London Wall Publishing

Shelf Life – news from around the book business – December 2017

Shelf Lifenews from around the book business December 2017



It is one of the publishing industry’s most important anniversaries, but it went virtually unreported by the wider media.  November marked the tenth birthday of the Kindle, the tech innovation which continues to transform publishing.  In the last fortnight, publishers have been queuing up to praise the device that either everyone owns, or that everyone knows someone who owns (a good formula for working out anything’s popularity). 


Tom Weldon, chief executive of Penguin Random House, called its arrival in 2007 as “a transformative milestone”, and in general publishers believe the Kindle has had a positive influence on the book world.  They say it has widened the market for books which encouraged the creation of new companies, helped aspiring writers (even at the expense of ‘traditional’ publishers) and ultimately forced publishers to improve the quality of printed books and ‘up their game’.


Anthony Forbes Watson, MD of Pan Macmillan, said that the Kindle is “a fundamentally good thing for reading.  We were disrupted and challenged by the Kindle.  It made us think about authors and readers and made us think about our role”.


The Kindle Direct Publishing platform has enabled writers to bypass traditional publishers and often earn higher royalties (up to 70%), which has forced traditional publishers to think about what it is that they offer and how to differentiate themselves, a process that is still continuing across the industry.


After launching in the US in 2007, Kindle came to the UK in 2010, offering just 90,000 titles originally.  It now offers around five million and is estimated to have 90% of UK e-book sales, an extraordinary achievement.  Along the way it has seen off competitors like Sony and ebooks from Sainsbury’s, and has forced Apple and Kobo to occupy a much smaller part of the UK ebook market.


Ahead of its FutureBook conference, the Bookseller magazine released the results of its annual digital census, which provides a useful snapshot of the industry.  UK publishers said that this year, on average, 63% of their revenue comes from print, 32% from digital and 5% from audio.  Asked which formats have seen the biggest growth this year, 37% cited print, 35% ebooks and 24% audio.


There is a widespread feeling that audio is the untapped market of the moment.  Traditionalists will be heartened by the responses to the survey’s final question.  Asked which format publishers believe will be dominant in 2025, some 58% replied print, 30% digital and 6% audio.


The Harvey Weinstein affair has cast its shadow over the industry in recent weeks.  Research by the Bookseller found that 54% of female respondents reported some form of harassment during their career.  Lis Tribe, president of the Publishers Association (PA), said she was “shocked” by the results.  She commented: “We need to act as an industry, both to ensure that those who suffer unwanted attention feel able to speak out and to ensure that a culture that allows such incidents to happen in the first place does not prevail.”


The PA is now to meet with the Society of Authors and the Association of Authors’ Agents to look at drawing up wider industry guidelines.


Aspiring writers have a new agency to which to pitch their manuscripts.  Charlie Brotherstone, literary agent at Ed Victor Ltd, has set up his own agency, called Brotherstone Creative Management.  The agent has had the very best of training at Ed Victor, whose eponymous owner died in June and who remains a legendary figure in the industry.  “I am hugely excited about starting Brotherstone Creative Management,” Brotherstone said.  “I know it is something Ed would have wanted me to do and I’m proud to continue to represent some of his authors, as well as my own list.”


A little bit of publishing history was made earlier in November when HarperCollins hosted a lovely ‘celebration’ of the life of Michael Bond, creator of Paddington, at St Paul’s Cathedral.  Guests included Judith Kerr, creator of Mog the Cat, who wondered how her creation would have got on with Paddington.  “Did Paddington like eggs?” she said.  “Mog loves eggs….”


This was no ordinary event.  This was the first time an author has been celebrated at the cathedral since Walter de La Mare’s funeral back in 1956.  As Christmas approaches, it was lovely to see the labels some guests attached to their bags, aping the one Paddington famously wears when he arrives in London.  They read: ‘Please look after one another’.


Finally, all credit to Pavilion Books imprint Pitkin for being first out of the blocks with a title to celebrate November’s happy news – yes, we are talking, of course, about Prince Harry’s engagement to American actress Meghan Markle.  Pitkin is to have copies of Harry & Meghan: A Royal Engagement in shops by 14 December –whirlwind publishing for a whirlwind romanc

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.