Tacitus Schmacitus

Scott Pack replies to a Guardian piece by Stuart Jeffries that (accord­ing to Scott; I haven’t read it) is anoth­er ‘why can’t book­shops be like the old days’ art­icle.

Among oth­er things, Scott writes:

Less than a dec­ade ago it would have been pos­sible to walk into a branch of Waterstone’s, espe­cially some of the London shops, and ask for the best­selling book in the coun­try only to dis­cov­er that they didn’t stock it because ‘it wasn’t our sort of thing’. I remem­ber an occa­sion when one branch refused to unpack a sci­ence fic­tion pro­mo­tion because ‘our cus­tom­ers don’t like sci fi’. The same shop would com­plain whenev­er we ran a Jacqueline Wilson offer as ‘she’s a ter­rible writer and our cus­tom­ers can’t stand her’. I am not mak­ing any of this up. Is this what Jeffries wants? Really?

I’m not entirely con­vinced that this is a bad thing. When — years ago now — I was hawk­ing my own book around branches of Waterstone’s, I had assumed (along with the pub­lic, I think) that such book­shops are essen­tially autonom­ous. However, on every occa­sion, I was told that the manager/manageress lacked the power to make buy­ing decisions (or was too wor­ried to exer­cise it), even when the decision centred on four or five books of a loc­al author. So if there was a time when the man­agers of Waterstone’s branches were less tim­id, I’d say wind­ing the clock back would be no bad thing.

He goes on to say:

Waterstone’s has branches in towns across the land. In some of these places a new Andy McNab nov­el will sell 20 or 30 times more than a new Martin Amis. The stock and mer­chand­ising of the shop should reflect that.

Which I agree with. I can’t stand Martin Amis and thor­oughly enjoyed Bravo Two Zero when I was a teen­ager.

There is an inter­est­ing ques­tion at the heart of this debate. What do you or I want in a book­shop? Personally, I don’t really want book­shops at all. I want the recom­mend­a­tions of my friends and a web browser that gets me to Amazon.

Literature and the shops that sell it are two dis­so­ci­able entit­ies. As are, I think, words and books them­selves.

Tacit agree­ment | theBookseller.com

★ Don’t f*ck with the Pack

Scott Pack, pub­lish­er with The Friday Project (HarperCollins), has a blog on which he provides bet­ting tips, reviews, and snip­pets of news relat­ing to the pub­lish­ing industry. His reviews are often detailed. Sometimes they are short. One of his short reviews was read by the author and storm of tea-cup sized pro­por­tions has broken out.

Oh dear. I seem to have upset someone with one of my reviews.

Continue read­ing “★ Don’t f*ck with the Pack”