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Comment from the book world in July 2015

July 2015

'A framework in which to practise things of the heart'

27 July 2015

‘The prize thing was absolutely wonderful. It brings you readers and that's the thing you want with every bone in your body but - how to say this without sounding churlish? - I'm very aware that people will have been saying, "Huh? Really? when it won prizes, so I don't take it as a sign that I've got there yet. I'm still working out how to write books. I need more time...

It's wonderful when adults read my books but the imagined reader for me is always a kid - and usually a kid with big desires who turns to books to find something they need...

It is slightly different for children's books, as to a point we know what we're providing: a framework to practise literacy but also a framework in which to practise things of the heart...

I think it's worth articulating again and again why we value the things that we value because as humans we have short memories and big imaginations. Children's books taught me so much because they gave me access to so many different lives and proved to me that the world was huge and more multiple than I had imagined it. If we keep telling children that, then we might end up with sharp, caring citizens.'

Katherine Rundell, author of Rooftoppers and the forthcoming The Wolf Wilder, in the Bookseller


Combining writing with agenting

20 July 2015

‘In many cases, agents are becoming more of a constant than an editor. An editor may move publishing houses and not have the power to carry writers with them. In my experience, some of our writers have been published by several houses but we remain the touchstone professionally and editorially...

Having a separate creative life somehow tempers that. It creates a buffer. It's a happier, healthier balance between work and creativity. I think I'll always be writing something. It's the one place I can go where I can't be reached. I let my writers know when I go away and write and I can fully disappear. But when I finish a week of writing, I'm sick of my own head and desperate to get into the work of someone else.(Going between agenting and writing) is like a series of reunions, you're always happy to be where you are.'

Bill Clegg, author of Did You Ever Have A Family, in the Bookseller


'Most authors are driven to write'

13 July 2015

'Most authors are driven to write - would probably write whether or not they were ever published or paid, just for the joy of it. This is their strength and their downfall. With the exception of a canny few who treat art as a business, writers are often reluctant to think of their work as just another product. We do not like to think of our books as units, to be bought and sold.

And yet, to the publishing industry, that's exactly what they are: the product of thousands of hours of work - of editing, copy-editing, design, marketing, proof-reading and promotion. It takes a lot of people to help create and publish a book; and although the creator - the writer - is surely the most important of these, the average author's earnings have fallen quite dramatically over the past 10 years or so.' Joanne Harris, author of The Gospel of Loki and Chocolat, in the Daily Telegraph.

'Short-termism in publishing' - judging the Desmond Elliott Prize

6 July 2015

‘With a shortlist so splendid and accomplished, it was not surprising that in the end our final decision came down to taste...

The issue of taste is important here because it is one that affects the decision-making process not only for prize judges but for the industry as a whole: and that's something all authors have to come to terms with throughout their careers. You can't please all of the people all of the time - even hugely well-known authors have some books that do better than others: the failures are painful, the successes often seem arbitrary. Given that no author has a uniform career, it's vital that they are given long-term support from an industry that relies on them for regular transfusions of new blood.

The amount of publicity given to those first novels that become instant bestsellers distorts the reality for the majority of debut novelists, even very gifted ones: a moderate advance, a small amount of acclaim, a continuing battle to get their next book written and then published. Ian Rankin famously succeeded with his seventh novel - and Hilary Mantel wrote brilliant, strange and wonderful books time and time again before Wolf Hall, her tenth. It is worth noting not just the number of books that Mantel wrote before she hit the big time, but their variety: contemporary satire, historical epic, memoir and black comedy. Her publishers not only kept publishing her, they kept faith with her as she wrote the books she wanted to write.

It's easy for a publisher to support an author when she sells well and wins prizes. In the literary world, as elsewhere, nothing succeeds like success; but short-termism in publishing is not only devastating for the authors who don't get the support they deserve, it's bad for business. We call on the publishers of all books on our wonderful shortlist to support these writers not only with their sparkling debuts but with their fourth, fifth, sixth novels. We expect to see Emma Healey, Carys Bray and Claire Fuller on prize nominations, bestseller lists and in the literary pages of our newspapers for years to come, and if they aren't, we're going to be asking why not.

Publishers, we are watching you.'

Louise Doughty, author of Apple Tree Yard and chair of the judges for the Desmond Elliott Prize


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