Is It This Sort Of Thing That's Killing The Art Of Writing?

The British Book Awards. Now, what is the point of this? This awards list is stacked high with bestselling novelists, people who have had huge press; people who have had their books piled high in supermarkets anyway, and who are massively rich by authors' standards. Why do THEY need their books winning these awards? Why not authors who could do with the exposure? Why not give it to wonderfully gifted struggling writers, for the sake and sanity of publishing? I mean, it's not like John Grisham, Ian Rankin, Marian Keyes actually need more publicity is it?

All this is doing is streamlining the industry even more. It'll mean pushing their sales higher, forcing the mega-publisher to be only interested in getting sales of hundreds of thousands, dropping those talented midlisters. It'll mean supermarkets winning the high street battle of book selling, forcing independents and even bigger book chains to cut costs, cut quality. Vicious circle to follow.

Literary Awards: I'm all for. The Man Booker etc will often pick up a little, unknown author and plonk them in front of the world's eyes for everyone to see. Little artist gets money. Wonderful. That's the sort of thing you want. But the British Book Awards is turning into a stinking popularity contest.

Rant over. Haven't even had my coffee yet.

— Mark N


Anonymous said...

It's another case of the 'short head' of book retailing circling the wagons. Bookstores are closing down all over the place, so let's see if we can get the supermarkets to stock even more bestsellers. Short-sighted and desperate. As you say, the industry would be much better off in the long run if they promoted new talent and widened the gene pool.

Mark Newton said...

Absolutely, Ariel. I mean, I'm not against Richard and Judy, because for a while, for a short while, they popularised reading. And I suppose they still sort of do. That's a good thing.

But it's the narrow-mindedness of this, and as you say, the short-sighted attitudes, that are only going to damage what is becoming a very serious era in bookselling. What with the news of Borders possibly selling off the UK wing of it's operation, that could potentially fuel this fire even more.

- Mark N

RobC said...

The Borders issue is a separate one, I think - my knowledge is that the UK division is more profitable than many parts of the 'domestic' company, but the hassle of maintaining them (read: enforcing ridiculous corporate policies that don't translate into a non-US marketplace) is too much for a company wanting to streamline itself. Could work out well for Borders International, assuming it's not picked up by a discount retailer or WHSmiths... *shudders*

Put simply, book shops can't compete with supermarkets. Bring back the Net Book Agreement before it's too late, or at least remove the hideous discount that publishers and distributors offer to the supermarkets!