London Wall Publishing

Shelf Life - News from Around the Book Business - October 2018

Shelf Life for October 2018



October sees the last Frankfurt Book Fair with the UK still in the European Union.  Various concerns remain with the UK’s Society of Authors (SoA) and the Irish Writers Union (IWU) warning about the dangers of a no-deal Brexit, though others take a more positive view.


In a joint statement, the SoA and IWU spoke about the “close literary relationship” between the UK and Ireland and said they were concerned that this “unique and thriving relationship is now under threat as a consequence of Brexit, and it would be torn apart in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal”.


The two bodies are worried about trading relationships in such a scenario, particularly on how it would affect books flowing freely from one country to the other.  The statement reads: “The introduction of tariffs and border controls in the event of a ‘no-deal’ exit would be disastrous for this close trading relationship, hitting the wider industries in both countries”.


But despite these concerns, looking ahead to the book fair itself some publishers have sounded optimistic.  At Pan Macmillan, publisher Jeremy Trevethan – very much a ‘remainer’ – said global business was good, “both ways”, as he put it, meaning as well as selling overseas rights to books by UK authors, publishers in the UK are also actively buying rights to foreign-language books published overseas. 


Many publishers have also acknowledged the boost to exports they are enjoying as a result of the weak pound.  However, Carole Tonkinson, founder and publisher of Pan Macmillan imprint Bluebird, noted the warnings of a possible downturn to the economy given by Bank of England governor Mark Carney and said: “I think it would be odd if, after reading that, it didn’t make some people think twice before going wild on a risky acquisition.” 


But turbulence on the global scene is good for books.  There will be many books analysing the effect of Brexit when it happens, just as there have been many books on President Trump.  In fact, Trump’s arrival in the White House has led to a publishing boom in the US.  Bob Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House has become the most successful title in Simon & Schuster’s 94-year history, aided of course, by that widely broadcast cheery phone call between Woodward and the President himself.


Brexit or no Brexit, people still crave a well-written story.  On which note, congratulations to London Wall Publishing’s Hannah Fielding whose novel Aphrodite’s Tears has just been named Best Romance at the National Association of Book Entrepreneurs’ Pinnacle Book Achievement Awards.


Publishers love to talk about trends.  Some are reporting that the express train that began with, ha, The Girl on the Train is now slowing down.  They are reporting fewer submissions of psychological thrillers.  Instead, publishers are seeing themes like loneliness and grief tackled in ‘up-lit’ stories.


At Simon & Schuster UK, Suzanne Baboneau, MD of its adult publishing division said “toxic friendships” and relationships between women were to the fore.  She also said that feminist takes on established genres were becoming popular.  “We’re seeing lots of ‘X but with women’,” she said.  “For example, ‘Dan Brown but with women’, ‘Bond but a woman’ etc.  We haven’t yet seen one that seems to have taken the world by storm, but it does suggest an appetite [for female leads] in the thriller market, following on from a similar trend in film that started a couple of years ago.”


On the high street, the big news was Waterstones acquisition of Foyles, which no one saw coming.  The announcement was generally well-received, though some publishers expressed sadness at a great independent no longer being independent.  Yet there was relief too that the famous name will continue, and relief too that it now has solid money behind it.


All the talk now is of whether the stores – Foyles has a total of seven,, including the flagship Charing Cross Road store – will adopt Waterstones’ systems.  Granta editor Anne Meadows told the Bookseller: “What Foyles is so brilliant at is more eclectic book-buying, particularly literary and experimental titles.  I hope there won’t be a more centralised buying system.”


Waterstones MD James Daunt has sought to reassure publishers on this point, saying: “There absolutely won’t be a more centralised buying system.  We don’t want to turn Foyles into branches of Waterstones, that is 100% not happening.”


Everyone hopes that both companies have a long, prosperous future – whether inside the EU or not.

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.