London Wall Publishing

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

Shelf Lifenews from around the book business February 2017



As the new year gets underway publishers have three concerns: Brexit, Trump and diversity.  There is still much uncertainty over the first two, with everyone in a cautious ‘wait and see’ mood, but there are many positive noises being made on the third. 


On Brexit, the CEO of HarperCollins UK Charlie Redmayne said: “The obvious economic impact will be the weak pound driving up costs of paper and print, while rising inflation could mean there is less money available [for consumers] to spend on books.”


On Trump, a bitter row erupted on both sides of the Atlantic over the decision by Simon & Schuster US to publish Dangerous by Milo Yiannopoulos, a Trump supporter and editor at the Trump backing ‘alt-right’ online site Breitbart.  In the States, S&S was subject to a barrage of complaints – from authors, from booksellers, from bookbuyers – which forced Chief Executive Carolyn Reidy to release an open letter in which she said that the publisher will not “support, condone [or publish] hate speech.  Not from our authors.  Not in our books.  Not at our imprints.  Not from our employees and not in our workplace.”


But that doesn’t seem to have placated some authors.  US feminist Roxanne Gay pulled her book How to be Heard from publication by S&S and the row is far from over.  In the UK, S&S has already said it will not be publishing Yiannopolous’ book, probably because he is a little known figure here, but English PEN defended his right to offend, describing it as “integral to the principle of freedom of expression”.


When the book is published in the US in March, it will be interesting to see how its content stands next to this comment:  ‘People should be able to express diverse opinions and beliefs…[but] no one deserves to be subjected to targeted abuse online, and our rules prohibit inciting or engaging in the targeted abuse or harassment of others’.  That was the statement Twitter released when it banned Yiannopoulos from its site last summer following what was described as his racist trolling of Ghostbusters actor Leslie Jones.  Will the book’s content incite harassment of others?  How hard would that be to prove?  We will have to wait and see.


Certainly, the arrival of Trump, the ‘disrupter-in-chief’, is seen by all publishers as an opportunity for books to show their relevance – and is also something of a gift for satirists (though a gift that the world could do without, many would argue).  First off the blocks with a satire is Howard Jacobson, with Cape set to publish his Trump-inspired fantasy Pussy in April.  Publishers believe that books now have an added importance in the world of “post-truth”.  Simon & Schuster UK Chief Executive Ian Chapman said: “I hope that, following a turbulent year, books will be ever more important, authoritative and comforting as readers try to make sense of a changing world.”


Diversity is increasingly on the agenda, with the Publishers Association Chief Executive Stephen Lotinga promising targets for publishers to aspire to “so we’re not having the same conversations in ten years’ time”.  He added: “We must do much, much more to ensure that our workforce properly reflects society, to open ourselves up to writers of all backgrounds and to reach out to new audiences.  That comes from a growing acceptance that if the people who are making decisions aren’t diverse enough, then neither will the books they publish be.”


HarperCollins is among publishers to have introduced training schemes targeting black, Asian and minority ethnic graduates, and Penguin Random House UK Chief Executive Tom Weldon said that “how we further develop our work around inclusion to we really do find new authors and readers, and grow the market for books” was uppermost in his mind as the new year began.


Despite the uncertainties presented by Brexit and Trump, UK publishers are buoyed by a very good end to 2016 which saw the biggest pre-Christmas week for book sales since 2007.  The year as a whole saw print sales up 7% on 2015 and Tim Hely Huchinson, CEO of Hachette UK noted that in his group ebook sales in 2016 had dropped by around 13% on the previous year. 


With new novels from Paula Hawkins, Dan Brown and EL James all to come this year, booksellers have reasons to cheer too.

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.