Continuing its ongoing efforts to have a finger in every single literary pie that’s going, Amazon has now realised that it hasn’t as yet made any money from the ever popular realm of literary journals, and so has set about remedying that by preparing to make money from the ever popular realm of literary journals. The multi-hyphenate online behemoth has launched Day One in its American Kindle store, a typically ambitious weekly publication that will endeavour to highlight the work of new and emerging authors and poets.
Just as shy, sensitive souls the nation over were enjoying their moment in the sun following the sales triumph of Morrissey’s Autobiography last week, here come the sports fans to beat them back out of the spotlight and into the dark corners to which their limpid skin is more accustomed: Alex Ferguson’s My Autobiography (which, I don’t know Morrissey, kind of seems like a plagiarised title to me) has racked up first week sales that dwarf those of the indie icon, shifting a staggering 115,547 copies in the UK since going on sale last Thursday (24 October). That’s not only over three times as many copies as Morrissey’s opening salvo of 35,000 (an apt demonstration of the eternal popularity of football over all else, no matter how musos might protest), it also makes Ferguson’s memoir the fastest selling non-fiction book since records began in 1998, comfortably outpacing the 112,000 copies sold of Delia Smith’s How To Cook: Book Two in its December 1999 first week (incidentally, in one of those aforementioned dark corners some limpid-skinned sensitive soul is currently starting a band called The Delia Smiths).
In an interview with the New York Times, J.J. Abrams – creator of Lost and director of Super 8, the recent Star Trek films and the forthcoming Star Wars sequels – has spoken of how S., his collaborative novel with Doug Dorst which is published today, ‘was born out of an idea of a love story and the notion of celebrating the book as an object.’ Abrams – whose work in film and television is commonly enshrined in levels of secrecy redolent of a pre-internet age – told the Times’ Logan Hill that ‘In a digital age, it’s a distinctly analog object. It felt romantic to me.’
Driven by the dual motors of a rabidly obsessive fanbase and plenty of gawkers drawn in by its perennially publicity-generating author, Morrissey’s Autobiography has topped the Official UK Top 50 (putting it in the company of Meat Is Murder, Viva Hate, Vauxhall and I and Ringleader of the Tormentors in the Moz corpus). Since its release last Thursday (17 October) the book has sold 34,918 copies (and will probably have crossed the 35,000 mark by the time this post goes live). That means that not only is it the biggest selling title in the UK this week – beating the second week of Helen Fielding’s Mad About the Boy, down to 32,172 copies from its opening week of 48,750 – but it has beaten the 28,213 copies shifted by Keith Richards’ Life in its 2010 first week to become the fastest selling music memoir since records began (although that was only in 1998, and so discounts the massive success of Cilla Black’s 1985 blockbuster Step Inside). Morrissey also recorded the biggest first week sales for a memoir of any kind since the 72,500 copies sold of Kate McCann’s Madeleine in the week beginning 12 May 2011.
Today in news I’ve stared at for a good half hour and still can’t believe is actually happening: next week David Beckham will launch his latest book, the self-titled David Beckham, his fourth volume of memoirs and his first since 2003′s Beckham: Both Feet on the Ground (so watch out Donna Tartt, looks like you’re not the only one publishing this fortnight with a decade’s worth of anticipation behind you). That’s not so unbelievable in and of itself as far as these things go (although michty me, the fourth) but it’s being launched amidst a tsunami of meaningless PR speak lacking the soulful charm of the carnival hucksters to whose spirit it seemingly aspires. Again, not so unbelievable, but this is a particularly pernicious exercise in bilking the public: in what is being billed as a ‘global digital book signing‘, Beckham will sit in a room in central London, whilst ticket winners (ticket winners!) from London, New York, Hyderabad and Sao Paolo receive personalised digital signatures from him, of the kind that could in no way be made up by a lackey with access to Google Images and photo editing software. Just think – in years to come, these lucky ticket winners can tell their grandchildren that they too once saw David Beckham from thousands of miles away on a computer screen, just like everyone else on the planet did thousands of times between 1997 and 2034, when the Great Apple War conclusively wiped out all technology more advanced than the spork. Note, in all of this, that no actual books will themselves be signed.
If all the superlatives thrown at Eleanor Catton’s Booker win (longest book ever to win, youngest author ever to win), the universal warm fuzzy feelings engendered by Alice Munro’s Nobel win and the obligatory contrarian repudiation of at least one of those by Bret Easton Ellis weren’t enough to tip you off, we are firmly into end-of-year awards season, which continues apace with the announcement of this year’s National Book Awards shortlist. The annual awards, presented by the American non-profit National Book Foundation, consider nominees in fiction, non-fiction, poetry and young people’s literature, and this year sees some particularly well-known candidates.
WH Smith yesterday took down its website in reaction to the weekend discovery that it was amongst a number of digital retailers – also including Amazon and Barnes & Noble – selling
William Faulkner novels self-published pornography featuring depictions of incest, rape and bestiality. Instead of the usual shopfront, visitors to the Smith site were greeted by a holding page featuring a statement from the business saying ‘a number of unacceptable titles were appearing on our website through the Kobo website that has an automated feed to ours’. WH Smith, of course, takes both its e-book hardware and software from the Canadian e-reader manufacturers, including its massive library of titles, which in this case appears to have passed to the Smith site without any vetting along the way.
Clearly feeling threatened by others edging in on its whole ‘selling books at unsustainably low prices’ thing, Amazon has started to price-match Sainsbury’s October e-book promotion, which sees the supermarket selling a shifting variety of popular titles digitally for 99p each. The promotion, which began last week, features a selection of one day only special offers that changes every weekday, alongside a stock of dozens of other titles that will remain at the reduced price for the whole month. Yesterday’s (October 9th) daily titles included David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, Sarah Winman’s When God Was A Rabbit and John Banville’s Booker-winning The Sea, all of which were subsequently brought down to 99p on Amazon too. The title with the largest discount was Bridget Asher’s The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted, down £6 from its usual Sainsbury’s retail price of £6.99.
The Dylan Thomas Prize, rewarding published work written in English by authors under the age of 30, has revealed its shortlist for 2013, with nominees spanning novels, books of short stories and collections of poetry. Not only is it the longest shortlist in the prize’s history (citing seven titles of the twelve longlisted as opposed to the prize’s usual five or six), but even more encouragingly every nominee both comes from an independent publisher and is a debuting writer. So, uh, yeah, what have you done lately, other than weep yourself to sleep at the incessant forward march of time and your lack of anything substantial to show for it oh look still typing whoops.
Mega-selling thriller writer Tom Clancy has died, of undisclosed causes, in hospital in his hometown of Baltimore, following a short illness. He was 66, and is survived by his wife and five children (four from a previous marriage). 17 of his 18 novels reached number one on the New York Times bestsellers list, and 100 million copies of those novels are in print. Command Authority, his 19th (co-written with Mark Greaney, who also worked with Clancy on his prior two novels), is due for publication on 3 December.