Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Getting remaindered is not the end of the line
Seeing your book flagged up among the bin-ends can't be much fun, but bleaker things can happen

Going down in the world .. remaindered books. Photograph: Felix Clay

Clive James' poetry has just been published in the US for the first time and this weekend the New York Times was paying particular attention to his piece of literary schadenfreude The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered. The first stanza was reproduced in full:

"The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am pleased.
In vast quantities it has been remaindered.
Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized
And sits in piles in a police warehouse,
My enemy's much-praised effort sits in piles
In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs.
Great, square stacks of rejected books and, between them, aisles
One passes down reflecting on life's vanities,
Pausing to remember all those thoughtful reviews
Lavished to no avail upon one's enemy's book —For behold, here is that book
Among these ranks and banks of duds,
These ponderous and seemingly irreducible cairns
Of complete stiffs."

James might have missed out on the A$100,000 winning the Australian prime minister's literary award would have brought him, but this poem surely deserves a bitchiness prize.

But remaindering - when publishers sell books at massively reduced prices to bargain shops who then offer them at knockdown discounts - happens to most authors at one point or another, whether they are the duds of James's poem or not.
Read the full story on remaindering from The Guardian blog.

1 comment:

Local Reader said...

I always thought that poem of his displayed no more than his ignorance of publishing and his spiteful nature.

Publishers are so quick to decide to remainder (speed up the last trickle of warehouse stock) these days that remaindering has become almost the norm for all but the most popular of books. It's modern retailing, Clive, not literary judgement, that produces remainders. It's not a mark of failure.

All remaindering indicates is that the publisher has been over-optimistic and got the edition size ever so slightly wrong.