London Wall Publishing

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

Shelf Lifenews from around the book business July 2018



Good news for all those who despair at celebrity titles hogging shelf-space in bookstores and online: their prominence is declining.  Industry stats body Nielsen BookScan has crunched the numbers for 2017 and found that celebrity memoirs and biographies had their lowest full-year revenue for a decade.  It said that sales of the genre were 54% lower than they were in 2007. 


So what has ousted them?  Well, booksellers and publishers are talking about the rise and rise of ‘intelligent non-fiction’ – titles like Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow and Yuval Noah Harari’s A Brief History of Humankind.  They also talk about how many of these non-fiction sales are now coming from backlist.  Nielsen figures support this too: five years ago, backlist accounted for 25% of the top 100 bestselling adult non-fiction category; in June Nielsen said that figure had risen to 37%, perhaps driven by the ease of finding backlist – the so-called ‘long tail’ titles – on Amazon.


Just as digital hasn’t seen off printed books, so online retailers have not seen off physical bookshops – though the situation remains tough for bricks and mortar.  In the UK the Booksellers Association has just launched a campaign for bookshops to receive the same rate relief as pubs because of their role as community hubs.  The figures are modest.  Pubs are eligible for £1,000 off their business rates bill over two tax years, if they have a rateable value of less than £100,000.  It is interesting to look at how bookshops are treated elsewhere in Europe.  In Italy, independent bookstores can receive local tax relief of up to €20,000 – announced last autumn to stem a rash of closures – and in France independent bookshops, who qualify for a “quality label through excellent stock and service”, have been offered tax exemptions.


The difficulty for bookstores in the UK though, is that the local florist or corner shop can argue that they perform a community service too, and that they should receive tax relief as well.  It is one of those topics that becomes more complicated the more one considers it.


Independent publishing continues to rise with the line between it and traditional publishing increasingly blurring.  Traditional publishers watch the independent sector closely, as do agents, and essentially we have arrived at a point where we simply have ‘publishing’. 


Independent publishing is increasingly well-served with awards – on which note, congratulations are due to London Wall Publishing’s own Hannah Fielding whose latest novel, Aphrodite’s Tears was named Best Romance at both the 2018 National Indie Excellence Awards and the 2018 International Book Awards, both of which are based in Los Angeles.


Diversity continues to be an issue in the industry.  Hachette UK has created a new role – Diversity and Inclusion Manager – with responsibility for overseeing the publisher’s ‘Changing the Story’ programme which aims to make Hachette “the publisher and employer of choice for all people”, regardless of age, disability, race, gender, sexuality or socio-economic background.


British writer Sam Haysom is a culture reporter for the site Mashable in the UK.  His debut novel The Moor has been published via Unbound, the crowd-funding site.  He has good advice for all new authors, particularly those who are self-publishing: don’t get fixated on numbers, treat your book as a long-term project,” he says.  “The best analogy I’ve heard for it is planting seeds.  Every time you send your book out to someone, or host an event for it, or make a move to put the word out about it in any way, you’re planning a seed.  You only need one of those seeds to take hold.”


One of those seeds might be a tweet for a Facebook post that an author sends reluctantly, but who knows what effect their actions might have.  Just as one of England’s goals in its historic 6-1 win over Panama was a deflection there is an element of creating one’s own luck here.  This is what happened with debut British author C J Tudor.  She doesn’t know which of her social media activity led to a tweet from Stephen King, but she woke up one morning to read this which he posted to his 4.5m followers:  ‘Want to read something good?  You won’t find on the front bestseller table at your bookstore, but it’s new and will be there.  The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor.  If you like my stuff, you’ll like this.’  Suffice to say, that was a very good day for Miss Tudor. 


The lesson is almost: if you tweet it, if you are pro-active in some way, who knows what will happen?  Or, to use a football analogy, if you never shoot at goal, it will never go in off a defender.


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.