London Wall Publishing

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

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

Not surprisingly, the arrival of the new Prime Minister has brought Brexit back to the surface.  Peter Philipps of Cambridge University Press, who is president of the UK Publishers Association, said there was no let up in lobbying against a ‘no deal’ and exploring all options in pressing for future trade deal terms that would work for the industry.


“Whatever one’s political views, for or against Brexit, it’s very clear for us—as for many industries—that ‘No Deal’ is not a good outcome,” he maintains.  “The 27 trading countries [of the EU] are really important trading partners for us as UK publishers, and the UK depends on the trade deals that have been done through the EU with many other countries around the world. In the event of a ‘No Deal’, not only will we have no trade arrangements other than WTO [World Trade Organisation] with the EU countries, all of our trade agreements with those other countries will need to be redone. We know trade deals take a very long time to do. Every country has their own interests that they want to protect, so we could have a long period of time where there aren’t effective regimens in place, and that clearly does not act as a spur to UK publishers—despite their success.”


Meanwhile, the leaders of the Big Five publishers in the UK – HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Pan Macmillan, Hachette and Simon & Schuster – have written a letter to the new Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid calling for him to remove VAT from digital publications in the next Budget.


The UK publishing industry fought successfully to prevent VAT being charged on printed books, journals and magazines, arguing that it would be a ‘tax on knowledge’.  Now it wants to see the same principle applied to digital material.  In fact, the European Union did lift restrictions on removing the charge last year, but at present ebooks, audiobooks, journals and newspaper subscriptions are still charged at 20%.  Stephen Lotinga, Chief Executive of the UK Publishers Association says: “It is an outdated, unintended, unfair tax that disproportionately impacts readers who rely on digital content for accessibility reasons, including people with disabilities and the elderly who may need audiobooks or ereaders that can be used to alter print size.  It also potentially acts as a barrier to children’s literacy, with research from the National Literacy Trust showing that young people from low-income households are more likely to read using digital formats.”


Congratulations to Harrogate Library in North Yorkshire, which is the Bookseller’s Library of the Year, and congratulations also to the team behind the revamped Barnsley Library in South Yorkshire.  The latter boasts a unique feature: a statue of a modern, as in post-war, fictional character.  A bronze Billy Casper, Barry Hines’ much-loved schoolboy from A Kestrel for a Knave (1968) and seen in the Ken Loach film Kes (1969), greets visitors in the lobby, with his beloved kestrel on his outstretched arm.  This is one of very few statues of human fictional characters anywhere in the world, and certainly the most recent.


The new Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell, the international bestselling author and illustrator of the How to Train Your Dragon and The Wizards of Once series, published by the Hachette Children’s Group, has set out the ‘Cressida Cowell Waterstones Children’s Laureate’s Charter’. 


The charter is a ‘giant to-do list’ to help ensure that books and reading are available to absolutely everyone.  It wants to ensure that children have access new books in schools, libraries and bookshops; that they can see themselves reflected in a book; that they can be creative for at least 15 minutes a week; that they can see an author event at least once; and lastly, with a nod to climate change, that they have a planet on which to read.


Congratulations to London Wall Publishing author Hannah Fielding who has just completed publicity for her new novel Concerto.  The title was included in the Sunday Mirror Magazine as one of the ‘10 Best Beach Reads’ – and if you’re heading for Italy, this atmospheric tale set on the shores of Lake Como is perfect.


The conversation that might be summarised as ‘Netflix versus Fiction’ continues.  To those who think that novel, if not finished, has a screen-shaped hole below the waterline, Stephen Lotinga at the PA says: “Netflix is not killing the novel.  We are one of the primary investors in original stories, and storytelling is key to all our creative industries, with so many conversions from books into theatre, film, television.”  He points to Game of Thrones, The Handmaid’s Tale and the forthcoming adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.  These all drive book sales he says.  “We find that very encouraging. The adaptations happen and it comes back, so it’s a wonderful virtuous circle.”


The industry hopes that circle remains unbroken.

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.