London Wall Publishing

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

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


The removal of VAT on ebooks; maximum possible access to the EU single market after Brexit, as well as strong free trade agreements which recognise UK publishing’s position as a global leader; a strong intellectual property framework; a commitment to ensure all state schools dedicate a proportion of their budgets to providing textbooks; and a requirement for every school to have a well-resourced library.

These are the five demands to the incoming government outlined by the UK’s Publishers Association (PA) in its election ‘manifesto’.  In particular, the PA would like to see ebooks become VAT-free, just like their print equivalents.  Stephen Lotinga, the PA’s Chief Executive, said: “When VAT was first introduced politicians were absolutely clear that it should not apply to books so that it didn’t discourage reading and learning.  The development of technology has led to the totally unfair situation where those who choose to read digital publications are penalised by the taxman.  This clearly flies in the face of the government’s aim to boost literacy, education and culture.”

A vote of another sort took place last month (May), when panels of industry judges picked the winners of the British Book Awards, the book industry’s Oscars, organised by the Bookseller magazine.  The question of whether publishers and imprints mean anything to those outside the book industry is often debated.  Most conclude that it is only Penguin that has any resonance with the public, with perhaps Rough Guides and Lonely Planet having made their mark in the travel field.

But to those working in the business, these things matter a great deal, hence the shouts and spontaneous applause as the shortlists were read out at the awards dinner at London’s Grosvenor House.  Pan Macmillan was named Publisher of the Year, regaining the accolade it won in 2015, while Hachette imprint John Murray – one of the most distinguished and historic names in the business, the publisher of Lord Byron among others – was named Imprint of the Year. 

Pan Macmillan imprint Picador is also publisher of the Debut Book of the Year which went to Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You, while Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent was named both Fiction Book of the Year and Overall Book of the Year.  Waterstones took home Book Retailer of the Year and Dublin’s Gutter Bookshop (after Wilde’s famous “We are all of us in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”) was named Independent Bookshop of the Year.

Talking of bookshops, the eleventh Independent Bookshop Week kicks off on 24 June 2017, organised by the Booksellers Association.  Once again, its aim is to highlight the vibrancy of the indie bookselling sector – a sector that is growing in importance as the world becomes more digital and people feel the need to reach for something real (this may be connected to the rise in sales of print books too).  The community role of bookshops is increasingly being mentioned, with some referring to bookshops as a ‘third place’.  This term comes from US sociologist Ray Oldenberg’s book The Great Good Place in which he argues that each of us needs three places: first is the home; second is the workplace or school, and the third is places like bookshops and libraries where people from all walks of life can interact, experiencing and celebrating their commonality as well as their diversity.  ‘These places’, writes Oldenberg, ‘serve community best to the extent that they are inclusive and local.

One need is certainly paramount at the moment – and that is the desire for story, which is good news for writers and publishers.  The book industry has noted how its relationship the TV and film industries has never been stronger, thanks to the proliferation of channels and platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime that have emerged in recent years.  Emily Hayward Whitlock, head of book to film at The Artists Partnership said the number of titles optioned had notably risen over the past couple of years, particularly in TV, where growth has been “exponential”.   She said: “I have found myself in a situation where there’s five or six UK companies interested in the rights for a work, so you end up having a mini auction for them – that is now happening quite a lot, especially when it is something really original.”

Finally, one trend that certainly seems to be continuing unabated – the power of the “girl”-titled novel.  Thanks to Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, last month’s US bestseller list included the following novels: Lilac Girls, All the Missing Girls, Razor Girl and The Girl rom Summer Hill.  It seems that girls just wanna….have books named after them.

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.