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Super Thursday!

October 10, 2013

Well, it’s that time of year again – I don’t mean Autumn, Halloween or anything quite as interesting and seasonal as bonfires or misty mornings. It’s Super Thursday! I know, it sounds rather like a ham-fisted attempt giving something rather dull a token title in the vague hope that the masses will nudge and whisper to one another in offices and trains across the UK – “Hey, do you know what day it is?” a smile, a wink, a moment of unity.
“Sure I do, it’s Super Thursday, I’m off to Waterstones!”

Super Thursday is one of the most depressing days of the year for 99% of writers. It is the day when publishers release their onslaught of books that they hope will reach the Christmas no.1 slot. Places like Waterstones and Foyles are clearing space for such notable literary greats as Harry Rednap (or his ghost) Jennifer Saunders and an eclectic array of celebrity cooks, sportsman and acters – oh, we mustn’t forget Bridget Jones.. although I’m trying to.

But what does this really mean? It means that the writers of anything challenging, brave or good are strangled out of the market. Independently published books are shoved aside and ignored in favour of ghost written cackage.

When the big chief of Foyles was interviewed this morning on radio 4 he was asked about “literary” fiction and how he felt about celebrity books taking over the world. To paraphrase he said, “As long as people are reading and buying books, I don’t care.” Well, that about sums it up, for years publishing has been all about marketing and money and very little about voice or talent. Very soon it seems there will be a two tier system, celebrity physical books, and e-books by everyone else.

But to be a little bit fair to publishers, it isn’t totally their fault. A couple of years ago Waterstones wanted to put my book on their shelves. I refused, as they wanted such a massive discount I would actually be losing money per copy sold. One word – greed.

So where does this leave bookshops? Well, personally I have always believed bookshops to be the most magical and important places on the street, but in order to battle the thriving E-book market two things have to happen. Publishers have to be more creative with book design, and bookshops need to offer a more varied experience and a greater breadth of content in order to keep customers browsing. For surely browsing is the great pleasure of book buying.

Personally, my current book is in e-book format and soon to be turned into an audio book. I have had two books in “real” print, but I feel that unless my literary agent can pull a rabbit of the hat and land me a big publisher with a decent PR machine there is little point in writers like myself even trying to get shelf space.

So, when you gaze longingly at the books in your local bookshop, when you look at the list of best sellers spare a thought for the talented writers who produce quality work, but don’t have the profile or presence to earn a spot on a mainstream bookshop’s bookshelf, be it on Super Thursday or any other day of the year.

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