What Bookshops Really Sell

Those of us who don’t actually work in the book industry have probably known for a while that publishers generally pay for their books to be featured in the catalogues that bookshops distribute around Christmas time. What we may not have been quite so aware of was the contrived nature of many of the so-called “Top X” lists that also proliferate. In the Sydney Morning Herald, Susan Wyndham confirms some people suspicions with some hard data. Her example is Angus and Rovertson (surprise, surprise) and their Top 5 Lists which cost $2,000 for six months of in-store promotion:

This guarantees prominent display in A&R’s 183 stores (including franchises) and on the A&R website; staff receive a “monetary incentive” each time they sell a Top 5 title. A&R promises a sales increase of up to 300 per cent as a result.

Whilst you could argue that it’s a legitimate business practice, there’s a whiff about the lack of transparency that isn’t entirely aromatic. It seems that payola is alive and well in Australia bookselling.

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