Will Christmas come early for the book trade?
As hundreds of titles hit the shops tomorrow, publishers hope for a happy ending to 2011
Rob Sharp is arts correspondent of The Independent and i newspapers. He has worked for The Independent since July 2007, reporting to both the news and features editors. He has previously supplied regular arts stories to The Observer, occasionally The Sunday Telegraph and The Guardian, and even more occasionally The New Statesman and The Art Newspaper. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a former British Press Award nominee.
Wednesday 28 September 2011
Alan Sugar, Steve Coogan, Lee Evans and Jamie Oliver will be among those doing battle from tomorrow, as publishers simultaneously release hundreds of titles in a bid to win a place on customers' Christmas shopping lists.
Dubbed "Super Thursday" by the book trade, this week will see publishers push books by everyone from Robert Harris to fictional teenagers The Inbetweeners using six-figure marketing budgets, newspaper tie-ins and in-store promotions. Over 200 titles will appear in supermarkets, high-street bookshops and online retailers, around three times the number released in an average week.
"I think this year will shape up very well against last year, one of the most high-profile years in recent memory, because there are some very big hitters," said Anna Valentine, editorial director at Harper NonFiction, which will publish Coogan's fictional Alan Partridge autobiography, I, Partridge: We Need to Talk About Alan. "To succeed, the books need to be distinctive and stage a launch which propels them into the bestseller ranks. Many of the titles will have a core readership which will help".
Century's May I Have Your Attention, Please?, the autobiography of comedian James Corden is being serialised in The Sun, while Cornerstone's The Fear Index, the new novel by Robert Harris, will grace The Daily Telegraph's pages.
Last year, 10 hardbacks released on "Super Thursday" each went on to make more than £1m in sales over the Christmas period. Last year's runaway success was Jamie Oliver's cookbook, 30-Minute Meals, which shifted more than 1.1 million units.
Century publishing director Ben Dunn said a "significant number" of releases would be non-fiction, reflecting wider trends within the industry. "Now more than ever, selling non-fiction outside the Christmas window is becoming impossible," he said. "Bookshops and readers have often rallied against that but with the recession and declining [non-fiction] hardback sales publishers are increasingly packing hardback releases into this time period."
Graeme Neill, news editor of The Bookseller, said: "Publishers see it as critical as a means of establishing their book in the public eye as early as possible. Word of mouth continues to be a massive way of driving sales and the earlier you can get people talking about and buying your book the better. It can pay off in a huge way... what makes a title a Christmas success is the question every publisher asks themselves when they sign a big deal for the autumn."
In the first two weeks of September 2010, £63m was spent on books in Britain. Sales over the same period this year have totalled just £55m, down 12 per cent, year on year.
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