London Wall Publishing

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

Shelf Lifenews from around the book business January 2019



At the time of writing, the publishing industry is preparing to enter the New Year rather like the rest of the country: in a mood of uncertainty in a political landscape that changes by the day.  Of course, it may have led to one bestseller in the shops at Christmas – the Ladybird spoof called The Story of Brexit (though this pales into insignificance behind Michelle Obama’s Becoming) – but in terms of trading and planning for the future, it means that publishers remain anxious.


The head of the Publishers Association, Stephen Lotinga – former Communications Director for former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg incidentally (and doesn’t all that seem a long time ago now?) – said the deal Prime Minister Theresa May has on the table, despite its drawbacks “[would help give publishers] many of the assurances [they] need to continue to do business in their largest export market”, whereas no deal at all would present “enormous challenges”.


He said: “Theresa May’s deal, whilst not as good as full access to the single market, provides many of the assurances publishers need to continue to do business in their largest export market and gives them a basis on which they can plan for the future.”


The industry feels chastened too.  The #MeToo scandal led to a survey of the UK book business by the Bookseller  magazine and it made for uncomfortable reading.  Now, four trade bodies – the Association of Authors’ Agents, the Booksellers Association, the Publishers Association and the Society of Authors – have joined forces to issue an Industry Commitment to Professional Behaviour in Bookselling and Publishing.  It includes four principles, among them protection of freedom of speech; the promotion of diversity; and a commitment ‘to ensure that everyone in our industry is treated with dignity and respect so that individuals are supported and able to speak out’. 


With reference to the most uncomfortable aspect of the #MeToo scandal, the joint statement also says: “We will recognise our influence and make a commitment to work together to prevent abuse of power, creating a work environment free of discrimination, harassment (including sexual harassment), bullying and intimidation.”


On diversity and inclusivity issues, the industry has already been acting, with Hachette arguably one of the most prominent voices.  At The London Book Fair’s third Inclusivity conference held in London in November the presentation by the publisher was impressive.  Hachette has established eight employee networks, among them the Christian Employee Network and the Jewish Employee Network, with others covering sexuality, disability and gender issues.


“We’ve created safe spaces in which people can have all kinds of different conversations,” said Saskia Bewley, the publisher’s diversity and inclusion manager. “Do you know the stories of the people you work with? Don’t be afraid of disruptive inclusion. It’s in the process that we’re transformed.”  She added that there is a “moral case for diversity and inclusion, as well as a legal one and a business one”.


London Wall Publishing’s Hannah Fielding continues to make her presence felt internationally.  Her novels were on display at the Guadalajara Book Fair earlier this month where interest was shown from a Spanish and a Chilean publisher: watch this space. 


Finally, the year ended with a beautiful description of writing from one of the art’s quiet masters, Tessa Hadley.  Interviewed about her new novel Late in the Day which is out in February, she spoke with an almost poetic grace about why she writes.  “I wanted to catch this particular piece of the world, this tiny piece that is mine, and put it down [on the page] because when it goes, it’s gone.  This is not a plan for posterity, by the way, but what I love in other artists.  It’s astonishing how I can open a novel, set in 1970s Italy say, and there it is laid out for me.  Once it was all around the writer; now it’s gone, like water draining away.  But the book is left behind, holding the shape.”

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.