London Wall Publishing

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

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



Concerns over borders have been concentrating British publishers minds in recent days – and for once we are not talking about the Northern Ireland backstop.  The decision by President Trump to impose tariffs on books imported into the US from China may not at first seem relevant to UK publishers.  But during August’s Beijing International Book Fair, at which there was a strong showing of UK publishers, the consequences for the UK of America’s ongoing trade war with China was being discussed in the aisles.


UK publishers are also very concerned about the potential impact of the trade war on their businesses, as all books produced in China are affected, which in the case of gift or children's publishers could be more than 95% of a company's production. Chinese titles sent to the US, or books later exported from the UK to the US, are all expected to attract the additional tariff, affecting orders.


Publishers are looking at alternative possibilities for printing, such as Malaysia or Vietnam, but fear that the quality and prices will not be as good as in China. Grant Hartley, export sales director at Usborne, told the Bookseller.  “Production directors are looking to diversify their suppliers, but some of our products can’t be moved very easily, and the difficulty is that everyone is looking into doing it, and if you are all suddenly looking in Eastern Europe, there is limited capacity there.” 


But, as ever, an ill wind may blow good for someone.  It could be printers elsewhere in the east, as mentioned above, who will benefit and it could also favour Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.  The emirate, which lies next to Dubai, has recently opened Sharjah Publishing City, a publishing free zone, which includes a print facility that has untapped potential.


Congratulations to London Wall Publishing’s Hannah Fielding whose latest titles, Aphrodite’s Tears and Concerto have just been bought by Macedonia’s distinguished publishing house Toper Dooel.  The titles will now be translated into Macedonian and Albanian, taking these romantic family saga tales into eastern Europe and beyond.  Fielding has a keen readership in Macedonia – strictly speaking the country is called North Macedonia – which is a bilingual nation in which 30% of the population is Albanian.


There are congratulations due also, to Pan Macmillan which has been the standout publisher among the UK’s Big Four in the first half of 2019.  It generated sales of £40.7m for the period, its best ever first half, helped along by the Pinch of Nom cookery phenomenon which is this year’s Ben Wicks as it were.  Actually, the publisher points out that it has a broad spread of strong-selling titltes, among them Ann Cleeves’ Wild Fire.  By coincidence Cleeves, who is known for the novels that inspired the BBC’s Shetland series, has made headlines recently with some rallying words concerning libraries. 


She told the National Library Conference in Harrogate: “We need libraries more than ever – when there is a danger fake news may triumph, we need places where truth is told; and when we are riven with disagreement we need paces where we come together to discuss our differences reasonably; we also need a place to escape.”


Back on these shores the Booksellers Association – the body that represents high street bookstores – has joined forced with more than 53,000 UK retailers to demand changes to the business rate system in a bid to save the high street.  Broadly speaking it feels the current system was established in an analogue world and does not take into account the shift online which greatly benefits online players.  It has written an open letter to the Chancellor (at the time of writing) Sajid Javid urging reform of the existing rates structure.


Back to China.  There were many British publishers in Beijing for the fair which wrapped up at the end of August.  Children’s houses like Nosy Crow looked with some amazement at interactive devices on display that included Luka Hero, a smart owl-shaped robot device that can read picture books to children.  It has been developed by AI start-up Ling Technologies and uses a combination of cameras and artificial intelligence to allow the device to follow the words a child points to on the page.  Apparently, it can even use the parent’s voice to read….

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.