Hard to sell?

October 1, 2007 at 12:14 am Leave a comment

This year’s shortlist may well be my favourite ever, so I have to take issue with Nicholas Lezard‘s view that low sales reflect “dissatisfaction with the judges’ choices.” In fact, according to The Bookseller, the shortlisted titles aren’t faring much worse than last year’s, and anyway I’m sure many people – including myself – obtain most of the books through their local libraries.

It’s good to hear that the organisers are marketing the prize “more aggressively” this year and that Tesco is going to “support the Booker through its Recommended Reads bays in 150 of its stores” after the winner is announced (on October 16th). David Cooke, senior buying manager at Tesco, says they “want to support the Booker” and they will do, but “with most of them being hardback, there is not much we can do.”

Clearly the hardback format is more hindrance than let, which begs a question: why are books published in hardback when so few people buy them? Aren’t publishers shooting themselves in the foot by publishing in a format customers don’t buy and supermarkets won’t stock? Maybe next year the Booker committee could chivvy publishers into rush-releasing paperback editions of the shortlisted titles – or is that asking for the moon on a stick?

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