Every little helps

<p>Should authors be worried about the power of the supermarkets? There are plenty of people who will tell you they should. Every time <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/117753-supermarkets-show-most-dramatic... figures are released showing the supermarkets taking more and more of the book market</a>, writers and publishers start doing the one thing they are really good at&ndash;moaning.&nbsp; Bookshops are being destroyed, we hear. Profits wiped out. Choice restricted. And literature is being turned into just another commodity: something to stack up alongside the beans and fish fingers.</p>
<p>It is all about as predictable as a &lsquo;buy one get one free' offer on satsumas at Tesco.</p>
<p>But, in truth, writers are just revealing their own anti-business instincts&mdash;and their miserable understanding of economics. Objectively, the supermarkets are doing a great job for authors. We should be cheering them on, not knocking them down. Just take a look at the books section at your local supermarket, and ask yourself what exactly is so bad about it?</p>
<p>Supermarkets are attractive and pleasant places to shop. They are easy to get to, it's easy to park, and the staff are usually helpful. Books get a chunk of shelf space to themselves. And just about everyone goes to the supermarket once a week. Do we really imagine that all those people would be going to a bookshop that regularly?&nbsp; Of course not. The supermarkets are making sure that books are presented in an attractive way to the entire country every week.</p>
<p>Next, the prices are great. There is no point in pretending that the numbers of books people buy isn't influenced by what they cost (there's quite a good book on the subject by Adam Smith, although admittedly it's not in Asda).&nbsp; The supermarkets charge less than &pound;4 for a paperback, and you don't have to buy two or three books to get that price. It's about the same as a packet of sausages. And yet the royalty for the author is the same as if it were being sold at full price. A lot more books are going to get sold because the prices are so low, and yet the authors are making the same money on each one. . . And we're complaining?&nbsp;</p>
<p>Nor is there any actual evidence the supermarkets are damaging the specialist bookshops. Their share of the market is holding up fine. It is the old stationery shops and mail order book clubs that are suffering. Were they doing a great job of selling authors' work? Not really.</p>
<p>The market is evolving in two ways. The bookshops and the internet are supplying the enthusiasts. And the supermarkets for the casual reader, mainly interested in bestsellers.</p>
<p>The supermarkets aren't perfect. They are tough on margins. They don't have a huge range. Getting into Tesco is a bigger prize for a thriller writer like me than winning the Booker. We all have to worry what the BMFC (Big Man From Cheshunt) will make of our work. But they are expanding the market for what we do. There's nothing to moan about in that.&nbsp;</p>