The Booksellers Association has said retailers must respect publishers' embargoed release dates, after it emerged pre-embargo sales of Martina Cole's The Faithless (Headline) cost her the number one spot in this week's Bookseller Official UK Top 50—despite her biggest ever first week sale.
The Faithless sold 31,136 copies in its opening week in stores, while Terry Pratchett's Snuff (Transworld) sold 31,904 copies, outstripping Cole by 768 copies in the week ending 22nd October.
However, 1,473 copies of The Faithless were sold in the week ahead of its release—had those sales been able to be counted in its legitimate opening week, the title would have pipped Snuff to the top spot.
BA head of trade and industry Sydney Davies said he would "hardly call it fair" when a retailer breaks an embargo. He said: "They should abide by the embargo and not gain a commercial advantage, that's the whole point . . . [but] we are not the police. It's a publisher's contract and they are the ones that should enforce it."
Headline UK and international sales director Aslan Byrne said: "Everyone in the trade understands and appreciates the importance of embargoes on big titles so it is unfortunate when, despite everyone's best intentions, some books are sold early, especially if those early sales have an impact on the bestseller list."
Cole's agent Darley Anderson said the embargo breaking was neither fair on the industry nor Cole. He said: "But there are so many things that aren't fair. This is not a fair industry . . . It's a bloody minefield."
However, he did not single out a culprit for breaking the embargo. He said: "There's always been leakage; in my entire time in publishing people have put out books early, and if you've got the new Martina . . . it's human nature."