Monday, December 15, 2008

Celebs still dominate Christmas
12.12.08 Graeme Neill and Victoria Gallagher writing in The Bookseller

Retailers have dubbed Barack Obama, Julie Walters (pic left with another celeb!)and Paul O'Grady as the big winners this Christmas, but said Jonathan Ross was the season's biggest loser.

Booksellers also bemoaned the lack of a surprise Christmas hit this year, such as 2007's grammar book I Before E. "The biggest surprise this year is that there hasn't been a little quirky book that has come from nowhere," said Amy Worth, lead account manager for

Retailers' predictions of success for the big celebrity memoirs by Michael Parkinson and Paul O'Grady earlier this autumn were backed by sales. Phil Edwards, senior buying manager at Gardners, said: "The favourites all worked very well this year with no dark horses."
However, some added that they were surprised by the success of books by Julie Walters and Dawn French. reported that Dear Fatty has done better than expected. David Cooke, category manager at Tesco, added: "Julie Walters has done a lot of recent television appearances and I think part of her success has been driven by sales of the "Mamma Mia!" DVD."

But celebrity memoirs failed to set independent bookshops alight. "The mass market is always a disappointment to us," said Nic Bottomley of Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath.
Literary fiction has instead been a popular stocking filler across indies, with Aravind Adiga's Man Booker Prize-winning novel, The White Tiger (Atlantic), picked by many indies as well as the other five titles shortlisted for the prize. "It was a very, very good Man Booker shortlist for independents," said Vivian Archer of the Newham Bookshop, "one of our best".
Despite Ross' Why Do I Say These Things? (Transworld) being named Christmas' biggest flop, retailers lauded Random House as having the strongest stable of titles this year. David Cooke, category manager at Tesco, said: "What sales they lost from Jonathan Ross not doing as well as hoped, they more than got back with [Bantam's] Paul O'Grady."
Retailers also said Canongate was having a particularly strong Christmas, driven by the sales of Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, as well as comedy title The Mighty Book of Boosh. Michael Jones, books category manager at Borders, said: "Both comedians [from the "Mighty Boosh" TV show] have been really great at getting out there and meeting customers. Canongate has been really active at promoting it."
Among the disappointments for retailers was Richard Madeley's Fathers and Sons. Caroline Mileham, head of books at, said: "There was such a competitive celebrity market out there that it got a bit lost." Alex Haslam, category manager at Bertrams, said Nigella Lawson failed to achieve the success of last year's Nigella Express with Nigella Christmas.
In children's books, retailers said that aside from The Tales of Beedle the Bard, the main success has been Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. "It's a banker," said a Waterstone's spokesman.
"Sales started nice and early for us but we are expecting a big boost once the movie comes out on 19th December."

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