Publishing needs to shout louder

<p>Interesting facts about the Booker and Richard and Judy. If you look at the 48 titles TV's golden couple listed up to the end of last year, the average sale is around 250,000. The average sale of the last five Booker winners (in paperback) is around 200,000 - but that is massively skewed by the million or so sales of <em>Life of Pi.</em> <br />
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So, on one level, being a Richard and Judy author is roughly equivalent to winning the Booker, meaning in sales terms our heroes of the sofa do in one year what it takes the Booker a decade to achieve.<br />
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No doubt some better briefed anorak will point out that I have omitted hardback but all I will say in my defence is that I stumbled across this comparison before dawn this morning in the back of a minicab on the way to a BBC studio. I also worked out that the average British author is paid less than the average check out girl in Tesco.<br />
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The BBC's Breakfast News had me in to talk about the impact of winning the Booker, which I had to gently point out to the producers was an award for literary fiction, not primarily a sales promotion. Having said that, I'm of the belief that if McEwan wins the trade will reap the benefit because he is a trusted literary brand with mass sales appeal. This fact is startlingly borne home when you look at the sales so far - well, up to mid August anyway, of the Booker dozen. <em>Chesil Beach</em> has sold 100,000; the next best, <em>The Welsh Girl</em>, has accounted for 3,400. Eight of the 13 titles had sold under 1, 000.<br />
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In the course of the interview I contrasted the role of R&amp;J and the Booker in books with the Oscars and Cannes from the world of films. The more I think about this analogy the worse it gets, but it seemed to make some sense at the time. Essentially, the Booker isn't about sales, it's about artistic merit.<br />
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But what was most interesting was the ignorance of the rest of the world about books, and the persistent myth that we are in trouble. Before the piece started, the interviewer read through her script which talked about declining book sales and bookshops closing down. When I pointed out that book sales are up this year on last, and have been every year since records began (more or less), and that more shops than ever before are selling books (if you factor in the supermarkets never mind Amazon) she was forced into a hasty rewrite. <br />
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Afterwards, we were chatting about the book trade and I pointed out that it is probably Britain's most successful creative industry, the only one in which we match the Americans, and that we are in scramble to carve up China and India.&nbsp; (I know it isn't quite as simple as this but most journalists prefer the quick headline to the in-depth analysis). All of this came as news to her, but she seemed interested and said she would discuss doing something on it with BBC World. Whatever.<br />
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I know Simon Juden at the PA shares my frustration that the book trade as a business has hidden its light under a bushel for far too long. Compared to fashion, design, film, TV,&nbsp; you name it books are far and away the UK's top creative business. It's time the mass media, and Government, woke up to the fact.</p>