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Coveting thy neighbour’s sales

According to Ben Kaplan of the National Post, the Canadian publishing industry is crazed with envy, obsessively checking up on their rivals’ deals and sales numbers:

Resentment among authors has been around since the first cocktail party lauded the first published word. But in the age of the internet and publicized book deals on Booknet Canada, Publishers Marketplace and the deals section of the Quill & Quire website, first-time novelists now have more tools at their disposal to keep track of opponents – and there’s a certain amount of bloodletting in the Canadian authorship game.

Publishers, agents and authors all want to keep tabs on their industry. And certain watershed deals – such as the twin fortunes earned by first-time novelists Anne Michaels and Ann-Marie MacDonald in the mid-’90s, Michael Turner’s deal with Doubleday for The Pornographer’s Poem in 1999 or the bidding war that broke out over Tish Cohen’s debut novel last year – attract the industry’s attention and scorn.

“We don’t only go online to check our sales, but also to check everyone else’s sales,” says Kim McArthur, president of McArthur & Co., a publisher and distributor that has seen 63 of its releases become Canadian best-sellers and 21 of them reach No. 1 in Canadian sales. McArthur believes envy is good for publishing, and that deal trackers and sales figures bring moxie to the biz. “Now you can be envious of someone and then go check their figures,” she says. “Really make yourself sick.”

It seems that we here at Q & Q are enablers. We’re sorry, everybody. We had no idea.