Despite continuing uncertainties over Brexit, publishers will arrive in Bologna next week buoyed up by strong results for the UK children’s market which is up 3.5% by value and 1% by volume for the first 11 weeks of the year, compared to the same period a year ago. This follows equally positive news from Waterstones and Foyles – the latter reporting pre-tax profits up ten-fold – not to mention that ringing endorsement from Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe on the eve of Article 50 being triggered: “The UK has a phenomenal creative industry. I can only urge the UK to build and maintain this powerhouse.”
In discussing Foyles’ results Chief Executive Paul Currie praised the mini-chain’s in-house sales education programme run by its Head of Customer Experience, Jeanette Cross. It is not often – or even ever – that words like mindfulness and compassion are used when discussing retail, but they are part of Foyles’ approach to the shopfloor and demonstrate how the physical world is asserting itself alongside the digital. Foyles’ sales education programme champions four values: ‘mindfulness’ re customer service; ‘currency’ with regard to being up to speed on book trends; ‘eagerness’ to share book knowledge and information; and ‘consideration’ and ‘compassion’ towards customers.
But digital can also be used to champion physical too, as in HarperColllins’ Facebook Live initiative that began last month and is on its way to sharing 50 indie booksellers’ Facebook Live videos in 50 weeks. Also, Buxton Village Books in Buxton, North Carolina, has been running what it believes to be the first Facebook Live online book club, which has seen author Wallace J Nichols read from his Blue Mind study of the benefits of being ‘near, in, on, or under’ water every day for 67 days. Store owner Gee Russell said: “I especially love it that using this new-ish media conveys that we indies are not fading but thriving and current.”
As the build-up to the British Book Awards (BBA) continues, the Australian Book Industry Awards has announced its own long list. Under International Book of the Year, two titles share listings in both awards: Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run (Simon & Schuster Australia) which is shortlisted under Non-Fiction: Narrative at the BBA, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Little Brown, Hachette Australia) which is under Children’s at the BBA. Other titles longlisted in the ABIA International Book of the Year category are Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad (Fleet, Hachette Australia), Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth (Bloomsbury) and Ian McGuire’s The North Water (Scribner, Simon & Schuster Australia), the latter a particular favourite of Waterstone MD James Daunt.
Congratulations to Kelly Falconer of London’s Asia Literary Agency who, along with the Shanghai Translation Publishing House and Jean-Claude De Crescenzo of France’s De Crescenzo publishers, has just received one of three Outstanding Service Awards given by the Literature Translation Institute of Korea. The award ‘recognises scholars, publishers and organisations who have contributed to the globalisation of Korean literature’.
There were understandably strong words from American Library Association President Julie Todaro following President Trump’s proposal to eliminate the Institute of Museum and Library Services which was due to receive $230m. She called the proposals “counterproductive and short-sighted”, adding: “America’s more than 120,000 public, school, college and university and many other libraries are not piles of archived books. They’re trusted centres for education, employment, entrepreneurship and free inquiry at the core of communities in every state in the country – and in every Congressional district. And they’re staffed by the original search engines: skilled and engaged librarians.”
Mention a single title making all the difference and one automatically thinks of fiction like Girl on a Train, Cursed Child etc etc. But in Canada it was a book of poetry. One title was responsible for a 79% increase in sales of poetry books in 2016. Milk and Honey is the debut collection of the Canadian feminist poet Rupi Kaur whose sales are almost certainly connected to social media. She has been posting her work on Instagram for some time – she is dubbed an ‘instapoet’ – and came to the attention of Andrews McMeel which has had much success with the book.
Meanwhile, one author who has been receiving saturation coverage in the UK is George Saunders, whose novel Lincoln in the Bardo has just been optioned for a film. This week one is tempted to imagine a UK version – Theresa in the Bardo perhaps – with the UK Prime Minister visiting a Brussels graveyard at night to hold in her hands….well, you decide what she might be holding.