The book trade’s answer to the immediate threat of a post-referendum downturn: a new J K Rowling, or Rowling collaboration at least. With the help of fantastic enthusiasm from booksellers, rave reviews for the theatre production, and fans who in some cases have now been dressing up as Hermione or Dumbledore for the best part of two decades, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child launched with a TV news splash and stunning first-week UK print sales (847,886 units). Nielsen BookScan’s TCM has rocketed 35.5% on the same week last year, propelling the book trade into the autumn with the biggest week it has ever had in August.
In these hazily uncertain times—as one industry veteran told me this week, “We’re all pretending Brexit hasn’t happened, because...nothing’s happened”— the task will now be to carry that book buzz forward through the autumn. Not just with the “Fantastic Beasts” film tie-ins and the illustrated Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (though they will be most welcome); but range bookselling will be all the more important this year, with indie publishers saying they are feeling the hit of the falling pound.
There are now three dates specifically designed to help keep books and bookshops at the forefront of Christmas plans. A new Bookshop Day, organised by the Booksellers Association for 8th October, will kick off with parties, signings and a new Coralie Bickford-Smith-designed BAMB bag. Then there’s Super Thursday, which The Bookseller is calling for 20th October, the busy day on which a torrent of Christmas offerings (Jamie Oliver, Guy Martin, Phil Collins) appear, and which has in recent years become a reliable moment of media focus on the book trade. There’s also a return for the con- troversially named Civilised Saturday, Black Friday’s fairly-priced book trade antidote. Views are mixed on the autumn offering, with Waterstones m.d. James Daunt of the opinion that there are fewer “sure-fire easy bankers” than in previous years. But if our retail tipsters are right, Oliver could have a festive resurgence. Meanwhile, publishing likely to appeal in uncertain times is fortuitously strong this autumn: nostalgic parody (the Ladybird and Enid Blyton for Adults books), books about the Scandinavian concept of cosiness (hygge), reassuringly period crime (Anthony Horowitz, Sophie Hannah) and, of course, a curative dose of Jilly Cooper.
Benedicte Page is deputy editor of The Bookseller.