'What are these lists good for?'
And how 2014 of The Bookseller staff to have asked itself this. It has been a very "wait a minute, what are we doing?" kind of year in publishing. And not always a lot of answers at the ready. Or maybe too many answers at the ready, no way to tell which one was right.
In his intro to The Bookseller's team's highlights and the overall top-flyers, my colleague Tom Tivnan writes:
Until last year, in its previous 155 years, The Bookseller eschewed this kind of listing, partially because it was felt that, as the august Organ of the book trade, we were to be somewhat above the fray and should not be picking favorites. Yet this was something of a false distinction. Week in and week out, we flag up some books more than others -- whether in the regular previews or by simply reporting which books are performing better commercially. But The Bookseller's focus needs to be different that other "books of the year" lists. It has to be one that is useful. We want it to be used by publishers, librarians and, most crucially, booksellers in the run-up to Christmas, to drive add-on sales.
I like several things about what Tivnan is saying there, not least the way he helps remind us that The Bookseller is industry-facing and that, despite the fact that fairness is critical, its mission is to help with trade sales. It is The Bookseller, after all, not The Booklover, although the distinction can at times escape some readers, I think.
But Tivnan goes on:
That is not to say the focus is strictly commercial. We are confident that most booksellers know that in the next couple of weeks there will be bewildered parents stumbling into their shop, desperately looking for a book by someone called "Zoella." With the top 10 lists from our team, we have flagged up the books we loved in 2014, but [also] ones that are bubbling under the surface, which deserve Christmas sale success.
Under Tivnan's and Philip Jones' direction, the staff then goes on -- "with the same overall impetus of driving sales" -- to break out Top-5 lists for specific bookstore sections -- those "ticklers."
Sixty-six of the 120 Bookseller Books of the Year entries were written by women.
I'll write that again for you: 66 of the 120 Bookseller Books of the year entries were written by women. More than half.
And our group of previewers and editors -- you can see their names below -- comprises six women and two men.
Breakdown of the bigs: PRH: 32 of 120 | Hachette 24 of 120 | Pan Mac 12 of 120 | HarperCollins 12 of 120
Among the independents: Faber pulls in with seven nods, Canongate with five, and Profile with four.
Favourites of the staff
If you follow us regularly -- and of course you do -- you may also like what is my favourite area of the Books of the Year edition, the staffs' picks. Here are Top 10s from:
- Alice O'Keeffe, our fiction previewer
- Fiona Noble, children's previewer
- Anna James, editor of We Love This Book
- Felicity Wood, deputy features and supplements editor
- Caroline Sanderson, non-fiction and Independent Author previewer
- Cathy Rentzenbrink, paperback previewer
- Tivnan, who is our features and insight editor
- John Lewis, our charts editor
Having had an early look, I can tell you that what our staffers have chosen is not always what you might expect. Tivnan is right -- the drive is commercial but the choices have as much to do with real depth and literary (of all stripes) value as they do with what's going on at the cash register.
And younger writers may want to hold down the noise about having a hard time getting noticed. As Wood writes:
From Zoella to Lena Dunham, 2014 was the year of the Millennials -- and it looks as though they are not going anywhere. Expect more book deals with young YouTubers and clever "voice of a generation" twentysomethings in 2015.
Sorry about that outburst, I don't know what came over me.
Where were we? Ah, right:
In a journalist's aside, may I just add that it's damned good to be working with a medium that has 155 years behind it and is still vibrantly and busily functioning? This is not, I'm sorry to say, the way of the media world in too many cases, and as great as the strides in digital have been, we've seen too many news media go under -- whether specialised to a trade like The Bookseller or general-news.
Here at The FutureBook, as at mother Bookseller, books are our focus, and the trade is our proud arena. But I'll just add that my pick, with all biases flying, is The Bookseller, herself. It's a good thing to run with such longevity and to watch a team as capable and serious as this one keeping such a fine old flame alive.
Join us each Friday for our #FutureChat with The FutureBook's digital community at 4 p.m. London (GMT), 5 p.m. Rome, 11 a.m. New York, 8 a.m. Los Angeles.
Main image - Shutterstock: Vadim Kozlovsky