Bookseller Briefing 13/19 – week ending 29 March

The Bookseller


Pinch of Nom becomes fastest-selling non-fiction title recorded

Kay Featherstone and Kate Allinson’s slimming cookbook Pinch of Nom (Bluebird), based on the authors’ food blog, has become the fastest-selling non-fiction title of the Nielsen BookScan era, selling a gastronomical 210,506 copies through its Total Consumer Market, beating Alex Ferguson’s My Autobiography (Hodder) in its first week on sale in 2013.

The slimming cookbook has also dished up the single biggest weekly sale for any non-fiction title in the UK, defeating the record set in the week before Christmas 2006 by Peter Kay’s The Sound of Laughter (Century). Only titles by three authors have shifted more copies in a single week—the BookScan holy trinity of J K Rowling, E L James and Dan Brown.

With over £2.1m earned since its release last Thursday, Pinch of Nom is instantly the most valuable title of the year to date. Perhaps most shockingly of all, it knocked Mary Berry’s Quick Cooking (BBC) from the Hardback Non-Fiction number one spot—I repeat, Mary Berry has been knocked from the Hardback Non-Fiction number one spot a fortnight before Mother’s Day.

Featherstone and Allinson have now swiped the mantel of fastest-selling debut cookbook from their Bluebird stablemate Joe Wicks. Since the Instagram personal trainer burst onto the scene in early 2016, he’s gone on to sell over 3.1 million books and earn £26.7m through BookScan. Have we now left the Lean in 15 era, to enter the age of Pinch of Nom?

David Walliams and Tony Ross’ Fing (HarperCollins) leapfrogged former number one Jeff Kinney’s Diary of Greg Heffley’s Best Friend (Puffin) to claim second place, roughly 187,000 copies below Pinch of Nom.

Kate Atkinson’s Transcription (Black Swan) swiped the Mass Market Fiction number one from Liane Moriarty’s Nine Perfect Strangers (Penguin). The literary spy thriller racked up Atkinson’s 13th week in the category number one spot, shifting 16,228 copies.

Each of the main category charts’ top spots changed hands last week, with Jody Revenson’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Movie-Making News (HarperCollins) claiming the Paperback Non-Fiction number one from Ant Middleton’s First Man In (HarperCollins). Akala’s Natives (Two Roads) also hit the Top 50 in its first week on sale, scoring fifth in the Paperback Non-Fiction chart.

Clive and Dirk Cussler’s Celtic Empire (Michael Joseph) ousted James Patterson and Maxine Paetro’s 18th Abduction(Century) from the top of the Original Fiction chart.

While Walliams and World Book Day still ruled the Children’s charts, Onjali Q Rauf’s Waterstones Children’s Book Prize winner The Boy at the Back of the Class (Orion Children’s) hit the overall kids’ top 20 in 16th place, selling 4,098 copies.

Aided by Pinch of Nom’s delectable sales, the market leapt to its second-highest value for the year to date, improving 9.4% on the week before. Volume jumped 3.5%. Against the same week in 2018, value was 11.5% up and volume 6.4%, with average selling price returning to £8-plus with 5.4% increase week on week.

Trade welcomes new EU copyright law as MEPs approve reform

The European Parliament has passed the EU’s new law on copyright as trade bodies hail the first major revamp of copyright rules in 18 years.

MEPs formally adopted the law in a vote in Brussels at the European Parliament this afternoon (26th March) with 348 votes in favour and 274 against. MEPs voted to pass the controversial Article 17 (formerly known as Article 13), which makes platforms legally responsible for all content they host, after opponents failed to win enough votes for last-minute amendments to the legislation.

As a result US technology firms will be forced to jump through extra legal hoops to take greater responsibility for the content they host and the new rules will also offer greater protection against intellectual copyright infringement.

The Federation of European Publishers welcomed the vote. FEP President Rudy Vanschoonbeek said: “I wish to thank all the MEPs who have, with today’s vote, given real support to European creators and taken an important step towards securing a future of diversity and innovation in the creative sectors. This directive, the most hotly contested I have ever seen, will modernise copyright and bring certainty to stakeholders in a number of important areas. We need to work now at national level to prepare the implementation based on cooperation between the various stakeholders.”

Society of Authors c.e.o. Nicola Solomons branded the vote “a victory for creators” and called for the law to be fully implemented in the UK. As a member state of the EU, the UK now has two years to put the directive into law.

“This is excellent news for authors and other creators across Europe. The directive will modernise copyright law for the digital age and ensure that creators are properly remunerated when their work is used online. It will also benefit creators by introducing new transparency obligations for publishers and other users, by introducing bestseller clauses and by enabling reversion of rights which are not being exploited,” said Solomons. “It has taken us many years to get to this stage, and we have had to compete against a well-funded lobbying effort from US tech giants. The new legislation is a victory for creators and users alike. We now look forward to working closely with government and the wider industry to ensure that the Directive is implemented in full in the UK.”

Stephen Lotinga, c.e.o. of the Publishers Association, warned it is unclear if the UK will adapt the legislation. He said: “Today the European Parliament has voted through the Digital Single Market Directive. We welcome this hard fought compromise which on balance delivers for rightsholders in a world increasingly dominated by the large digital platforms.

“The overall aim of the directive – to strike a fair balance for rightsholders online – is one that was badly needed and we should congratulate the European legislature for its efforts in this area. We still don’t have clarity on whether the UK will transpose this legislation. However, if we do end up implementing it domestically, then the policy ramifications of each article need to be carefully considered in a UK context.”

Meryl Halls, m.d. at the Booksellers Association, said the new rules strike a balance between common sense usage and protecting rightsholders: “We are happy to see the copyright directive backed by the EU and the commitment to creative rightsholders protected.  It seems to us the directive strikes a balance between common sense usage online (for memes and parody use, for instance), and the protection of the rightsholders whose work is the bedrock of all the creative industries.  Holding the platforms, rather than the individuals, responsible for content, also seems sensible, but obviously the devil is in the detail, which we look forward to seeing in due course.”

European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel said writers will “find it easier to negotiate better deals with their publishers” as a result of the reform.

Ansip and Gabriel added: “The new rules will strengthen our creative industries, which represent 11.65 million jobs, 6.8% of GDP and are worth €915,000 million per year. Today’s vote ensures the right balance between the interests of all players – users, creators, authors, press – while putting in place proportionate obligations on online platforms.”

Speaking ahead of the copyright directive vote at the Bertelsmann financial results announcement this morning, Bertelsmann c.e.o. Thomas Rabe said: “Article 13 is a compromise which took very long to get to… It is a compromise, we would have hoped for a stricter Article 13, but we are realistic… Whatever comes out of the legislative machinery in Brussels is always going to be a compromise, but it is a step in the right direction.”

The vote comes after nearly two and a half years of lobbying after the initial proposal to modernise copyright for the digital age was presented to the European Commission in September 2016, amid fears the UK could leave the EU before the directive becomes law.The EU broke the political deadlock in February.

The text adopted by the European Parliament now needs to be formally endorsed by the Council of the EU in the coming weeks. Once published on the Official Journal of the EU, member states will have two years to pass their own laws that put the new EU rules into effect.

‘We can’t afford it’; Daunt hits back at real living wage campaign as petition approaches 8,000

Waterstones m.d. James Daunt has warned the business cannot afford to pay the real living wage to its most junior staff and increase the pay of its most experienced booksellers, as nearly 8,000 people backed the campaign calling for the rise.

Waterstones Piccadilly bookseller April Newton launched the petition on Organise last month, urging Daunt to pay booksellers the real living wage of £10.55 an hour for Greater London and £9 an hour for the rest of the UK, according to The Living Wage Foundation. The calculation for the real living wage is made according to the cost of living, based on a basket of household goods and services with a separate higher rate for London. Since Friday the petition has risen from 2,700 signatures to 7,957 at the time of writing.

Authors including Kerry Hudson, David Nicholls and Philip Pullman are among more than 2,000 writers and trade figures who have signed an open letter supporting the campaign with Daunt ruling out the pay rise despite increasing pressure.

Speaking on the PM show on Radio 4 yesterday (27th March) Daunt said: “It’s not especially difficult to raise those on the lowest level but we think in the interests of fairness and also because we are a business based and very much supported by our experienced booksellers, we would feel obliged and indeed firmly believe we should raise that of all our booksellers above that level, that then becomes extremely expensive. So it’s about having proper career progression and pay progression through the company which is most important to us, and that if you raise the bottom level becomes more than we can afford.

“[The real living wage] it’s not a government thing and I should actually acknowledge the government is doing sensible and good work, one of the few things at the moment they might be, in raising the national minimum wage which goes up next week by another 4.58% so we are having a gradual and actually meaningful increase at the lowest levels. What is called for is an even higher one and if you apply that level of increase, 14 odd percent through the business, then for people who employ lots and lots of people like we do that would be very expensive. It’s a relatively small proportion of our overall staff that are at the lowest level.”

Debating the issue, Samantha Ellis, author of How To Be A Heroine (Vintage), hit back saying Waterstones should just increase the pay of its lowest paid staff.

“I don’t see why you have to pay everybody more, I don’t see why you couldn’t raise, if it’s a relatively small number like James Daunt has just said, that you couldn’t raise it to the living wage for the people at that level. booksellers are saying that they can’t pay rent, that they have to live with their parents. They are saying there isn’t career progression and they can’t sustain living at that level,” said Ellis. “We authors feel an enormous amount go gratitude to booksellers and solidarity with them, we need them. They are fantastic. I love Waterstones, I love shopping there, I’ve done events there, they sell all my books, they’ve recommended my books, I think the way they curate their individual shops  and events is fantastic. I think everyone loves Waterstones but we just feel the people who are starting out at Waterstones should be able to live on their wages.”

Entry level booksellers at Waterstones are promoted within two years, according to Daunt, and go on to become lead and expert booksellers. But Daunt, arguing against a company-wide rise, warned “imperilling the financial security of the business is not on”.

In 2018, one year after returning to profit, Waterstones paid more than £55million in wages. Waterstones’ latest results showed the chain struggled for growth in the year to end April 2018, with the management team said to be distracted by the sale of the business which saw US private equity group Elliott buy Waterstones from the Russian investor Alexander Mamut immediately after the financial year closed.

“I think that everyone at Waterstones would rather we had higher pay throughout the company, I think genuinely we believe in the careers we are forging at Waterstones and that is where we should be investing our pay. We are not a business that is unaware of the pitfalls of the retail high street. We nearly went bankrupt not so long ago. We definitely don’t want to be back in that place,” said Daunt. “Imperilling the financial security of the business is not on, ensuring that we pay our people as well as we possibly can is clearly an aspiration we wish. We wish the base could be off something higher than the real living wage but in the meantime I think our key responsibility is to our experienced booksellers.”

The minimum wage in the UK for under 25s currently stands at £7.38 per hour, with the national living wage, calculated at 55% of medium earnings, set at £7.83 for over 25s. From Monday 1st April, the statutory minimum for workers aged 25 and over, will increase by 4.9% to £8.21 per hour. Rates for younger workers will also increase above inflation and average earnings.