A little genius for the impulse buy

Sat, Jan 19, 2013, 00:00

WORD FOR WORD:Position is everything, as many a bishop said to many an actress – but, in this case, sage advice from my publisher to have our book appear facing out on bookshelves at eye level. I say “our” book because he takes the financial risk to match my labour.

Neither of us needed to be told about impulse buying, as anyone with even a passing interest in the supermarket checkout will know that displays before the cash register are of things you forgot: batteries, mints, sticking plasters.

No less an authority than Maeve Binchy told of trawling bookshops in her early years of being published, and having no conscience about removing a Jilly Cooper at eye level, replacing it with an M Binchy from ground zero, and then placing her own book face out to catch the impulse buyer. For the rest of us ’umble scribes it is a case of trudging around the bookshops, as I have done over the last month, adroitly shifting my biography of the artist Harry Kernoff, The Little Genius, from obscure corners of the art section to biography, where it competes with such heavyweights as Tony Blair and John “the Bull” Hayes.

Of course, even face out , poor little Harry doesn’t stand much chance against Hayes or Blair or the biographies of such formidable females as Twink and Mary O’Rourke. Still, I have repositioned him in that section, on occasion alongside political tomes by and about David Norris and Enda Kenny (The Unlikely Taoiseach), confident that a biography, albeit of an artist in the Dublin of our fathers’ times, would have some appeal for the impulse buyer. As my publisher reminded me, impulse accounts for a chunk of sales coming up to Christmas, when a suddenly spotted book can solve a gift-buying problem.

As the year settles in, bookshops rearrange their wares. As one leading bookseller once told me, January means tables strategically placed by the door to catch the spenders of gift tokens.The Cecelia Aherns, Cathy Kellys and Marian Keyeses, in their blue and pink cover outfits, are used as a mother-and- daughter lure, while soppy men are expected to be grateful for the Michael Connelly and John Connolly crime gang, all purchased in the confident expectation that when it comes to holidays the gender division will unfailingly operate along those lines.

But my book has lots of pictures to show what Harry Kernoff did and who he was, as well as being aimed at those for whom text is a burden in an age of illiteracy. There, I’ve said it now; placed it face out at eye level in the struggle for a tough market in the dark weeks of January.

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