Enright trumps Guinness in Ireland

<p>Christmas in Ireland is a nervous time. Books come into the stores in October and wait for the rush that always seems to come later than expected. This year is no exception, but the trade has now seen four weeks of rising sales (from &pound;2.8m four weeks ago to &pound;3.1m in the week ending 17th November): most retailers would say that the Christmas shopping has started, not in a huge way, but at least it has begun and the mood seems positive.</p>
<p>UK readers will be intrigued to learn that the market is being led by a literary title, Anne Enright's Man Booker- winning <i>The Gathering</i>, published in Ireland by Cape as a trade paperback. Enright's book has sold a fairly stunning (for literary fiction) 13,000 or so copies in the four weeks ending 17th November, according to Nielsen, more than 4,000 ahead of <i>Guinness World Records 2008</i>, which reigns unchallenged in the UK.</p>
<p>From an Irish perspective, it would be nice to see this as a year when Irish publishing did well, but that is not always the case. Enright's book heads a fiction top 10 dominated by Irish authors but not by Irish publishers, a scenario that encapsulates many of Ireland's challenges. Our leading authors tend to publish in Ireland until they are sufficiently well known to attract a UK or US publisher, and then depart for more lucrative fields. One can hardly blame them, but it is frustrating as a publisher.</p>
<p>The competition from the multinationals is huge (especially those with their own Irish imprints), and the discounts are not helping smaller publishers.</p>
<p>Ireland's two biggest booksellers, Hughes &amp; Hughes and Eason's, are discounting heavily. Both are running three-for-twos, and Eason's is running a 50% discount offer on bestselling titles. It may not be as pronounced here as in the UK (where <i>Guinness World Records 2008</i> is selling at a 50% discount versus 28% in Ireland), but as major general retailers such as Tesco and Dunnes Stores expand their book offering, many publishers fear that discounting will only increase.</p>
<p>My tip for the top is for Enright to keep selling in good numbers and for the novelty books, such as Overheard in Dublin Again, the second book based on the humourous website <a href="http://www.overheardindublin.com">www.overheardindublin.com</a>, and <i>The Feckin' Book of Everything Irish</i> (a compendium of the many books in the Feckin' series), to make the running in the final few weeks. The last title is at least an Irish book from an Irish publisher: The O'Brien Press.</p>