copies of high-profile books aren't unusual in this neck of the woods - it's
one of our innocent pleasures, opening the packages that arrive each day.
However, when they are accompanied by a hand-written card from the Trade Group
Sales & Marketing Director of one of the UK's biggest publishers, I take it
as testimony to the 'clout' that newbooks now hefts.
are Jonathan Franzen's Freedom and
Glenn Taylor's The Marrowbone Marble
Company - both likely to be highly newsworthy when they reach
publication. But that's not the point, it's the fact that someone in as
high-pressured a job as the TGS&MD concerned has taken the time to a) think
we'd be especially interested in them
and b) felt we would be able to do something special with them.
outside the world of publishing it's too easy to think it is obsessed with
buying shelf-space in WH Smith's, Waterstone's and the supermarkets. And yes,
that does go on, but delving beyond that fight for space there are people who
gamble their careers on their passion for books and authors.
have heard about Ian Rankin not 'breaking through' until his eighth book and
how nowadays a debut author would be lucky to have a second chance if the first
book didn't perform.
commissioning editor, the person who brought the book to the acquisition
meeting and convinced her or his colleagues to invest, to buy the right to
publish stands or falls by her or his hunches.
fickleness we readers display nowadays this must feel more and more like a
lottery. In both reading groups I belong to we rarely read – as a group - another
book by the same author, regardless of how much we may have enjoyed say, We Need to Talk About Kevin or The Poisonwood Bible. There are too
many other books to catch our feckless imaginations (although I very much hope
this may not be proved true with Ms Kingsolver's The Lacuna).
placed the bet, rattled the dice, kissed the lucky shamrock or whatever
superstition is inadvertently invoked, there comes a point where spreading the
word before publication becomes an important part of the plan.
back over nearly sixty, gulp, yes, sixty issues, it’s quite remarkable how
prescient we have been in ‘discovering’ new talent. Messrs Franzen and Taylor
may not be in desperate need of our attentions – or then again, it may be that
we readers need reminding of their existence. Either way, by writing this short
piece I’ve done my bit to pass the word down the line.