London Wall Publishing

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

Shelf Lifenews from around the book business December 2018



Among an impressive array of international guests at this year’s Sharjah International Book Fair in the United Arab Emirates was London Wall Publishing’s very own Hannah Fielding whose Indiscretion is the first of her novels to be published in Arabic.  Her publisher, Nasser Jarrous whose Jarrous Publishing of Lebanon is one of the leading houses in the Arab world, hosted a dinner for Fielding to celebrate publication, and his author was also a panellist on a session on the current state of translation and its future.


Fielding could not have found a more respected publisher for her Arab world debut.  In addition to his day job as a publisher, Jarrous has another role – one for which he is famous in the international publishing community. He acts as an intermediary between east and west, smoothing the way for western publishers to attend book fairs in the region, making introductions between interested parties and working hard to open up the more ‘closed’ markets such as Saudi Arabia. It is a role for which he seems born.


“For me it is a real pleasure. It is like a hobby,” he says.  “I like to see people, to make contact with people, to gather people from east and west together. It gives me real pleasure to see the west and the east know each other. I am a man of dialogue, although my wife says this isn’t true. ‘You never listen to me’, she says.  “I want the industry to be like an international club for all people working in international publishing. We are all friends together. I believe in global contact.”


The Sharjah International Book Fair is now the third largest book fair in the world.  The organisers are extremely keen on translation and have put in place measures to boost the flow of books from Arabic into foreign languages, and vice versa.  Chief among these is the Translation Grant, made available by the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) – the body that runs the book fair.  This makes some $300,000 to help cover the costs of translation from Arabic into international languages, and vice versa.  Undoubtedly, one of the great sights of the fair is its famous rights ‘souk’ held every year in the Chamber of Commerce.  Here, match-making sessions between Arab and international publishers are arranged, and the flow of ideas, the partnerships being forged and friendships that are made, are one of the very best aspects of this vibrant book fair.


Since the Translation Grant’s launch eight years ago, more than 400 titles have benefited from this fund, and the SBA now has plans to increase the amount available to $400,000.  This year, the fair, which wrapped up on 10 November, saw 1874 publishers from 77 countries, a number of which were exhibiting for the first time.  New countries included Argentina, Peru, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya and Bangladesh.  SBA Chairman Ahmed Al Ameri said:  “Last year we had 61 countries, this year we have 77.  I am so proud of the growth of the fair and I am so grateful to His Highness [Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah] for the support he has given us.  We could not have done it without his backing.”


While in Sharjah, Fielding also held a very busy book signing, and gave a number of media interviews, including with Sharjah Radio and the newspaper Al Hayat.  Her fellow writers this year included many poets, among them the Sudanese American poet Emithal ‘Emi’ Mahmoud who is a UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) ambassador, and the Lebanese-Canadian writer Najwa Zebian, who is another of the ‘instapoets’ (like the bestselling Rupi Kaur) who have built a huge following for their poems posted on Instagram.


Away from the sunshine and glittering towers of the Gulf, the plight of independent bookshops in the UK enjoyed its own shaft of sunlight, courtesy of the Chancellor, Philip Hammond.  He announced a cut in business rates for smaller retailers – many of whom are booksellers – which is undoubtedly an early Christmas present for the sector. 


Despite the online giants out there and the temptations of that Distractor-in-Chief that we all carry around with us (breaks off mid-sentence to check Twitter, send text message…), new independent bookshops keep opening, and there are some pretty cool ones.  Among the new breed of indie is Brooks Books in Pinner which occupies a former bank and uses the bank’s old counter as a bar.  Owner Sarah Brooks says they have created a space in which people can “disconnect from technology and reconnect with each other”. 


Sales of audiobooks continue to soar with a number of large publishers reporting double digit growth year-on-year.  HarperCollins reported “strong double digit growth across the board” and noted the importance of simultaneous release for audio and “marketing across all formats”


Finally, author JK Rowling was in campaigning mode this month and sent a tweet saying: ‘We need more signatures to protect government funding for libraries!  Petition: protect library services by ring-fencing government funding for libraries’.  It is a sentiment with which all publishers can agree.

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.