Booksellers are relying on a handful of established names to boost sales this Christmas, with little expectation of any surprise bestsellers emerging in the next few weeks.
Melissa Cox, new titles buyer at Waterstone's, said: "We already have early indications of what will do well this Christmas, including Jeff Kinney's Cabin Fever and Christopher Paolini's Inheritance. David Walliams' Gangsta Granny is another nice gift book and, I think, his best work to date."
Rachel Airey, buyer at W H Smith, said: "For us, the big authors are going to be even bigger this Christmas. That is what we have seen so far, and we expect it to continue. We don't see new names cutting through or generating much excitement." Sales for Cabin Fever reached 81,804, while Christopher Paolini's Inheritance has sold 100,984 to date.
Airey added: "People are buying books that they know. It's disappointing that new things are not taking off and that people are not taking a risk with them . . . The books are out there but the TCM numbers are way below where we would expect them to be."
It will be up to the indies to encourage a broader range of sales this season. Tony West, of the Lion and Unicorn in Richmond, predicts a good season for The Kingdom Under the Sea (Joan Aiken, Jan Pienkowski) and picture book I Want My Hat Back (Jon Klassen). Fiction including One Dog and His Boy (Eva Ibbotson) and Small Change for Stuart (Lissa Evans) are also highlighted.
Sonia Benster at The Children's Bookshop, Huddersfield, is looking "under the radar" for books missed by the chains. These include Rumer Godden's The Story of Holly and Ivey, an import from the US, and Susanne Schroder's self-published story The Donkey's First Christmas.
While the high street chains are still waiting for Christmas buying to take off, the indies are more upbeat. Vanessa Lewis at Book Nook in Brighton said: "Gift books like Brian Selznick's Wonderstruck, the pop-up Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl) and the Lost and Found pop-up (Oliver Jeffers) are selling." She added: "There's been an early surge in sales and we are quite confident about Christmas."