October 6, 2014
Forthcoming Super Thursday most official Super Thursday ever
by Mark Krotov
Great Britain has given America a lot: hard-to-pronounce place names, elegant SUVs, Armando Iannucci. But we’ve also given back our share. Take the word “super.” Sure, the word comes from Latin, and yes, okay, it’s been in use for a long time, but no one could possibly argue that we Americans haven’t really made this word what it is. The Supercenter, Supercuts, Super Fly: marvelous, all-American inventions—the lot of them. So I’m inclined to think that as a people who like to take credit for things, we can at least take some credit for Super Thursday, the British publishing industry’s equivalent of Black Friday. (I’m referring, of course, to the day after Thanksgiving, when many Americans buy many things, and not to Lil’ Kim’s mixtape, Black Friday.)
This Thursday, anyone who steps into a British bookstore will encounter bookshelves overwhelmed by 315 new hardcovers, including new books by—actually, let’s indulge in a bullet-pointed list, just to make the list seem that much more impressive:
- Terry Pratchett (British fantasist)
- John Cleese (British mustached comedian)
- Marilynne Robinson (Non-British novelist)
- Ray Winstone (British actor who was really good in Sexy Beast)
- Heston Blumenthal (British chef)
- The Hairy Dieters (sorry, you’re just going to have to Google this one on your own)
- and 309 more!
Why the literary onslaught? Let The Bookseller explain:
First identified by The Bookseller’s former charts editor Philip Stone in 2008, the retailing and marketing phenomenon is the day on which more books are published than any other in the bookselling calendar.
Very sneaky of The Bookseller to attribute this discovery to one of its own. This isn’t pro-Bookseller cheerleading, though—the Guardian agrees with the origin story, even if the newspaper attributes the discovery to another Philip, specifically Philip Jones, The Bookseller’s editor.
Regardless of which British publishing insider named Philip first encountered the phenomenon that is Super Thursday, it’s a big deal—and not only in terms of sales. After all, promoting books in October is a way to build attention that will last through the Christmas holiday—Little, Brown UK publisher David Shelley told the Guardian that “This is the perfect window to catch people’s imagination. It’s when retailers start planning for Christmas and people start buying presents.” And unlike Christmas, Super Thursday is not a nationally recognized holiday, which booksellers usually observe by heavily discounting books. And zero or minor discounts mean more profit!
One might say that this year’s Super Thursday is the most official Super Thursday yet—dare I say, the most Super. Publishers, booksellers, and authors have collaborated on the Books Are My Bag campaign, which features as its centerpiece a rather beautiful tote bag designed by British artist Tracey Emin. The bags will be on sale at chain and independent booksellers starting October 11, the same day that a number of bookstores will host Big Bookshop Parties, which are exactly what they sound like.
All of this is great news for booksellers, publishers, and authors . . . but wait. 315 new books? How is a bookstore—much less a tiny one—supposed to accommodate all of those? For the answer to this question, we’ll give the last word to Booksellers Association president and Walker Bookshops owner Tim Walker, who had this to say to the Bookseller: “We will be getting an awful lot of good books in on the same week—I’m not sure where we are going to put them all. If only the walls were made of rubber!”
Yes, if only!
Mark Krotov is senior editor at Melville House.