Snapshot for 31 August 2018

Snapshot for 31 August 2018

Demand is currently exceeding supply in the children’s market in China, according to Liying Lin, director of the Beijing International Book Fair (BIBF) which wrapped up last Saturday (25 August).  An obvious driver is the relaxation of the one-child policy which, initially means that picture books and pre-school titles are very popular but which publishers hope will have a similarly beneficial affect on older ranges as the ‘two child’ generation grows up.

Underlying the importance of the children’s market this year’s BIBF – that still sounds like the initials of a Roald Dahl book – was the first to have a dedicated children’s book stream.  None sounded more optimistic about the potential of the Chinese market than Paula Ziedna, foreign-language operations director at Usborne.  “China is one of the rare markets where there is no limit as to the topics that can sell, as the market is so huge.”

Lin also noted that western classics were popular in China, among them Jules Verne, Charlotte Bronte and Thoreau.  By coincidence, it was a quote from the latter that provided the title for a book that Quercus has been very excited about and hopes will be another Stoner.  The publisher won William Melville Kelley’s A Different Drummer in a seven-way auction.  First published in 1962 the novel’s title comes from Thoreau’s Walden. ‘If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.’

Clever move by the Shelf Awareness site to encourage readers to nominate people with bookselling experience as possible new CEOs of troubled chain Barnes & Noble.  It comes as an ugly law-suit has erupted between fired CEO Demos Parneros and the company.  Parneros is suing the chain for defamation of character.  A clear front-runner has emerged in Shelf Awareness’s poll.  She is Heidi Fairchild, who has worked for the company for 15 years and is currently at the Alpharetta, Georgia store.  “She knows bookselling from top to bottom…,” one supporter wrote.  “We need a woman who knows sales and merchandizing, knows the daily reality of how stores actually work and what corporate nonsense doesn’t work.  Barnes & Noble is people; Heidi knows this and lives this.”

Others praised her leadership skills, her wide knowledge of books and her familiarity with Barnes & Noble’s retail operations, leading another fan to observe: “The above practical characteristics, perhaps most importantly, are built upon a moral foundation of impeccable integrity and genuine caring for others.  People respect, admire, and follow a leader of such calibre.”

Another brilliant marketing campaign on twitter from President Trump, coupled with action from his lawyers Harder LLP, saw Simon & Schuster sell more than 33,000 copies in hardback of Omarosa Manigault Newman’s Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House in its first week.  True, these figures aren’t quite Fire and Fury’s levels, but it certainly wasn’t the outcome the President wanted.

Meanwhile, it is getting hard to find an industry body, anti-censorship group or authors association that hasn’t released statements critical of the President.  A joint statement published by the National Coalition Against Censorship and signed by a range of organisations including the Association of American Publishers, PEN America and the Authors Guild condemned the letter sent by the President’s lawyers to S&S.  The latter’s lawyers said the book “legitimately reports on information that is plainly newsworthy and highly relevant to matters of public concern”, and the Authors Guild said “the ability to criticize the government and its leaders lies at the essence of the First Amendment’s protection of free speech”.

There have been many tributes to the agent Michael Sissons who died at the age of 83.  Fellow agent Caroline Michel of PFD said he was “the best teacher and mentor I could ever have hoped for”.  Now that we are well into ‘the next century’, it is interesting to revisit this quote from Sissons from an interview in the Independent in 1998.  “People in all sorts of businesses are focusing on the importance of creativity. In the next century, if you fail as a nation and society to develop creative skills, you will fail utterly.  There’s anything airy- fairy about saying that, and this isn’t a covert plea for subsidy of the arts. For better or for worse, it’s a belief based on what I’ve learnt.”


Roger Tagholm writes our Snapshot of the Week.

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