Thursday 8th October is this year’s Super Thursday, with an eye-popping 503 hardback titles due for release to capitalise on Christmas trading. The autumn publishing programme has been greeted with enthusiasm by retailers, with one declaring it “the best in years”, while a ”compelling” cookery selection, strong children’s brands, vlogger superstars and booming adult colouring books are among the tips for ideal Christmas gifts.
On Super Thursday itself, a host of big-name authors—including George R R Martin, Brian Blessed, Sir Tom Jones, Nigella Lawson, Robert Harris, Sue Perkins, P J Harvey and Bernard Cornwell—bring out their Christmas offerings. And for a second year running, the Booksellers Association will add to the momentum and profile of the day by launching its industry- wide Books are My Bag autumn campaign to coincide.
For Melissa Cox, Waterstones’ head of range and children’s, the autumn is so strong that “although 8th October has been designated Super Thursday there is scarcely a week that passes from the end of August onwards where there isn’t at least a dozen fantastic books being published. For us, it is looking like a superior schedule to 2014.”
Foyles head of buying Jasper Sutcliffe has described it as “the best autumn publishing programme the book reading public will have seen in years.” Sainsbury’s too is “very excited”, with senior book buyer Kearan Ramful saying: “Book sales have picked up strongly across the market as well as for us, so we’re really pleased more people are enjoying reading.” Alastair Aldous, trading controller for adult books at W H Smith (WHS), agreed, calling it an “encouraging” line-up with “a good cross-section of publishing, covering all genres”.
From screen to page
Young YouTube vloggers are expected to hold their own alongside seasoned household names in the celebrity market, as publishing in the area “goes down the age range”, as Head of Zeus c.e.o. Amanda Ridout put it. Mari Evans, deputy m.d. of Headline, which publishes vlogger Marcus Butler, said: “ We feel like our celebrity vlogger strand is really working. The events have been massive. I don’t see any signs of it slowing down with the right person and the right campaign.”
Aldous confirmed WHS’ customers were “excited about the plethora of vloggers”, as well as more traditional biographies from the likes of Jones and Guy Martin. Meanwhile Sutcliffe predicted that Sue Perkins, Steve Coogan and Sir Alex Ferguson would “fight it out for the celebrity biography of the year”.
Cookery continues to be one of the most tightly fought genres in non-fiction, with new books due from Nigella Lawson, Nigel Slater, Jamie Oliver and Rick Stein, and restaurants Nopi and Spuntino. Ramful said that the cookery offer “looks more compelling this year”, while Katharine Fry, trade buying manager at Blackwell’s, said: “There’s a great selection of strong cookery titles, with all the key names for our market releasing within six weeks of one another. Traditionally [Yotam] Ottolenghi has been the bestselling author for our market.”
Cox added: “The raft of [cookery] publishing this year is hugely encouraging . . . everyone looks forward to a new Jamie Oliver.”
But for Daunt Books manager Brett Wolstencroft, the big celebrity chef boom “is over”. He explained: “Polpo and Honey & Co are huge for us. So while you still need a new Nigella on your tables, it is less important on its own than having a wide variety of cookery books on offer.”
Elsewhere in non-fiction, many are backing Bill Bryson’s The Road to Little Dribbling (Transworld) to be a festive hit.
Wolstencroft said it “will be huge for [Daunt Books]” and Fry described it as “a major player”. Cox said it was one of the Super Thursday releases that Waterstones was “most excited about”.
There has also been praise for the strength of the autumn’s fiction releases, with a slew of titles from literary big hitters due out in October, and the new Robert Galbraith and David Lagercrantz’s Millennium novel, The Girl in the Spider’s Web (Quercus), are sure to garner headlines.
Sutcliffe described it as “an embarrassment of riches”, with new novels from the likes of Jeanette Winterson and Margaret Atwood, plus “titles from the cult author Patrick DeWitt, Costa and Baileys Prize-winner Ali Smith, David Mitchell, Orhan Pamuk and the incredible collection of short stories from Lucia Berlin, as well as new stories from Robert Harris, Salman Rushdie, Sebastian Faulks and Jonathan Franzen.”
Publisher Ridout observed “a solid and good autumn, with lots of new books from the big, established, commercial writers.” Wolstencroft said: “Pat Barker, William Boyd and [Lagercrantz’s Millennium novel] are all published very close together, so those will be huge days for us.”
In children’s, Fry said: “We know the big names of Walliams, Kinney and Pichon will dominate in the children’s categories, but the trend of quality children’s non-fiction continues across multiple lists and is perfect for our market.” Sutcliffe praised “a huge depth in range and quality”, from the blockbuster brands to more niche titles such as L is for London by Paul Thurby (Hodder Children’s).
Books are my Christmas bag
The BA’s Books Are My Bag (BAMB) activity will include 4,000 limited edition Grayson Perry-designed tote bags, available exclusively from bookshops across the UK and Ireland, with Lauren Child’s Charlie and Lola to feature on the children’s bag.
In-store BAMB events such as Big Bookshop Parties will return on 10th October, with bookshop windows transformed by top illustrators. There will also be a series of bookshop events with authors including Martina Cole, Alex T Smith and Steve Antony, and the first ever Books Are My Bag calendar, with leading illustrators contributing special drawings to the project.
Wolstencroft said: “This is the year that BAMB is really getting traction with the public. The most important part of Super Thursday for us is being able to promote bookshops to the public. A lot of heavy book-buyers will already know that these big books are being released but now I think it is also focusing other people’s minds on the season, which is fantastic.”
Grayson Perry urged the public: "Pop in to your local bookshop. Book people are nice people and bookshops have become more than a place to buy books. In many small communities they are a valuable social hub for like-minded folks. But don't forget to buy a book too!"
Photo credit to Sidey Clark.