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Comment from the book world in April 2004

April 2004

'The dream of a common language'

26 April 2004

'What I had in mind was poetry itself as connective urge and power... Do I want that? Yes. Do I want it in a literal sense, that each word or line I write has the same meaning for everyone as it does for me? No. Do I think poems are made of words used according to dictionary definitions? Obviously not. But poetry is an art of translation, a connective strand between unlike individuals, times and cultures.'

Adrienne Rich in an interview with Ruth Fainlight in the Independent on Sunday'

'A jolly good story'

19 April 2004

'As a historian, I think that a biography can tell you so much more than just the life of that particular individual. I think it can tell you about the time they lived in. It gives you access to that particular period. For example, I think in the case of Einstein, a book on his scientific achievements is not something a general reader will pick up. But a biography on Einstein can still carry information, and be good science, but wrapped in a more digestible form and format.... a life is always a jolly good story, and what else do you want from a book but a jolly good story?'

Barbara Schwepke of Haus Publishing

'Agents shouldn't hold us to ransom'

12 April 2004

'Where publishers have worked successfully to build an author over a number of books, agents shouldn't hold us to ransom every time there is a new contract. We accept that we should reflect past successes, but too often new contracts demand advances that bear no relation to even the most impressive sales increases. This can turn what has been a happy, successful and profitable relationship into one that is fragile and wary. Royalties may seem an outmoded concept, but there is nothing a publisher likes more than paying them to its authors.

And could the deal sometimes genuinely be about things other than just the advance money? As long as an advance is fair and not substantially lower than what may be available from the competition in the short term, surely editorial commitment, flair, passion, long-term vision and ambitious marketing plans should count for something. They do in some cases, but increasingly rarely. For the publisher, unearned advances are "dead money" - money that could be spent on marketing campaigns to stimulate not only sales of a particular title but also of backlist and future titles.'

Martin Neild, Managing Director of Hodder Headline adult consumer divisions

'Profoundly personal'

5 April 2004

'I don't keep books unless I have to: meaning I keep only those books I know I'll want for the rest of my life. The rest I callously sell on. I am not a writer because I love reading. Writers quite often make poor readers and book keepers... A writer reads in the way that a butcher eats restaurant sausages - with professional understanding, but also with the hope and fear of being outdone....

'Asked to choose a powerful reading experience, it isn't poetry that readers will generally recall, but that ether moment of immersion in a novel; of looking up to find that hours have passed, that everyone has left and the sun has gone down. This is one of the great strengths of the novel: the profoundly personal, private way it can immunise us to our surroundings.'

Tobias Hill, author of The Cryptographer, writing in The Times about the power of reading.