Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fisking North & South: the final episode

Further to six previous posts – most recently this one which links to all the others – fisking North & South’s ridiculous claim that “most New Zealand fiction sells a mere 300 copies” and “most New Zealand novels struggle for recognition and sales” because the book-buying public is not interested in our literary fiction, here is Nielsen BookData’s list of NZ fiction bestsellers for 2011:

1. The Conductor, Sarah Quigley
2. The Larnachs, Owen Marshall
3. Hand Me Down World, Lloyd Jones
4. The Hut Builder, Laurence Fearnley
5. The Parihaka Woman, Witi Ihimaera
6. Mr Pip, Lloyd Jones
7. As the Earth Turns Silver, Alison Wong
8. Hokitika Town, Charlotte Randall
9. The 10pm Question, Kate de Goldi
10. La Rochelle’s Road, Tanya Moir

Back in August I had the sales figures for the fiction bestsellers to July. That list is almost exactly the same, except now Witi Ihimaera’s The Parihaka Question replaces Hamish Clayton’s brilliant Wulf:

1. Hand Me Down World, Lloyd Jones            1955
2. The Conductor, Sarah Quigley                     1617
3. As the Earth Turns Silver, Alison Wong        960
4. Hokitika Town, Charlotte Randall                  839
5. The Larnachs, Owen Marshall                       807
6. Mister Pip, Lloyd Jones                                 807
7. La Rochelle’s Road, Tanya Moir                    804
8. Wulf, Hamish Clayton                                     681
9. The Hut Builder, Laurence Fearnley               675
10. The 10pm Question, Kate de Goldi              669

I noted then that:
Mister Pip was published in 2006, The 10pm Question in 2008, As the Earth Turns Silver in 2009, Hand Me Down World and The Hut Builder in 2010. They have all probably sold a few copies before. Truckloads, in some cases. The Hut Builder will inevitably sell loads more in the next six months because it won the fiction prize in this year’s NZ Post Book Awards. 
Of the 2011 novels, Hokitika Town was published in February, La Rochelle’s Road in April, The Conductor in May, The Larnachs in June and The Parihaka Woman in October. Which means that The Conductor and The Parihaka Woman must have sold astoundingly well in the last seven and three months respectively.

The point of the North & South article seemed to be that we don’t buy New Zealand literary fiction – but on this list of 2011 fiction bestsellers (which doesn’t include the Christmas rush) nine of the 10 are literary. I’d be very happy to see more genre titles up there but still it is nice to see that we do, in fact, buy New Zealand literary fiction. Case closed.

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