London Wall Publishing

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

Shelf Lifenews from around the book business May 2018



Out in the aisles at last month’s London Book Fair there was much excitement over audio – a format whose figures continue to grow – and a big focus on a number of dystopian and ‘feminist’ thrillers, which tap into the global uncertainty of the political situation and the continuing consequences of the #MeToo movement. 


Swedish owned Bonnier Publishing announced it would double its audio output in three years with the launch of a new standalone audio division and Faber said it would bring its audio arm in house and give more focus to it.  The eponymous literary agent Lorella Belli said that there had been a huge rise in audio deals.  “I have sold more books direct to audio publishers – and some for significant five-figure deals – in the past year than in the agency’s 15-year history.”


Summing up the mood on the floor of Olympia’s Grand Hall, Katie Brown, commissioning editor at Hachette-owned Trapeze, said: “All the big books are coming out of the US, and all are in the vein of The Handmaid’s Tale: dystopian and feminist.  These are the books everyone is talking about.  I think it is in response to the #MeToo movement, which is not going away.  Books with strong female characters are really popular, and are selling extremely well.”


Among the titles setting people talking were Chandler Baker’s The Whisper Network, about four women’s revenge on a sleazy male CEO, which Sphere acquired in the UK; Joanne Ramos’ SF-tinged The Farm which touches on ownership of women’s bodies; and Kassandra Montag’s After the Flood, “a riveting saga about a mother, her daughters, and their struggle to survive”, which has gone to Borough Press (HarperCollins) in the UK, and William Morrow (also owned by HarperCollins) in the US.


Once again there was a packed programme of events, seminars, panels and attendant conferences, one of which focused on Brexit and the implications for the publishing industry.  A fear voiced at the latter was that Brexit could lead to increased copying of UK titles, with a subsequent loss of revenue for British publishers, if the UK’s ‘fair dealing’ provision is “traded away” in any new trade agreement with the US after Brexit comes into force in 2019.


This worry was outlined by Lis Tribe, president of the UK Publishers Association and Group MD of Hodder Education.  She noted how the UK and US have different rules on copying, with the UK opting for ‘fair dealing’ and the US for ‘fair use’.  As Baroness Rona Fairhead, Minister of State for Trade and Export Promotion at the Department of Trade and Industry admitted, the UK currently has no free trade agreement with the US, with the current arrangement an informal one, and after Brexit much is up for negotiation.


Tribe said: “I do worry that that is one of the things that could be traded away.  We have a number of other concerns too.  We rely on our people and we need to be able to access the best talent from around the world.  There is much uncertainty around living and working in the UK following Brexit.  We have a Polish commissioning editor and he has asked us how we can be certain that Hachette itself will stay in the UK after Brexit.


“Also, moving goods easily around the world is crucial for Hodder Education.  It is very important that we gets books to people in time for the start of term.  We cannot have books stuck in dockside waiting for customs clearance.  We work with various ministries of education and if we cannot get the books to them on time, it’s a disaster.”


Publishers have also been wrestling with more immediate issues in the last month: namely the uncomfortable statistics brought to light by the government’s ruling requiring companies with more than 250 employees to publish their gender pay gap.  Broadly speaking, reports from publishers showed that despite women forming more of the workforce in companies across the publishing industry, it is men who dominate the most senior positions and attract the highest pay and bonuses.  The Publishers Association has now pledged to work with the diversity and inclusion organisation Equal Approach to look at the data as part of its wider on work on inclusivity and to recommend industry specific actions. 

In this year of celebrations of the centenary of women’s suffrage, this seems long overdue, and the industry has been united in its call for action, even if some of the statistics driving them to act have made it feel uncomfortable.

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.