discussions writing & publishing

World Book Night Sales

I found this interesting: the books that were to be given away for free for World Book Night have seen a big spike in sales.

But Poulter said there was a crisis caused by the “devaluation” of books and criticised the free give-away. He said: “We spend our entire day sharing our passion for books with our customers, but we have to be a business, we have to survive.” But Byng said it was “readers” who sold books, and that WBN would be “driven by passion, and that is very infectious”. Waterstone said he did not agree with Poulter, adding he would like to see the promotion return next year, only better: “Jamie is doing a fantastic job getting books out there. The book market is not a finite market, introduce people to reading, and they’ll then buy other books.”

The Nielsen BookScan data is the first hint that Byng’s view that sales will increase as a result of WBN may be validated. The numbers show Muriel Spark has received the biggest recent sales boost, with The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie up 63% between February 2011 and January. Next is Alan Bennett’s A Life Like Other People’s, up 55%, and sales of Mohsin Hamed’s Reluctant Fundamentalist up 48% the third biggest sales boost.

You can see some more of the sales data on the Bookseller’s website. I utterly agree with the sentiment that it’s readers who sell books. That’s why this genre blogoshpere is so important, but – in keeping with the theme of World Book Night – sometimes it’s worthwhile preaching to the unconverted, to those who would not normally pick up a SFF novel.

That’s one of the reasons I enjoy giving talks etc to those outside the genre as much as within it. If I can convince a handful at a time that SFF is worth reading (and, as is often the case, that they’re probably already reading a lot of SFF but they just don’t realise it) they’ll help support the genre in the future.

By Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.

5 replies on “World Book Night Sales”

I note that on the article that a lot of people are grumbling about the way that the stats are being portrayed. Also mutterings that there are other factors that may account for spikes in sales. That’s all fair enough, but it’s perhaps better to consider that WBN hasn’t harmed the sales of the books?

I suppose that what we have to hope is that there’s some sort of halo effect so that over time all *waves hand* books get a boost.

I think the comment in the article is really interesting – there really are two fundamentally-differing schools of thought. You either do or you don’t believe there’s a finite market for books.

WBN has gone a long way towards exposing this idealogical split within the industry.

Richard – absolutely, but that’s difficult to persuade some folk…

Jared – the debate about a finite market is interesting. I’ve always thought that reading is fluid. People move in and out of it, move through phases of their lives, read different things in different years, grow in, grow out of it. The important thing is to get people talking about books. That dialogue is essential in growing the market for literature. That’s why the internet/computer didn’t kill the book: it merely allowed more people to talk about books, and for more ways of selling them.

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