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Comment from the book world in October 2006

October 2006

Grown-up fairy stories

30 October 2006

'The reason romantic fiction should be scrutinised more thoroughly is that it is the code to unlock what women really want.

We go to see movies together, and TV watching is a shared experience, but reading is a private pleasure. I pick up a romantic novel not so I can impress my friends with having read it, but because I know that while I am reading it I can leave the world behind. There will be a heroine that I sympathise with, a hero I want to share a sunset with, and I know that the outcome will be happy...

Women need the grown-up fairy stories of romantic fiction in order to make the random cruelty of everyday life more bearable. And before men sneer at women who read romances, they should ask exactly why they need to read a book about the siege of Stalingrad or the SAS. Do they perhaps find facts less threatening than stories that deal with emotion?'

Daisy Goodwin in the Sunday Times, talking about the research and thinking behind her TV series, Reader, I Married Him.

'Love to hate book fairs'

16 October 2006

'Even though most people in publishing love to hate book fairs, preferring to pretend to be above the hustle and bustle of the marketplace, everyone nevertheless wants to be seen there, and there is no doubt that during three such intense days, where everyone is conscious that they must make it worthwhile, a huge amount of business is done.

Not all of this is good business: books are frequently bought for far more than they are worth. Even experienced publishers sometimes throw caution to the winds after being caught up in the excitement of a bidding war conducted via frenzied conversations in a crowded hall.'

Anne Louise Fisher, London literary scout, in the Observer (Seven)

'A strong editor'

9 October 2006

'Two years to write the first novel. Two years to find a publisher and to get the book on to the shelves. Four years of casual labouring and the dole.

Much has changed in those 50-years-to-now; but one thing has not. The more critically successful a writer becomes, the more need there is for a strong editor. To think otherwise risks artistic suicide. A trusted editor, dedicated to the text and sensitive to its author, is the making of a writer and is the great teacher. On the high trapeze, the Flyer may be the one who draws the applause from the crowd, but it's the editorial Catcher who times the flight.

I have been fortunate in my editors. The readers' reports for the three novels that followed my second all recommended rejection on the same grounds each time: that the new book was different from the previous one. And each time the editor had faith, and published.'

Alan Garner, author of The Weirdstone of Brisingamen in The Times

'Communicating with readers'

2 October 2006

'Publishers need to make their sites more welcoming and rewarding to those tiny percentages of readers who do visit. They need to nurture these audiences and build them up, organically, to become loyal customers. And that means adding value that they're not getting on the high street or from Amazon - in the form of content. Publishers aren't going to get rich from sales made on their sites. But the opportunity is to create a relationship with consumers, and to use that relationship to generate better market information on both sides.

Communicating with readers is how you will sell more books, and for the moment the best channels of communications are not in publishers' control - but they so easily could be. It's time publishers took their relationships with consumers out of the "too hard" box.'

Peter Collingridge, MD of Apt Studio Ltd in the Bookseller