London Wall Publishing

Shelf Life – news from around the book business – April 2018

Shelf Lifenews from around the book business April 2018



Perhaps it’s because spring is with us (theoretically at any rate), but  the book industry has a new, optimistic-sounding tag, one that is being reflected in submissions at the London Book Fair which opens in Olympia on 10 April.


Agents and editors are calling it ‘Up lit’ – a trend towards feel-good, uplifting stories, typified by Fiona Ford’s The Time of Our Lives, a novel about a house-share between 26-year-old Erin and 76-year-old Lydia being sold by Diane Banks Associates.  It is described as “heart-warming and on-trend”.  This follows the continuing success the Caskie Mushens agency is having with Libby Page’s debut novel The Lido, which – by coincidence – also has a 26-year protagonist, this time called Kate, who joins forces with 86-year-old widow Rosemary to save Brockwell Lido in London from closure.


Agent Robert Caskie has now received offers from 11 territories in the title and it has sold to the US, Brazil, Finland, Germany, Holland, Israel, Italy, Norway, Spain and Sweden.  In the UK it has been bought by Orion and film rights have gone too.  Not bad for a novel that was picked up on the agency’s slush pile.


Some UK publishers are heading to the book fair a little sheepishly, having had embarrassing gender pay gaps widely reported in the Bookseller.  Hachette and HarperCollins both revealed gender pay gaps of 24.7% and 10.4% respectively, though Penguin Random House (PRH) UK and especially Pan Macmillan fared much better.  At PRH the median gender pay gap was minus 1.6%, while a headline in the Bookseller reading ‘Women earn 34% more than men at Macmillan’ could possibly see a flood of job applications from females.  Bridget Jones, whose Diary Macmillan published back in 1996, would certainly be pleased.


Money and the book industry has been much discussed in recent weeks in fact.  Nicola Solomon, chief executive of the Society of Authors, has called for publishers to state in their accounts how much they pay to authors, illustrators and translators in advances, royalties and secondary income.  She estimates that authors receive around 3% of publisher turnover.  Broadly speaking, she thinks that as publishers have become more profitable, author income has fallen.  “A 2013 Authors Licensing and Collecting Society [ALCS] study showed professional authors’ typical annual income had fallen by 29% to £11.000.  ALCS is updating the study and we ask all authors to take part.”  She notes too, that an ever smaller pool of bestselling authors are dominating what revenue there is, leaving the majority of writers often having to resort to other ways of earning an income to enable them to continue writing.


People are fond of saying that data is the new oil.  The importance of data was certainly mentioned at the Independent Publishers Guild spring conference in Chipping Norton.  Keynote speaker BBC Media Editor Amol Rajan emphasised the value of “good, reliable data”, and all of the larger publishers have been trying to ‘mine’ their data for some time now: Hachette’s recently retired UK CEO Tim Hely Hutchinson said some years ago that “we all leave a digital trail” and it is that trail that publishers are increasingly trying to explore, so that they can more accurately target consumers with the right messages and product.


Audio continues to rise in importance too.  Audio consultant Jo Forshaw told the conference that while downloads were “almost over” streaming is “here to stay”.  She added that audio was also a “gateway drug” to get audiences buying books. 


Hachette’s incoming CEO David Shelley noted that there should be more interplay and cooperation between conglomerates and independents.  Hachette now has a number of indies under its umbrella and Shelley noted: “With all our imprints, all the creative functions are completely separate.  We want to support them, rather than lead them.”


Finally, rousing words from author and broadcaster Sally Magnusson at the Scottish Book Trade Conference in Edinburgh.  “When all else is gone, it is stories that can save us.  Ambiguity and complexity are at the heart of human condition and now more than ever we need writers to remind us of this.... We are the custodians of empathy, the gateway to otherness.… Long live stories, the written world and the publishers who believe in it and booksellers who press it into hands of readers, agents who help writers up and everyone else engaged in this great labour of love and faith.”


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.