London Wall Publishing

Shelf Life – news from around the book world - November 2018

Shelf Life – news from around the book world - November 2018



There was no doubt who was the star attraction at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year.  The Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was given a rock star’s welcome at the fair’s opening press conference – entirely appropriate for a writer whose work has been sampled by Beyoncé – with extended applause and cheers and an almost palpable outpouring of affection.


She did not disappoint, and in a wide-ranging speech that touched on women’s rights and the importance of writing, she said that the world was “shifting and darkening… the most powerful country in the world feels like a feudal court, full of intrigue, feeding on mendacity, drowning in its own hubris.” As everyone hoped she would, she made direct reference to the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court, despite allegations of sexual misconduct made by two women. 


“The stories of women are not yet seen as universal,” she said.  “This to me is why we seem to live in a world where many people believe that large numbers of women can simply wake up one day and make up stories about having been assaulted. I know many women who want to be famous. I don’t know one single woman who wants to be famous for having been assaulted. To believe this is to think very lowly of women.”


The fair, which is still the most important date of the year for many British publishers, was celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, and since this year is also the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it created a campaign called ‘On the Same Page’ “to actively support the Universal Declaration… and stand up for respect, cultural understanding, and for a free and diverse world”.


Freedom of speech issues have been to the fore in the publishing industry across the world in the last two years.  Sometimes it seems as if everywhere you look it is being challenged, the latest being the arrest of author Abdul Khalik Farouk in Egypt for his book Is Egypt a Poor Country?  which criticises the government’s economic policy.  Closer to home, the writers’ body and advocacy group PEN America is suing President Trump to stop him “from using the machinery of government to retaliate or threaten reprisals against journalists and media outlets for coverage he dislikes”, actions which it says are in violation of the country’s First Amendment.  It notes too that “the president has also threatened book publishers and authors who have published critical volumes.”


In amidst such serious initiatives there are regular book deals being done of course.  HarperCollins hopes it has a property that will replicate the fabulous success it had with Gail Honeymoon’s Elizabeth Oliphant is Completely Fine.  This is the equally catchy sounding The Love Story of Missy Carmichael by Beth Morrey, which sees the arrival of a new fiction genre: ‘coming-of-old’.  The publisher says that Missy Carmichael is a life-affirming, deeply moving ‘coming-of-old’ story that follows a woman who has a fulfilling life with two children, a lovely husband, a Classics degree….and then wakes up one day estranged from her adult children, by herself and bereft.


Talking of new genres, Amazon Publishing imprint Amazon Original Stories has just released a series of seven short works that take climate change as a theme.  The series is called Warmer and is seen as an example of a new genre: cli-fi.


The fate of all fiction is being discussed by publishers in the US at the moment after figures from the Association of American Publishers that show that sales of adult fiction fell 16% between 2013 and 2017.  Among the reasons cited is the decline in the number of physical bookstores – so new novels don’t have visibility – and the rise and rise of streaming services like Netflix which eat in to reading time.


But let’s end with an optimistic note for all writers.  Former editor Lucy Foley, now a successful novelist (Last Letter from Istanbul, The Invitation), says: “I always loved writing, but I didn’t think it was something I could feasibly do as an actual career.  But as an editor, seeing first drafts, there was something less intimidating about them than the glossy hardback that you pick off the shelf.  It made me realise that [a novel starts as] just a Word Document.  It suddenly felt more doable…” 

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.