Agent Phil has been sending me links and photocopies of late, showing COLD GRANITE’s place on the various best seller lists. Highest new entry in the Nielsen ‘Top 20 Heatseekers’ last week; number 44 in the Bookseller charts; number 12 in Asda; 1, 13, or 22 depending on which WHS Smiths you go into...
But the Bookseller’s chart gave me pause for thought. Yup, I’m hella grateful to be on there at all, but I look at the number one slot and wonder if that’s something attainable to we mere write-ists of crime fiction. It seems the way to guarantee yourself that coveted number one position is to bleach your hair blonde and get yourself a pair of enormous artificial breasts. That’s right: Jordan’s biography is top of the hit parade.
I can’t think of any other industry where anyone can wander in and instantly spring to the top of the heap, just by being famous. (OK, Jordan's is a biography, rather than one of those 'Autobiography's they sometimes like to pretend a celeb has written, but I'm plowing on regardless.) Many have tried the same trick with the music industry and been laughed from the charts. Others have tried the same thing with films and TV and been booed from the theatres. Many end up in panto, and get on OK. But with books, you’re pretty much guaranteed a massive advance and a boatload of sales.
It sort of puts one’s career as a writer into perspective when you know that even if you have spent years honing your craft -- gaining the respect of your peers, establishing a core of people who actually want to read your books -- that any halfwit can roar up to the top of the charts by eating bugs in a jungle somewhere. Or slobbing about in a house for six weeks. Or warbling away for Simon Callow. Just as long as they’re on TV.
And it’s wrong to grudge them their bestseller status too: they wouldn’t be on top of the lists if people weren’t buying their books. If people didn’t want this kind of thing it wouldn’t sell. But it does, so they must. Like everything else, publishing is a business of supply and demand. Whinging isn’t going to change that.
So where does that leave us? In the end most of us are never going to achieve that ‘International Number One Bestseller!!!’ status. Some will, and kudos to them, but as soon as the next ‘celebrity’ biography comes out you know what people will be opening their wallets for.
In the end we have to remember that even if we don’t make it all the way to the top of the charts, we’ve achieved a hell of a lot in just being published in the first place. We’ve got what millions of people want – our book in the shops. People reading them. Some nice reviews (and some complete fucking stinkers too). And if we’re not prepared to bleach our heads and have that boob job, maybe we shouldn’t complain**.
* Cult. C-U-L-T honestly, you people! Stop it with the rudeness already!
** Right, as of today that’s me 50% of the way there...