In a piece in the New York Times snappily entitled ‘Puttin’ Off the Ritz – The New Austerity in Publishing’, the literary agent Binky Urban was quoted as saying: “Books can only support a certain retail price. It’s not like you have books that can be Manolo Blahniks and books that can be Cole Haan. Books are books. A book by James Patterson costs the same as a book by some poet.’
No, that’s not true, either for the publisher or the public. How many poets receive the same advance as Patterson? In the UK, a James Patterson paperback will be discounted, almost as a matter of course; a Faber poetry title will not be. Poetry is a specialist interest for which it is possible to charge more. It is one area – and how booksellers wish there were more of them – where it is possible to sell titles at full price.