The magic of Christmas, in wordsales…

09 +00002012-12-26T18:56:55+00:0031 2012 § 11 Comments


I looked in disbelief at the BBC online news article about the queues for the sales at the Oxford Street Selfridges, as shoppers waited to buy, by their own admission, anything that might be a bargain.  Forgive me for being a Philistine about sales, as they seem to me to be artificially created to appeal to that quite basic instinct, greed, in the consumer.   I’m not unhappy about a bargain, when one crops up by chance, but to devote sometimes hours to the pursuit of only a possibility seems absurd.

Of course, there are amazing book bargains to be had online for pence, trumpeted on Twitter and, for me, a worrying debasing of the real value of the works concerned.  There seems to be something terribly ironic in pursuing a Kindle top rating by selling at incredible knock-down rates.  I feel that a novel one has ‘bust a gut’ over deserves better treatment and more respect than this.  Does the reader of a cut-cut-cut-price book have a sense of what has gone into it, or care?

I’m inclined not to tout for business in this way and, though I have metaphorically compared Twitter to a busy market where one may rub shoulders and converse with friends and strangers alike, I don’t see it as a place for selling my wares.  I’m much more interested in the exchange of ideas and humour and in meeting people I’d never otherwise have a chance of engaging in conversation.   Some of them might, as a result, buy my work, but because they have a sense of the person I am, not because my book is cheap.

§ 11 Responses to The magic of Christmas, in wordsales…

  • Christina, you say “Some of them might, as a result, buy my work, but because they have a sense of the person I am, not because my book is cheap.” I think it should be / also be that they appreciate the work involved, the skill and the final product.

    Chris Ewan’s Safe House has been #1 on Kindle for three weeks apparently and it’s been at that 20p price. Someone suggested I look at his reviews and sadly I discovered that many concentrated on the price and what value they felt the book was for 20p. The expectation these sustained offers create is simply dreadful. And that’s down to the producers of the ereaders who want to get their product into people’s hands. To do so Sony and Amazon are prepared to make a loss on the books. (Neither the author nor the publisher loses out here. However, I wonder if that’s just for the short term as the expectation is created for books for pennies not pounds.)

    • I absolutely agree with your point about the appreciation of the work involved, the skill and the final product. Increasingly, reviews seem to be more about the personality of the author than their writing. I’m afraid undergraduate courses in literature have a lot to answer for in this respect! My point related to people’s perception of my work as a writer. I too am concerned that, in writing as in so many other areas of art, some people know the price of everything and understand the value of nothing! Writers just have to ‘tough it out’.

  • PS I hope others will comment here as I am interested in people’s thoughts on this one.

  • katelaity says:

    I think the book market has been artificially propped for so long (returns & shelving preferences & chain pricing) that the current flood of DIY writers (priced below market, offering unprofessional quality) combined with the desperation for rankings (books sold at a loss) conspires to muddy the waters to such an extent that discoverability has actually become even more difficult. Unless something drastic changes, I suspect that it will be nearly impossible to make a living as a writer.

    • Kate, thank you for your comment. I shall be interested to hear what others have to say on this, but I’m sure that you have painted a picture that many would recognise in the complex world of contemporary bookselling. The question is, will the writer whose skills are undeniable find a way of navigating these waters?

      • katelaity says:

        I have always had a problem with the ‘cream rises to the top’ argument that has been given to me, most often by people who have their success — looking at the whole of history, the recognition of ‘undeniable’ skills often comes after the life time of the writer (or artist), alas.

      • I agree with you wholeheartedly; I know that many writers with influential friends have had their success ‘manufactured’ for them. This isn’t particularly even a feature of our own time. You need to think only of names like Nahum Tate or Alfred Noyes, who were much celebrated in their own day and have now either dropped out of favour or been ridiculed by succeeding generations. At least today there are many more people who are truly interested in real talent. Today’s writers who aren’t born with the proverbial silver spoon don’t have to spend their lives trying to gain admission to a single elite literary coterie, though unfortunately such coteries still flourish. But I take your point: would John Kennedy Toole still have won the Pulitzer for ‘A Confederacy of Dunces’ if he had still been alive?

      • katelaity says:

        And would we know the name William Blake had he not be retrieved from the ashes of history? We create because we must, but most of us have to mortgage some portion of our days to obtaining the filthy lucre by other means.

      • Ah, yes, I’m all there with you. Real life has a nasty habit of creeping in!

  • […] to feeling more than a little doubtful of becoming ‘big’ in any meaningful way — or that it’s much of a likelihood for anyone, for that matter. The current state of publishing is not proving a lucrative one for any but a […]

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