London Wall Publishing

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

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


The launch of Ratuken Kobo’s partnership with Walmart that will see an array of e-book content, reading services and devices available through Walmart stores and via co-branded iOS and Android apps is good news for both traditionally published and self-published authors, widening their reach.


On the latter, Kobo’s chief executive Michael Tamblyn is positive about the growth of Kobo Writing Life (KWL), the company’s self-publishing platform.  He called the growth of self-publishing “the dark matter of the publishing world,” essentially describing the category—which produces hundreds of thousands of books each year—as a kind of powerful but unseen force.  He believes that KWL titles represent 20%–25% of all English-language books sold via Kobo.  Although Kobo does not disclose the number of authors using the platform, Tamblyn said KWL authors publish in 97 languages and their books are distributed in 150 countries. “Our international presence is attractive to US authors looking to sell their books into overseas markets for English writing,” he explained.


London Wall Publishing is expanding its reach internationally too, with its author Hannah Fielding among writers invited to the Sharjah International Book Fair in the UAE at the end of October, and the publisher exhibiting at the Guadalajara International Book Fair in Mexico in November.  


Meanwhile, the book industry in the US continues to be stormy affair with President Trump’s lawyers failing to prevent publication of Omarosa Manigault Newman’s Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House, just as they failed with Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury. Lawyers are also involved with an ugly skirmish at troubled US chain Barnes & Noble.  Its former CEO Demos Parneros, who was fired in July, is suing the company for defamation of character, while there is a groundswell of support among shop-floor staff for Heidi Fairchild, a highly respected bookseller at the company’s branch in Alpharetta, Georgia, to be picked to run the company, which, at the time of writing, is without a chief executive.


A piece of publishing history will take place next month when Carlton publishes the first augmented reality (AR) novel for children.  The Ghostkeeper’s Journal Field Guide, written and produced by the publisher’s digital director Japhet Asher, is an immersive adventure for readers aged ten and up.  The AR enables readers to uncover mysteries and solve the disappearance of Agamemnon White, head of ghostkeeping.  The AR is accessed via a ‘Ghost-o-Matic’ app (stay with this) requiring the reader to scan relevant pages with their mobile.  Aphet says he is keen on bringing the screen generation back to books and on helping reluctant readers engage with books.  “Children with different reading skills will find a way into this, and making sure the book works for those kids at different levels is important,” he says.  “Overall, children will discover that paper with words on it can be just as exciting as screens.”


Independent bookshops and independent publishers are forming a kind of sub-industry, as indie publishers find it harder – and more expensive – to sell their titles to the chains.  Lynn Gaspard at Saqi in London says: “We had a bit of a shock with some of the chains not supporting our lead titles in the past two years.  It’s only once the book has done well elsewhere that some of the chains will take more copies.  It is as though the customer has to prove that there is a demand for a particular book before the retailers commit to supporting it.”


Increasingly, that support comes via independent bookshops: if a chain sees the indie sector doing well with a title, then it is more likely to come on board.  London-based publisher of African writing Cassava Republic said the UK retail environment was “very challenging”.  Sales and rights director Emma Shercliff said: “There is a lot of talk about needing to support publishers of diverse authors but we don’t see the follow-through from the trade in terms of ordering, and sometimes we feel that buyers think it is easier to just ‘go with what they know’ from the major houses.”


Finally, spare a thought for author Tom Cox who has suffered what must be every writer’s nightmare.  His bag, inside which was a Moleskin notebook “containing a year’s worth of notes towards my next book”, was stolen from a pub in Bristol, and he took to social media to tell the world about it in the hope that it might turn up.  As this column went to press, it still hadn’t emerged.  By grim coincidence, he lost 23,000 words of a previous book from his computer in 2017.  But he says:  “I recovered from that, so I’m sure I’ll find a lot of the words somewhere in my head and it will all work out.”


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.