Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fisking North & South part V

Actually it’s Part VI because Part I was on 14 July, Part II was on 20 July, Part III was on 11 August and Part IV was on 16 August, but in between there was this one on 22 July. But who’s counting?

For new readers, there was a story in the August issue of North & South, a respectable national monthly magazine, which asserted that:
Most New Zealand fiction sells a mere 300 copies
This is untrue. Untrue on stilts. The assertion particularly annoyed me because it was unsourced and because people trust North & South, hence my blogging about it at some length since.

Breaking news: here are some more data points, courtesy of Kelly Ana Morey who reports that her first novel Bloom has sold 53 copies in the last six months, which she rightly says is “ not too shabby for an eight-year-old NZ novel”. (For what it’s worth, Bloom is one of my favourite NZ novels. Disclosure: I edited it. Second disclosure: editing a book does not mean that one likes it. I liked it as a reader.) 

Kelly is right that 53 copies in six months, eight years after publication, is not too shabby. She tells me that the initial 3000-copy print run sold out which would have been years ago so these recent sales are POD (print on demand), which the clever people at Penguin can do. We can all extrapolate from these figures to what the total sales might be so far. 

She says that her second novel Grace is Gone also sold out its 3000-copy print run. (Third disclosure: I edited this, and it is also one of my favourite NZ novels.)

Her third novel, On an Island, which I read in manuscript for the publisher and liked a lot but didn’t edit, sold 2000 copies. She describes this as “tanked”. I think the publisher would too.

Stop me if I am repeating myself, but this “most New Zealand fiction sells a mere 300 copies” is bullshit.

A mostly unrelated footnote:
I have been building a website for the Frank Sargeson Trust, for which I used to be a trustee, so I have been reading a lot of material by and about FS. I was astonished to learn that his book A Man and His Wife, published in 1940, was a best-seller and reprinted twice in the next four years. Total sales figures are unknown – even Michael King couldn’t find them for his biography of Sargeson – but the third print run was for 3000 copies.  


Keri H said...

MANY ANZ writers - not only in the category of genre fiction, wide as it is- can provide sales figures of way over300 per year here - and elsewhere.

Modesty forbids etc.

Stephen Stratford said...

Indeed, Keri. Many NZ writers disprove the claim in N&S. Obviously you do, but I know of many others. Modesty forbids for me too.

What annoyed me - no, one of the things that annoyed me - was that because N&S is a good magazine its readers would believe that most NZ books sold badly and would assume that was because most NZ books were crap, and as a result the readers would be less likely in a bookshop to pick up a NZ book and investigate it. I don't mind if people buy local or imported, as long as they give the local a chance.