London Wall Publishing

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

Shelf Lifenews from around the book business August 2018



Publishers are entering the summer period feeling pretty bullish, buoyed up by some positive data in the Publishers Association’s Publishing Yearbook 2017.  This shows British publishers’ collective income in 2017 rising by 5% to £5.7bn, driven by a growth in export sales which now account for 60% of publishers’ revenues.


Total book sales income – from physical and digital – was up 4% in 2017, and physical book sales continue to outpace digital, with revenue up 5% last year to £3.1bn.  Total digital sales income did rise 3%, but this includes journals.  If journals are stripped out and just consumer e-book sales are counted, these fell by 9% with fiction e-book sales down by 11%.


What are the reasons for this decline?  People posit a number of theories: the novelty of Kindle has worn off; print publishers have upped their game in terms of production values; bookshops are arguably displaying printed books better than ever before; and people are using their devices – chiefly their mobiles – for other activities than reading books.  Take a look around the next busy train you are on and ask this question: how many people are looking at paid for content produced by book publishers?  Or are they looking at what might be termed ‘the novel of their lives’: their twitter feeds, their Facebook updates, the latest Instagram postings?


Author pay has risen to the fore again, following a survey by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) which found that today authors earn 15% less in real terms than they did in 2013.  According to the ALCS, the typical income for a “professional author” in the UK in 2017 was £10,437 a year, down from £11,000 in 2013.  Novelist Malorie Blackman said she wasn’t surprised and partly blamed the demise of the Net Book Agreement (the NBA, which prevented discounting) in 1995 for making life tougher for authors.  “Getting rid of the NBA has certainly had a massive detrimental impact.  Online retailers and supermarkets have been able to demand, and get, deep discounts: as authors and illustrators are paid a low percentage of the retail price, this means that even if a deal is make for an outlet to take, say, 20,000 books, an author or illustrator may end up earning only a couple of hundred pounds – if they are lucky.”


However, Stephen Lotinga, CEO of the Publishers Association, disputed the ALCS figures which he said “did not reflect the investments [publishers] are making in creative talent”.


Independent authors continue to make waves.  Novelist Hannah Fielding is among some 20 authors who have been invited to the Sharjah International Book Fair in November.  You can be forgiven if this exotic-sounding name is new to you.  Sharjah is the third largest of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates.  It is overshadowed by its better known neighbours, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but when it comes to books and culture, it is the leader in the Arab World, thanks to a Ruler who believes in the power of books to heal division and boost empathy.


Fielding’s novel Indiscretion has just been translated into Arabic by Lebanon’s Jarrous Press – a first for the author – and with the number of Arab speakers globally exceeding 300 million this is a hugely important deal.  In Sharjah she will meet booksellers and readers, as well as regional publishers, and discover more about this this vibrant, important market.


Diversity quite rightly remains high on publishers’ agenda.  A report by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education found that only 4% of children’s books published in the UK last year featured a black, Asian or minority ethnic character.  Blackman, who has West Indian heritage, has spoken out about this too.  She suggested that the make up of publishers could have something to do with it.  She tweeted: “The lack of [people of colour] in publishing such as editors, marketing execs, CEOS etc sends a message in itself.”


Finally, there has been some amusement at IKEA’s ManBooker promotion.  It has created Reading Rooms at some of its stores in which customers can book a reading slot with one of the 13 titles on the longlist.  “The Reading Rooms give us a chance to use our retail space to inspire people to think about the importance of relaxation at home,” says the retailer.  “Reading at home is good for your health and the living room is the perfect, tranquil setting to do so.”


And presumably, Allen Keys make the perfect bookmark. 

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.