who follow Islam. I agree with you on his marriage stakes. One cannot help thinking there's a good deal more 'celebrity' surrounding the former Mr. Rushdie than is healthy.

p.s. Misery memoirs will burn out, there's only so much of that stuff that people can read without over-dosing.

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