London Wall Publishing

Shelf Life – news from around the book business – June

So how did the publishing industry vote in the Election?  Well, according to a survey of voting intentions in the Bookseller it should have been a landslide for Labour who received 46%, with the Conservatives (19%) in second place and the Greens (13%) third.  Just 10% of respondents said they planned to vote Liberal Democrat.

Which should mean that there are some glum faces in the industry.  Certainly Andrew Franklin, the MD of independent publisher Profile Books, which was named Independent Publisher of the Year at the Bookseller Industry Awards just after the Election, used the awards ceremony to deliver a strong speech, warning of dark days ahead.  “The next five years are going to be very difficult for all of us,” he said.  “Libraries are going to close, it’s going to be hard for bookshops, it’s going to be hard for publishing, but I’m very glad there is a little corner of independent publishing that is still recognised and this is small consolation in bad and difficult times.”

One of the more surprising fall-outs from the Election was the entirely unexpected row between the industry and the Green Party after it announced its proposal to reduce copyright terms to a maximum of 14 years.  The whole saga was very unsettling because the Greens are natural bedfellows of many in the industry.  It was like discovering that Faber had been sourcing its paper from the rainforest…(it hasn’t, needless to say). 

The month saw a raft of statistics from the UK Publishers Association which showed, broadly speaking, that the industry is holding up well.  “British publishing has had a good year,” said the PA’s CEO Richard Mollet (who once stood as a Labour candidate, incidentally).  “Our overall revenues in 2014 were £4.3bn – the same as the year before, with a very strong performance in some areas, notably digital and children’s publishing, and some dropping off in some other areas, notably physical sales.  The overall picture is a good one.”

A closer look at the figures showed that consumer ebook sales have slowed for most publishers.  They are still rising, but not at the rate of previous years.  A particular worry was voiced by David Shelley, who is about to take over as CEO of the Orion Group: “A key and growing concern for all publishers of fiction is to ensure that it is still as easy for readers to discover new writers in an environment with many fewer bookshops, and an online environment that offers a bewildering amount of choice.”

Which is why independent booksellers in particular are pleased that Amazon has started to register sales made to customers resident in the UK through its UK office, rather than Luxembourg, which has a lower rate of tax.  They feel this levels the playing field in their favour.  The Booksellers Association Chief Executive Tim Godfray commented: “Being able to move costs and sales from country to country has given Amazon a considerable competitive advantage over UK businesses that don’t have an international dimension.  The decision by Amazon to end their practice of maintaining that sales to UK consumers were coming from Luxembourg when they have these absolutely massive warehouses and offices in the UK can only be welcomed, as the internet giant will now be assessed for UK Corporation Tax on the same basis as that applying to our members.” 

Self-publishing received another validation.  The Sunday Times said it would consider self-published authors for the first time in its re-launched Young Writer of the Year Award.  The £5000 prize is backed by literary agency Peters, Fraser & Dunlop.  The Sunday Times Literary Editor Andrew Holgate said: “It is about adjusting the prize to the realities of the modern world; there is no reason why we should have a bias against self-published works.”

Although children’s publishing is enjoying something of a boon period, with a number of new publishers and literary agencies springing up, there are warnings that this could lead to an unsustainable glut of new releases.  Imogen Cooper, a freelance editor at Chicken House, said: “It’s a tough market, and the danger is that too many books are published, many badly edited and of poor quality.  As we all know, if an author’s first book fails, it’s very difficult to build a career.  Are we in danger of strings of one-book wonders because authors are accepted too early, without the skills they need to have acquired?  Manuscripts and authors need time and a great deal of editorial support, together with marketing know-how and industry contacts, to launch a career.”

Finally, congratulations to Pan Macmillan which was voted Publisher of the Year at the Bookseller Industry Awards.  As if to underline that success, its Picador imprint – publisher of the award-winning debut novel The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton – also saw its editor Francesca Main named Editor of the Year.  All in all it was a good night for the venerable publisher that was founded in 1843 and which went on to publish Tennyson, Hardy and Kipling.

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.