Preparing for the surprise Christmas hit
WORD FOR WORD:It’s that time of the year again when booksellers across Ireland go into panic mode because somehow, while they were looking the other way and answering questions about the effects of “them ebooks”, it’s time to pull together their Christmas book displays and decide which of this year’s seasonal titles are most likely to capture the reading public’s attention. And suddenly those titles become harder to get hold of than a self-written celebrity autobiography.
Every year there’s at least one book that seems to come from nowhere and takes everyone by surprise. Often it will be a high-quality photo book from a small publisher or a charity, of which a very limited quantity has been produced because of the high costs involved and which has then sold out to the savvy organised shoppers well before the Christmas rush has even started. Last year it was a double whammy, with Garry O’Neill’s Where Were You? book on Dublin youth culture in the 1970s and 1980s and Mark Condren’s The Guards: A Year Behind the Scenes with the Men and Women of An Garda Síochána both seeming to disappear before December had even begun, leaving booksellers desperately phoning their rivals to see if they could track down copies for loyal regular customers.
This year it’s all still wide open, but I’m expecting that surprise hit to surface, and promptly sell out, any day now.
In the meantime, at the Gutter Bookshop we’re checking lists of definite hits and possible bestsellers to make sure we’re covered with enough stock but without filling our tables with books that fail to sell and eat up valuable space and money.
This Christmas is looking strong, with a wide range of great reads across popular and literary fiction, biography, sport, history, current affairs, cookery and children’s books. A broad choice for Christmas is always preferable for bookshops, as they aren’t then dependent on just a handful of titles to deliver sales and the risk of running out of a key book is lower. But trying to find space for everything can be difficult; sometimes it feels like one of those shove-penny machines in a fairground arcade as a pile of shiny new titles pushes an existing pile off the other side of the table.
As for “them ebooks”, there are still plenty of people who delight in giving and receiving a printed book for Christmas, so Ireland’s bookshops are busy preparing, and fretting, that we’ll have the right books in the right place at the right time.
Watch Out For
The Dublin Book Festival, which continues at Smock Alley Theatre and other venues until tomorrow evening. This weekend’s speakers and readers include Roddy Doyle, John Boyne and Kevin Barry. See dublinbookfestival.com.
The voting deadline for the Irish Book Awards. To cast your online vote in 11 categories, including novels, nonfiction, children’s books, sports books and cookbooks, go to irishbookawards.iebefore midnight tomorrow. The winners will be announced on Thursday.
Readers’ Day, today’s final event of the Red Line Book Festival at the Civic Theatre Tallaght. The President, Michael D Higgins, Anne Enright and Dermot Bolger are among those appearing. See redlinebookfestival.com.