London Wall Publishing

Shelf Life – news from around the book business – May 2019

Shelf Life – news from around the book business – May 2019



London Wall Publishing author Hannah Fielding will attend the 31st Skopje Book Fair in North Macedonia this month (May), meeting with booksellers and distributors and talking about her writing and sources of inspiration.


Skopje Book Fair is growing in importance and shows some 80,000 titles from more than 80 publishers.  It is organised in cooperation with the Association of Publishers, the Association of Publishers and Booksellers of Macedonia and the Association of Albanian Publishers from Macedonia.  In addition to domestic publishers, the fair sees publishers from Serbia, Montenegro and Albania.


Back home, more than 9,000 Waterstone staff have now signed a petition calling for the ‘real living wage’, and more than 2,000 – including a number of authors, among them Kerry Hudson, author of Lowborn, and David Nicholls – signed an open letter to Waterstones’ MD James Daunt in support.


Daunt, who at heart is an independent bookseller, said he was “sympathetic” to the booksellers’ cause, but added “there is an equation to be had as to what is a sustainable level of profit for the business and whether it’s wise to inflate the cost at the base rate at the moment when there is a lot of peril on the high street”.


Pay and gender have been much discussed in recent weeks.  It seems that since 2017 there has only been slow progress to make things more equitable.  At publishers and booksellers where the pay gap already favoured men, half saw the median margin widen further, although others made marginal inroads.  In a nutshell, women dominate the employment figures in publishing, but on average take home less pay.  Only one book business looked at by the Bookseller magazine recorded a pay gap in women’s favour at both the mean and median measures.


Hachette UK is the first major UK publisher to release an Ethnicity Pay Gap report showing the difference in the average pay of black, Asian and other minority ethnic (BAME) employees compared with the salaries of white staff.  At first, the news looked encouraging.  In terms of median earnings – that is, the mid-point of all employees’ salaries from the highest to lowest paid), it found that BAME staff at the Hachette Group took home 6.9% more than white employees, and 10.4% more in bonus pay.


But the company itself pointed out that this was misleading.  Its CEO David Shelley wrote to staff saying that the read finding “is the lack of representation in the company”, which had skewed the figures.  Of 1,650 employees, just 7.7% are from BAME backgrounds, less than the wider publishing sector of 11.6%, and almost half that of the number living in the UK (14%), although a better measure might be London, where 41% of the population identifies as BAME.


But Hachette, and other groups, are taking action.  It aims to recruit more broadly, and to have at least one BAME candidate on interview shortlists.  Interestingly, it also plans to establish a “mirror board”, that could serve as a “runway” onto the main board for BAME staff with high potential.


Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat, is turning into one of the loudest voices on industry concerns now.  She has called for more action to shut down pirates sites that she believes are undermining authors’ incomes, and more recently she has spoken out against the use of pseudonyms by existing authors to relaunch themselves as début writers.  She suggested on twitter that authors were being persuaded by their publishers to use a new name because of the industry’s “obsession” with débuts and the extra marketing opportunities that they bring – the familiar lure of the new.


Phoebe Morgan, editorial director of Trapeze, defended the practice.

 “As an editor I hugely value all of my authors and would always rather re-launch them than lose them from my list. A change of name can allow a writer to switch genre, tap into a new readership, access more retail channels—so when this is done it’s always in the author’s absolute best interests.”


However, Suzanne Baboneau, md of adult publishing at Simon and Schuster, insisted she was not aware of any trend for pseudonyms and said it went against the aim of building up an author’s profile over time.  “There are of course instances where an established author might radically change direction in their writing and advocate, on their own initiative or collaboratively, taking on a different identity to avoid confusion, but I’m straining to find any such examples on our list.  Surely it’s all about building a profile for an author, establishing and expanding a loyal fan base for them over the course of time and, yes, nurturing careers long-term through thick and thin. This to me is the essence of what we do as publishers.”


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.