Once a year, the book trade contrives to produce a genuinely exciting consumer event and once a year, without fail, the trade contrives to ignore it.
It's not as if Super Thursday is hard to predict. It happens naturally, a serendipitous byproduct of the trade releasing books on one or two Thursdays a month, and September having become the key pre-Christmas release month.
It's easy to get lost in a thicket of Nielsen data, but the key fact is that today some 200 hardbacks will be launched simultaneously: books that will make or break Christmas for publishers large and small. We know this is of interest to the public because, since we first identified the phenomenon in 2008, it has become of considerable interest to the wider media, with The Bookseller approached—quite unprompted—so far this week by the Daily Telegraph, the Independent and various arms of the BBC.
So we have a vast range of important hardbacks arriving in the market, buoyed by a wave of mass media interest, and the trade (specifically retailers) manifestly fails to score in an open goal. Is there one publisher or retailer doing a single thing to promote the most important day of the year for releases? After all the headscratching and bellyaching over World Book Night, in which the trade is happy to give away books for nothing, a day when it tries to sell books slips by with a collective shrug of the shoulders. Perhaps the trade could look across the Channel for inspiration. France's La Rentrée is an annual autumn event.
The trade needs to wake up. Consumers are under acute and growing financial pressure, with essential bills for fuel, food and energy all rising above inflation. The average family food bill is up £14 a week this year, about the actual cost of many a new hardback. Marketing skills are woefully inadequate, and quick wins to build consumer excitement about books cannot be missed because of ignorance and ineptitude.