How To Sell Your Book
This week both The Sunday Times and The Literary Saloon comment on the practice of booksellers making publishers pay to have their books displayed on high street shelves.
When you go into your local bookshop and see the books laid out on the tables, or look over the recommendations, there is something in you which assumes that they are there because of some kind of merit. It might be literary, or they could have a great plot, or somehow – by word-of-mouth? – they have earned their place in the display.
You couldn’t be more wrong. They are there simply because the publisher has shelled out an enormous amount of cash to make sure of it.
As far as the major retailers are concerned books are commodities like everything else in the high street. Gloves, belts, baked beans, if you’re a shopkeeper they all mean the same thing.
WH Smith, the UK’s biggest bookseller, is currently asking £50,000 per title per week for places on its “adult gold” list of recommended reads in the run-up to Christmas. A less demanding £15,000 will ensure that any old book will be “read of the week” during the year. No other qualifications are necessary.
The Sunday Times report says:
No authors appear on recommended lists unless their publishers pay the fees, and those refusing to pay may not even find their titles stocked.
WH Smith are not alone, other big booksellers like Borders and their subsidiary, Books Etc. are playing the same game. To have your book ‘chosen’ as Waterstone’s book of the week, the publisher will have paid £10,000 for the privilege. And inclusion in three-for-two or other promotional schemes also involves money changing hands. Customers and potential customers believe that these titles come with the bookseller’s unbiased recommendation. Usually they do not.
One publisher claimed yesterday that he had books “recommended” and positively reviewed in marketing literature by bookshops before the books had even been read.
And elsewhere the story is very similar, In America Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com also employ pay-to-display tactics.
So, tomorrow go out and buy a book. Be manipulated. You know it makes sense.