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How to sell books Monday, 21 August 2006

Posted by slatingreview in News.
1 comment so far

Over at the Pacifist Guerilla there is an interview with Scott Pack, former Buying Manager at Waterstone’s, that gives you a good insight into what really sells books.

Personal recommendation, snazzy cover, review blurb: Which factors do you feel are most important between the time a customer glances at a book and the decision to purchase?

The biggest single factor has always been, and will always be, word-of mouth. Personal recommendation from a friend or someone whose opinion you respect is, more often than not, going to make you check out a book. Covers are also vital. I cannot say I know of any really bad books that were big hits purely because of great covers but I can think of dozens of great books that failed because the cover was shite. Beyond that, everything else can only contribute to a sort of cumulative effect. No one really buys a book just because of a jacket quote but it may help in making the decision.

Scott Pack’s thoughts on reviews are rather devastating when it comes to professionals.

Following on from the last question, you’ve written that you’d rather watch Dick and Dom in da Bungalow than suffer the beardophile review pages of some broadsheet newspapers. Given that such review sections are read, for the most part, by writers and other critics, how can we get the buzz about diverse new fiction titles to the reading public?

I will confess that I was being a tad mischievous with that comment but the essence was true: the broadsheets cater for such a narrow band of taste that they are largely irrelevant for most readers today. The significant and notable exception is The Times, especially on Saturday. Erica Wagner has produced a books section that celebrates all types of reading and is the single most important resource for book fans in this country. Other good places to get to hear about good books are websites such as http://www.palimpsest.org.uk/ where there is some healthy and informed debate. I also think the bookseller recommends sections in most high street stores are an honest and usually quite cutting edge selection of new and old titles.

But again, he relates it to sales and that’s what he is interested about in the end.

There was also a practical point behind my flippant comment. I was spending 3 or 4 hours every weekend reading every word of the books pages of every newspaper only to find that they had little or no impact on what people were actually buying and reading. It was taking time away from my kids and, in that respect, was a waste of that time.

Sadly, Dick And Dom In Da Bungalow is no longer with us so I will have to find another source of highbrow entertainment.

Read the whole interview.

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