Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sorry Andrew, no

We all love Profile founder Andrew Franklin - his bicycle clips, his brilliant, idiosyncratic list and his wit. But he's talking nonsense in Profile's Autumn 2009 catalogue. He writes: 'These are very difficult times everywhere but book sales are holding up pretty well. The numbers suggest that where book sales are suffering it is the celeb, biographies and other such drek that people are turning away from.'

But celeb titles are selling well, as Philip Stone, Charts Editor at the Bookseller pointed out last December (http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/72749-celebrity-backlash.html) : 'In the wider market, celeb memoirs have never performed better', he wrote, noting that five titles had passed the 200,000 mark by 6 December, compared with just one the previous year.

Are book sales holding up well? It all depends how you define 'well'. According to Nielsen, book sales dropped by 0.4% in 2008, although admittedly, to the eight weeks to the end of 21 February 2009 sales grew by 0.1% on the same period last year. Let's hope that tiny growth continues.

Can Franklin really be dismissing all biographies, as he seems to suggest? What, even Hugh Brogan's Alexis de Tocqueville, published by, er Profile, and listed on p24 of the catalogue?

Time to sack Profile's proof-reader, I feel. Surely what he meant to write was this: 'The numbers suggest that where books sales are suffering it is the celeb' biographies and other such drek that people are turning away from'. (my italics)

Punctuation. Such tiny, tiny pieces of print, but so, so crucial.

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