MONEY : BOOKS

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The booktrade has been bemoaning the rising price of paperbacks. In May the higher prices will start to bite: £8 and £9 volumes dot the non-fiction list. It's the mass-market titles that really worry booksellers: even Catherine Cookson suffered when her publishers bumped her up to £5.99; her next book will be under a fiver. Meanwhile, reports of the demise of hardback fiction are premature: at one point philosophy-is-fun novel Sophie's World at £15.99 was outselling Michael Ridpath's Free To Trade by two to one, despite the latter's £10 price tag. With paperbacks creeping past the magic £5 mark, the price division between formats is blurring: Sunrise With Sea Monster by Neil Jordan, A S Byatt's The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye and Salman Rushdie's East, West are all selling well in hardback - at £9.99.

One rather handsome paperback original (£7.99) has achieved a modest success against all the odds. John de Falbe's The Glass Night, a chronicle spanning Nazi Germany, wartime Coventry and 1990s London, was turned down by three publishers, so de Falbe decided to publish the book himself under the cheekily titled Cuckoo Press. Booker runner-up Jill Paton Walsh, whose Knowledge of Angels was famously self-published, has given a new respectability to this corner of the book trade. De Falbe reports that that nearly 1,500 copies have been sold, which means he's hit break-even point already. Admittedly, he has one great advantage: as part-owner of John Sandoe bookshop in Chelsea, he scored a notable coup in getting two regular customers to read the book. Now William Boyd and Dirk Bogarde's enthusiastic comments adorn the jacket.

During the Martin Amis furore, A S Byatt remarked that mega-advances for authors who can't possibly recoup the money on sales means less loot around for new writers. It would be nice, though naive, to think publishers will use the money from price hikes to find and nurture new talent.

! The Cuckoo Press, 10 Blacklands Terrace, London SW3 2SR. Tel: 071 581 8540.

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