London Wall Publishing

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

Shelf Life – news from around the book business –  

May 2016



The London Book Fair opened on a tide of optimism last month, with publishers feeling buoyant for a number of reasons: the growth in print sales, the ongoing reinvention of Waterstones, and a vibrant – though reduced – independent sector.  Orion Fiction Publishing Director Kate Mills summed up the mood perfectly when she said: “It feels like people are keen to spend money again.  This year feels pretty punchy.”


Some of that money was being spent by publishers in around a dozen countries on a trilogy by a young British debut writer, Chloé Esposito, who gave up her job as a management consultant last year to take a Faber Academy writing course.  As the book fair opened, her trilogy Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know, had sold in six countries, with auctions and offers underway in a further six regions.  The novel, which will be published here by Michael Joseph in June, is a thriller about a twin sister with a life more akin to Bridget Jones, who ‘steals’ her sister’s perfect life – and the consequences that follow.


Most members of the public going about their daily lives are largely unaware of the debates going on around fundamental issues like copyright.  They may not know that the European Commission has proposed a modernisation of copyright to bring it into the digital age, with proposals for exceptions to copyright law for libraries and for education.  Such moves affect whether the author of a history textbook, for example, receives any money when a chapter of their book is photocopied or distributed by email to students.


The public may also be unaware that Google has sccnned thousands of out-of-print titles, without the express permission of publishers, and has just successfully won a long-running court battle in the US, brought by the Authors Guild, which found in favour of Google’s actions under fair use.


Speaking just ahead of the book fair, Arnaud Nourry, CEO of Hachette Livre which owns Orion and Hodder and Weidenfeld and Little, Brown and a host of familiar imprints, warned that “vast exceptions to copyright law for libraries, for education, for fair use” could provide an opening for Google to bebrand itself as a library, opening up its repositories of scanned content for free and profiting from advertising income.  He said that Google presented “a clear and present danger” in this regard.


In essence, on one side you have those who have the alluring phrases: ‘content should be free for the betterment of all’, ‘knowledge knows no boundaries’ etc, set against a publishing industry that has understandable concerns over the payment of content creators and how the publishing industry can sustain itself if the pendulum swings too far in favour of free access.  The intention of both parties might be the same – the spread of literature and knowledge for the betterment of society as a whole; but, as ever, the how of achieving that, and the working out of the economic morality of any of the stakeholders’ intentions or strategies, is difficult.  At the same time, it is also fascinating.


New lists, new imprints keep popping up, which is always a good sign.  Welsh publisher Accent Press – which was shortlisted for Independent Publisher of the Year earlier this year – has launched a new Young Adult imprint called Accent YA.  It is run by former HarperCollins senior editor Rebecca Lloyd and is “dedicated to showcasing the best new voices in YA writing”.


Orion is set to launch a wellbeing and lifestyle imprint called Spring this autumn, “which will inspire readers to live more confidently, happily and healthily”.  It is led by non-fiction publisher Amanda Harris who says: “We will be globally focused on content and rights, and most importantly, we will publish with creative drive and innovation.  Our team has great experience nurturing writers, launching talent and producing beautiful books, and I look forward to exploring all of the physical, digital and audio opportunities.”


Finally, what more inspiring news could would-be writers receive than the revelation that JK Rowling received a number of rejection letters when she submitted her first Robert Galbraith crime novel The Cuckoo’s Calling.  The author tweeted some of those letters, not as “revenge” on the publishers in question, but as “inspiration” for budding authors.  The letter from Constable & Robinson is a classic of sorts.  It said it could not publish The Cuckoo’s Calling “with commercial success” and suggested that a writing course may help with feedback for the novel.  This to one of the world’s bestselling authors!  You couldn’t make it up.

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.