Thursday, December 18, 2008

Like Sheep, But With A Shepherd

On a discussion board the other day, a well known small publisher related how, at a meeting of a major book publisher, the board categorised members of the public as different kinds of sheep.

It sounds rather contemptuous, but it's as well knowing how they think. You can imagine the categories – those who’ll come immediately and rush to the front, those who follow but keep veering off the path, those too stupid to follow who require extra attention, those who seem different but aren’t really, those who need to be chopped into cutlets… well, maybe not.

Is everyone a sheep? Is it possible to escape sheepdom? I fear that might not be an option. They will have a category to fit everyone somewhere.

11 comments:

Andrew Shields said...

There's probably even a category for the sheep who try to deny their sheephood by saying Moo instead of Baa.

To quote, yet again, one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite songwriters, Greg Brown:

there'll be one corporation
selling one little box
it'll do what you want
and tell you what you want
and cost whatever you got

("Where Is Maria?")

Anonymous said...

I'm still wondering where all the buffalo girls went.

ABJ

deemikay said...

There's always the category of "Does not fit in any other category".

deemikay said...

Oh, and "pet sheep".

Colin Will said...

How strange to read this after I've just read a section of my novel in progress at a book launch. My leading character (let's not call him hero) is a shepherd. The part I read describes his life in the hills with the sheep. I'd never considered any possible parallels between sheep and book buyers, and I certainly don't ascribe ovine characteristics to potential buyers of my books!

Rob said...

I was reading that, in some Waterstones branches at this time of year, celebrity books account for around 60 percent of total sales.

Colin, the sheep comparison came from a major international corporation. I doubt any small independents would want to think of customers in that way.

As for where the buffalo girls went, well, most went to YouTube. The more alternative types went round the outside, so I’m told.

Colin Will said...

StAnza is working with The Audience Business on 'audience development', and they use the well-known Mosaic software, which has a myriad of social 'types'. They include Dinky Developments, Town Gown Transition, Bedsit Beneficiaries, Dignified Dependency, Rustbelt Resilience, White Van Culture, Gey Perspectives, and Greenbelt Guardians.

roddy said...

Erm, doesn't this idea of the public as a flock of sheep come from the Kirk?

Rob said...

Colin, I don't even want to think which type I fall into!

Roddy, well, the basic metaphor comes from the Bible. Of course, the emphasis there is always on the character of the shepherd, not on the character of the sheep.

Roddy said...

Well, full marks for your comeback on that one, Rob!

deemikay said...

I was walking yesterday and thought about sheep and this post - they only flock when scared. Of course they do. Why hadn't I thought it before? I passed field after field of individuals doing their own thing... one here at the hedge, one there on a hillock, one trying to escape over a fence. A couple gathered. But it's all a poisson process...

You also get them standing shoulder-to-shoulder
... but it was a windy day and I blame selfishness. Block the wind with your cousin, why dontcha.

Last week I saw a flock all huddled together. But they had escaped the field they were in and were squashed onto the road wondering where to go next. Rather than wade through 50 wet and dirty sheep I, ironically, jumped the fence into the now empty field.

Sheep flock when scared or when required by the others. Otherwise they are independent. Much like humans after all...