Carole Cadwalladr writes very entertainingly about the Frankfurt book fair. Especially about all the gossip. One of my favourite bits is her glancing mention of inflated print runs.1 Apparently this goes back much further than I’d realised:
For as long as people have written books, people have sold them too, and this involves a certain amount of talking things up. Erasmus, in the 15th century, is said to have drummed up business here (the fair’s been going for 800-odd years) by claiming the first print run of his Colloquies was 24,000. And this in an age when the average number of copies produced was around 50.
That wily Erasmus, eh? Though I don’t know what he expected to achieve when it was going to become clear that he was a bit of a fibber almost as soon as the words left his mouth.
Publishing is a strange business. Read the whole article. It’s my favourite on publishing in ages.
- For those who don’t know publishers almost never release the true print run. They always exaggarrate the number. Sometimes by margins almost as crazy as Erasmus. [↩]