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Comment from the book world in November 2004

November 2004

'Children's writing is the Zeitgeist'

29 November 2004

'Eleven is when you need to catch the reading bug. I thought that if I could give my son a 'road to Damascus' experience he might become a reader, so when I sat down and wrote this story that was what was at the back of my mind.... I had a great time writing this, it was like being a child again. I have never read a Harry Potter all the way through, so I don't know what a 'typical' children's books is like today - I grew up on Ransome, Kipling and Buckeridge, as well as comics....

Children's writing is the Zeitgeist. People here can be quite cynical and accuse adult writers of 'jumping on the bandwagon' but so what if they are? When I was a child, the choice of titles was really limited. It's important that children like reading and the more choice there is for them, the better.'

Philip Kerr, author of The Children of the Lamp and several adult novels, in the Bookseller

The supermarkets' effect on books

22 November 2004

'We really must get wise to what the supermarkets are doing. They offer none of the added value that is fundamental to nurturing serious book-buying and through which sales of publishers' profitable backlists are enhanced.

The supermarkets simply take the easily available cream and, in so doing, undermine the strength of the traditional book trade. What is more, because they have no long-term interest in the book industry, they can negotiate with suppliers that much more aggressively. If they can't get the prices they want, they'll simply drop books and sell something else. If, in getting the prices they want, they undermine the established infrastructure of our industry, then so be it. Why should they care?'

Richard Barker in the Bookseller

‘Poetry is a craft’

15 November 2004

'But perfectly sane people seriously expect their doggerel to be published in a national newspaper or by the publishing house that fostered T S Eliot and Philip Larkin. They enter poetry competitions in the hope that maybe, just maybe, this time they will shoot to fame and what passes in the poetry world for fortune. It is indeed like the lottery and the odds are probably about the same.

Perhaps it's because of the mystique surrounding poetry that people think they can knock off a few words and watch them transform, like magic, into something they call a poem. Sadly, it's not like that. Poetry is a craft and it starts with reading. "I think," said the poet Michael Longley, "that technique is important. If most people who called themselves poets," he added, "were tightrope-walkers, they'd be dead."'

Christina Patterson in the Independent

Authors' promotional tours

8 November 2004

'It's a Catch 22 situation. The more successful you are, the less time you have to write. But your publishers and your readers still expect a book a year, particularly if you are a genre fiction writer like I am... If you take a week off, you can completely lose the plot. Alan Sillitoe once said to me, "They put authors on tour to stop them writing too much."'

Ian Rankin in the Bookseller on the requirement for successful authors to tour.

Publishing illustrated books

1 November 2004

'The investment in an illustrated book, the picture acquisition cost, the production, the design, is much, much greater than, let's say, a novel, where if you don't sell a single copy, and it's a first novel, where you might not have paid a huge advance, the actual cost of the paper and production is very slim. Whereas, if you get it wrong with a big art book, you will feel it financially. That's one of the reasons why so few illustrated art books work with just the domestic market in mind. With some few exceptions, it just isn't big enough. So the way that we endeavour to make it work is to have a team of people whose job is to set up international editions, translations, co-editions, which we will then print in French, German, American, Hungarian, Korean - it's about getting up to a large enough print run, defraying some of the risk because of the co-publishers in other countries.'

Jamie Camplin of Thames & Hudson, in Publishing News