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Comment from the book world in October 2010

October 2010

Is competition ungentlemanly?

25 October 2010

'I can think of no end of talented authors who are today poorly or even negligently represented. Is it fair to deny them the possibility of better representation simply because the more atherosclerotic parts of our industry consider competition to be ungentlemanly?

The lifeblood of business is competition. Other industries thrive on it: we can too. I'm calling for a major rethink of our attitude to this subject - and an appreciation that fair competition can only benefit authors. Until that happens, we're not really in business at all- we're just dilettantes.'

Peter Cox of Redhammer Management

Specialises in works with international potential.

Unpublished authors must be professional in their approach and have major international potential, ideally book, film and/or TV.

Submissions via agents website

Children's clients include Donna Ballman, Peggy Brusseau, Gary Bushell, Brian Clegg, Maria (MG) Harris, Lucy Johnson, Amanda Lees, Michelle Paver, Kellie Santin, David Yelland.

and Litopia, in the Bookseller

Transforming Birdsong into a play

18 October 2010

'I believed right from the start it would work powerfully on stage because it's the story of one man, with a very strong central narrative drive, questioning what it means to be human, I don't know a more dramatic question than that. Also, for me, it says that no matter what happens, there is always the possibility of redemption. I hope the play will make you cry, but make you come out wanting to live...

As long as I'm working on something I believe matters I'm very happy to scrape by. I think that bringing a story like this back to the public consciousness, when there's no one left alive who remembers it, is very important.'

Unknown playwright Rachel Wagstaff on dramatising Sebastian Faulks' First World War novel Birdsong

'I want to do this until I die'

11 October 2010

'If you write truthfully about human life, by which I mean the human heart and how it interacts with the world, you don't have to strive for contemporary relevance. If a book like Wolf Hall meant nothing today, we would not have got past page two.

The essence of 'we' is universal and no different to two hundred years from now, if it's truthful to the human experience. How that 'we' is pummelled and moulded is locally determined. The corruption of the Dutch East India Company is the same as the corruption at Enron.

The ideas I will tend to choose for novels are ones that least resemble books I have already written. My curiosity leads me to choose different types of books to write. I rather encourage this trait because it's the best way I can see of avoiding the condition of writing endless versions of the same novel, which can lead to premature artistic death.'

On the Man Booker nomination, third-time around? 'What? Do I want to win? I felt honoured and pleased (by the nomination), but it's the guy who approached me to tell me his wife reads Cloud Atlas once a year that I think is just so great. If I had to choose one out of the two, I'd choose the man. I want to do this until I die. He enables me to continue to do what I love. Prizes won't do that for you.'

David Mitchell, author of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet in the Independent

We all need a publisher

4 October 2010

'Recently, Newsweek ran an article about the brave new world of self-publishing. Its title asked the question "Who Needs a Publisher?" Well, the short answer is, I do. The bigger answer is: we all do.

Don't get me wrong. I'm glad that self-publishing has evolved from stigma to respectability. I love that worthy authors who might be overlooked by the major houses can now be read. It's great that writers with a special niche, an established following or an entrepreneurial bent can make more money self-publishing than they would in royalties. But I'm also concerned about the future of books and the larger issue of assuring the flow of reliable information.

Here are just two reasons for that concern, based on my own recent experience:

1. Advances. I just finished a nonfiction book that will be released this fall. It consumed the better part of three years -- far more than I anticipated -- and the research entailed countless hours of reading, about three hundred interviews and some travel. My advance did not come close to covering the cost of all that information-gathering, but it helped. More importantly, the fact that a major publishing house was committed enough to write even a modest check was psychologically essential. Given my personal circumstances, I simply could not have sustained the effort to complete the project without that commitment...

2. Quality control. After authoring and co-authoring more than twenty books, I was just reminded once again of the immense value of working with professionals. At each step of the way, from inception to restructuring to rewrites to finalizing the index, editors, copy editors and proofreaders made my book a better book.

My bottom line is this: when it comes to serious nonfiction especially, readers, libraries, reporters and everyone else concerned about accuracy and readability should rely only on books that have been competently edited. And long live advances: may they grow and may authors and their readers prosper.'

Philip Goldberg in the Huffington Post