There is a great tradition throughout the book world of sniggering over strange book titles. The title of this posting was a book published in the 1980s by Little, Brown and Company and combines accuracy, brevity and mystery. It will of course now be available again through the wonder of print on demand technology. Suddenly all the great odd titles will reappear. Oxford University Press’s worst selling title ‚The Vocal Organs of Passerene Birds (hitherto unnoticed)‘ – recommended by Charles Darwin – will surely find a ready market and perhaps my own personal worst seller ‚The Anatomy of the Dromedary‘ which was co-authored by an Israeli and a South African (during the Apartheid era) thus ensuring zero sales in the Middle East and Africa ( where camel fans tend to live).
For thirty years the Bookseller has published the results of the Diagram Prize for the strangest title and is celebrating this year with a an anthology of the best, entitled ‚How to Avoid Huge Ships‘.
Germany has decided to follow suit with the „Kuriosester Buchtitel“ prize judged by the reference genius, Ben Schott. The worthy winner was announced on Wednesday – Stephen Harbort’s „Encounters with a Serial Killer; Now the Victims Speak“. Ben announced the result by explaining that in Britain there are two very common lies. The first is that Americans have no sense of irony. This is clearly disproved by Sarah Palin running for Vice-President of USA. The other is that Germans have no sense of humour. This is disproved by inviting a non-German speaking author to judge a German-language book title prize.
Last night I attended one of the more recent traditions of Hall 8, the Book People’s dinner at Weidemann’s. The Book People is celebrating its twentieth anniversary of selling books to people working in offices and through catalogues. In two decades of people predicting the decline of the book the Book People have proved the very opposite and they now sell at least 20 million books a year in Britain alone.
Possibly the biggest deal of the day has just been signed at the reception given by Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck. The CEO of HarperCollins UK and International, Victoria Barnsley has pipped Ed Victor and several other eminent people to the post and has persuaded me to let her be my literay agent for 15% of all new business she brings in for me. I am deeply honoured to be the object of a bidding frenzy of course but I hope that Victoria doesn’t think that this 15% will be enough to replace the damage done to her pension by the credit crunch crisis.