Bestseller lists: the envy of writers

Share
Related Topics

Some years ago I spotted an item in our local paper,
The Bath Chronicle, headed "This Week's Bestselling Books", and as writers do, I immediately turned to it to envy the bestselling authors listed, and to sneer at the poor taste of the deluded public who buy block-buster books not written by me.

Some years ago I spotted an item in our local paper, The Bath Chronicle, headed "This Week's Bestselling Books", and as writers do, I immediately turned to it to envy the bestselling authors listed, and to sneer at the poor taste of the deluded public who buy block-buster books not written by me.

I got the shock of my life.

The Number One Bestselling Book was one I had never heard of, called Corsham In Old Photographs. Now, most people reading this will never have heard of Corsham, let alone the book of old photos named after it. Corsham is a small town just off the A4 between Bath and Chippenham. It's pretty, but I could not for the life of me see why a book of old photographs of the place would be a national bestseller.

Until I looked at the bottom of the list.

It said: "Based on returns from the Bookshop, Corsham".

Of course! If you base a bestseller list on the returns from just one bookshop, then it stands to reason that a local bestseller will have a good chance of coming top of the list, above all your John le Carrés and your J K Rowlings. Go to a bookshop in Devizes and you may well find that Corsham In Old Photographs has not sold a single copy, but that something like Wartime Devizes: A Portrait is a rampant and runaway bestseller...

I like the idea of the localised bestseller. My local bookshop has got one on its hands at the moment. I am talking about Ex Libris, a favourite haunt of mine in Bradford-on-Avon. It stands in the little street known as the Shambles which is stuffed full of the sort of shops that people go to Bath for and have trouble finding. Ex Libris has new books in front, and secondhand books up the back in an old barn called The Old Barn.

The best reason, though, for going to Ex Libris rather than Waterstone's, say, is that Ex Libris can get any known book miles quicker than Waterstone's. It's true. I go to Waterstone's in Bath and, if they haven't got a book, they say they can get it in a week or two. I go to Ex Libris, and Roger or Jim say they can get it by tomorrow or maybe the day after. So I always get it from Ex Libris because they do not seem to be tied into one single distribution system which cripples them, as Waterstone's seems to be.

Anyway, Roger Jones, the boss, is also a publisher of enterprising local histories and books of walks, and recently he has published Avoncliff: the Secret History of a Hamlet in War and Peace by Nick McCamley. It is selling very well. It deserves to. I have read it, and it is a very funny, very informative and very page-turning account of a village in the Avon Valley which has had everything happen to it, including weird wartime goings-on down the old quarries. People in Bradford-on-Avon have actually brought it up in conversation with me in a way they haven't done with The Da Vinci Code. "Read the Avoncliff book?" they say. "Damned good, isn't it?"

So if The Bath Chronicle did a bestseller list based on returns from Ex Libris in Bradford-on-Avon, Avoncliff: The Secret History of a Hamlet in War and Peace would probably be number one.

If, however, The Bath Chronicle did a bestseller list based on returns from Waterstone's in Bath, the Avoncliff book would not appear in the top 5,000.

Do you know why? Because Waterstone's are now unwilling to stock anything published by small independent publishers, and Roger has received a letter from Waterstone's HQ telling him that his books will not be displayed or offered for sale in their shops.

More of this tomorrow.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

£35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A hawk is seen resting in a tree in the Florida Everglades on August 11, 2011 in the Everglades National Park, Florida. The Obama administration announced it will pump $100 million into Everglades restoration. The money will go to buy land from ranchers as much as 24,000 acres - some 37 square miles - in four counties northwest of Lake Okeechobee and preserve them under permanent conservation easements.  

Nature Studies: My best nature books of 2014

Michael McCarthy
 

My Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'