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Comment from the book world in May 2010

May 2010

An agent's view

31 May 2010

'I think that the best thing I can do for myself, my business, and my clients is to continue to be extremely selective about taking on new projects, and then working hard to get those books in the best possible shape editorially before sending them out. The smaller my list, the better able I am to help my clients work with their publicity and marketing departments to ensure that their books are published as successfully as possible. To me, the recent changes in the market mean we all have to focus more, and publish more carefully and thoughtfully.

I know it's somewhat of an unpopular opinion, but I think it's unrealistic to expect that you can support yourself solely as a writer in this economy. Most of the writers I know teach, or have other day jobs to support themselves, so the best way to avoid eating ramen noodles is to not rely completely on your book advance to pay your bills. In the end, the better you make the book, the better the chances that you'll get a healthy advance, and the harder you work with your publisher to promote the book by publishing stories or nonfiction essays to raise your profile, by blogging and keeping your website active, by thinking outside of the box in terms of marketing and publicity, the better your book will do. But at the end of the day it's the quality of the work that matters the most.

US agent Julie Barer on mediabistro

Red herring?

24 May 2010

'My job is to entertain. There is a contract between the reader and the writer. The readers give me their hard-earned cash and I have to entertain them. It's my role to come up with the goods. I work in an entertainment industry. I tell stories, people read them and enjoy the stories, so I get paid, and get to write more stories...

The wonderful thing about having a regular readership is that people know how I write... so I can lead them up a garden path. In my next book I am introducing a character called Red Herring. Because this is a Jasper Fforde book, readers won't know if it is a red herring, or if it's the fact he's called Red Herring that is, in fact, the red herring. It's this double-bluff feedback loop, reader-writer relationship that I enjoy immensely. You can play on it and the magic works that little bit extra.'

Jasper Fforde, author of Shades of Gray, in the Independent on Sunday

'The book industry is not the music industry'

17 May 2010

'This analogy between music and books is something that keeps popping up. Many people are saying that digital file sharing "killed" the music industry and that if the book industry isn't careful, the same thing will happen to publishing.

But the book industry is not the music industry. One very interesting contrarian commentary I came across was an article entitled "iPad iWash" in which a bookseller talks about the difference between music and books. He states that, unless it's a live show, enjoying music has always involved another device or gadget. Books, on the other hand, are already their own device with no need for any sort of player.

He has a good point. Printed books are certainly superior in so many ways to the current entity we know as ebooks. They have dominated for over half a century, unlike the music industry which has gone through significant format changes in a short time-period: from sheet music to vinyl recordings to eight tracks to cassette tapes to CDs to MP3s.

As exciting and attractive as digital books are, the physical book is still the simplest and most efficient way to reach the broadest possible audience. That being said, this die-hard book nerd still anxiously awaits being able to buy an iPad and experience reading a book on it, all the while recognizing that while ebook reading devices come and go, books abide.

Mark Leslie in The Mark

'Stories are enough for me'

10 May 2010

'The sudden rush of Kindles, tablets and readers strikes me as strangely illogical. Reading is supposed to be in danger, in decline. And yet somehow these devices are going to make it more attractive. Isn't that a bit like putting sat nav into a horse and carriage? And although thousands of e-books have been sold, do you know anyone - anyone - who actually uses the bloody things? I've tried, but they're not fun.

I can understand the success of Jamie Oliver and his 20-minute recipes which became the number one application on the iPhone. And with 40 million of these devices in circulation, I can see the attraction for publishers. But storytelling, fiction, demands a deeper, more tactile interaction. And I don't necessarily believe that enhanced e-books will reach a larger audience. Quite the ocntrary. If you can zoom in on Alex Rider, manipulate him and dance with him to the music of Nick Cave (who pioneered the e-field with The Death of Bunny Munro), then why bother just reading him in the first place? ...

Call me old-fashioned or just call me old. But you can keep your e-book ancillaries. Stories are enough for me.'

Anthony Horowitz, author of The Power of the Necropolis in the Bookseller

'So much control'

3 May 2010

'A screenplay is really just a set of instructions, it doesn't actually have any value of itself. You can read a screenplay and be entertained by it but unless it's made, it's worthless. You're always thinking: 'How can we get this made? Is it as funny or dramatic or engaging as it can be? Will people pay to see it? Is someone else going to pay the money to make it? A screenplay is written entirely for other people; consequently, decisions you make with a screenplay are for technical, practical or financial reasons...

Writing fiction is inevitably much more personal. Not necessarily autobiographical, but much closer to your way of seeing the world, and much more demanding. I find it much harder. But that's also its great pleasure, that you have so much control. It's a personal form of expression as opposed to a screenplay where I think you're second-guessing the director or the producer or the audience.'

David Nicholls, author of One Day and many TV scripts, in the Bookseller