Friday, 7 February 2014

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Thank You for the Music

Some good friends of The Literary Gift Company have just launched a musically themed gift shop. Apparently not everyone is madly interested in literature (what?) and I think there is a real gap in the market for more unusual and interesting musical gifts so I'm really looking forward to seeing this site grow! Take a look at the shop here.
Here are a few highlights:

UmbrellaHorn
Good Luck guys!

Friday, 14 June 2013

A Mug's Guide to Grammar

This is our latest WIP. Do you have any grammar grumbles that you think we should address?



Tuesday, 2 April 2013

'How do you scroll down?'

This book has been a firm favourite of ours since it was published in 2011, and happliy it is now available in paperback. 


Written and illustrated by Lane Smith It's a Book is a delightful manifesto on behalf of print in a digital age.



Featuring a monkey who just wants to read, a jackass who only likes technology and a straight talking little mouse, this book will keep you giggling with the jackass' questions of 'Does it tweet?' and the monkey's eternal answer 'No. It's a Book'.


Bizarrely, it is not available on Kindle. 
Lane Smith is, of course, the illustrator of many gorgeous books including The Stinky Cheese Man, Squids Will be Squids and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Literary Map of Ireland

I've just started drafting a literary map of Ireland; this is my sketch (above) of the far south-west, Kerry and Cork. I'd wanted to do this map for about three years, ever since I did the UK map which had Northern Ireland as a sort of isolated lump floating in the Irish Sea. This seemed a little unsatisfactory in a way - although I couldn't have mapped British literature without C S Lewis, Heaney and so on - and so I wanted to do a map that would do justice to the island as a whole.
The first problem was that I really don't know that much about Irish literature. Sure, there are a handful of names I am passionate about, but after that it's all a bit hazy. Initially I had thought I should find an expert to work with, as I had on the Wales and USA maps. That faltered a little, until I realised that I actually knew several Irish people who are complete book-fiends, and I thought perhaps I could pull them all together, pool our individual knowledge and passions, and see how far that takes us.
It's taken us further than I expected. The process is necessarily slower than working on your own, involving extra layers of passing things around for comment, but I've always enjoyed the social aspect of collaborative work; I've been involved in co-operative comics and writing projects for years. A second benefit: whilst I started this in a rather journeyman manner, it's becoming more of a labour of love as I go on, as people keep recommending new poets or writers for me to look at of whom I'd never heard. I'm hoping the map will be ready by late May; the background reading for it may never end.


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

How does 'Fifty Shades of Grey' compare with the classics of all time?

An article in this week’s Bookseller magazine gives some interesting details on sales of a perennial classic, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which make fascinating comparison with the listings of bestselling books (in the UK) from Nielsen BookScan, since their records began in 1998.

The official BookScan No.1 is Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code with 5.2 million copies, closely followed by The Official Highway Code (4.9m) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (4.5m). However, the surprise story of this year is without a doubt E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, at No.7 with 3.9m copies sold in the UK. If we, by analogy with The Lord of the Rings, consider the trilogy to be one book in three parts and combine their sales, Fifty Shades stands way out ahead in first place, having shifted a massive 8.9m copies – all the more astonishing since it was only published 8 months ago, by a previously unpublished author. No book has ever sold so quickly. If it were to continue at this rate, just in this country, it would only take three years to overtake world-wide sales of Tolstoy’s War and Peace since 1869 (roughly estimated at 80m, about the same as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and half of The Lord of the Rings’ totals). ‘All-time’ sales are notoriously difficult to assess; The Little Prince often leads these sort of listings, with estimates of 200m sales in all languages since 1943, but E. L. James has already sold 40m books across the world. If we stick with the UK BookScan charts, she as an author has still jumped from nowhere to equal 13th place since records began by volume; equal that is with Daisy Meadows of the Rainbow Magic series (over 100 titles, one plot, and an unknown number of ghostwriters). She is thus ahead of such bookselling giants as Stephen King and Roald Dahl – even Delia Smith. She has still some way to go to catch the biggest three – J. K. Rowling with 31m books, James Patterson (and his many co-authors; 71 novels in 33 years) and Roger Hargreaves (also more than 100 titles) with 16m each – but at this rate she would be in second place by next summer.

Of course, it may not last. There are signs that sales of Fifty Shades are starting to slow already, and any book may reach a saturation point. Truly long-term sellers are rare: Dave Pelzer’s A Child Called It is marginally ahead of Sebastian Faulks’ Birdsong in the listings now (both 1.2m), but I would guess that Birdsong has a better chance of still being in those lists ten years from now. Pride and Prejudice was first published in 1813 with a print-run of 1500 copies, and was itself an immediate success; it was reprinted in the same year and then again in 1817, but then slipped out of print until 1833 and did not recover in popularity until late in the century. It now sells an average of 50,000 copies a year in the UK. The real literary sensation of the 1810s however was a book much less-read now, Byron’s Childe Harold – its first edition sold out in five days, and in its first six months of life, it sold the unprecedented figure of 4500 copies. "I awoke one morning and found myself famous," he later wrote. Of course in those days, the British reading public could not number more than about 50,000 people, and each book printed is estimated to have been read by about 8 people.

These days, that is very different. The ‘reading public’ is a substantial proportion of the population, and E. L. James’s big success has been to reach outside the normal book-buying public for her readers. But books are lent around far less, and then usually only the first of a series. That Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows should be the best-seller of the Potter books attests to this; indeed it has sold over a million more copies in the UK than the ‘weakest’ seller of the set, The Prisoner of Azkaban (3.4m). It would appear that people often lent or borrowed the first three Potter books; by the end of the series everyone would buy their own. Different series follow different patterns, however. With Stieg Larsson’s Millennium books, for instance (and this pattern is also observable with Fifty Shades and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials) the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has, naturally, sold the most (2.3m). There is then a gap, as not everyone goes on to read the others, and the next two volumes sell a roughly equal amount (in this case, 1.8m). In other words, almost everyone who gets to book 2 reads book 3 also. With Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books, however, the gaps are closer, and more even. The first book IS the bestseller of the four (2.3m again), but there is less to choose between them; in this case it seems, once hooked, you are more likely to stay in.

But back to the comparison with two centuries ago. Books are cheaper in real terms now, and not just for the gentry. We buy about 200 million a year in the UK; it was 10m in 1880, and possibly 100m in total for the entire period 1600-1800. No bookseller in the 1810s would carry a new stock of any size; certainly nothing to compare with a modern Waterstones, and even then it would consist only of established sellers. The great majority of sales were direct orders, driven largely by reviews. Risks on newer authors were more likely to be taken by circulating libraries, who lent out books by the volume. Possibly the biggest difference is that the bookseller would know every book in his stock, and would probably have read every review that appeared. The booksellers themselves were taking a much smaller cut of the book’s price than they now command; and so discounting would have been laughed at as a mug’s game. That is something the book trade could do with thinking about now.