Happy Holidays! Christmas Carols for the Book Industry

In Feature Articles by Roger Tagholm


As our parting gift to you for 2015, Publishing Perspectives re-imagines several popular Christmas carols through the prism of the book business.

By Roger Tagholm

Roger Tagholm wishes you a "cool" Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Roger Tagholm wishes you a “cool” Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Come gather ‘round ‘neath the lantern’s light (that’s how they used to write in days of yore; actually, just when were those days of yore?) it’s time for some book industry Christmas carols. Come on, you know you want to! Lift up your eyes. Be of one voice in the publisher’s doorway. Let your harmonies ring out by the bookstore window. Let’s begin with O Come All Ye Faithful, which traditionally goes like this:

‘O come, all ye faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem
Come and behold him,
Born the King of Angels:
‘O come let us adore him,
O come let us adore him,
O come let us adore him,
Christ the Lord’

But the industry’s version might go like this:
‘O Come All Ye Writers’
‘O come, all ye writers,
Self-pubbed and tra-ditional,
O come ye, O come ye to our fine in-dus-try’.
Come and behold it,
There’s really nothing sim’lar:
‘O come let us adore it,
O come let us adore it.
O come let us adore it,
Ig-nore the pay!
‘O come all ye book friends,
Writers and editors,
O come ye, O come ye
To our fine in-dus-try.
Come and behold it.
Born the child of Am’zon:
‘O come let us explore it,
O come let us explore it,
O come let us explore it,
Jeff the Lord!

The original also has this verse:
‘Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing, all you citizens of heaven above;
Glory to God
In the highest

Which lends itself to:
‘Sing, choirs of data
Sing in analytics
Sing, all ye citizens of storage above
Glory to Google
In the highest
‘O come let us now file it,
O come let us now file it,
O come let us now file it,
Christ the stored’


Here’s another favorite, just perfect for debut authors. It’s how the industry might approach The First Noel. The original goes like this:

‘The first noel the angel did say,
Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay;
In fields as they lay keeping their sheep,
On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.
Noel, noel, noel, noel,
Born is the King of Israel’

The industry might offer:
‘The First Novel’
‘The ‘first novel’ the bookshop did say,
Was to certain poor sales reps in cars on that day;
In cars on that day, targets to meet,
On a cold winter’s night that had no heat
First novel, first novel, first novel, first novel
Born is the King of sales hell’


Familiar with The Holly and The Ivy? Just to remind you, the original goes like this:
‘The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all the trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown’
‘The rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir’

But the industry version might be like this:
‘The Hachette and the Penguin,
When they are both full grown,
Of all the congloms in the land,
The Hachette bears the crown.
‘The stand-off with dear Am’zon,
And the running of those lists
The battling with the EC men,
Sweet profits from those hits


Talking of Amazon, as one must, let’s try Once in Royal David’s City. The lovely original runs:
‘Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her baby,
In a manger for his bed.
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child’

Let’s move the city in question a little further to the west. Well, much farther west in fact, and north a bit – to Seattle. Then it might be like this:
‘Once in Royal Jeffrey’s city
Stood his own cute indie shop,
Where the staff displayed new titles,
All face-out the whole bloody lot.
In the light the titles loomed,
Curse all those who did showroom’


Which is a little like the industry’s version of O Little Town of Bethlehem. The original goes:
‘O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep,
The silent stars go by.
Yet in they dark streets shineth,
The everlasting light.
The hopes and fears ofall the years
Are met in thee tonight.

The industry might offer:
‘O Little Town of Seattle’
‘O little town of Seattle
How still we see thee lie
Above thy deep and tax-less sleep – Sorry, this carol has been interrupted by our lawyers


Time now for the search engine version of God Rest You Merry Gentlemen. The chirpy original belts along with:
‘God rest you merry gentlemen,
Let nothing you dismay,
For Jesus Christ our Saviour
Was born on Christmas Day;
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
‘O tiding of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy,
O tidings of comfort and joy’

How about this:

‘God rest you merry Googlemen,
There’s nothing you can’t scan
For the New York court your saviour
Is now your biggest fan
To give us all fine contents’ power
(Woops! Copyright’s down the pan)
O tidings of fair use and joy
Fair use and joy
O tidings of fair use and joy


And finally, in celebration of Waterstones’ return to profit in the UK, let’s adjust Good King Wenceslas. You will recall the original:

‘Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about,
Deep and crip and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night,
Though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight,
Gathering winter fuel.’

Now, be of one voice for:
‘Good King Waterstone looked out
On the Feast of Kindles
When they lay all round about
Unsold and piled in bundles
Brightly shone the books that night
In print just how we like them
When a poor man came in sight
‘Twas Bezos! Ah now bless him!’

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Publishing Perspectives is taking a well earned rest and will resume publication on January 4, 2016!

About the Author

Roger Tagholm


Roger Tagholm is based in London and has been writing about the book industry for more than 20 years. He is the former Deputy Editor of Publishing News and the author of Walking Literary London (New Holland) and Poems NOT on the Underground (Windrush Press).