London Wall Publishing

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

Shelf Lifenews from around the book business November 2017



Politics spilled over into October’s Frankfurt Book Fair, with scuffles between left and right wing groups.  The director of the fair Juergen Boos said: “We categorically reject the political position and publishing activities of the New Right.  At the same time, as organiser of the largest international trade fair for books and media, we are obliged to uphold the fundamental right to free expression.”


Events in Spain also made their presence felt, with the Catalan Publishers Association issuing a statement condemning the violence that followed the region’s referendum on 1 October.  “[The Catalan Publishers Association] wishes to express its outright rejection of any form of violence,” it said, “and, furthermore, to declare its trust in the strength of the word as the sole tool for resolving conflicts.”


This year’s fair was also notable for its rallying cries for the importance of books, and for the institutions – bricks and mortar bookshops – in which they are sold.  Heinrich Riethmuller, Chairman of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, sounded almost Churchillian in his address.  He said that in the face of “increasing social tension, political uncertainty and fake news, publishers and bookstores function as guarantors of common understanding, reliable information and diversity of opinion…this is the book industry’s hour.”  He didn’t quite say booksellers would ‘fight them on the beaches’, but he did add: “In troubled times, publishers and booksellers promote dialogue, provide trustworthy information and foster the ability to form well-versed opinions.”


Publishers are increasingly talking about their responsibility at the moment, both as purveyors of truth in a ‘fake news’ world and in the face of some of the changes taking place in society.  At the Bookseller magazine’s Children’s Conference just before Frankfurt, Hillary Murray-Hill, CEO of Hachette Children’s Group, called on publishers “to act as agents of social change more than ever before”.  In her speech entitled ‘Wider than vision: how should we think about the readers of tomorrow?’ she outlined potential issues arising from “early sexualisation” of young people.  She said publishers had to be aware that attitudes towards gender identification among children were “changing at an exponential rate”, and told delegates: “Early sexualisation is already creating attitudes towards long-term commitments and relationships which may mean a more fractured society and home life for children of the future.  Attitudes towards gender identification are also changing at an exponential rate – and we are only just starting to see the reality of this playing out.  And how much will we be driven by boys being boys and girls being girls?  It’s a big focus for us right now.”


Ian Hudson, Chief Executive of Dorling Kindersley and an industry veteran, spoke about ‘fake news’ paid-for ads and internet misinformation.  “The internet is a mass repository of information and misinformation,” he said, “and when an internet search can bring up fake news, paid-for ads or SEO-optimised articles rather than high quality content, the need for accessible, curated books is greater than ever.”


Following on from York bookseller, Fiona Mozley making headlines with her Man Booker-shortlisted novel Elmet, former Waterstones bookseller Anne Griffin has just landed a book deal with Sceptre for her novel All That I Have Been.  The novel tells the story of 84-year-old Irish farmer Maurice Hannigan, who has ‘trusted few, but loved deeply’.  Sceptre Editorial Director Emma Herdman said: “I read the submission overnight and haven’t stopped thinking or talking about it since.  Anne is a wonderfully talented writer and I can‘t wait to launch her career.”


Griffin has worked as a bookseller at Waterstone stores in Dublin and London, and won the 2017 John McGahern Award for Literature.  Her short stories have been shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award and the Sunday Business Post Short Story Competition, among other prizes.


Finally, one last word from the aisles at Frankfurt.  One novel that racked up an impressive spread of international deals was Across the Void, a blockbuster survival story and love story set in space written by SK Vaughn, the pseudonym for a Hollywood writer and director who has worked for big studios, including Paramount, Sony, Fox and Lionsgate. 


The plot concerns May Knox, extrovert astronaut and only survivor of a catastrophic accident that has killed her whole crew and left her ship drifting helplessly in the void. There is only one person who can help her – her bookish ex-husband Stephen, a NASA scientist who was heading up the operation back on Earth. Twist? She broke his heart and he left both her and the mission.


The book was acquired by Sphere’s editorial director, Ed Wood, who said: “Across the Void is set to be a crossover hit, combining sci-fi thrills with a meaningful, touching love story that leaves you rooting for May and Stephen at every turn. It’s a read-in-one-sitting ride.”


The novel could herald the start of a whole new genre: Sci-cry.


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.