Hazel McHaffie

bestseller lists

Lost in the avalanche

A fair chunk of this week could be labelled as ‘stock-taking’. The sixth novel just out … the next one finished … the eighth well on its way … where next? I blame the dawn chorus – it seems to reach an astonishing crescendo at 4am and acts as an most reliable alarm clock. Thereafter I lie in bed reflecting … and counting questionmarks … and somehow idle thoughts have a habit of turning into heavy duty contemplation.

Stats don’t help. Did you know that over 130,000 new titles were published last year in the UK alone? Hard to picture that number, isn’t it? Of course, set against calamities like the current serious repercussions from the budget, and more deaths in Afghanistan, and England’s comprehensive trouncing by the Germans, this news is small fry, but for a writer it’s a significant statistic. How is anyone going to notice my little books in that avalanche?

Remember RememberSo it was especially gratifying to learn that Waterstone’s in Princes Street made a bit of a feature of Remember Remember on one of their internal displays – of their own volition, I might add; no financial incentive from the publisher. I didn’t actually see it but someone in the book business told me about it. I’m not too proud to have sneaked in specially to stand and stare, (and taken a snapshot for you,) had I known, but by the time my spies reported, the store had moved on to their next feature.

It’s a funny old career, mine. And as Andrew Rosenbeim, Editor of The Author (the official journal of The Society of Authors) says: ‘Trying to make a living by writing … requires a skill set that isn’t gifted on birth, a persistence that would deter most, and a commitment which, oddly (considering that writing is about communication) is almost impossible to convey.’

The advice generally handed out for nothing: Don’t give up the day job! Having already given mine up a few years ago, I need to periodically review progress and weigh up options. Hence this week’s naval gazing.

Oh, I nearly forgot … I learned this week (from Amanda Ross writing in The Sunday Telegraph) that some publishers and editors pay to get their books onto lists – yes, as in greasing palms with real filthy lucre. And there was I taking the statistics re bestsellers on trust! I’m sure there’s a moral lurking there somewhere.

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