PARIS (Reuters) - Tip for aspiring writers: if it's about the economic crisis, it sells.
Publishers at the annual Paris book fair taking place this week said readers were queuing up for books explaining the credit crunch, proposing alternative economic models or just offering advice on how to live more cheaply.
"The crisis is good for at least one thing: sales of these kinds of books," said Jacques Mazel, of publisher Fayard, pointing to a shelf full of volumes about the economy.
Fayard has scored a hit with "La crise, et apres?" ("The crisis, then what?") by influential economist Jacques Attali, which has sold 150,000 copies sold since November.
Over at Albin Michel, staff reported strong interest in "Capitalisme et pulsion de mort" ("Capitalism and the death instinct") by Gilles Dostaler and Bernard Maris.
The book "examines the economic crisis through the double lens of John Maynard Keynes and Sigmund Freud," says the jacket.
In a different vein, "Le plaisir a petit prix" ("Pleasure for a small price"), a recipe book by Jean-Pierre Coffe which offers tips on how to feed your family well for less than 9 euros ($12) a day, was flying off the shelf at the Plon stand.
Stephane Billerey, commercial director at Plon, said the book had sold more than 300,000 copies in a month and a half.
"It's a timely book because it taps into three themes that are very much on people's minds: the lack of purchasing power, the desire to eat well, and a return to sane values like conviviality around a home-made meal," he said.
Billerey said the book market in general was a safe haven.
"People want to understand what is happening, they want to learn useful things for the future, and they want some escapism. Books are cheap, and they can easily be lent and borrowed."
The book fair appeared to be having a bumper year, with staff at all the major publishers' stands reporting big weekend crowds and a steady flow of bookshop owners and librarians.
Business was booming at Rustica, a publisher specialized in gardening. Jean Margueritte, who has been manning Rustica stands at the annual book fair since 1982, said he had never sold so many books about growing your own vegetables.
"Because of the crisis, people are falling back on simpler, healthier leisure activities like gardening and reading. People are tired of excessive consumption and they are also increasingly aware of environmental issues," said Margueritte.
At Seuil, one of the popular volumes was "Cinq milliards en fumee" ("Five billion up in smoke") by Pierre-Antoine Delhommais, about the scandal at Societe Generale bank surrounding huge losses blamed on junior trader Jerome Kerviel.
The book could have scored a bigger success, however, if Kerviel hadn't been somewhat overshadowed.
"He's been a little forgotten now that there is Bernard Madoff," said Seuil employee Stephane Pin.