Wow, it’s been a very busy couple of weeks!
First, I am so thrilled to have given my very first lecture ever, to the lovely Creative Writing & Publishing MA students at City University. It was a glorious morning, and huge thanks to Patrick Brindle the programme director, for inviting me along.
Second, I was also on a fab panel at Byte the Book: ‘How are independent publishers shaking up the industry?’ It was a warm event, brimming with good cheer and friendly debate – I had a fabulous time. Thank you to fellow panellists – Nicholas Cheetham from Head of Zeus, Sam Jordison from Galley Beggar Press, and Aimée Felone from the brand new publisher, Knights Of – for being so amazing to chat with, and to Emma House from sponsors The Publishers Association for chairing us so expertly. And, of course, double doses of thanks to Justine Solomons, who makes Byte the Book so fantastic every time, and invited me to be on the panel.
You can read all about what we discussed in the official, free-to-read Byte the Book report!
Did I hear someone ask for some publishing news? Look no further, because it’s time once again for my monthly publishing news wrap over on BookMachine! Follow the link here and at the end of the excerpt for full hyperlinks and article.
This month in publishing, there has been much news from across the pond as BookExpo took place, with tweaks promised for 2018 to try to find the right balance between Expo and Con. The big books of the BookExpo show have been slightly overshadowed, however, by the continuing fuss over the size of advances being paid to American politicians for their books, including $795k for Bernie Sanders and former FBI Director James Comey is looking at a rumoured $10m bidding war.
In bookselling, once again author James Patterson has partnered with the American Booksellers Alliance for his Holiday Bookseller Bonus program, which this year will give even more ‘bonuses’ to individual bookshops in America. For one bookshop, however, no bonus is needed, as they just sold a first edition James Bond book for a whopping $22,500!
Roll up, roll up! It’s time to hear about the biggest publishing news from around the web over the past month, with the BookMachine May Publishing Wrap!
Big news from Amazon once again this month, as it hit an all-time high in the stock market and revenue from Q1 is up, prompting CEO Jeff Bezos to sell some of his stocks in the business for the largest sum yet. The tech giant’s Japanese expansion continues apace and they are widely considered to be “eating the world”, but all is not well with Amazon’s relationship with publishing. The introduction of a new buy button programme has drawn criticism from publishers and authors alike – including in the independent scene. What’s more, Amazon has this month announced and released a new book chart system, in which – perhaps unsurprisingly – their own books are notably faring better than anyone else’s.
Once in a while, a book comes along that totally blows your mind. The Hate U Give is one of those books and everyone should read it right now. Even better, the author Angie Thomas, is a total sweetheart, absolutely bursting with passion. Here’s our chat – and you should totally check out the full article on BookBrunch – but you should also buy the book.
Angie Thomas has shot to literary stardom in recent months, as her debut novel The Hate U Give, skyrockets to the top of the NYT bestseller charts. Set to be published in 18 territories and counting – and already out here through Walker Books – the YA novel follows 16-year-old Starr, who lives between the poor Mississippi neighbourhood where she was born and a posh high school in the suburbs. When she becomes the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, she comes face to face with police brutality and systemic racism
After the intensity of the book, Thomas herself is a slight surprise: a generous smile, regular laughter, and a soft Mississippi accent. Her passion and conviction shine through, however, and she has much to say on publishing, on the importance of books, and on America itself.
The struggle to write
Though Thomas has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, it took her a long time to believe that being an author was something she could do. “For one, I never saw or met any authors who looked like me. Mississippi has a rich literary history, but most of them are either white or dead and I was neither! So it felt like it was something that I, as a black girl in a poor neighbourhood in Mississippi, just couldn’t do.”
Here’s your monthly summary of hot publishing news from around the interwebs! Don’t forget, you can read the full article over on the BookMachine blog.
This month in publishing news, there has been an unusual obsession with the smell of books. Not only did scientists pin-point that distinctive smell of second-hand bookshops, but the Guardian discovered what you can tell about an individual book from its smell – and why the scent is so addictive.
In the bookselling sphere, Amazon once again dominated the opinions columns, as their forays into bricks and mortar bookshops continue. Plans for a second New York City bookstore, and another in Massachusetts are underway, while Seattle has been tipped as the next Amazon experiment ground.
This week’s BookBrunch interview is with the lovely Karen Sullivan from Orenda Books – don’t forget to click the link for the full article!
Two and a half years on from its launch, Orenda Books is going from strength to strength. Run by its founder, Karen Sullivan, Orenda publishes literary fiction, as well as “the high end of genre fiction”, with an emphasis on crime and thrillers. About half the list is translated fiction, and Sullivan is always keen to push the boundaries.
Striking out alone
Though Sullivan started in publishing at Sidgwick & Jackson, working her way up to commissioning editor, for much of her career she has written books on parenting. As her own children got older, she took what was supposed to be a one-day-a-week job at a small publisher; it turned into 15 months of non-stop work when it became clear all was not well with the business.
This week for the BookBrunch interview, I chatted with three of this year’s Trailblazer Award winners, Anna Russo, Heather McDaid, and Željka Maroševic. Check out the excerpt below or follow this link for the full article.
Two months on from the second annual Trailblazers Awards, organised by London Book Fair (LBF) and the Society of Young Publishers (SYP), we catch up with three of the five Trailblazer winners – Anna Russo, Željka Maroševic and Heather McDaid – to find out what they’ve been up to and their plans for the future. They provide a snapshot of an industry, not just expanding outside London, but around the world
Another trio of interviews for you from BookBrunch, and each one is a real treat for publishing enthusiasts.
First, I caught up with Henry Rosenbloom from Scribe, who was so frustrated with the state of rights sales, he decided to expand his publishing house from down under to the UK. This is one publisher that’s serious about seriously good books!
“Later on in life, I’ve realised that what drives me as a publisher, in a strange kind of way, is the Holocaust. That’s what imprinted on me the seriousness of the world we live in, and how important it was to try to understand history, politics, people, and how to tell the truth. How to ‘comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable’. Books have the power to change people’s lives, and we want to put out books that demand to be published because of their intrinsic significance.”
It’s the time of the month where I round up all the internet’s top publishing stories and stick them in one place on the BookMachine blog for your perusal! Here’s a sneak peek – don’t forget to visit the BookMachine blog for more…
The big news from March in UK publishing is obviously the London Book Fair (LBF). Poland shone at this year’s Market Focus, and the Fair was busier than usual, with six-figure deals struck ahead of time and publishers cheerfully splashing cash as sales rose. This was seen as further evidence of the rise of print, with The Guardian stating that by the end of the month stats showing that print outperformed digital. Yet, despite the recent whopping $65m forward paid for the Obamas’ new book (which hasn’t pleased all and prompted a list of the biggest deals of all time) no single title emerged as this year’s big hitter.
It’s been a wildly busy fortnight my end, but in amongst it all I’ve managed to get out the BookBrunch weekly interview as normal, so here’s a pair of publishing chats for you perusal…
On boosting adult literacy with Jo Dawson from Quickreads
“As heavy readers, publishers have trouble imagining what it’s like not to be able to read well. It’s something we all forget about in the industry because we’re in this bubble of people who do read and believe that books are important.”
After the bestseller: an interview with author Kate Hamer
“I just try to focus on what’s going down on the page every day. What will happen will happen, but the page is the one thing I can control.”
For those of you looking for some pleasant reading today, I thoroughly recommend catching up on the last three BookBrunch interviews!
Looking back to the New Year, Suzanne Baboneau, Managing Director of Adult Publishing at Simon & Schuster, discusses what lies ahead in publishing.
Then bestselling novelist Chibundu Onuzo talks about her new novel, Welcome to Lagos.
And finally Sophie O’Neill, Managing Director at Inpress chats about the rise of the independent publisher and the value of poetry.
Season’s greetings, friends! And boy, what a ride 2016 has been! Here’s hoping that 2017 brings more peace and sanity into the world – and for all of you much prosperity and some grand adventures.
Just because the season of of gifts and feasts is upon us, doesn’t mean I’ve been slowing down on the old journalism front though. Very excitingly, I can now reveal my first ever podcast: The BookBrunch Yearly Wrap 2016 Podcast, brought to you for FREE! That’s right, you can listen in for absolutely no money as some of the publishing industry’s top voices talk about their feelings on 2016 and their predictions for the year to come. The only reasonable excuse for not listening is if you have eaten so much you’re plastered to the couch.
In a rather lovely turn of events, I have been listed on Byte the Book’s Hub for publishing professionals. You can check out my profile right here.
Returning the favour, I thought I’d give Byte the Book a big shout out. They’re a fab networking event for everyone in the publishing industry and beyond, bringing together engaging, lovely folk from across the creative sectors. Yes, writers, that includes you!
They have monthly events with panels on industry issues and it’s worth becoming a member just to attend them all for free, let alone for the other great benefits like free entry to Bologna, LBF and Frankfurt.
I’ve been a member for two and a half years now and it’s become one of my go-to events for keeping up with publishing and staying connected to my industry friends. For more information, check out the Byte the Book website.
For this week’s BookBrunch interview, I spoke with Ed Marino, Executive Chairman and codeMantra about publishing’s very technological future and the benefits of real collaboration. For the full article, visit the BookBrunch website, or get started with the excerpt below…
There have been a lot of claims over the past year that digital sales are down and print is on the rise, but according to Ed Marino, Chief Executive and part-owner of service provider codeMantra, publishing’s phase of uncertainty is far from over. In our trans-Atlantic chat, we discuss the definition of true collaboration, the role of service providers in the industry, and our very technological future.
Marino came on board with codeMantra in February 2014, after he and a group of colleagues acquired the business. In his classic US accent, Marino describes it as “a technology-enabled services company” that offers content production and software platform services to major publishers, primarily in the STM and Academic space.
This week for the BookBrunch interview, I got together with Ella Kahn and Bryony Woods of the Diamond, Kahn & Woods Literary Agency to discuss this year’s Trailblazer Award success and the future of agenting. For the full article, head over to BookBrunch, or read the snippet below:
As the deadline approaches for this year’s Trailblazers Awards, run by the London Book Fair (LBF) in partnership with the Society of Young Publishers (SYP) and BookBrunch, we catch up with two of last year’s winners, Ella Kahn and Bryony Woods, of Diamond Kahn & Woods Literary Agency. They discussed how the award has affected business for the better, why they made the decision to set up their own agency, and what the future holds.
In the four years since Diamond Kahn & Woods got started, the agency has accrued 50 clients and placed over 40 books, managed between Woods, Kahn and their colleague Elinor Cooper, who joined in April last year.
However, the agency was conceived long before this, when Woods and Kahn met during their Publishing MA at UCL in 2009-2010. “As friends, we had always known we both wanted to go into agenting, and joked about setting up our own agency together one day in the distant future, when we were both eminent agents with big lists of clients and grey hair,” Woods explains.
Having heard some pretty serious stats about training given to newbie publishers lately, I felt inspired to write a piece about the Autumn Statement, productivity, and the shift in attitude towards training and skill-building support that needs to happen in publishing. The full article is also FREE to read over on BookBrunch. Here’s a snippet:
Training and skill drain: affecting productivity in publishing
Research shows that publishers are failing to invest in the skills they need
In his Autumn Statement last week, Chancellor Philip Hammond brought attention to Britain’s sub-par productivity. Our output per unit of input lags 30% behind other economies such as the US and Germany: in the time it takes a German worker to make £1.35, a British worker will make only £1.
Hammond’s remedy involves a £23bn National Productivity Investment Fund, which will be used for the most part to invest in infrastructure such as roads and affordable housing. However, fixing productivity involves more than this kind of investment. As Katie Allen pointed out in the Guardian over the weekend, “when it comes to appearing to be doing something about the productivity puzzle it is far easier to talk about roads than the thorny issue of Britain’s addiction to low-paid, low-skilled work”. This is an issue that comes down to attitude.
The past three weeks have seen me write up reports on three stellar publishing conferences: the London Book Fair’s “Building Inclusivity in Publishing” conference; The Literary Consultancy (TLC)’s “What’s Your Story?” symposium; and the Society of Young Publisher (SYP)’s annual Autumn conference, this year on the theme of “Making a Bestseller.” Here’s some write ups – the SYP one is even FREE to read!
Words are no longer enough: inclusivity gets gritty
“A theme that became clear early on in the day was that the industry has been treating diversity and inclusivity as if they are optional, which for those they are excluding they are not. ‘We’re not here to talk about diversity in publishing, we’re here to talk about humanity,’ said Crystal Mahey-Morgan, one of the keynote speakers and founder of OWN IT! Publishing. ‘We’ve got so caught up in the box ticking and PC conversations, we’ve forgotten why inclusivity is so important…'”
TLC symposium: ‘What’s your story’ in the digital age
“We have to be careful as an industry about whom these laws of literary merit exclude. Now and in the past, writers of colour have often experienced difficulty being recognised in the literary world. ‘The idea that literary value is a liberal, free world isn’t true,’ said Cook. ‘Literary values are created in a process, and it is a process that has been party to brutal exclusion. We are talking about a system of violence. There is a certain kind of violence in this world and if you try to pretend that there isn’t, you misunderstand it.'”
SYP conference 2016: redefining successful books – FREE to view
“Having to point out that long-term sales and profits are just as valid as short-term ones seems to me to be a symptom of an industry increasingly concerned with short-term goals. The question I was left with is not what makes a bestseller, but whether, by its standard definition, a bestseller is an inherently good thing.”
The haze of panic-packing and binge reading in advance of this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair has begun. This week, I caught up with the Fair’s own Katja Böhne to discuss what’s hot at Frankfurt in 2016. Read the whole piece over on BookBrunch, or get your teeth into the excerpt below.
It’s that special time of year when the leaves are turning, the nights are drawing in – and every publisher in Europe is packing their suitcase for the Frankfurt Book Fair. As the opening draws near, I caught up with Katja Böhne, Head of Marketing and Communications at the Fair, to discuss what awaits visitors and exhibitors in 2016.
“It’s five minutes before the Fair and everything is a bit upside down. Juergen Boos [Fair director] said recently, ‘The homework is done, now the chaos begins!'” Böhne says with a laugh as soon as she picks up the phone. The line is clear and she speaks with a gentle accent in impeccable English. “Actually, everything is fine and on track, but there are still so many last minute ideas and things to do. Every year it’s the same, so it’s not unusual.”