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Writers, Readers, and ReputationsLiterary Life in Britain 1870-1918$
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Philip Waller

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199541201

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199541201.001.0001

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Market Conditions

Market Conditions

Chapter:
(p.635) 18 Market Conditions
Source:
Writers, Readers, and Reputations
Author(s):

Philip Waller (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199541201.003.0018

The emergence of the best-seller — a term coined in the 1890s — is closely tied to the growth of a mass reading public. The publishing format for fiction changed from the three-volume standard priced at one-and-a-half guineas to the single volume priced six shillings or less. Surveys of working-class reading habits are also noted. This chapter explores the quantity of sales that qualified a book to be ranked a best-seller, and provides annual best-selling titles for Britain from 1875, and in the U.S.A. from 1895, to 1918. It discusses the relationship of the best-seller to the expanding market for miscellany magazines such as Tit-Bits, and to its forerunner in the Sensation Novel of the 1860s. Several such stories by Miss M. E. Braddon, Wilkie Collins, and Mrs Henry Wood still enjoyed mass appeal and even critical appreciation in the1900s. By contrast, the contemporary best-seller was generally looked down upon, in part because of advertising gimmicks deployed by publishers to beguile readers. Such salesmanship also annoyed other authors whose work they felt was not advertised enough. Writers whose experiences and attitudes are discussed here include Ethel M. Dell, Rider Haggard, Maurice Hewlett, Robert Hichens, Fergus Hume, Keble Howard, W. B. Maxwell, William Le Queux, Annie S. Swann, and Edgar Wallace.

Keywords:   best-seller, sensation Novel, working-class, advertising

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