London Wall Publishing

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

Shelf Life – news from around the book business –  

July 2016




So, depending on how you voted, the book industry (along with the rest of the country) is either heading for hell in the proverbial handcart or speeding towards the horizon on the liberty express. 


Within the publishing business there is widespread dismay at the result of the EU referendum.  According to a poll taken by the Bookseller just before the vote, around 78% were in the ‘remain’ camp, with dissenting voices in the industry very rare.  Jeremy Trevethan, publisher for Adult Books at Pan Macmillan, said: “In publishing, we have benefited from the strength of the EU to regulate both copyright laws in the border-free world of digital content and the huge opportunities and risks afforded by the new, vastly powerful global entrants to our market [meaning Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google et al.]  Who can know what will become of our industry if we leave the EU?” 


In fact, he had a suggestion.  He pointed to Australia where the globalised publishing landscape has decimated the local market and where it teeters on the edge of an open market, which would allow in cheap US or Indian editions of titles.


But Diane Banks, founder of the Diane Banks Associates Literary & Talent Agency, argued that the EU is “an analogue union in a digital age, built to keep power within the elites…Membership of the EU means that we have to charge VAT on e-books.  Of course, we can’t guarantee that this would change, but flexibility to set our own sales taxes can only be positive”.


Certainly, in the short term, any editors about to make buying trips to the US are going to rack up more expenses than is normal, thanks to the weakness of the pound.  Others point out that it will be tough for those UK publishers who buy print runs in US dollars from Chinese printers and then resell them to European publishers.


In the short term, there is much concern about a downturn in the local economy as everyone puts things on hold – buying houses, booking holidays, any large spending.  A weaker currency puts UK publishers at a competitive disadvantage because their advances and royalties are effectively worth less to trading partners.


Many authors were unhappy with the result and took to Twitter to voice their feelings.  Malorie Blackman said: ‘Just woke up to the bad, sad news. The days of a 'United' Kingdom are now numbered.’  Robert Harris said it was like a poorly written novel: ‘Watching PM resign, Governor of Bank of England appealing for calm... Feel as if I'm living in a bad dystopian political thriller.’


From Edinburgh, JK Rowling commented: ‘Scotland will seek independence now. Cameron's legacy will be breaking up two unions. Neither needed to happen.’  And an exasperated Philip Pullman had this witty summary:‘We had a headache, so we shot our foot off. Now we can't walk, and we still have the headache.’


Yet people will still keep writing, of course, whether we’re in the EU or not.  The platform Wattpad continues to amaze.  UK-based Molly Night, whose first language is Mandarin but who writes in English, has had extraordinary success with her Twilight-inspired One Direction fan fiction.  Her novel Dark and Dangerous Love has notched up an incredible 100 million reads on the site, the sort of figures that make traditional publishers drool.  She wrote it when she was 15 and told Publishers Weekly that although she sent out exploratory letters to agents, nothing came of it.  It is these new routes to market that people like Night that are choosing that are causing such worry for traditional publishing.


Creating a following remains important for writers, as has been ably demonstrated by the author of the moment, Ireland’s Lisa McInerney.  Her novel The Glorious Heresies has just won the £30,000 Bailey’s Women Prize for Fiction.  She is very definite about why she started her blog ‘Arse end of Ireland’ about life on a council estate in Galway.  “It was around 2006, and blogging was all the rage…It was an anxious time and I had no background in the arts and, it seemed, no way in. But blogs were getting a lot of attention, and it seemed a nicely democratic way of going about things. I was very clear about what I wanted from it – a platform and a profile from which I could eventually launch a career.”


She succeeded in both – from ‘European’ Ireland.  Meanwhile, the handcart and that express are watching each other closely.

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.