I’ve just finished Confessions, and, while it’s a good read, I don’t think it’s as good as Notes.
I know I would say that, but the doctor in question has less to say about his practice, possibly because he’s a locum. He also (to my ears) writes with less authority than Tony Copperfield.
Still, it’s good to see a small genre being created; the more books about a subject, ultimately the more sales, I think.
Friday did what I wish Monday could do: burned their way through hundreds of thousands of pounds in double quick time, went bust and got bought out of insolvency by HarperCollins. That’s the way to do it!
As a result (of being part of Harper), they have lots more cash to spend than we do; this allows them to promote and PR Confessions much more, which means that, irrespective of whether it is or (as I believe) is not a better book than Sick Notes (free extract of the latter here), it will almost certainly sell three or four times as many copies, possibly more.
This can be galling for authors, but as independent publishers we have long since given up fretting about it.
You cannot risk falling in love with your books, because if they fail it kills you. It’s a bit like seeing your children come last on sports day, I guess; you can’t get too emotionally involved (in the race, not the kids).
The fact is that for a publisher of our size, in the currently climate, a sale of 5,000 to 10,000 books on any given title is not too bad.
In fact, I’d take a guarantee of 10,000 sales on all titles from here on in if it were on offer, even though we have one or two things on the horizon that could and should do substantially better.
Five books at 10,000 sales a year is a pretty good business for us (living in the sticks, and not eating at The Fat Duck every night).
For authors, it’s a different story. A sale of 5,000 is not much good to an author, at least if making money is your aim. On an £8.99 paperback, with an average royalty of (say) 8%, you’re making 72p a book, and £3,596 in total. Spread over a couple of years. With tax to deduct.
This is why our website states, on the ‘writers and agents’ page:
There are eight million stories in the Naked City, according to the narrator of the eponymous film. Unfortunately, few of them would make a book; the first hurdle to clear before you decide to submit a manuscript to us is to ask yourself, ‘Will at least ten thousand strangers be interested in paying to read this story?’
That doesn’t stop people sending in manuscripts which, frankly, they’d be hard-pressed to persuade their mothers to read, if they paid them to do it.
Which brings me to the upside: it is nice seeing your book on a shelf, even if it’s only the shelf in your own living room.
In other news, there’s a slightly tongue-in-cheek piece by Theodore Dalrymple here at the New English Review in which he explains some of his own shortcomings, and how resentment has been the engine of his writing. Meanwhile, John Crace, of Guardian ‘Digested Read’ fame, takes aim at Dalrymple’s latest (non-Monday) book and kind of misses the point.
Finally, The “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks is a great site if, like me, you are a bit of an obsessive, read bore, about punctuation and speech marks (and yes, I’m sure we mess up lots of that kind of stuff in our books, too). I mean, what is the writer of this sign trying to suggest?
P.S. Shortly after we moved from blogger, we dropped from the vertiginous heights of 1 or 2 comments on every other post to a flat average of zero.
I thought for a while that this must be because our posts had become even more boring than normal. That may still be the case, but additionally we’d done something somehow to prevent people commenting. I think I have now fixed this.