London Wall Publishing

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

Shelf Lifenews from around the book business February 2018



Publishing has had an extraordinary start to the year. Every tweet from Donald Trump decrying Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury as a “fake book”, seems to have served to increase its sales, which now stand at around the two million mark for the US and UK markets. 


The white heat of the title may have passed now, but its performance and the headlines it has created around the world, have delighted publishers and booksellers everywhere.  It has been a book driving the news agenda, a book proving absolutely key and relevant and indeed a bookshop – in this case a New England independent – that provided an early copy to the Guardian, which ran a news story that led to UK publisher Little, Brown bringing forward its own publication.


Of course, all publishers and booksellers know that books matter, but it becomes very special for everyone in the business when that relevance is recognised by the wider world – and it surely has a hard to quantify knock-on effect with regard to wider interest in books too.


So thanks to this excitement, publishers start the year in optimistic mood, even though many note the continuing quietness of the e-book market.  Charlie Redmayne, CEO of HarperCollins, said: “The physical books market is in a steady state, with Amazon and Waterstones growing share.  But the e-book market will continue to contract, both in terms of overall e-book sales and traditional publishers’ e-book business, as Amazon continues to put more emphasis on its own publishing….Meanwhile, the audio business will go from strength to strength.”


David Shelley, the young CEO of Hachette, believes the developments in Artificial Intelligence that are transforming other industries will start to be felt by publishing, and in the world of fiction he feels all those ‘girls on the train’ and ‘women in the window’ will be joined by even more fellow travellers.  As he puts it: “The market for psychological thrillers featuring unreliable narrators will become even more saturated, although readers will gently drift away to explore other adjunct areas.”  In other words, if you’ve got a novel featuring one such narrator, best get it off now before the market moves on.


Diversity campaigner and author Nikesh Shukla hopes to see “more brilliant books from working class people, from people with disabilities, from the LBGTQ community”.  He doesn’t want ‘diversity’ to be “a trend for 12 months – inclusion should be for keeps”.


One huge question mark hanging over the industry concerns Waterstones.  The chain is now officially for sale, with agent Jonny Geller of Curtis Brown saying this will result in a “seismic change to the publishing landscape”.  All publishers hope that the current MD James Daunt will remain in place, and indeed Daunt himself says he hopes to stay on.  The chain has already said it hopes to open a dozen stores this year – just the sort of announcement publishers love to hear. 


Fiction sales grew for the third year in a row in 2017 and new imprints keep emerging to try their luck in this crowded space. 


Finally, a piece of news to give hope to all self-published authors.  Andy Weir, who originally posted his novel The Martian chapter by chapter on his website, not only landed a regular publishing deal and a Hollywood film, this week he collected a Gold Award at Nielsen’s Specsavers Bestseller Awards for sales of 500,000 copies of the Del Rey paperback.  One giant sales leap indeed.



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.