London Wall Publishing

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

Shelf Lifenews from around the book business June 2018



HarperCollins swept the board at the British Book Industry Awards, the book trade’s Oscars which were held at Grosvenor House in Mayfair on 14 May.  It was named Publisher of the Year, and also collected two of the night’s big book awards.  Fiction Book of the Year went to Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor, published by HarperCollins imprint Fourth Estate, and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, published by HarperFiction, was named overall Book of the Year.


That’s not all.  The HarperCollins marketing team also won Marketing Strategy of the Year for its Oliphant campaign and just to round off that novel’s stellar year, Honeyman’s agent Madeleine Milburn was named Literary Agent of the Year.  Eleanor Oliphant certainly is completely fine!


The evening also saw the inaugural Illustrator of the Year Award given to the German born Axel Scheffler who created the Gruffalo with Julia Donaldson.  He used his acceptance speech to launch an impassioned attack on Brexit which drew a standing ovation.  He said that he and his “fellow EU citizens, many working in the UK book industry – are still living in uncertainty.  We have, so far, no guarantee that we can still live and work here in the future….”  He continued: “It makes me sad, and I worry when I think of a post-Brexit future for the UK families, especially the children, who are growing up with our books.  What went wrong? What did they miss, the parents and grandparents who were reading Room on the Broom with its message of the importance of solidarity, partnership, friendship and kindness? The book wasn’t called No Room on the Broom.”


Back with HarperCollins – yes, it has had quite a spring – its UK CEO Charlie Redmayne is now president of the UK Publishers Association (PA).  In his first address at the PA’s AGM, he stressed the importance of copyright and raised the issue of Amazon infringing territorial rights.  “When publishers, particularly trade publishers, are buying rights, we need to make sure that we can protect the value of those rights in order for us to be able to make those investments in the first place,” he said.  “Amazon over the past few years has brought in a number of things that are very worrisome to us.  One of them is the concept of the ‘Global Store’; we see now that when a book goes on sale here in the UK, for which we have UK and Commonwealth rights, an American copy is also on sale on alongside it.  We will then give takedown notices, but the fact is, we end up playing a game of whack-a-mole in terms of trying to make sure these things come down. Amazon’s response to them can be slow.”


On the retail side, the industry was glad to learn that James Daunt is to stay at the helm of Waterstones following its sale to ‘activist’ hedge fund Elliott Advisors.  There has been no end of speculation as to future strategy.  Agent Jonny Geller, joint CEO of Curtis Brown, said: “An ‘activist’ private equity firm is likely to have ideas and want to see return pretty quickly.  I hope that will come in the form of expansionist, creative growth plans, rather than the diminution of assets and leases.  I suspect it will be looking at other media businesses on the high street or entertainment outlets in order to see if there are mutual advantages.”


Novelist Jojo Moyes stepped in to save the adult literacy program Quick Reads from closure.  Founded in 2005 the scheme saw well-known authors writing short and accessible titles to encourage reluctant adult readers.  Moyes has agreed to provide the costs of running the scheme for three years after it failed to find the £120,000 per annum needed to keep it going.  She said: “Having written a Quick Reads myself [Paris for One, in 2015] and spoken to readers who have benefited from the scheme, I knew how important it was.  It is relatively low cost and loved by authors, publishers and readers. At a time when libraries are ever more endangered, it seemed a completely regressive move to lose Quick Reads.”


Finally, to an issue of the moment: plastic.  Children’s author Lauren St John has created an anti-plastic campaign called Authors4Oceans to encourage publishers, bookshops and readers to reduce the amount of plastic they use by finding eco alternatives to the bags, straws, bottles and single-use cutlery that ends up at the bottom of the sea.

St John came up with the idea when she ordered a drink in a bookshop and it came with a plastic straw.   “It made me think of all the bookshops across the UK - there are 300 branches of Waterstones alone - and about how many of them dish out plastic straws and bags every day. If I had written on behalf of myself I probably wouldn’t have achieved anything, but I thought if I teamed up with other writers and illustrators we might have a voice.”


Now her supporters include Sir Michael Morpurgo, Chris Riddell and Jacqueline Wilson.  “More than 100 people signed the pledge on our website within hours of the project launching,” she added.  “Many authors got in touch saying they want to join…The campaign has tapped into people’s desire to do something.  It’s a rallying point.”


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.