London Wall Publishing

Shelf Life - news from around the book business - August 2016

Shelf Life – news from around the book business – August 2016



Where are the bestselling male, British thriller writers?  This was a question posed by an anonymous literary agent recently who reeled off a long list – Alistair Maclean, Jack Higgins, Frederick Forsyth, Jeffrey Archer, John le Carré – and then observed: ‘With a couple of notable exceptions, it is a production line that has long since ceased to roll’.  Th agent maintains that this section of the market has ‘seemingly gone the way of our industrial heartlands: unloved and neglected’.


In trying to determine why, the agent made some interesting observations: that there simply aren’t enough male editors of commercial fiction for agents to sell to, and that, with a workforce that is predominantly female, there aren’t enough people in publishing houses interested in reading fiction aimed at men. 


And of course, female thriller writers are very much ruling the roost at the moment, led by Paula Hawkins whose Girl on the Train has created a mini-trend for psychological thrillers that has already seen Renée Knight’s Disclaimer, Julia Heaberlin’s Black-Eyed Susans and Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood, to name just three, perform very well in her wake.


Away from such gender matters, the post-Referendum fall-out continues.  Those in the industry who voted Remain are realising that what is done is done and that the best has to be made of it.  Stephen Lotinga, Chief Executive of the Publishers Association, noted that governments listen more when times are tough because they can no longer pass the buck and blame the EU.  “We must seize the opportunity that presents itself on the issues that really matter to the publishing industry: better protection for intellectual property rights; lower taxes on our industry; and ensuring funding for education and academic remain intact.”


Every year, industry bible The Bookseller publishes its Rising Stars list, which picks those figures who will shape the industry tomorrow.  Agent Nelle Andrew of Peters Fraser & Dunlop was included this year, someone whose debut novel The Legacy of Eden was published by Mira in 2012, but now prefers to seek new writers.  Her approach is of interest to all aspiring writers: when she joined the agency, she looked in the slush-pile and also went “to writer’s conference, literary festivals and any opening of an envelope to find authors”.


Also on the list is Kirsty Greenwood who – as with those female editors mentioned above – loved commercial women’s fiction so much that she set up her own blog, Novelicious, in 2009.  Running the blog eventually led her to self-publish her own novel which in turn led to a three-book deal with Pan Macmillan.  The Bookseller observed: ‘An author/blogger connected with fans was a perfect fit for feisty digital women’s fiction publisher Bookouture [and] she was hired in January as associate editor’.


Print continues its triumphant march.  For the first six months of 2016, print sales were up 9.3% on 2015, the market’s biggest half-year percentage rise in 14 years.  Interestingly, this growth has been driven by mid-size publishers, outside the so-called Big Three (Penguin Random House, Hachette and HarperCollins).  For example, Pan Macmillan’s winning formula of continuing to build long-standing brand authors such as Peter James, Jeffrey Archer and David Baldacci, and combing them with new voices like Debbie Howells (author of The Bones of You) and Cathy Rentzenbrink (The Last Act of Love) has paid dividends.  Incidentally, Howells is another example of a self-published author (the commercial women’s fiction Wildflowers) who went on to secure a conventional publishing deal.


Yet digital grows as well as print, with much of that growth unrecorded because so many self-published ebooks do not have ISBN numbers and thus have sales that are not registered.  One digital imprint that is expanding is Aria, the e-first commercial fiction imprint of Head of Zeus.  It has just hired Sarah Ritherdon as Editorial Director.


Finally, it is always encouraging to hear about writers who don’t let rejection put them off.  Irish writer Donal Ryan, whose third novel All We Shall Know, will be published by Doubleday Ireland in September, notched up 47 rejection letters over three years before Dublin independent The Lilliput Press showed interest. 

Latest entries:

London Wall Publishing’s Project Manager, Fiona Marsh, with US actor, Trey Gerrald, at the 18th annual Independent Publisher Book Awards held during BookExpo America in New York receiving the Gold Award for Romance Fiction for The Echoes of Love by Hannah Fielding. 

Launched in 1996 and conducted each year to honor the year's best independently published books, the "IPPY" Awards recognize merit in a broad range of subjects and reward authors and publishers who "take chances and break new ground." Independent publishers, along with independent booksellers, have long held an important role in the world of books, offering an alternative to "the big five" conglomerated media publishers.