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Comment from the book world in July 2006

July 2006

'Go out there and grab them'

31 July 2006

'A lot of nonsense is talked about the way writers publicise their work. The facts are brutal: unless you produce the kind of assured bestsellers that will encourage your publishers to pay for chain-store promotions, you have no guaranteed sales. There are a hell of a lot of books out there waiting to be read (if you pause in the reading of this piece for a mere 40 seconds, another one will have been published somewhere in the world), and if an author wants his to find its readers, he has to go out there and grab them. I've been known to offer to go round to people's houses and shampoo their stair carpets, if they'll only consider giving one of my weighty volumes a cursory heft.'

Will Self in the Sunday Telegraph's Seven

'Experiences that I have had'

24 July 2006

'A novel has an energy of its own. In that sense, it is like riding a horse. It talks back to you. It isn't always transient. Sometimes, you wrestle with it. I think of my novel as experiences that I have had, not as things that have accrued to me. It's nice if they boost your status or your income, but they are about pleasure primarily. The pleasure is in the form itself. With a horse, even if you have had a bad ride, you want to get back on because it is so interesting. Same with novels.'

Jane Smiley, author of 13 Ways of Looking at a Novel and Horse Heaven in the Observer

Authors, literary agents - and tax

17 July 2006

'A good agent guides his or her client confidently through mine-fields such as foreign rights, audio, film, radio and TV, the weasel clauses in contracts that may strip authors of rights they need to retain, queries from foreign publishers, publicity enquiries, rights reversions, downloads, podcasts, websites, double taxation indemnity agreements and so on. Agents also need to respect that awkward need of an author for time and privacy in which to write...

Self-employed authors live tightrope lives, their careers often poorly paid and wildly erratic. They have no public service or corporate cushion of sick pay, pension, paid holiday or maternity and paternity rights. They cannot be expected to shoulder the disadvantages of self-employment without being able to offset necessary, legitimate expenses against tax.'

Helen Dunmore, Chair of the Society of Authors in the Bookseller

Books for the beach

10 July 2006

'Holidays offer an opportunity to extend reading time beyond that snatched half-hour on the train or the slack-jawed period before lights out, in which a kind of literary Groundhog Day dictates that you read the same page an apparent infinity of times without being any the wiser as to what's going on. Suddenly, there's a bit of time, a modicum of quiet and the prospect of an unfolding mental space in which to aim for something more satisfying than remembering to pay the congestion charge and getting through a day without being sacked.

The ensuing challenge is one that all book-lovers should light on with something approaching glee. You know you want something good, something engrossing, something that will hold your attention. You might know, broadly, the kind of things you like, but you're also beset by other imperatives. Should you seize the opportunity to immerse yourself in something out of your normal range? Should you satisfy the modern tourist's conscience by informing yourself about the place you're visiting? Should you work on those areas of your intellect that lie fallow during the rest of the year - renew your acquaintance with contemporary poetry, for example, or bone up on the development of porcelain in the Tang dynasty'

Alex Clark, introducing the Observer's summer reading list

Small publisher power

3 July 2006

'It's possible to punch above your size and weight and get the kind of coverage much larger houses receive. I do think that the shifting dynamics of the trade are in our favour. The conglomerates are focusing with tremendous vigour on doing fewer books, and doing them with more power - and that allows smaller publishers to pick up on those projects that aren't being housed in the way they would have been five to ten years ago.'

Philip Gwyn Jones of new independent publisher Portobello in Publishing News