How frustrating it is when a tried and tested excuse, a much-loved fall-back position, is taken away. When lamenting the lack of sales of the Sam Plank books, I have often – with the vigorous agreement of all those around me – opined how unfair it is that celebrities, many of whom can barely string together a coherent sentence, have only to muse, “Hmmm, I s’pose I could write a book or sumfink…” for publishers to throw money at them and crank up the presses. And then – damn and blast them – their books fly off the shelves. But a friend recently pointed me in the direction of a programme called “Giles Coren: My Failed Novel”. The title pretty much says it all: in 2005, the arts critic of The Times (so no-one could accuse him of incoherence) published a novel called “Winkler”, and it was a disaster. It sold 771 copies.
771… Of course I turned immediately to my own meticulous sales records. And I can report that, as of today, I have sold this many books:
- “Fatal Forgery”: 630 copies (paperback, e-book and audiobook)
- “The Man in the Canary Waistcoat”: 239 copies (paperback and e-book)
- “Worm in the Blossom”: 133 copies (paperback and e-book)
- “Portraits of Pretence”: 61 copies (paperback and e-book)
This makes a grand total of 1,063 books, and knocks that 771 out of the park.
Which is lovely. Except that I can no longer claim that if only I were famous, I’d be selling trillions of copies. Back to the writing board.
(It occurs to me that Mr Coren’s confessional telly appearance might just be a marketing master-stroke: will sales of his novel rocket, as people rush to see whether it is really the stinker that everyone says? And anyway, don’t truly awful things start to develop their own wonderfulness – Donald Trump being a notable exception?)