London Wall Publishing

Shelf Life – news from around the book business – April 2019

Shelf Life – news from around the book business – April 2019



Inevitably, one subject dominated much of the conversation at the London Book Fair in March.  Brexit reaches every corner of commerce, including the book industry.  Publishers are concerned about logistics, with Penguin Random House (PRH) UK preparing for a range of scenarios including “no deal”.  Of course, one should point out that by the time these words appear the situation may have changed (and changed again), such is the Looking Glass world in which the UK finds itself. 


PRH has undertaken a full assessment of paper stock, printing and scheduling, and has a European printer in place for titles with high continental sales.  It is also looking at stockpiling certain titles.  A spokesman for the publisher said: “We will continue to be in very close dialogue with our printers over the coming months to ensure we remain ahead of any unforeseen challenges.  Additionally, we have worked closely with our retail partners to manage stock where we might expect supply chain delays.”


HarperCollins has made similar arrangements, while at Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury, sales and marketing director Kathleen Farrar said that she and the rest of the house’s senior management team had been discussing Brexit outcomes ever since the referendum in 2016.  “Our customers know us and they want to know that we can continue to supply them as we have been doing.  We’re concerned about logistics, about speed to market which is very important for us. We’re looking at paper supply and most important of all, we need frictionless borders.”


Two children’s authors nailed their colours to the mast by joining the ‘leave’ march.  Gruffalo creators Axel Scheffler and Julia Donaldson were among the throng, with Scheffler’s Gruffalo banner saying “I’m a European”.


Away from Brexit (though it is hard to find an away from Brexit at the moment), there has been much relief at the speedy ‘rescue’ of the Man Booker Prize.  Silicon Valley charitable foundation Crankstart has stepped in to fund the prize – now simply the Booker Prize – for the next five years.  Crankstart was set up by venture capitalist Sir Michael Moritz and wife Harriet Heyman in 2000 to support “the forgotten, the dispossessed, the unfortunate, the oppressed and causes where some help makes all the difference”.  Some had hoped that the changeover would lead to a review of the Prize’s decision to include US authors, but the Booker Prize Foundation says it has no plans to reverse this policy.  However, it did note that an “open dialogue” continues.


There have been at least two indications of the health of the book industry at the moment, despite those concerns over the B-word.  The Booksellers Association reports an increase in numbers of independent bookshops, while two new literary agents have set up shop – Matthew Hamilton, formerly with Aitken Alexander, has established the Hamilton Agency, and Max Edwards has begun Apple Tree Literary.  And in another sign of the times, Penguin Random House is currently advertising for a Head of Amazon Operations, a new role that will be ‘responsible for the Penguin Random House UK Amazon Customer Account, from initial order through to payments’.


The British Book Awards, organised by the Bookseller magazine are on the horizon, and once again they include an Imprint of the Year category.  People often debate the value of imprints, the general consensus being that there is only one that the public has heard of – Penguin.  Heather Morris’ The Tattooist of Auschwitz, a popular, critically-acclaimed novel.  But what name is on the spine?  It’s Zaffre, an imprint of Bonnier Books UK, but how many people outside the industry would know that?  So imprints may not mean too much to the public at large, but they do remain very popular within the industry.  Agents certainly love them because if one imprint at a conglomerate rejects a book, they can always pitch another.  Imprints give agents more bites at the publication cherry.


But let’s leave the last word to Brexit.  In talking about possible scenarios at the London Book Fair, Bloomsbury’s Farrar also said: “With the Harry Potter books it was very important that everyone had the opportunity to buy those books at the same time, and we want to maintain that ability. Our customers know us and they want to know that we can continue to supply them as we have been doing.”


With Potter in mind there must be those who could wish they could simply wave a wand like the novels’ hero and intone “Revokius Immediatus” or “Leavius nowum”, depending on which way they lean.



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.